06 April 2015
SINCE the beginning of January, I have been invited to speak at more than half a dozen secondary schools in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia about the topic of Asean integration and what the future Asean community might look like.
That Asean has suddenly become a hot and popular topic should not be a surprise to any of us, considering that this is the year that the groundwork for the future Asean Economic Community (AEC) is to be laid, and that the economies of the region are gearing up to the challenges that lie ahead. Equally unsurprising is the fact that in some parts of the region, the reaction to AEC has been negative, and that some elements of Southeast Asian society can only see AEC as the Trojan horse for aggressive and predatory capital penetration, weakening local communities and threatening the sovereignty of their respective states.
That the two reactions — positive and welcoming on the one hand, negative and rejecting on the other — can appear simultaneously tells us something about the complex nature of our region and the challenges that lie ahead for Asean integration. But, the fact that schools, colleges and universities have come on board and are actively encouraging discussions on Asean in some countries is a positive sign that points to the realism and pragmatism that still prevails in some quarters.
… The writer is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and visiting fellow at Isis Malaysia.
GPO / Online
Last updated on 23/11/2015