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ASEAN Awareness Survey - A Summary

Here is a quick summary of the main part of the ASEAN Awareness Survey conducted by Dr. Eric C. Thompson, National University of Singapore, and Dr. Chulanee Thianthai, Chulalongkorn University, on behalf of the ASEAN Foundation, with support provided by the Government of the Republic of Korea.

Before anything else, here are the list of the Universities where the survey was administered during the year 2006-2007. The surveys were written in the main language of instruction at that university, as follows:

  • Brunei - University Brunei Darussalam (Bahasa Melayu)

  • Cambodia - Royal University Phnom Penh (Khmer)

  • Indonesia - University of Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesia)

  • Laos - National University of Laos (Lao)

  • Malaysia - University of Malaysia (Bahasa Melayu)

  • Philippines - University of the Philippines (English)

  • Singapore - National University of Singapore (English)

  • Thailand - Chulalongkorn University (Thai)

  • Viet Nam - Viet Nam National University (Hanoi) (Vietnamese)

The main points of the survey are as follows (you can download the survey in PDF format below):

I feel I am a citizen of ASEAN
90% in Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam agreed with this statement
(2/3 in Cambodia, nearly half in Laos, and over 40% in Vietnam strongly agreed)
80% in Brunei and Malaysia
2/3 in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand
60% in Myanmar

Membership in ASEAN is beneficial to my country
90% in Laos
70% in Viet Nam and Laos
60% in Cambodia
50% in Myanmar
By way of contrast, nowhere else did even 4% of students strongly disagreed.

My country's membership in ASEAN is beneficial to me personally
90% in Viet Nam and Laos
2/3 or more in all other nations except for Indonesia
Indonesia, students were close to evenly split
60% in Myanmar disagreed

ASEAN countries are similar culturally
80% in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Laos
70% in Philippines, Thailand
Evenly split between those who agreed and disagreed in Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore

ASEAN countries are similar economically
ASEAN countries are similar politcally
Students mostly disagree with the above claims wherein the strongest is in Singapore and Brunei
Myanmar - with some agreement mixed with strong disagreement
Cambodians do not see ASEAN countries as economically similar but are close to evenly split with regard to political similarity
Indonesia and Laos are close to evenly split in both economic and political similarities
Malaysian students are close to evenly split in economic similarities but disagree to political similarity
Philippines and Thailand do not perceive ASEAN countries to be economically or politically similar, though not quite as strong as students in Singapore, Myanmar, and Brunei
Only Vietnamese students generally agreed positively to all three dimensions of culture, economics, and politics, though the responses on the latter two were rather closer to evenly split

There are other questions in the survey, for example, how familiar the students are of their immediate neighbors, which countries are members of ASEAN, and identifying the Asean nations, to mention a few. In this regard, "students in the Philippines and Myanmar displayed the least knowledge about ASEAN, although this is not to say that they were unknowledgeable; only less so relative to their peers elsewhere."

To quote the National Summaries:

Brunei: Students from Brunei exhibited attitudes toward ASEAN that were generally positive, such as their high inclination to consider themselves citizens of ASEAN; though in some cases – such as indicators of commonalities – their attitudes ranged toward ambivalence. They showed fairly good knowledge of the region and in other respects followed most general, region wide trends among students elsewhere. With respect to views of Brunei from elsewhere, it remains one of the least salient and least familiar of ASEAN members; though some inclinations to view it as a destination for work attest to its reputation as center of wealth region-wide.

Cambodia: Cambodian students ranked among the strongest ASEAN enthusiasts across multiple measures in the survey. Although, their objective knowledge of the region, such as their relatively poor cartographic literacy, was somewhat less than found elsewhere. Evidence of the varied media-scapes across ASEAN was particularly evident in the results from Cambodia, where contrary to the norm elsewhere students rated radio very highly and newspapers and the Internet relatively low as sources of information. Despite being a renowned international tourist destination, Cambodia does not come across as such for students from other ASEAN nations, with slight exception in Singapore.

