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Aston Kuta Hotel and Residence is a 5-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport and Bali’s famous Kuta Beach.


It features a spa and outdoor pool, and provides free shuttles to Discovery Mall which is Located in the entertainment district of Bali.

Free WiFi is accessible in all areas of the hotel.

Buffet breakfast which had local and international dishes is served at the hotel while drinks can be enjoyed at the rooftop lounge with such beautiful view.

You can check them out on:

Invitation to the ASEAN Blogger Phase 1, 7-11 August 2017,

Bali, Indonesia

The Rojak Projek was selected by the 'Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia' and granted the honour of representing Malaysia in the 'ASEAN Blogger Phase 1' hosted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in the Aston Kuta Hotel & Residence, Bali, from 7 – 11th August 2017.

"feed our people with positive news."

As an online platform that is focused on bridging the ASEAN community together, ASEAN Blogger is very much invested in the idea of spreading the message of unity in diversity. This is similar to The Rojak Projek’s goal in creating a positive message of love and unity among the diverse Malaysian community. Through this event, both The Rojak Projek and other ASEAN representatives were able to come together in solidarity towards building a more unified ASEAN.


During the event, Akhyari Hananto from Good News from Indonesia emphasized the importance of countering negative news, hoax and media distrust by creating just as much positive news and spreading it.


Ms. Widia Librianti, a Technical Officer from the ASEAN Secretariat also expressed the importance of using social media as a powerful tool to build an informative and open platform that can promote effective cooperation between fields of culture and information in order to enhance mutual understanding and solidarity among the ASEAN community.

Mr. Ermillian Heriachandra M.A however brought up an additional point that it is best to create understanding, not just awareness in social media. Creating understanding is better when it comes from those who know less, not know more.

Despite not having any bloggers in the team, The Rojak Projek was able to share to the few a little about their journey of promoting a positive message of love and unity in a time where there is a lot of negativity in the local Malaysian news. The Rojak Projek does this through creating unique portraits of Malaysian people using a variety of local Malaysian food. Pictures of the ‘conceptual food artwork’ are then taken and shared on social media in order to connect people to each other and bring them together.

It isn’t just about food or art or sharing positive vibes. The Rojak Projek’s aim is to transform the lens of society by producing creative content that builds not just cultural awareness but an understanding of the Malaysian culture that enables people to shift their perspectives ‘from colour-blindness to colour-embracing’.

Our hope is to empower all Malaysians to rise up and fight for our beautiful Malaysia by
creating a positive culture of love and unity in amidst negativity.

We hope to continue our journey with ASEAN with much Malaysian love.

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

To all those we met in this Bali trip, a big shout out to you with Malaysian love!


Thank you for making this journey fun, inspiring and educational! 


During the ASEAN Blogger conference, I got to meet some amazing Indonesians who shared their personal thoughts and experiences with me regarding unity in a diverse Indonesia. Despite being from different cultures and backgrounds, these friends had a strong sense of identity as Indonesians.

I had the delightful opportunity to ask them a couple of questions about their Indonesian perspective on the topic of unity and national identity. Here is a summary of the interview:

How do you differentiate between a Balinese and other different ethnicities?

"A Balinese person has a unique ‘title’ in their names with is distinguished firstly by their gender and then followed by the order of their birth. Ladies are differentiated by a ‘Ni’ in the beginning of their names and for gentlemen, it starts with an ‘E’. Firstborns are called either ‘Putu’ or ‘Wayan’, the second child either ‘Kada’ or ‘Made’, the third ‘Komang’ or ‘Nyoma’ and for the fourth child it is ‘Ketut’. A fifth child would restart the cycle of titles in the family." - Ni Putu Githa, Balinese from Badong

What makes Indonesia unique?

“Despite having over 1000 different ethnic groups and languages in Indonesia, we are but one blood. Yes, the culture is different from Bali to Sumatera to Java, but we are the same.” - Ms. Ni Putu Githa, Balinese from Badong

“Ethnicity is not noticeable in Indonesia, nobody is of a different race.” - Ms. Widia Librianti, Javanese from Bandung

“I have many friends from different ethnicity groups – Chinese, Javanese, Balinese…but to me they are all Indonesians.” - Mr. Heru Margianto, Javanese from Java

Indonesians have a strong sense of pride in their national identity. Can you tell us how or what made it happen that way?

