Could the ASEAN Community bring about a Southeast Asian Identity?

The flags of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) members in ASEAN headquarters in South Jakarta, Indonesia. From left flags of: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

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A new chapter in the history of Southeast Asia started on December 31, 2015: the establishment of the ASEAN Community. The ASEAN Community is the manifestation of the vision of its member states – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – to be more than just a top-down organization or a free trade area. Article 4 of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint states that “The primary goal of the ASCC is to contribute to realizing an ASEAN Community that is people-centered and socially responsible with a view to achieving enduring solidarity and unity among the nations and peoples of ASEAN by forging a common identity and building a caring and sharing society which is inclusive and harmonious where the well-being, livelihood, and welfare of the peoples are enhanced.”[i]

Article 35 of the ASEAN Charter, signed in 2008, states that “ASEAN shall promote its common ASEAN identity and a sense of belonging among its peoples in order to achieve its shared destiny, goals and values.”[ii] Furthermore, Article 1 states that among the purposes of ASEAN is “to promote an ASEAN identity through the fostering of greater awareness of the diverse culture and heritage of the region.”[iii] However, not only is it difficult to “forge a common identity” in a region as diverse as Southeast Asia, but the very concept of the “ASEAN identity” is itself ambiguous. The term “ASEAN identity” is used several times but never clearly defined. It may be surmised from the two articles, however, that this ASEAN identity is related to the awareness that a Southeast Asian community exists and to the sense of belonging among the people of ASEAN to this community. In other words, it is the “we-feeling” that those citizens are part of an entity beyond their respective national boundaries. The governments of member countries have promoted the ASEAN identity by placing the ASEAN Community on top of their domestic agenda, and as “the cornerstone of their foreign policy.”[iv] However, the results of a 2011 study released by the ASEAN Secretariat discovered that “three out of four people (76 percent) ‘lack a basic understanding’ of what ASEAN is and what it is striving to do.”[v]

This essay is divided into three parts, and seeks to highlight and analyze the gap between the vision of an ASEAN identity and the relatively low level of awareness on the society level. First, it suggests several reasons as to why it is difficult to forge the ASEAN identity. Next, it provides a comparison of how regional identity is fostered and the degree of success in this regard in the European Union (EU). Lastly, it offers possible solutions to strengthen ASEAN awareness and to facilitate the forging of the ASEAN identity.

Challenges to the ASEAN Identity

Envisioned in 1997, the ASEAN Community was initially intended to be established in 2020, although this timeline was accelerated to 2015 as agreed upon by the member states of ASEAN during the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu in 2007.[vi] One of the principal obstacles to creating this community was the low sense of belonging to ASEAN among its citizens. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, the long period of colonization experienced by Southeast Asian countries, except Thailand,[vii] ended with the arbitrary drawing-up of national borders in the region. This resulted in the cultivation of different national narratives in each of the ASEAN countries, which perpetuated their differences and obscured their similarities. Unifying regional features in the past (such as kingdom territories that had crossed the newly-established national borders, the extensive trade networks that had flourished since the Middle Ages, and the region’s lingua franca, Classical Malay) were overshadowed by national sentiments. As a result, as historian Alfred W. McCoy writes, “the unifying impact of imperial rule was muted … by the imposition of ‘sharply delineated and jealously maintained’ colonial frontiers which rendered Southeast Asia’s unity, in a certain sense, ‘ephemeral’.”[viii]

Second, although the ASEAN Community seeks to construct a common identity that can bind the people of ASEAN together, in a spirit of togetherness, as well as common values and goals, it does not wish to alter the diversity of the region. The ASEAN Community does not compel each member state to have the same type of government, the same economic system, nor the same culture. In fact, the ASEAN identity relies on the notion of cultural, political, and economic diversity. As the “Declaration on ASEAN Unity in Cultural Diversity: Towards Strengthening ASEAN Community” (2011) states, the Community must “[reaffirm] our commitment to create an ASEAN sense of belonging, [by consolidating] unity in diversity.”[ix] The low sense of belonging to an ASEAN community amongst its citizens may, thus, be attributed to the deliberately maintained differences between its member nations.

