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South-east Asian states sign for unity

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South-east Asian states sign for unity


The Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, has been meeting in the Philippines for talks that aim to point the group in a new direction. Leaders signed a counter-terrorism pact that involves the sharing of information; an important step for a geographical block that includes Indonesia and Malaysia and their many thousands of remote islands.

They also put pen to paper on a charter, making it a decision-making body, and agreed to closer economic and political ties. The bloc, populated by over 550 million people plans to be a free trade zone by 2015.

The group met despite recent bomb attacks in the Philippines, and security was tight. Outside, some distance from proceedings, protestors gathered to denounce what they see as US interference in Asian affairs.

The Free Burma Coalition was there to draw attention to human rights abuses in member-state Myanmar, one issue that still divides ASEAN members.

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