July 27th, 2015
Developing upon one of the themes of Monday night’s talk “History shapes, but geography defines” Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak – Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies (Faculty of Political Science) at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and also the Kippenberger Chair for 2015 at the Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University – suggested that New Zealand would be wise to place a few of its strategic eggs in SouthEast Asia’s basket.
Despite being a somewhat arbitrarily grouped collection of nations – considered together more as a matter of post-colonial convenience rather than deeply shared cultures or histories – the region nonetheless encompasses 620 million people with a combined GDP of 3.63 trillion dollars.
These people and their economies are in a high state of flux – while borders are relatively established (with the possible exception of some maritime disputes) internal nation building, rebuilding, and even re-imagining, is proceeding at a rapid pace throughout the region. The trends, outcomes, and consequences of these transitions cannot help but impact upon New Zealand, just as they cannot help but offer opportunities to New Zealand to engage constructively in the region to mutual benefit.
Professor Pongsudhirak offered the gathered audience some deep and often unexpected insight into the turbulent melting pot that is today’s SE Asia; the cultures and intercultural tensions within it; and mapped possible scenarios for the developing directions of the region.