A third possible explanation for the challenge in forging an ASEAN identity is the rise of nationalism in the last decade in the region. Territorial disputes have continued to prevail in the region, and some border-related disputes remain unsettled. For example, the long-lasting border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand on the ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple was a major challenge until 2011. Also, the Philippines’ new president, Rodrigo Duterte, has announced that he will revive the country’s old dispute with Malaysia regarding the claim over Sabah.[x] Transboundary haze pollution, related to the issues of illegal logging and health, has also been a source of friction between Indonesia and her neighbors. Furthermore, there is sensitivity on the issue of “culture-claiming” – the claiming of another nation’s culture as one’s own. The Mandailing people in North Sumatra (Indonesia), for example, protested when the Malaysian Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim, said in 2012 that “this dance [the Tortor Dance] will be introduced officially as one of the country’s national heritage”[xi] – even though the two countries’ common pre-colonial history and proximity to one another mean that they unsurprisingly share many cultural traits. Clark D. Neher, a political scientist focusing on Southeast Asia, posits that national pride is the major obstacle to ASEAN integration, to the extent that even a shared communist ideology and similar economic conditions cannot defy the hostility among the three former French colonies of Indochina – Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam – that derives from “traditional Vietnamese and Cambodian expansionism.”[xii]

Fourth, there is a lack of ASEAN-related subjects in the school curricula across the region when in fact, there is a vital role for education in creating a common narrative and internalizing history to the people; as Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Seton Hall University, Zheng Wang, stated that “a nation’s history is not merely a recounting of its past; what individuals and countries remember and what they choose to forget are telling indicators of their current values, perceptions, and even aspirations.”[xiii] Farish A. Noor, an Associate Professor at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, conducted a study in 2012 on Indonesian social studies and history textbooks to understand how Indonesia views ASEAN and the world. Noor’s study discovered that history textbooks in Indonesia were very Indonesia-centric and included minimal information on other ASEAN countries. For example, Noor noticed that when a course on the Indonesian colonial period and struggle for independence was taught, there was very little reference to other nationalist movements in neighboring countries, even though “the first generation of Indonesian nationalists were part of a wider world of letters where the ideas and ideals of nationalism were being discussed and shared with other nationalists, activists and intellectuals in British Malaya, the Straits Settlements and the Philippines.”[xiv] The only country in Southeast Asia that was discussed in a significant manner in the social studies and history textbooks was Malaysia, and this was only within the context of the confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1963-1965.[xv]

Another obstacle to a common identity is the disparity in the development of the region, with the Western part of ASEAN being more developed than its Eastern part. As a whole, ASEAN has been growing rapidly since the new millennium – the poverty rate has gone down by one-half, the per capita income has increased threefold, and foreign direct investment has surged fivefold.[xvi] However, as a satellite photograph clicked by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shows, the most densely lit areas – indicating access to electricity and, hence, greater development – are around Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and some parts of Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.[xvii] Daniel Wu – who works at the US-ASEAN Business Council – asserts that this gap in development is “detrimental to the adoption of a regional identity.”[xviii] Wu mentions the description of journalist Abdul Khalik on “how Laotians forlornly view their inability to partake in Thailand’s prosperity from across the Mekong riverbank in Vientiane.”[xix]

As explained, colonization, ASEAN’s unique regionalism, the surge of nationalism in ASEAN member states, the absence of a common narrative, the lack of ASEAN-related materials in the school curricula, and the development gap across the region play a role in the difficulty of forging an ASEAN identity. The next section seeks to compare ASEAN’s story with the experience of the EU, which – according to Fraser Cameron, a senior policy advisor to the European Policy Center in Brussels – “has long been the most developed model of regional integration.”[xx]

The European Identity-Building

The difficulties in creating the ASEAN identity mentioned above are less prevalent in the EU. As the University of Ottawa’s professor Khanh Vu Duc notes, “there exists a quality to “being” European-born from possessing certain shared values and beliefs, a shared continental history despite language, religious, and cultural differences.”[xxi] Additionally, unlike ASEAN, the EU has prerequisites for countries that wish to join the organization that are encapsulated in its “Copenhagen criteria.” The Copenhagen criteria states that to be admitted as a new member, a country needs to have a stable democracy, respect for human rights (including the rights of minorities), a functioning rule of law, a competitive market economy, and the willingness as well as the ability to oblige to the responsibilities of the membership.[xxii] In addition, The Council of Europe has encouraged the modification of national histories, both on academic and official levels, to be more in line with the European project.[xxiii] For example, historical sociologist Anthony D. Smith recalls that after the Second World War, France and Germany – historically archrivals – encouraged youth exchange programs and subsidized “academic studies of common history” to change earlier perceptions of each other, an effort that had a noteworthy effect after twenty-five years.”[xxiv]

