ASEAN members are hoping to follow the footsteps of the European Union by forming its own community within 2015. Although the ASEAN Community will be established in the next four years, questions remained on what Thailand can do to ensure its readiness before being united as a single community for the time being.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister Dr Surakiart Sathirathai indicated that citizens in ASEAN still have no chances to participate in the establishment of ASEAN Community, especially in the socio-cultural part. He admitted that only leaders in ministerial or the public sector level have been taking part in this issue, and there is no room for other sides to join in.
In addition, Dr Surakiat pointed out that each ASEAN nation is also struggling with its own domestic political issue, which he deemed a major obstruction for regional development. He then suggested that the public sector should let all sides partake in the process and allow experts to help for concrete cooperation among ASEAN nations.
Meanwhile, Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri, a senior adviser and a lecturer from the Southeast Asian Studies Program of Thammasat University, stated that the ASEAN Community is a hope and a dream that ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan has been forging ahead. As an academic, he said he personally agrees with the initiative and wants it to happen in the future.
Dr Charnvit however admitted that it might be difficult since people in ASEAN still have a wide discrepancy in their living condition; for example, people in Singapore and Malaysia in general have better life quality while majority of Thai people do not. He therefore suggested that all sides must improve the economy and uplift education system to reduce gap among people in the region.
It is hoped that Thailand and all ASEAN nations will enjoy a smooth sails towards the establishment of the ASEAN Community within 2015 as targeted. Nevertheless, actual participation from all sides is still needed to help forge ahead with the process, to clear all internal problems and reduce international conflicts among ASEAN members for greater regional growth.
Catch up with the second part of this special report at .