Ideas to build a vibrant Asean community

Contributors to Singapore: Insights From The Inside (from left) Matthew Herrmann, Divya Patel and Chong Siak Ching with Ms Amelia Tan, one of the illustrators for the book, at the National Gallery Singapore on Wednesday.
Contributors to Singapore: Insights From The Inside (from left) Matthew Herrmann, Divya Patel and lead researcher at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute Ms Moe Thuzar with Ms Amelia Tan, one of the illustrators for the book, at the National Gallery Singapore on Wednesday.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

New book offers perspectives from 48 contributors on how this can be achieved

Discussions about Asean tend to focus on the political, security and economic issues, but a new book explores different sociocultural aspects of the regional community.

The book, Singapore: Insights From The Inside, offers perspectives of contributors across 20 nationalities.

Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, Mr Ong Keng Yong, chairman of the Singapore International Foundation (SIF), said: "The 50 essays offer multi-faceted and interesting perspectives on the initiatives that the region can pursue, to help build a vibrant Asean community."

Now in its third volume, the book was launched by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the National Gallery Singapore.

It comprises short essays and illustrations bound by the common theme of how a "people-oriented and socially responsible Asean community" can be achieved, SIF said.

The book is divided into five sections, with each focusing on a different theme - identity, inclusiveness, innovation, imagination and influence.

Professor Matthew Herrmann, senior adviser of the Roosevelt Group and an adjunct professor at American University, contributed to the book.

Drawing on his experience teaching students politics and policy in a technological age, Prof Herrmann expressed his views on how Singapore can use technology to foster a "greater Asean community".

He writes: "It may seem counterintuitive, but technology can and should play a pivotal role in facilitating greater people-to-people engagements... Technology has the ability to transform engagement around the globe and notably in South-east Asia. As the chair of Asean in 2018, Singapore is uniquely situated to help facilitate this development within Asean."

In the book, Ms Chong Siak Ching, chief executive of National Gallery Singapore, highlights the role art from South-east Asia can play in forging friendships between Asean members.

The third volume was published by The Nutgraf and edited by its partner, Ms Sue-Ann Chia. Ms Chia said the book took six months of compiling and editing the contributions.

She said: "I especially like the part about identity, and how Asean is made of 10 different members, and yet some (essays) talk about the search for an 'Asean-ist' and to have an 'Asean' thinking... I hope that when readers read this, they can figure out for themselves whether they can see an 'Asean' in them."

The book from SIF, a non-profit organisation, is available for download from the SIF website at www.sif.org.sg/sifti

Correction note: An earlier version of this article said the book offers perspectives from 20 contributors. It should be 48. We also wrongly identified Ms Moe Thuzar as Ms Chong Siak Ching in the photo caption. We are sorry for the errors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2018, with the headline 'Ideas to build a vibrant Asean community'. Print Edition | Subscribe