With Asean economic integration and political commonalities increasingly becoming more difficult, the only way for nations in this part of the world to create a genuine community is to focus on the stepdaughter of the so-called “Three Pillars”, namely the sociocultural sector (the other two pillars are political-security community and the economic community).
While we can always say that the Asean community is a work in progress, it will not progress until we seriously embark on exchanging values, lifestyles and customs of people in Asean so that we all come to know and understand each other. This sense of belonging will only come from a bottom-up approach.
How can we become a community if we don’t know each other? How can we be a member of a community to which we don’t feel a sense of belonging? We are close yet so far. We know much about people in Britain, in the United States, but we know nothing about people in other Asean countries.