It can be surmised, therefore, that the EU sees national differences and diversity as a hindrance to united regionalization. ASEAN, on the other hand, sees the diversity of its member countries as not only inevitable, due to the different historical processes of each member, but also a feature that it has no right to alter, since it hinges upon the notion of sovereignty and non-interference in each member countries’ domestic affairs. Whereas the EU contains a supranational organization, the European Community, committed to an “ever closer union,”[xxv] ASEAN does not – and it does not intend to. In the wake of the UK’s secession from the EU, the Nikkei Asian Review interviewed former ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan who said: “We go incrementally and step by step. We did not go for full integration – making the entire ASEAN one economic or political unit… And I have always said, the EU has been our inspiration but not our model.”[xxvi]

Nevertheless, despite decades of identity-building within the EU, the European identity is far from firm and stable. Despite the EU’s emphasis on the importance of homogeneity, the enlargement of the Euro zone resulted in the inclusion of some countries, such as Greece, that were not ready to join the monetary union and only complied partly with membership prerequisites.[xxvii] The flaws in this policy were exposed and exacerbated following the 2007-09 financial crisis, particularly after Greece was given a bailout of $320 billion from the EU, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.[xxviii] The financial crisis also diminished the strength of the European identity. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted a loss of trust in the European project due to the financial crisis, particularly as a result of the difficulty of young Europeans to find jobs and secure a promising future.[xxix] Moreover, the recent migration and refugee crisis in Europe has also challenged the notion of the European identity. Journalist Fareed Zakaria notes that after the Second World War, Europeans prioritized regional identity above national identity, but that has changed since the influx of migrants from the Middle East into Europe.[xxx] Disagreement over how to respond to the migration crisis has stoked tension among member states, and some countries such as Denmark, Sweden, and Hungary have imposed tighter controls on their borders in the wake of the crisis.[xxxi]

Looking at the EU, it is clear that regional identity-building is a complex process. The European identity project that began earlier and more rigorously than ASEAN’s is still facing challenges. Are there any lessons to be learned from the EU for ASEAN? What should ASEAN do?

Analysis: Next on the ASEAN Agenda?

Forging a regional identity is not an easy task – especially within only eighteen years. International relations scholars David Held and Kyle McNally admitted that “…the idea of a people, whether national or European, is a complex social construct.”[xxxii] Therefore, it will likely take more time and effort before the people of ASEAN would conform to identify themselves as Southeast Asians.

So, what can be done to strengthen the ASEAN identity and overcome the challenges posed in the process? First, ASEAN needs to foster equitable growth, which has a trickle-down effect to the society level. The people of ASEAN have to feel the tangible benefit that ASEAN can bring them. How can people in Lao PDR relate to their peers in Singapore, for example, if there is a huge development gap between them? This would entail more investment in infrastructure and more people-to-people contact – as envisaged in the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC). The MPAC was adopted in 2010 and is intended to underpin the establishment of the ASEAN Community through the enhancement of not only physical connectivity (such as railway links, road networks, and power supply), but also institutional coordination (such as harmonization of standards and reduction of non-tariff barriers to increase intra-ASEAN trade and investment). It also seeks to boost people-to-people contact (through the relaxation of visa requirements and the development of mutual recognition arrangements – MRAs – aimed to encourage greater collaborations and interactions).[xxxiii] Unfortunately, the implementation of the MPAC has been lagging due to – among other problems – the lack of funding and leadership.[xxxiv] Advancing the MPAC should be a priority for ASEAN in the future. Also, in the light of the ASEAN Economic Community (one of the pillars of the ASEAN Community), ASEAN made an effort to increase the flow of skilled labor by agreeing on MRAs to facilitate the movement of professionals in areas such as engineering (2005), nursing services (2006), medical practitioners (2009), and tourism professionals (2012).[xxxv] Unfortunately, recipient countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia, are still enforcing strict border controls on migrant workers, and—in general—domestic laws in ASEAN member states have not been adjusted to support the implementation and facilitate the movement of professionals across ASEAN.[xxxvi] These obstacles to implementing ASEAN agreements need to be addressed so that they can make a difference to lives of the ASEAN people.