“Indonesians relate to each other through ‘perasaan nasib’ which is basically a strong feeling that all locals, despite their different ethnicities, are destined to become Indonesians together. We are especially thankful for the Dutch invasion that gave birth to Indonesia.” - Mr. Heru Margianto, Javanese from Java

“When I was young, all I know is that Indonesia is a big country, but even at that age, I can feel our unity. Our culture may be different, but we are the same.” - Mr. Mirza Muhammad, Kalimantan-Javanese from Acheh


“In school, some of us will pick up additional languages depending on local dialects in the area. But because ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ is the country’s main language, it played an essential part in unifying us.”

How can we promote more unity in our diversity or spread more positivity? 

“It all starts with ourselves. For example, I work as a hotel staff to serve people. I put in effort in my services to serve the best and be friendly when we have foreign visitors.” - Ni Putu Githa, Balinese from Badong

“In Indonesia, we are taught our cultural dances and traditional music at a young age. We are also taught on the importance of respecting one another through our customary practices, known locally as ‘adat’. These are all commonalities we have together as Indonesians, which helped to play an important part in our unity. Perhaps one thing Malaysians can do is to find a common ground amidst diversity.”

From a fellow Malaysian’s point of view, I have only such love and respect for Indonesia. It is my hope to see Malaysians experiencing their own sense of ‘perasaan nasib’ as it is so important to be truly Malaysian first instead of being differentiated through our different races and backgrounds. I believe that it is only through consistent awareness about our shared cultures and through spreading and practicing the right ‘adat' (local customary practices and tradition) together, that Malaysians can achieve love and unity together. As power comes from the rakyat, it must also start with us. We need to start building that unity in diversity by bringing all our differences together.

If a large and widely-diverse country like Indonesia is able to achieve unity through their national identity, what is stopping us fellow Malaysians from doing the same?

Faye Lim & Gloria Chieng,
The Rojak Projek.




We would like to thank ASEAN, Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia, Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Indonesia), the speakers and to all those we met during this program.

“Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" (Unity in Diversity)

AB 2017


Hon. Tan Chuan-Jin is currently Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore. He was elected to the post by Members of Parliament (MPs) on 11 September 2017, making him the 10th Speaker of Singapore since the First Legislative Assembly of 1995 Prior to his election to the Parliament, Mr. Tan had served in the Singapore Armed Forces for nearly 24 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in Defence Studies from King’s College in London and a Master’s Degree in Public Management from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.



Professor Tommy Koh is currently Ambassador-At-Large at the Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Special Adviser to the Institute of Policy Studies; and Chairman of the Governing Board of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He is also the Co-Chairman of the China-Singapore Forum. Previously, he serves as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and Ambassador to the United States of America. He as conferred with honorary doctoral degrees in law by Yale and Monash Universities.


Professor Kishore Mahbubani is Senior Advisor (University & Global Relations) and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, where he also serves as Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy from 2004 to 2017. He is the author of Can Asians Think?; Beyond The Age of Innocence; The New Asian Hemisphere; The Great Convergence (which was selected by the Financial Times as one of the best books of 2013); and Can Singapore Survive? He co-authored The ASEAN Miracle. His latest book, Has the West Lost it? A Provocation, was released in April 2018. He received a Master’s degree in Philosophy in 1976 and an honorary doctorate in 1995.


Dr. Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa KCMG serves as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Indonesia from 2009 to 2014. He began his career with the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia in 1986. From 2002 to 2005, he served as Director General for ASEAN Coorperation. The period coincided with Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN, marked by the ASEAN Community initiative, which was formally endorsed by Member States through the 2003 Bali Concord II. Dr. Natalegawa earned a Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.) degree from the Australian National University in 1993.

2nd ASEAN Media Forum (AMF) 2018,

4th May 2018, NTU Alumni House @ Functional Hall, Singapore

THE ROJAK PROJEK, as well as other top editors and social influencers from ASEAN member states, were invited to join the 2nd ASEAN Media Forum (AMF) in Singapore on 4th May 2018, to have a better understanding of ASEAN, its challenges, objectives and achievements in hope that this would enable us, the media, to tell the ASEAN story better.


