By: Captain Jake Krebs (USMC IRT FAO, Jakarta) and Captain Marilyn Pendlyshok (USMC IRT FAO – Hanoi)

A team of faculty members from the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) played a crucial role in supporting the 6th Gulf of Thailand Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative (GOTI) Commanders’ Forum in Bangkok, Thailand from December 11-14, 2018.

DKI APCSS professors Dr. Bill Wieninger, Dr. Al Oehlers, Cmdr. Jon Odom, and Lt. Cmdr. Leah Cole supported the U.S. Mission to ASEAN, Indo-Pacific Command and the Thailand Maritime Enforcement Coordination Center (THAI-MECC) by facilitating this year’s sixth annual GOTI event

This year’s sixth annual GOTI event included six ASEAN Member States, the largest number to date, and fulfilled Defense Secretary James Mattis’ commitment to the Gulf of Thailand Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative made during the 2017 ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus.

GOTI was established in 2012 as a partnership between the United States and the maritime law enforcement agencies of the four countries sharing the Gulf of Thailand — Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam — to confront maritime enforcement challenges in the region. GOTI supports a rules-based order in accordance with international law, promoting greater maritime domain awareness, transparency, cooperation, and information sharing between countries.  Such cooperation is especially important in the maritime context, where transnational crimes are not bounded by physical borders.

In 2015, GOTI began to invite participants from countries not bordering the Gulf of Thailand to attend the forum in Bangkok as observers. The 6th Commanders Forum was attended by senior maritime law enforcement officials from Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam attended the forum, which focused on information sharing on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities.  Members and observers shared best practices and engaged in wide-ranging discussions on vital maritime security and law enforcement challenges in the Southeast Asia region.


Gulf of Thailand Maritime Initiative 6th Commanders’ Forum attendees listening to a briefing from a THAI-MECC officer on how Thailand conducts interagency coordination on maritime law enforcement activities. (Photo by THAI-MECC)

During her opening remarks, U.S. Mission to ASEAN Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Piper Campbell reaffirmed the United States’ continued support of the GOTI and respect for ASEAN centrality. She underscored: “We believe in ASEAN-led solutions to jointly address Southeast Asia’s shared challenges through meaningful and practical partnerships like the Gulf of Thailand Initiative.  We value, and are proud of, our cooperation in this forum because it enables open dialogue and promotes practical cooperation through confidence building activities.”

Senior officials at the forum reiterated their commitment to build on the success of the 6th GOTI Commanders’ Forum and agreed to advance the forum through practical cooperation, technical expert workshops, and other future engagements.