Secondly, there needs to be an ASEAN narrative – or “historical memory” in Zheng Wang’s words – advanced through the education system of member countries. Historical memory is the “collective memory of the past that binds a group of people together.”[xxxvii] Promoting and prioritizing a common history – as has been done by the European Council, France, and Germany in the context of the EU – should be on the top of the agenda for ASEAN countries. This also mandates the need to adjust school curricula in the ASEAN countries and encourage more student exchanges. This is not to say that subjects on national identities should be de-emphasized or abolished. As has been mentioned, ASEAN regards national diversity as one of its key assets. Rather, subjects about ASEAN itself – both about the organization and about the region in general – should be more widely taught. ASEAN member countries have already started preparing the introduction of ASEAN subjects into their national education curricula,[xxxviii] but in April 2014, Indonesia’s national radio, RRI, noted that among the challenges still faced by the country regarding the ASEAN Community is the lingering absence of lectures on the Community in school curricula in order to raise ASEAN awareness.[xxxix] This weakness seems to be noted by the member countries of ASEAN. Article A.7. of the recently released ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025 reiterated that a “key element of the rules-based, people-oriented, people centered community” includes to “promote, in coordination with relevant ASEAN Bodies, the inclusion of ASEAN studies in the curricula of educational institutions of ASEAN Member States.”[xl] The realization of this article and the effect of its implementation remain to be seen.

Moreover, media and popular culture could also be used as instruments to foster greater awareness of the sense of the ASEAN Community. Social institutions such as culture, media and administration are crucial in the process of region-building, because they serve as the foundation for “the narratives of identity, mobilization of collective memory, and they also constitute the visible and invisible social ‘gel’ based on values, norms and ideologies.”[xli] With this in mind, more collaborations in the culture industry, such as movie production, novels, radio programs and television, should be encouraged. This idea is influenced by political scientist Patricia M. Goff’s article, “Invisible Borders: Economic Liberalization and National Identity.” Goff states that in today’s globalized world, countries are deliberately abolishing their borders with regards to the flow of goods, information, services, capital, and, sometimes, people, for economic benefit – but this is not true for cultural products. Goff argues that through this phenomenon, national borders are not removed but rather reconstructed in another form: an invisible border. This invisible border rests upon a collective national identity that is constructed by culture.[xlii] By the same logic, ASEAN countries could use these industries to build and harness a regional culture identity.

The potential effectiveness of this approach is evidenced in the movie “Suddenly It’s Magic” (2012) – a Thai-Filipino collaboration. Even though the movie used a classic mainstream romantic storyline, it combined many aspects of both Thai and Filipino culture, language and traditions. Leveraging Goff’s argument into the regional level and seeing how the products of the culture industry could influence behavior, I would argue that regional movie collaboration would be an effective way to propagate shared consciousness and mutual understanding – thus creating Goff’s “invisible border” and Benedict Anderson’s “imagined community” in Southeast Asia. There is already an ‘ASEAN Community’ page on Facebook, aside from numerous blogs made by ASEAN citizens to increase awareness and build a common platform at the societal level. These are promising bottom-up initiatives. Yet top-down approaches by the government – fostering equitable growth, promoting a common regional narrative through the education system, and supporting collaboration in the culture industry – are needed to complement the efforts of civic society. Moreover, it is crucial to underline that the material benefit of these top-down approaches is received by ASEAN citizens. In other words, the three ways of strengthening the ASEAN identity that are mentioned above must go together.

As Smith suggests, one can have multiple identities that are not conflicting. The crucial lesson for ASEAN leaders, then, is to forge an ASEAN identity alongside the people’s national identity. It should not be misunderstood that this paper is advocating an ASEAN identity in place of national identity. This ASEAN identity need not override any national identity or other identities. It should instead be a supplement. Being a nationalist is not wrong, but when attempting to build or strengthen a regional identity, nationalistic sentiments that hamper regional integration should be downplayed. Thus, in the spirit of the ASEAN Community, in the role of the author of this article, I can proudly say that I am an ASEAN citizen from Indonesia.

About the Author

Dira Fabrian is an MA graduate of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, class of 2016, and a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia

[i] “ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint,” p. 1, accessed from http://www.asean.org/archive/5187-19.pdf.

