ASEAN awareness has been promoted among Thai youth and members of the media as Thailand is actively joining its ASEAN partners in moving toward a single community by 2015.
A group of media practitioners participated in a press tour and a seminar, organized by the Government Public Relations Department on 1-2 June 2011 in order to step up a campaign for ASEAN awareness in Thailand.
The press tour took them to Pibulwitthayalai School in Lop Buri province to observe the operations of the ASEAN Study Center there. Pibulwitthayalai is among 54 schools in Thailand under the Spirit of ASEAN project, aimed at developing Thailand’s education in response to the strategy for ASEAN community-building in four years’ time. The project is intended to prepare Thai youth for the integration of ASEAN with three pillars: political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural cooperation.
Pibulwitthayalai School’s ASEAN Study Center provides knowledge about ASEAN in all aspects and promotes the teaching and learning of English and ASEAN languages. It has created a website to spread knowledge and information about ASEAN and organized various activities, such as exhibitions, seminars, and performances, to boost ASEAN awareness.
After the press tour of Pibulwitthayalai School, the group of media practitioners also attended a seminar on the media and the ASEAN Community, held at Chateau de Khaoyai Resort in Pak Chong district, Nakhon Ratchasima province. Speaking at the seminar, the Director-General of the Department of ASEAN Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Itti Ditbanjong, stressed the importance of preparing Thai people for the realization of the ASEAN Community.
ASEAN is now Thailand’s largest trading partner, with more than 59 billion US dollars in trade value. The amount accounts for 21.3 percent of Thailand’s total trade value. Thailand gains a trade surplus of 10 billion dollars with ASEAN. Investment from other ASEAN partners in Thailand in 2009 was valued at 669.4 million dollars, while Thailand invested almost two billion dollars in other ASEAN countries.
In preparation for the implementation of the ASEAN Community, Dr. Itti called for the raising of ASEAN awareness among all members of society. He said that ASEAN action plans should be incorporated in the national economic and social development plans and the policies of the government and various government agencies. An ASEAN unit should also be established in government offices as a network to help in the ASEAN community-building efforts.
Dr. Somkiat Onwimon, a well-known media operator, said that it is time now that the media in Thailand attach great importance to ASEAN news and information. He called for the setting up of an ASEAN desk at all media organizations in order to produce and disseminate ASEAN news that should be made relevant and interesting, since ASEAN matters would have effects on the lives of all Thais.