Unimas students get roleplay of a lifetime in first model Asean meeting
On May 2015, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 25,000 Rohingya people fled Myanmar and Bangladesh in the first quarter of 2015 while in 2014, a total estimated of 53,000 braved a sea crossing to southern Thailand, heading to Malaysia among other countries.
While many died at sea, those who survived fell victim to human traffickers in Thailand.
Malaysian authorities found mass graves earlier this year, containing the remains of more than 20 people believed to be victims of human trafficking near the Thai border, although it was unclear at the time whether the bodies were those of Rohingya.
From Nov 17th until 23rd, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) student Timothy Teng along with his fellow university mates participated in the first Model Asean Meeting held at Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur.
With ‘Trafficking-In-Persons’ (TIP) as the focus area, it was further discussed in dedicated committees called pillars which include the Asean Political-Security Pillar (ASPC), Asean Economic Community Pillar (AEC) as well as the Asean Socio-Cultural Pillar (ASCC).
According to Timothy, the three pillars discussed ways that Asean countries could work in their respective areas to address issues of trafficking in persons.
“Some of the highlights of these parallel meetings brought up novel ideas such as the establishment of an Asean Intergovernmental Judicial Cooperation for Transnational Crimes, Common Framework on Free Education by 2035 as well as the formation of an Asean Special Commission on Trafficking in Persons (ASCTP) in 2015,” said Timothy of the outcome of the discussion.
Coinciding with the 27th Asean Summit, the First Model Asean Model Meeting 2015 was organised by the Asean Foundation as an interactive platform to provide authentic experience to the participants on how Asean as an inter-governmental system works and to learn about the decision-making process in Asean to understand how regional agreements and cooperation are developed.
“I first got to learn about the event from Vinotheni, a fellow student representative in Persatuan Mahasiswa Ekonomi dan Perniagaan (PERFEP) who forwarded me a poster of the event from our friend, Patricia Wong,” said Timothy.
Since he has been actively participating in similar events in the past while with the Unimas Debating Society (UDS) and programmes related to the the importance of diplomacy, persuasion and critical thinking, he and several like-minded friends submitted their application.
The first Model Asean meeting was participated by a total of 11 teams comprising selected students from 10 member states of Asean (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam).
“Malaysia, as the host of the event had the privilege to admit two teams with a total of 12 students (six per group). This also includes my team from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) under Madam Shafinah Begum,” explained Timothy.
Joining him were his fellow university mates: Vinotheni, Lim Jhin Horng, Kim Soon, Tan Xian Shyan and Melanie Chan under group adviser, Shafinah Begum.
“Together, we submitted our application and were extremely thrilled to be selected by the Asean Foundation,” said Timothy.
The model ASEAN Meeting simulates the meeting on several levels from the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) all the way to the final ASEAN Summit where head of states would come together to sign the final outcome document.
To do this, the participants were assigned to different Asean countries (Eg: The Team from Thailand roleplayed as officials from Brunei) except for the teams from Malaysia where one of the teams were assigned as the chair country, and the other as the Asean Secretariat.
“It was definitely not an easy task. I roleplayed as the Secretary General of the Asean Summit along with my fellow teammates as deputies (DSEG) in facilitating the drafting of the outcome document as well as assisting the chair country (Malaysia) throughout the meeting, similar to the role of the actual Asean Secretariat,” explained Timothy of his role in the meeting.
“We learn just how hard it is for each member state to achieve balance in terms of promoting their national interest and that of regional benefits and therefore we came to appreciate the hard work that the officials, ministers and heads of each member states in Asean had played in the various meetings culminating to the Asean Summit,” he said.
Established in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 15th, 1997 during the Association’s 30th Anniversary Commemorative Summit, the Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to establish the Asean Foundation as they recognised the importance of improving the livelihood and well being of the people of Southeast Asia.
With the foundation established to bring shared prosperity and sustainable futures to all Asean countries, Timothy feels that it is importance that one should be more aware of Asean and its role within the society.
“The Asean Foundation shared that there should be more concerted effort in place to promote Asean Awareness in this country as opposed to other member states in Asean,” ,” said Timothy, explaining that Malaysia recorded a lower rate of awareness compared to other member states.
“Being Sarawakian myself, I find this statement troubling yet truthful, with the bulk of my knowledge on Asean in the past purely from the textbooks and classes. I believe that Malaysians (including my fellow Sarawakians) stand to benefit more in knowing Asean and the various opportunities it offers including the recently concluded Model Asean Meeting 2015,” he said.
He believes that Sarawakians, as part of the Asean community, should always strive to be actively engaged in topics and issues to promote positive changes, especially in Sarawak.
“In fact, we should look at more pressing issues such as poverty, education, unemployment rates and climate change and do something to address the issue. With plenty of avenues to promote changes via various governmental and non-governmental bodies, I only could hope that more and more youth in Sarawak would be part of these endeavors and promote positive changes in Sarawak,” said Timothy.
Besides TIP being the main focus during the meeting, the participants also highlighted other issues which Timothy described were hotly debated during the meeting.
“One particular interesting topic raised in the meeting was compelling Asean states to provide up to tertiary-level education in public institutions by 2035,” said Timothy, adding that education would help to alleviate the issue of trafficking in persons.
“It is my belief that education is a universal right and that the government should try their level best in ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get proper and quality education, regardless of the way that they can achieve this,” he said.
On the other hand, aside from discussing issues surrounding the Southeast Asian region, programs such as first Asean Entrepreneurship Summit (1AES), Global Startup Youth Asean and the 1st Asean Young Leaders Summit are also organised for the benefit of youth in the region to encourages participations and opportunities and provides valuable experience from all countries in Asean.
“There are lots of opportunities available now and even in the near future, I just hope that more and more people grab these opportunities and learn from the experience it offers,” said Timothy.
The Asean Foundation First Model Asean Meeting 2015 was supported by the Asean-US Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development and Security (Asean-US Progress) and endorsed by the Asean member states.