A Dialogue Forum on “Attitudes and Awareness Towards ASEAN: A Research Finding” was held at Kuala Lumpur on 29 April 2015, as part of the series of ASEAN-related discussions and forums held in conjunction with the 26th ASEAN Summit recently hosted and chaired by Malaysia. It discussed the preliminary results of an update of a ten-nation survey among undergraduate students, first undertaken in 2007.
In 2014, ISEAS coordinated an update of the 2007 survey, in order to gauge whether attitudes have changed or remain the same on the eve of the ASEAN Community 2015. The survey update’s preliminary results found that overall, undergraduates in the ASEAN countries continue to display ASEAN-positive attitudes, with highest enthusiasm found in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (over 90%), and ambivalence continuing in Singapore and the Philippines (less than 67%). Over 80% of students consider themselves “citizens” of ASEAN. Compared to 2007, more ASEAN-positive attitudes are displayed in Myanmar, and Thailand showed more ASEAN ambivalent attitudes. Students’ objective knowledge of ASEAN also improved from 2007 to 2014. The Internet as a primary source of information on ASEAN has jumped up to third position, following television and school. The fact-sheet on key highlights of the preliminary results is here.
On Thursday 9 April, the newly appointed Secretary-General of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, His Excellency Kim Young-sun, visited the ASEAN Studies Center (ASC) at ISEAS in Singapore. Mr. Kim Ki-hong, Head of Development Planning and General Affairs Unit; Mr. Mohd Daud Mohd Aruf, Head of Culture and Tourism Unit; as well as Ms Jennifer Kim, Officer, Development Planning & General Affairs Unit, accompanied him. H.E. Kim Young-sun had a candid and friendly exchange of views with ASC Head Mr Rodolfo Severino, ASC Lead Researchers Ms Moe Thuzar (Socio-Cultural Affairs) and Ms Sanchita Basu Das (Economic Affairs); and Dr Tang Siew Mun, ISEAS Senior Fellow.
Both Mr Severino and Ambassador Kim were in agreement that ASEAN and the Republic of Korea (ROK) shared similar objectives of maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the region, and that ASEAN and the ROK can mutually learn from and share each other’s experiences. For example, the ROK’s transition and growth into a developed economy is a source of inspiration to several ASEAN countries. Dedicated efforts for economic growth are possible with the assurance of peace and stability. In this connection, ASEAN’s integration efforts emphasise priorities in the three spheres of regional cooperation economics, politics and security, and socio-cultural, even as ASEAN economies continue to pursue growth and development as an economic community. Continuity of commitments to ASEAN is important, as the changing geo-political environments in some ASEAN member states lead to shorter terms in office for political leaders. The ASEAN-ROK dialogue thus serves as a constructive framework for the ROK to continue contributing to ASEAN integration. This can be complemented by the ROK’s bilateral programmes with several ASEAN members, in order to boost capacities for regional integration, and to identify “industry champions” to lead growth and change in the business sector.
Thirty-one trainees in a programme on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) conducted by King Prajadhipok’s Institute in Bangkok came for a briefing at the ASEAN Studies Centre on 4 February 2015. The visitors are participants in a programme on “Thailand and the ASEAN Economic Community” at the King Prajadhipok Institute. Ms. Sanchita Basu Das, Lead Researcher, Economic Affairs, ASC, ISEAS gave a talk about the AEC. Dr. Termsak Chalermpalanupap, Lead Researcher, Political & Security Affairs, ASC, ISEAS talked to the visitors about the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), focusing on key political and security challenges.
Questions included what can be expected upon the launch of the AEC, how to improve public understanding of the AEC, how AEC would affect Singapore-Thailand trade, and what domestic reforms should be undertaken in Thailand in preparation. As regards community-building in ASEAN, it is a long-term process and not to expect a “Big Bang” transformation of ASEAN by the end of 2015. The dilemma for APSC was on how to maintain national sovereignty (protecting national interest) and at the same time advancing regional common interest. Discussions also touched on what ASEAN should do in the face of competing interests between US and China; what Thailand and Singapore can do together to strengthen ASEAN; and what more can be done to get the Thai public more interested in ASEAN.
The ASEAN Roundtable
The ASEAN Roundtable is a flagship event of the Centre, and is held annually around a theme pertinent to ASEAN integration efforts. ASEAN Roundtable themes focus on issues and challenges that confront ASEAN member states in accomplishing the ASEAN Community. Past Roundtables to date have addressed the following topics; summaries of findings and recommendations have been issued as reports and monographs by the Centre.
ASEAN Roundtable 2014: “Moving Towards a People-Centred ASEAN”
ASEAN Roundtable 2013: “Mid-Term Review of the ASEAN Political Security Blueprint, and Political
Cooperation beyond 2015″
ASEAN Roundtable 2012: “Examining the ASEAN Economic Community Scorecard”
ASEAN Roundtable 2011: “Achieving the ASEAN Economic Community 2015: Challenges for
ASEAN Roundtable 2009: “The Global Economic Crisis: Implications for ASEAN”
ASEAN Roundtable 2008: “ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint”
This programme, starting December 2012, was conducted with support from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. It included training seminars held in 2012 at Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, to assist Myanmar government officials from key ministries involved in preparing for the 2014 ASEAN Chair responsibilities; and two public seminars in Yangon in March 2013, to boost the public audience’s understanding of ASEAN and Myanmar’s ASEAN chairmanship. Topics discussed during these activities included: a. The Role and Nature of ASEAN meetings; b. Myanmar’s ASEAN role, ASEAN External Relations under Myanmar’s Leadership; c. South China Sea, Political and Security Issues in ASEAN, the ASEAN Charter; d. ASEAN Economic Community; and e. Social Issues for ASEAN. At the concluding activity in January 2014, the ASC team had a roundtable discussion with Myanmar officials who would chair and lead discussions at the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), the Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM) and the Senior Officials Committee on the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (SOCA) to be held in Myanmar in 2014. While in Nay Pyi Taw, Mr Severino and the ASC team members also met with Myanmar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Wunna Maung Lwin.
With the ASEAN Charter’s entry into force on 15 December 2008, several implementation issues have emerged as members strive to understand, share and promote the Charter among various stakeholders in the regional and in their respective national contexts. To assist ASEAN officials and ASEAN Secretariat officers, the ASEAN Studies Centre developed and conducted a train-the-trainers course on understanding the key provisions of the Charter and their rationale. The course focused on helping the officials understand the implications of the Charter; how its implementation is in both regional and domestic interests in ASEAN; and the impact of the Charter’s implementation on regional and national cooperation. The inaugural training took place at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta on 17-20 November 2009, with support from the Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st Century (JSPP21). Centre Head Rodolfo Severino led the training team, comprising Lead Researchers S Tiwari (who passed away on 26 July 2010) and Moe Thuzar. Over the three-year duration of the project, over 100 officers from the ten ASEAN member states and the ASEAN Secretariat have participated in the trainings, which also featured interactive sessions with high-level officials involved in the Charter process, as well as senior ASEAN Secretariat officials.