Following the success of the inaugural forum in Manila, Philippines in August 2017, the 2nd AMF sought to provide a platform for ASEAN to convey key messages of its goals, achievements and challenges’ and at the same time, allow for engagement, discussion and debate on topical and timely international or regional issues.


This 1-day event was organized by the Community Affairs Directorate, ASEAN Secretariat, in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) of Singapore, and with the support of GIZ ASEC Post 2015 Project commissioned by the German Federal Foreign Office.


This event was sponsored by both Air Asia and GIZ. At the event, these two entities were respectively represented by Mr Keitel Juergen, Deputy Group Chief for Affairs and Development of Air Asia and H.E. Dr Ulrich A. Sante, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Singapore.


In his welcoming speech, Mr Juergen said that Air Asia pledges its support towards ASEAN as it truly considers itself an ASEAN company and an ASEAN airline. And as ASEAN is their homegrown territory, he said that Air Asia thus looks forward to further grow the market as ASEAN grows, to work on having a seamless ASEAN sky, and to put ASEAN on the map as a top holiday destination by increasing connectivity to countries beyond ASEAN.

His Excellency, in his welcoming speech, said that from a business and security perspective, ASEAN takes center stage in the region. From a security perspective, ASEAN will also increase in importance because of the global and regional challenges that it is facing, even though ASEAN is based on sovereignty and the principal of non-interference. Thus, he added that the media plays a very important role as they report what is happening, comment on events and thus, help form public opinion – a vital channel that ensures the fundamental human rights of having freedom of expression and access to information.

Hence, to promote further understanding on the centrality and importance of ASEAN to the media, this year’s forum was sectioned into three key segments:

Opening remarks by Mr Lee Yoong Yoong, Director, Community Affairs Directorate, ASEAN Secretariat

Welcoming remarks by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU Singapore

Speech by Hon. Tan Chuan-Jin

Sponsors' remark by H.E Dr Ulrich A. Sante, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Singapore

Dialogue with Professor Kishore Mahbubani (left) and Professor Tommy Koh (middle) on 'Can ASEAN survive the US-China Confrontation?" . Photo Credits: Vannarith Chheang

Mr Lee Yoong Yoong, Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dr. Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa, Hon. Tan Chuan-Jin, H.E Dr Ulrich A. Sante, Professor Tommy Koh, Mr. Juergen Keitel, Mr. Jorg Hager and Ambassador Ong Keng Yong

Dr. Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa (left) with moderator, Mr. Pichai Chuensuksawadi (right) on the "Relevance of ASEAN in the next 50 years"

1) Speech by H.E Tan Chuan-jin of Singapore Parliament

Hon. Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Singapore, and Chair of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) opened his speech by stating that we should understand our roles and the importance of our roles in our different organizations in public service. Regarding growth, he mentioned that it is not about achieving numbers, rather, how it translates to impact the lives of the people. 

In terms of ASEAN and its relevance, he acknowledges that there is still room for growth within ASEAN and that further steps are being taken to ensure this. He also mentions that ultimately it is about creating opportunities for the people and there has been significant improvement in the lives of people over the years and it is important that that its recognized. He further states that the media leaders play an important role in ensuring that the gap is bridged between ASEAN, individual governments and its peoples, in terms of the transmission of information and awareness.

He acknowledges that while there are those who are interested to know more about the activities of ASEAN and of parliament, there are also many who don’t pay much attention. Thus, he reiterates the importance of bridging that gap between the activities of the government [and supra-national entities], with the people. He emphasized that with the advent of social platforms, it is now important to use this tool to help the people understand and humanize the organizations; circumventing the formalities and making information more accessible. 

Thus, he further reiterates his hope that the participants – the media leaders – could help build trust between the people and organizations by ensuring that the information gap is bridged.

2) "Can ASEAN survive the US-China Confrontation?", by Professor Tommy Koh and Professor Kishore Mahbubani

Given the changing global geo-political landscape, many experts believe that it will greatly impact the geo-political stability of Southeast Asia, and therefore the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – the region’s intergovernmental organisation – greatly. Hence, Mr Han Fook Kwang, the moderator of the 2-penallist forum entitled “Can ASEAN survive the US-China confrontation”, says that this is an extremely topical question given that the threat to ASEAN unity is from external forces, particularly the deteriorating Unites States of America (US) – The People’s Republic of China’s (China) bilateral relationship.


