The Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Dr Kao Kim Hourn, addressed a group of students and academics at an event that took place in the Divinity School at the beginning of November. The event was organised by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and was also attended by UK Ambassador to ASEAN, Sarah Tiffin.
Kao’s lecture, entitled “The Future of ASEAN: Challenges and Opportunities Beyond 2025”, outlined upcoming ASEAN initiatives, spoke on the future of the UK-ASEAN partnership, and reaffirmed the commitment of the bloc to collaborative decision-making. It also celebrated Kao’s appointment as an Honourable Member of the International Advisory Board of the Institute of ASEAN Studies.
Kao’s invitation to speak at Oxford is the latest in a list of public figures from the region who have spoken in anticipation of the establishment of the ASEAN Institute. In an article on the event, OSGA clarified the terms of Kao’s appointment at the request of Cherwell, stating that Kao will sit on this advisory board once the ASEAN Institute is established. No members have yet been publicly appointed to this board, aside from Kao.
An undergraduate student in attendance at the event expressed their disappointment at Kao’s failure to address the devolving state of democracy in Myanmar, following the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi after the country’s 2020 general election. The student told Cherwell that: “[Kao] definitely glossed over a lot of the deeper strains in ASEAN, and only got around to addressing the situation in Myanmar following a question on the subject from an audience member.”
The Institute, which will run as a part of the OSGA, was announced to great fanfare in 2018 at an event attended by HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Deputy King of Malaysia. The mission statement for the Institute announced that six associate professorships were to be established under it, and that its research areas would span the sustainable development, politics, culture, and history of Southeast Asia. The statement also predicted that the foundation of the ASEAN Institute would “create research and teaching opportunities to be shared across several departments.”
Although five years have passed since this announcement, there are still no full-time faculty-members at the ASEAN Institute – which is alternatively referred to as the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies – and the OSGA have not released any timeline for its full establishment publicly. When approached for comment on this by Cherwell, OSGA gave no indication as to when the institute will be established.