From left: Cheong Ming, Yubazlan Yusof, Unnop Buranasate, Paul Raymund Cortes and Arzaf Firman. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The heads of missions of five Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries based in Dubai met in a networking event for the first time with leaders of their communities on Monday to discuss future areas of collaboration and cooperation from the Middle East to their home countries.

Asean was established in August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, by five countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Five more countries joined later — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

The association was formed to accelerate the region’s economic growth, social progress and cultural development through joint endeavours as well as to promote regional peace and stability.

The meeting at the Philippine Consul-General’s official residence on Monday was held in celebration of the 49th founding anniversary of Asean. It was also held in lieu of the 28th and 29th Asean Summit from September 6 to 8 that will be attended by the heads of state of its 10 member countries.

Consuls-general from five member countries that have consulates in Dubai, namely, Arzaf Firman, from Indonesia; Yubazlan Yousuf, Malaysia; Paul Raymund Cortes, Philippines; Cheong Ming Foong, Singapore; and Unnop Buranasate, Thailand, attended the meeting on Monday.

“The key is once we get all the Asean nationals network with each other very closely, then we can open up doors for future possible cooperation. This is just the beginning of a more collaborative and coordinated action among the five Asean communities,” Cortes said.

Malaysian Consul-General Yousuf said the meeting was significant to provide opportunities for the Asean people to have a role in participatory governance and citizen engagement.

“As a community, you need really to have a very good people-to-people interaction. What’s more important is this is our first public diplomacy programme by all the Asean consuls here. Everyone wants to be part of the decision-making process, that’s what we are doing now,” Yousuf said.

The meeting was also an avenue for cultural promotion and understanding for better connectivity, Consul-General Buranasate of Thailand said.

Cortes said fostering cooperation is not to be limited to the Asean countries but also with other unions like the GCC.

“There has been quite a number of Asean-GCC meetings. Of course moving forward, we’d like to see more cooperation in terms of economic exchanges of people. Clearly we already have an exchange of people for Filipinos already, but we’d like other Asean nationals to be part of this as well,” Cortes said.