In addressing the US-China relations and how it would impact ASEAN, Professor Tommy Koh, (Ambassador-At-Large at the Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Special Adviser to the Institute of Policy Studies; and Chairman of the Governing Board of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore), believes that everyone agrees that the most important bilateral relationship in the world today is the US-China relationship. This is because it is a relationship between the US, which has been the incumbent hegemonic power since 1945, and the potential challenger, China. Professor Koh further adds that Xi Jinping, China’s leader, aims for China to be a global power by 2049 – which further cements the reality that China is an ascending power with the potential, scale and ambition to be a superpower. Nevertheless, he questions, can the incumbent hegemon and rising superpower co-exist peacefully?


Professor Koh elaborates that the optimist would like to think so, as the US-China relationship is fundamentally different that the relationship of US-Russia and US-India and that it is economically linked and interdependent. Currently, China is the US’ largest export market and its largest creditor. In fact, China is the world’s largest creditor while the US the world’s largest debtor. Nevertheless, he debunks the notion that that economic interdependence guarantees peace.


According to Professor Graham Allison and his team of researchers at Harvard University, says Professor Koh, they found that in the last 500 years of world history, 11 of 16 instances where a hegemon faced a challenger, war was the result. Although this does not mean that there will be a war between US and China, he is still concerned as the current US President Donald Trump is a leader which rejects the principles and value of open economies, free trade, globalisation and economic integration – the very principles and values which formed the rule-based international order constructed post-1945.


Furthermore, he says, Trump is using trade as a political instrument against China, for example, to reduce the US’ US$ 500 billion deficit, implement intellectual property (IP) rights in China [to protect any US technology manufactured or assembled there], and by imposing tariffs against Chinese imports [to protect its local economy] – and naturally, the Chinese are retaliating. Moreover, the US Congress recently passed a law called the Taiwan Travel Act, which violates The Three Joint Communiqués that formed the basis of US-China bilateral relations, excoriating the relationship further, says Professor Koh.


As Trump is also imposing trade tariffs on other trading partners, Professor Koh says that there is fear that tit for tat will lead to a global trade war. He adds that this harks back to the 1930s, when the US adopted a similar protectionist stance and enacted the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which resulted in a trade war with Europe and other countries and helped deepen the decade-long Great Depression. He highlighted that this caused enormous damage the world economy.

The second panellist, Professor Kishore Mahbubani, (Senior Advisor of University & Global Relations and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore), agrees with Professor Koh that ASEAN is currently going through a perilous moment in history, for the next 5-10 years, as the US-China relations goes through a difficult phase. As per his conversations with Henry Kissinger, he observed there is very deep anxiety among the US establishment regarding the rise of China and a unanimous consensus that the US-China relations will further deteriorate. Kishore also confirms that the Chinese are also acutely aware that their relations with the US have gone fundamentally wrong.


He asserts that the US-China power struggle is the region is evident, for example, given when China launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), all ASEAN capitals received a phone call from the US Treasury, advising them not to participate. He said that ASEAN joined anyway, while Japan, South Korea and Australia opted out. Hence, this ‘defiance’ could cause a challenge for ASEAN member states in the near future [in terms of their relationship with the US], he observed.


Thus, Professor Koh suggests that this is where the media comes in. As he believes that the media plays a very important and indispensable role in any free society, and though no media is infallible, he states that a well-informed honest media helps keep officials, like himself, politicians of honour.


Hence, he also said that it is important to make known that ASEAN is success story – it has maintained peace in the region for the last 50 years, and it is only with peace that any endeavours, within the state or within the region, could be executed. ASEAN has enabled 10 economies to prosper, cooperate with one another and other developed economies, to benefit from the economics of scale and raise the standard of living, and ASEAN has also given the region a voice in the world – making it a significant force, regardless of what the Western media or naysayers may say. He posits that if ASEAN is not a significant force, why would the world leaders convene in Southeast Asia to meet with the ASEAN leaders every November [for the annual ASEAN Summit]?


Thus, the forum concluded that for ASEAN to survive a US-China confrontation, ASEAN and its people must remain united in promoting and protecting the interest of the region.

