Tomorrow, I am off to Phnom Penh for a pretty fun gig – I’ll be shepherding a bunch of journalists from Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Timor Leste (!) who will be there for the Asean ministerial meeting and Asean Regional Forum.
It’s back to reporting and editing for me, and I’m now doing backbreaking research hunched over my computer. You know what? Other Asean countries seem to care more about the grouping, or have a bigger stake in it, than we do. I mean, have you heard of the Asean Human Rights Declaration? The Indonesian media is all over it, with NGOs complaining that the draft to be presented isn’t good enough. Then there is the progress towards an Asean Economic Community by 2015. The Thais are excited, with reports that businessmen are setting up shop, investing, buying land in anticipation of the boom to come. I guess Singapore being an open economy, isn’t too fussed about it even as it recognises that it will do us good.
We probably know a bit more about what’s happening in the South China Sea. China versus Vietnam, China versus the Philippines… The US glowering somewhere… So ,yes, Asean members Vietnam and the Philippines are excited about the meeting, which is supposed to come up with a code of conduct that will keep the peace in this resource-rich area. I wonder what sort of teeth this will have (Asean is pretty toothless – deliberately) and what sort of language of the lowest common denominator would make it acceptable to the parties concerned.
There’s stuff happening elsewhere too – Rohingyas getting killed in Myanmar, Thai-Cambodia border clashes… It’s a rough neighbourhood we live in.
Funny how obsessed we are with property prices, university places, opposition voices, MRT breakdowns. All these ”hot button” issues go out of the window if the neighbourhood isn’t restful or has no plan for the future.
As a media person, I want to see fireworks at the meeting – of the verbal kind of course. As an Asean citizen, I wish for peace in the neighbourhood. Hopefully, I’ll get both.