Asean’s day dream or nightmare

Asean’s day dream or nightmare

Malaysiakini’s article by Josh Hong 

Extracts only

At an academic conference some years ago in Seoul, South Korea, Chua Beng Huat, a sociology professor at the National University of Singapore, remarked that Asean as a regional grouping had achieved nothing over the last few decades.

Another example was the signing of the agreements in August this year that will allow doctors, dentists and accountants to take their skills more freely to any Asean country, again a piece of very good news for disgruntled Malaysian professionals who encounter arduous administrative or bureaucratic hurdles to practise at home.


In any case, Thailand’s political turmoil and the impending global financial crisis only highlight the increasingly irrelevance of Asean as a political grouping.

I may disagree with Chua’s blunt remarks that Asean has achieved nothing in the past, but a closer and politically independent union walking tall is no more than a diplomatic fantasy.

 still, similar arrangements for architects, surveyors, engineers and nurses by member-states are already in the pipeline.

Be that as it may, Asean is experiencing serious uncertainties over its future relevance in rapidly changing global and regional settings.

The rise of India and China has presented the regional grouping with tremendous challenges, while internal problems of member-states continue to hinder Asean’s development into a full-fledged, mature politico-economic community along the lines of the European Union.

Politically, Asean countries are jealously guarding their own boundaries. It is worth a reminder here that the regional grouping stood idly by when the Indonesian army ransacked Aceh and East Timor, killing tens of thousands, while hundreds of Chinese Indonesian women were raped or even brutally murdered in Jakarta during the 1998 riots.

In the same vein, when thousands of protestors took to the streets in Kuala Lumpur against the autocracy of the Mahathir government in 1999, only to be cracked down by the oppressive security forces, Asean countries, including the ‘democratic” Thailand, did not lift a finger to raise concerns.

COMMENT: Asean just condemned the SPDC generals to show off to distance themselves from the brutal crack down of prodemocracy demonstrators but staunchly and shamelessly continue to protect them to stay in power so that they could continue to exploit Myanmar.


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