3) The relevance of ASEAN in the next 50 years by Dr. Marty Natalegawa

As it is the aim of The Rojak Projek to promote unity in diversity, we were much more interested in how ASEAN addresses the third pillar of the ASEAN Community – the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). Through its ASCC Blueprint 2025, it says that it will strive for a community that engages and benefits the people, and is inclusive, sustainable, resilient and dynamic; and to work towards, among others, a dynamic and harmonious community that is aware and proud of its identity, culture and heritage.

Hence, in terms of promoting the identity culture and heritage of ASEAN nations, Dr. Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa, ex-Foreign Minister of Indonesia says that there is a whole list of initiatives, road maps and action plans to promote and deliver this. However, he says that the only thing that remains now is the documentation and how it is acted upon – as ASEAN has a paradox of plenty, to process and categorize the plethora of information is a challenge.

He adds that we live in a time of high connectivity, but we are not connected. We are very well informed on the issues that we like, but we do not have a public space to compare notes; rather, we have a working-in-silos mentality. He further says he hopes that ASEAN modalities and cooperation would be more of the “outreach” type and on “more putting oneself in others shoes this type” rather than augmenting prejudices, which in ASEAN, could be a very divisive thing as we all have our own version of facts.


To set the stage, in his opening speech, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, in Singapore asked two important rhetorical questions in his welcoming remarks - does the average person understand about ASEAN? What awareness do they have how ASEAN has improved their lives? 

He said that in terms of tourism, ASEAN has improved ease of travel, connectivity in terms of air travel, safety of air travel and removing restrictions of travel. In terms of trade, now food products of ASEAN member countries are available at each other’s groceries. He added that in the coming years, ASEAN shall do more on creating awareness on geopolitical issues and development in ASEAN.

The question is, what about socio-cultural issues? Will ASEAN do more on creating awareness, especially on the different tribes (i.e. ethnic groups) within each ASEAN countries? 

We, The Rojak Projek, believe that more can definitely be done. We would like to suggest that, perhaps, we could start by working collectively to figure out the best way to highlighting, documenting and promoting the types of ethnicities that are available in each country, to create more awareness and understanding of who we are as an ASEAN nation – that we can be united in our diversity. 

As Malaysians, we have observed that in our country, even we are not culturally aware about the total numbers of ethnicities available in Malaysia. More so, we are not even aware about the culture of ethnicities that we are aware of. Thus, as Malaysians are united in our love for food, this is the common denominator that encapsulates our approach to create awareness, a sense of belonging, familiarity and thus, unity as a Malaysian nation. 

We believe that the socio-cultural aspect of ASEAN must be given the same gravity, in term of importance, as regional security, trade and economics as we believe that only when we are aware of who we are as a nation that we can be able to effectively tailor policies and initiatives that will have not just a ten-fold impact, but impact that will be cross-culturally resonant and sustainable for decades to come.

By Faye / Lim Sheng Feiyan, Nur Azlin Abdul Karim & Tabitha Xavier,
The Rojak Projek.




We would like to thank ASEAN Secretariat, Air Asia, Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) of Singapore, and other top media leaders and social influencers we met during this forum.


AMF 2018


SSEAYP is a 2-month cruising program on a ship called NIPPON MARU and this year the ship will do a courtersy visits to five selected participating countries Brunei, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam including Japan. The activities that will be carried out during the program include: 

  • Discussions on goal and current issues especially relating to ASEAN countries and Japan

  • Institutional visits/interaction/dialogue/presentations/forum with the local youth 

  • Participation in charity events and foster family activities organized by every visited country and Japan

  • Promotion and exchange of various cultural and traditional heritage from participating youths 

An estimation of 330 youth, together with respective national leaders from ASEAN and Japan to participate in this such esteemed program this year. The participants will cruise from Tokyo, Japan to Muara-Brunei, followed by Manila-Philippines, Bangkok-Thailand, and proceed to Ho Chi Minh-Vietnam before reaching the final stop of Tokyo, Japan. This year’s theme ‘Youth Participation in Social Activities’ aims to raise awareness on the importance of youth leaders to contribute in revitalization and prosperity of their societies.   



The Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP) started from the respective Joint Statement issued in January 1974 among Japan, Malaysia, the Kingdom of Thailand, and the respective Republic of Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore. Brunei Darussalam joined the programme in 1985, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam joined in 1996. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Union of Myanmar both joined in 1998 followed by the Kingdom of Cambodia in 2000. SSEAYP is implemented by Japan government together with the active participation and co-operation of these ten Southeast Asian countries. 
Since 2014, the name of the programme has been changed to the Ship for the Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP) in commemorative of the 40th year of the programme itself. In 2018, SSEAYP is once again sailing to the blue ocean for the 45th consecutive year.  


The Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP) is a unique program organized and sponsored by the Government of Japan which also acts as the Host Country with the joint-effort from 10 ASEAN Countries. An estimation of 330 participants will be joining this year’s programme which consist of 1 National Leader (NL) and 28 Participating Youths (PY) from Japan and each of the 10 ASEAN countries listed as follow: 
1. The Republic of Indonesia

2. Malaysia

3. The Republic of the Philippines

4. The Republic of Singapore

5. The Kingdom of Thailand

6. Brunei Darussalam

7. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam

8. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic

9. The Union of Myanmar

10. The Kingdom of Cambodia 


  • The programme seek to promote cultural understanding and friendship among youths of Southeast Asian countries and Japan, broaden their international perspective, and strengthen their spirit and practical skills for international collaboration.   

  • SSEAYP acts as a global intellectual sharing platform for youths to exchange ideas and knowledge, cultivate or exercise their leadership and project management skills through experiencing a series of activities available.   

  • The programme encourages and motivates participating youths by nurturing their capabilities to come up with ideas for possible post program activities which will contribute to and help the individual countries on their issues faced. 

  • The programme provides opportunities for youths to live together and carry out various activities on board the ship, visit the participating countries, along with institutional visits, as well as homestay experiences. 



3rd ASEAN Media Forum (AMF) 2019,

29th July 2019, Anantara Siam Hotel, Bangkok, THailand.

BANGKOK: THE ROJAK PROJEK, as well as other top editors and social influencers from ASEAN member states, were invited to join the 3rd ASEAN Media Forum (AMF) in Bangkok on 29th July 2019, to have a better understanding of ASEAN on its challenges, objectives and achievements in hope that this would enable us, the media, to convey the ASEAN story better to the citizens of ASEAN.


Following the success of the inaugural forum in Thailand on the 4th May 2018, the 3rd AMF sought to provide a platform for ASEAN to convey key messages of its goals, achievements and challenges’ and at the same time, allow for engagement, discussion and debate on topical and timely international or regional issues. The AMF 2019’s theme focuses on the global economy in relation to ASEAN.


This 1-day event was organized by the Community Affairs Directorate, ASEAN Secretariat, in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Foundation or Public Policy and Good Governance of Thailand, and with the support of GIZ ASEC Post 2015 Project commissioned by the German Federal Foreign Office. This event was sponsored by both Air Asia and GIZ. 


For the first time, the ASEAN Media Forum was able to have the Secretary-General of ASEAN, H. E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi to join in the third ASEAN Media Forum. The event was opened by H. E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi; H. E. Mrs. Pornpimol Kanchalanak, advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand; H. E. Georf Shmidt, Ambassador of Germany to Thailand with Germany being an ASEAN Development Partner; and Dr. Bandid Nijathaworn, Chairman of the Foundation for Public Policy and Good Governance.


In H. E. Mrs. Pornpimol Kanchalanak’s opening speech, the core purpose of AMF 2019 session was emphasised; namely to discuss the global challenges facing ASEAN and how members of ASEAN could or should respond to them. 

Her Excellency stated that “we are living in the best of times, and the worst of times”, relating to the rise of a new global power that has set the inevitable stage for the rivalry with the ruling power. “Such rivalry extends from security to finance to trade and even to technological innovation and modernization, leading to increased aggression, nationalism, militarily, politically, economically and technologically.''


Another factor that Her Excellency raised that might affect our lives enormously is the 4th Industrial Revolution led by the arrival of 5G and the rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Her Excellency stated that the most worrisome part was unlike the previous three revolutions, the fourth revolution will not give us much time to adapt or adjust as change will come regardless of our readiness.

