PUTRAJAYA: Malaysians have the lowest level of awareness of Asean among the 10-member countries’ citizens and the Government is set on rectifying this, ahead of the country’s scheduled takeover of the grouping’s chairmanship next year.
The lack of awareness was found in a recent survey commissioned by the Asean secretariat, said Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin.
More aggressive outreach programmes to educate the public about the importance of regional cooperation, particularly with Asean nations, are expected to be rolled out using additional budget approved by the Government.
“We look at Asean as a large, people-centred community for the benefit of all in the region.
“We hope to put the message out there for the acceptance of Asean as a community and for the rakyat to know that Asean is a reality, not just a dream,” Hamzah said after the Asean flag-raising ceremony at Wisma Putra here yesterday.
Taking over from Myanmar as chairman of Asean next year, Malaysia is expected to deliver on two major areas, namely, the formal establishment of the Asean Community by Dec 31, 2015, and to formulate a successor document to the current roadmap for the Asean Community.
The Asean Community was conceived to establish a regional integration among the member nations in the aspects of political-security, economy and socio-cultural.
Besides Malaysia, the other members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Among the most talked about benefit of the Asean Community is in its projected ability to open up trade opportunities between member nations.
“Eventually, economies will be liberalised to achieve the goal of turning Asean into a single market and production base.
“With collaboration with other ministries and agencies, Wisma Putra has set up various committees to assist in the early preparation of our chairmanship,” Hamzah said.