Indonesia: Indonesian students are generally positive in their attitudes toward ASEAN. Their responses fall mostly in the middle range across all various aspects of the survey relative to students elsewhere. In accordance with previous research we have conducted on regional perceptions, they show some particular affinities for their co-ethnic Malay-Muslim neighbors, Malaysia and Brunei (though not overwhelmingly or to the exclusion of other regional connections).

Laos: Students from Laos, like those from Cambodia and Vietnam, registered very high ASEAN enthusiasm. They were also among the most objectively knowledgeable about ASEAN from among all students in the region. One striking result in the responses from Lao students was their ambivalence, if not aversion, to their geographically and culturally close neighbor Thailand. We expect this is very closely related to the strong sense of Thai cultural hegemony in Mainland Southeast Asia, felt most keenly in Laos due to the influences of Thai popular culture and in other social and economic spheres. Given the feelings of young educated Lao citizens reflected in the survey, working to address these ambivalences is a point of special consideration, if not for ASEAN, then at least for advancing a positive bilateral relationship between Thailand and Laos.

Malaysia: Malaysian students, rather like those in neighboring Brunei, exhibited generally positive attitudes toward ASEAN, though mixed with some signs of ambivalence (again mainly related to measures of ASEAN commonality). Overall, their responses tended to be in the middle of the range of region-wide responses. Malaysia was in general the second most desirable destination for work, after Singapore and third most for travel, after Singapore and Thailand, among students elsewhere in the region.

Myanmar: Responses from Myanmar were among the most internally complex, in that they showed a mix of positive and highly skeptical attitudes. A more extensive analysis of the results is yet to be completed, though we strongly suspect that the negative attitudes toward ASEAN were all coming from one set of respondents and the generally positive from another set (rather than individual students having a mix of positive and skeptical answers). Myanmar was the only nation where such strong “ASEAN skepticism” was in evidence. It is possible that these responses may have been related to the very volatile events on the ground taking place around the time that the survey was conducted. It was also a point in ASEAN’s history when a member state – Myanmar – came under some of the most intense pressure from other members in the Association; and the responses of the “ASEAN skeptics” from Myanmar may have been reacting to those circumstances. The result may also reflect the broader general isolation of Myanmar despite its near decade long membership in the Association. It was also apparent from the results that Myanmar students were among the least objectively knowledgeable about ASEAN (but again, only relatively rather than absolutely so).

Philippines: At the other end of ASEAN from Myanmar (at least geographically), students from the Philippines also exhibited a relatively weak domain knowledge of the regional Association and its members. On the other hand, their attitudes toward ASEAN were generally positive and their responses tended to follow general regionwide trends.

Singapore: Students from Singapore did not exhibit the same sort of skepticism evident in the responses from Myanmar, but rather an attitude that would best be described as ambivalence. They were among the least likely to see ASEAN members as sharing similarities, least likely to consider themselves citizens of ASEAN and their domain knowledge was average to below average. But their responses did not display a tendency of strong aversion to ASEAN as appeared in results from Myanmar. Moreover, in many instances, such as rating the benefits of their nation’s membership in ASEAN, their responses were solidly in the positive realm. From the perspective of other nations, the survey points to the pivotal position of Singapore within the region as an overwhelmingly desirable destination (relative to most others) for both travel and work.

Thailand: Students from Thailand were another group whose responses fell mostly in the territory of generally positive, if not extremely enthusiastic, toward ASEAN. The responses pointed up obvious gaps and unevenness in their objective knowledge about the Association – particularly extremely high cartographic literacy but low recognition of the Association’s symbols and history. Like Singapore, the survey shows Thailand to be a focal point in students’ imaginative geographies of travel (though less so work).

Viet Nam: Students from Vietnam paralleled their peers in neighboring Laos with respect to their strong enthusiasm for and knowledge of ASEAN. They also displayed the strongest view of commonalities among the member nations of ASEAN. While Vietnam is still far from matching Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia, some signals in survey reflect a view of Vietnam as an increasingly important country (e.g. as a destination for travel and work) among ASEAN members.

* Values are not exact, words "over" or "almost" were removed for presentation purposes.

Download the Report: Attitudes and Awareness Towards ASEAN (PDF)

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