“For a long time, ASEAN was dismissively called a paper tiger, criticized as purposeless gathering that would soon fade away as organically as it came to be. But such criticisms have been proven wrong. '' Her Excellency further added that ASEAN has grown in stride; recognizing every nation’s individual strengths and weaknesses, ASEAN has been an impressive exercise of constructive restraints and mutual respect. This leads to the importance of ASEAN nations working together with the “One Vision, One Identity” guiding principle, “This is the key to our (ASEAN) response to the massive global challenges we are facing,'' said Her Excellency Mrs. Pornpimol.


Hence, to promote further understanding on the centrality and importance of ASEAN to the media, this year’s forum was sectioned into three key segments.

H. E. Georf Shmidt (Ambassador of Germany to Thailand) from second left, Mrs. Pornpimol Kanchalanak (advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand) delivering her speech from second right, & H. E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi (Secretary-General of ASEAN) from far right.

H. E. Mrs. Pornpimol Kanchalanak delivering her speech

Dr Suthad (Board Member, Bank of Thailand) during the ASEAN Media Forum 2019

From right: Khun Pichai Chuensuksawadi (moderator); with panel: Mr. Manu Bhaskaran (Director of Centennial Asia Advisors); Dr. Bandid Nijathaworn (Chairman of the Foundation for Public Policy & Good Governance, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand); Dr. Hoe Ee Khor(Chief Economist, ASEAN+3 Macro Economic Research Office (AMIRO)

From left: Khun Arin Jira (Chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council), H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi (Secretary General of ASEAN), and Khun Pichai Chuensuksawadi (moderator)

Group photo of ASEAN delegates, Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Foundation or Public Policy and Good Governance of Thailand and other top ASEAN media leaders and social influencers during the opening of AMF 2019. (Photo credit: ASEAN SUMMIT)

1. ASEAN’s Response to the China-USA Trade Spat

The first segment was a speech by Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng (Board Member, Bank of Thailand). 


In Dr Suthad’s sharing, he shared and discussed with the media on issues regarding ASEAN’s response to the impact of tariff increase, and the transition of the global economy. He stated that the increase tariff from US for imports shakes the trust in the global trading system. 


Dr Suthad further explain on the direct impact for tariff increase:

1. Government revenue increases; for USA, the revenue is an enormous help for it’s current poor fiscal condition. On the other hand for China, the disruption in the market is not worth the revenue.


2. Reduction of import; for USA, the importer and the manufacturer absorbed majority of the burden as it is difficult to increase price of electrical products in the US market. For China, the tariff burden of agricultural products is generally passed down to the consumer.

According to Dr Suthad, the indirect impacts from increased tariffs are: value added in export goods, economic slowdown, and weakening the World Trade Organization (WTO) system. Therefore, indicating that the China-USA trade spat is an issue that must be resolved quickly to prevent further global damage.


Dr. Suthad moved on by addressing the transitions happening in the global economy where traditional industries are now moving towards new industries. In other words, the global economy is now focusing on the Service Industry, rather than focussing on Agriculture and Manufacturing industries.


So, what is ASEAN’s response to the current global challenges? Dr. Suthad mentioned that the future of ASEAN economy is in the integration and globalization of Asia. “Asia needs to move ahead quickly,'' he emphasised.  Essentially, Dr Suthad mentioned that the global economy is in transition towards greater integration. He believes that the integration of Asia will come closer to reality with the application of new technology.


There are areas that the economies should look into for the emerging global landscape:

  1. Reviewing and strengthening the global trade mechanism and organizations, eg: WTO, WCO, WIPO, ITU to create a new environment for future economic activities.

  2. The global financial system and organizations (eg: IMF, WB, BIS and Central Banking System) should also be reviewed to evolve a new global system while addressing the current debt issue in developed economies.

2. Moving ASEAN Economic Integration Forward

A panel discussion by Dr. Hoe Ee Khor, Chief Economist, ASEAN+3 Macro Economic Research Office (AMIRO); Manu Bhaskaran, Director of Centennial Asia Advisors P/L; Dr. Bandid Nijathaworn, Chairman of the Foundation for Public Policy & Good Governance, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand.