[ii] ASEAN Charter, p. 29

[iii] Ibid, p. 5

[iv] Amitav Acharya and Allan Layug, “Collective Identity and the Construction of the Asia-Pacific Regional Order,” accessed from http://paperroom.ipsa.org/app/webroot/papers/paper_7151.pdf , p. 17.

[v] Ronnel W. Domingo, “Low Awareness of 2015 ASEAN Integration Noted,” April 1, 2013, accessed from http://business.inquirer.net/114795/low-awareness-of-2015-asean-integration-noted.

[vi] It is very important to note that ASEAN and the ASEAN Community are two different entities. ASEAN was established in 1967 and the ASEAN Community is a project of ASEAN established in 2015.

[vii] Although some scholars, such as Ben Anderson (1998) and Norman Owen (2005) would argue that Thailand was “quasi-independent.” See Benedict Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World, (New York: Verso, 1998) and Norman, G. Owen (ed.), The Emergence of Modern Southeast Asia: A New History, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005).

[viii] Alfred W. McCoy (ed), Southeast Asia Under Japanese Occupation, (New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asian Studies, Monograph Series No. 22, 1980), p.2.

[ix] “Declaration on ASEAN Unity in Cultural Diversity: Towards Strengthening ASEAN Community,” accessed from http://www.asean.org/storage/archive/documents/19th%20summit/Culture.pdf.

[x] Noel Tarrazona, “Philippines under Duterte to Stake Claim on Sabah Despite Malaysia’s Warning,” Asia Times Online, June 6, 2016, accessed from http://atimes.com/2016/06/philippines-under-duterte-to-stake-claim-on-sabah-despite-malaysias-warning/.

[xi] Prihandoko and Syailendra, “Malaysia sudah Tujuh Kali Mengklaim Budaya RI,” Tempo Online, June 21, 2012, accessed from https://m.tempo.co/read/news/2012/06/21/078411954/malaysia-sudah-tujuh-kali-mengklaim-budaya-ri.

[xii] Clark D Neher, Southeast Asia in the New International Era. Boulder: Westview Press, 2002), p.7.

[xiii] Johan Galtung, “Construction of National Identities for Cosmic Drama: Chosenness-Myths-Trauma (CMT) Syndromes and Cultural Pathologies,” in P. Udayakumar (ed.), Handcuffed to History, (CT: Praeger, 2001), pp.244-245 as cited by Zheng Wang, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), p.7.

[xiv] Farish A. Noor, “How Indonesia Sees ASEAN and the World: A Cursory Survey of the Social Studies and History Textbooks of Indonesia, from Primary to Secondary Level,” RSIS Working Paper No. 233, February 22, 2012, accessed from http://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/rsis-pubs/WP233.pdf, p.2.

[xv] Ibid, p.31.

[xvi] Patrick Low, “ASEAN Economic Community Faces Numerous Challenges,” South China Morning Post Online, January 6, 2016, accessed from http://www.scmp.com/business/global-economy/article/1898017/asean-economic-community-faces-numerous-challenges.

[xvii] See http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/NightLights/page3.php.

[xviii] Daniel Wu, “Rethinking the Development Gap: ASEAN’s Inclusive Growth Imperative,” May 22, 2013, accessed from http://thediplomat.com/2013/05/rethinking-the-development-gap-aseans-inclusive-growth-imperative/1/.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Fraser Cameron, “The European Model as a Model for Regional Integration,” Council on Foreign Relations, September 2010, accessed from http://www.cfr.org/world/european-union-model-regional-integration/p22935.

[xxi] Khanh Vu Duc, “In Search of an Asian or ASEAN Identity,” July 3, 2013, accessed from http://www.irrawaddy.org/border/in-search-of-an-asian-or-asean-identity.html.

[xxii] “European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations,” accessed from http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/policy/conditions-membership/index_en.htm.

[xxiii] Anthony D. Smith, “National Identity and the Idea of European Unity,” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol.68, No.1 (Jan.1992), pp.65-66.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Solemn Declaration of the European Union, Stuttgart, June 1983

[xxvi] Hiroshi Kotani, “Brexit will not hinder ASEAN Integration, Surin Pitsuwan says,” Nikkei Asian Review Online, June 24, 2016, accessed from http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/Brexit-wll-not-hinder-ASEAN-integration-Surin-Pitsuwan-says?page=1.

[xxvii] BBC, “Greece Joins Eurozone,” BBC Online, January 1, 2001, accessed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/1095783.stm.

