Two major universities in Indonesia recently inaugurated the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Studies Centres (ASCs) to strengthen student knowledge and analysis on issues related to the regional bloc.
The ASC at Brawijaya University (UB), established July 22nd in Malang, East Java, and the Sam Ratulangi University (UNSRAT) ASC in Manado, North Sulawesi, established July 29th, were created in co-operation with the Directorate General of ASEAN Co-operation and the Foreign Ministry. Both centres focus on the field of education, scientific research and public services.
The centres came up following an agreement signed by the Directorate General of ASEAN Co-operation, Ambassador I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja, and the rector of each university.
"The importance of maritime issues for Indonesia is the biggest challenge for Sam Ratulangi University," Ambassador I Gusti Agung Wesakan said at the July 29th launch.
A specific focus
Each new ASC has a different focus. The UNSRAT centre will highlight important economic, border and maritime issues.The UB centre will focus on economic power.
"ASEAN has generated a large attraction as an economic power. Only with strong vision and identity will it be able to address future opportunities and challenges, especially in facing the ASEAN Economic Community," UB Rector Yogi Sugito, told reporters after the July 22nd ceremony, according to the Foreign Ministry (http://kemlu.go.id/Pages/NewsKemlu.aspx?IDP=321&l=en) Web Site.
At the UNSRAT launch, Rector Donald A. Rumokoy said the ASC will be a bridge to the future of the ASEAN Community. "It is a good way to strengthen the university as a research facility," he said.
Student interest in the ASCs has been positive and some see them as both career opportunities and vehicles for a higher-profile ASEAN.
"The new centre at our university will be really useful. I am personally interested in ASEAN issues related to maritime borders. Indeed, the centre will be a good place to explore ASEAN and its policies academically," 21-year-old UNSRAT student Pramudya "Pram" Budi told Khabar Southeast Asia.
"With more ASCs, we hope more students, who will later become policy makers, will be aware of the situation in ASEAN and will contribute to decisions that will be beneficial for Indonesia as well as ASEAN," Pram added.
"I want to study economic power and development in ASEAN," UB student Joko Purwanto told Khabar. "We have the largest population in the region. Indonesia's role in ASEAN is important. Therefore, it is essential for our generation to be aware of the current situation in the region."
Gadjah Mada University Professor Marsudi Triatmodjo expressed a similar view. "We need to identify the strategic and political-security issues that are critical to the resilience and relevance of ASEAN," he said, "as well as issues of common concern and interest to the region."
ASC and peace
A West Java Islamic community leader underscored the assistance the ASCs can offer the regional peace process.
"For many conflicts in the region including the Thai Deep South, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Poso, there is a significant link between security and radicalism as well as terrorism," Tangerang's Suherman told Khabar. "Therefore, an approach to study more about ASEAN will be of particular benefit to our younger generation as peace builders."