During the panel discussion, Dr. Hoe Ee Khor mentioned that the ASEAN has been doing positively in terms of economic integration as the region is multifaceted. According to Dr. Hoe, in the aspects of trade, the regional integration has been increasingly gaining traction. ASEAN has been behind the various cooperation mechanisms for the ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3 and East Asia Summit. 


Moving on to investments, Dr. Hoe mentioned that cross-border FDI within the region is showing promising signs of picking up, and there are welfare gains for everybody in the long term. In 2015, the intra-ASEAN inward FDI reached US$22 billion. Despite it being relatively small in terms of magnitude, Dr Hoe mentioned that the outlook is encouraging as smaller ASEAN economies (CLMV) have large financing needs, specifically on infrastructure.


In the topic of finance, substantial progress has been made in financial integration, though the pace has been more measured, as compared to the rapid pace of trade integration. It was mentioned that the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework provides a platform for Qualified ASEAN Banks to gain greater market access - which helps to facilitate the mobilisation of regional savings, supporting further trade integration, leading to economic growth.


Mr. Manu mentioned during the discussion that it is important that ASEAN is strong and unified to offer protection to all its members in this era of growing protectionism and big power bullying. Adding on, in a time where technology seems to favour scale, ASEAN should do more to produce an integrated single market so that ASEAN economies are not left behind. As multilateral regional integration is tough to achieve, Mr. Manu suggest that ASEAN can create smaller coalitions of like-minded countries by trying “bite-sized” integration, promoting cross-border integration (eg: Iskandar Region between Malaysia and Singapore).


Dr. Bandid also added that ASEAN can strengthen its own capacity for crisis management going forward. This could take the form of revitalizing the existing ASEAN Swap facility and policy dialogue that complement the current CMIM and AMRO arrangements of the ASEA+3.

In the discussion, the China Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) was raised. According to Dr. Hoe, majority of projects are well performing projects, and that risk is unavoidable and expected at any stage - from the feasibility to implementing stage. 


Dr. Bandid added that it is in fact all countries need infrastructure to integrate economy. However, in the context of BRI, the design and choice of the project needs to fit the needs of the country (in the aspect of development). Adding on, transparency is also important as nations “need to get their citizens to be comfortable in committing the country’s future revenue to be engaged in these sorts of long term investment”, Dr Bandid mentioned.


In regards to the BRI, Mr. Manu further added, stating that BRI is a very positive initiative. However, governments should get proper policy framework that addresses concerns from the private sectors regarding fundings to minimise external financial help from international bodies. 


The issue regarding technology (AI) and labour was also raised during the discussion. According to Dr. Hoe, he stated that technology had provided economies more employment opportunities. Taking Grab as an example, Dr Hoe stated that before the e-hailing service existed, there was 8,000 taxis. Today, there are about 65,000 cars on the road. Moving our perspective towards e-commerce, Dr Hoe mentioned that despite it destroying traditional malls and departmental stores, e-commerce has created a whole logistic chain that has created more jobs behind the scenes to support the industry. Dr. Hoe thinks that technology is an enabler for more employment opportunities and economic integration.


3. Assessing ASEAN: How the region can stay ahead of the business curve?

According to Mr. Lim, the economic performance of the ASEAN member state is positive; trade is positive, and investments are still coming in within the ASEAN region. This is still positive trajectory which he thinks is good for all in the ASEAN region.


During the discussion, Khun Arin brought up the issue of US-CHINA. Khun Arin mentioned that if free trade is threatened, all the industry that is moving out of China will be targeted and affected. This is a wake up call to speed up reforms and infrastructure, especially in the ASEAN.


In regards to the trade war, Khun Arin stated that the trade war is inhibiting our growth, but ASEAN has a voice. "We need to make our voices heard in G20. We need to have a voice… ASEAN should call for World Economic Peace. World Economic Peace that's what we need because in the end, everyone is going to lose,” Khun Arin emphasised.

By Sean Koay,
The Rojak Projek.


We would like to thank the Community Affairs Directorate, ASEAN Secretariat, Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Foundation or Public Policy and Good Governance of Thailand, and with the support of GIZ ASEC Post 2015 Project commissioned by the German Federal Foreign Office. This event was sponsored by both Air Asia and GIZ, and other top media leaders and social influencers we met during this forum.

AMF 2019
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