[xxviii] Mark Thompson, “Greece Joining Euro was a Mistake: Merkel,” CNN Online, August 28, 2013, accessed from http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/28/news/economy/merkel-greece-euro/.

[xxix] Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “Never Again? The loss of trust in the European project holds great dangers,” January 27, 2014, accessed from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/27/never-again-first-world-war.

[xxx] Alexandra Ma, “Fareed Zakaria: Migrant and Refugee Crisis is Testing Europe’s Identity,” Huffington Post Online, January 20, 2016, accessed from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fareed-zakaria-refugee-crisis-identity_us_569fca1be4b0a7026bf9df4b.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] David Held and Kyle McNally, “Touching the Fuzzy Core,” February 7, 2014, accessed from http://en.theeuropean.eu/david-held/7981-european-identity-a-way-of-solving-problems.

[xxxiii] See ASEAN Secretariat, The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, (Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, 2011), accessed from http://www.asean.org/storage/images/ASEAN_RTK_2014/4_Master_Plan_on_ASEAN_Connectivity.pdf.

[xxxiv] Joycee A. Teodoro, “ASEAN’s Connectivity Challenge,” The Diplomat Online, June 27, 2015, accessed from http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/aseans-connectivity-challenge/.

[xxxv] Termsak Chalermpalanupap, “No Brexit Repeat in ASEAN,” The Diplomat Online, June 28, 2016, accessed from http://thediplomat.com/2016/06/no-brexit-repeat-in-asean/.

[xxxvi] Ibid.

[xxxvii] Zheng Wang, op.cit., p.7.

[xxxviii] See Ina Hernando Malipot, “DepEd Playing Catch-up for ASEAN 2015,” December 11, 2013, accessed from http://www.mb.com.ph/deped-playing-catch-up-for-asean-2015/; “Thailand Prepares to Introduce ASEAN Curriculum,” August 20, 2012, accessed from http://www.enterpriseinnovation.net/article/thailand-prepares-introduce-asean-curriculum; and “Building the ASEAN Community in the Classroom,” July 5, 2012, accessed from http://www.nathaninc.com/news/building-asean-community-classroom.

[xxxix] “Kesiapan Indonesia dalam Menghadapi Komunitas ASEAN 2015,” April 28, 2014, accessed from http://voi.rri.co.id/voi/post/berita/76657/fokus/kesiapan_indonesia_dalam_menghadapi_komunitas_asean_2015.html.

[xl] The ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, (Jakarta: The ASEAN Secretariat, 2015), p.22.

[xli] Anssi Paasi, “The Resurgence of the ‘Region’ and ‘Regional Identity’: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Observations on Regional Dynamics in Europe,” Review of International Studies, 35, p.133.

[xlii] Patricia M. Goff, “ Invisible Borders:Economic Liberalization and National Identity,” International Studies Quarterly (2000) 44, p.533.

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One thought on “Could the ASEAN Community bring about a Southeast Asian Identity?

  1. Jin Ming Pan says:

    The author has ably captured the key arguments of ASEAN, that the quest of common identity, will continue to face head-winds. Such head-winds, then again, are for diplomats to rationalize, with or without the provision of proper solutions. Infrastructure spending in ASEAN, by one estimate, demands no less than USD 800 billion by 2030. The budget of ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta is less than USD 40 million a year, of which 70 per cent is spent on the payroll of 25 people, including the Secretary General and three Secretary Generals who sit around doing little. Are we to expect that ASEAN can proceed to get the USD 800 ? No. So, the answer and solution redound to the private sector. But since the private sector won’t cough out the money unless the state work in cahoots with them—–to lock it in a deadly embrace—-the private and public sector collaboration will lead to corruption, collusion, and cross contamination of the entire creation of an ASEAN Community. So, whether it is one leap (Treaty of Rome), or, several leaps (Copenhagen Agreement), or, many steps (ASEAN incrementalism), the end is still severe societal disruption. With ASEAN’s people aging at 2060, the problems will not be felt yet. But the perfect storm is brewing, even if the economy is growing at twice the clip of OECD growth rate. The elites will see and know the problems coming too; which is why they will adopt a hit-and-run approach on the economy, satisfying their corporate targets, and eventually squirreling their wealth in off shore financial centers like St Kitts, Bahamas and the likes; as shown by The Panamanian Papers

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