BANGKOK – Malaysia and Thailand form a very essential bridge in bringing Asean together. In stating this, QI Group Executive Chairman, Dato’ Sri Vijay Eswaran has highlighted the importance of recognising the relationship between the two nations in progressing the region further economically.

“We are so close yet so far apart. In order for Asean to work together, bridges must be built and walls brought down. Too many years of practice and tradition have kept us looking outward as opposed to inward. Asean must come together and make this a concerted effort in order to become a key global economy region,” he said.

Speaking at the opening session of the 2019 ASEAN Community Leadership & Partnership Forum here, Dato Sri Vijay pointed out that Asean, in practice, has been colonized and developed by five different western powers.

“It is not unusual for students in Indonesia to look towards Holland and students in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia to opt for studies in France. We also have students from Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei as well as Myanmar looking towards the United Kingdom for further studies, while many Filipino students end up in the USA,” noted Dato’ Sri Vijay.

Prior to colonisation, Dato’ Sri Vijay said, Asean had a thousand years of history where the people worked together and traded together.

“Colonisation has divided us. We have legislations developed by those nations. It is important for us to get past these differences and come together to develop Asean as one common region, for the ten nations of Asean by themselves singularly cannot match any of the top ten economies of the world. But together we are a might to be reckoned with.

“ASEAN must also recognise that we are living in an era of global change, strategically and economically. Our operating environment is entering into a new phase. Larger and newer forces, especially the millennials are at work in shaping the region and the world. Global interdependence has increased, turning the world into one global village, he stressed.

He further pointed out that Asean is a key global economy but not yet a key digital economy, adding that digital integration is critical for the region to compete with other major economies.

The two-day Forum, brought together Leaders from Government, Business, Academia, Think Tanks and Civil Society to discuss the future challenges facing ASEAN in the new global era. The Forum with the theme, “Building Partnerships for a Sustainable and Inclusive ASEAN” also brought together next generation leaders of ASEAN, as well as women and young entrepreneurs.

The ASEAN Community Leadership & Partnership Forum was held in conjunction with the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. It was organized by Kingsley Strategic Institute, the Devawongse Varopakarn Institute of Foreign Affairs, Nation Building Institute, Thailand, the Federation of Thai Industries, the ASEAN Studies Centre and the Asia Centre. The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office of the Govt of Hong Kong was a strategic partner of the Forum.