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Get to know ASEAN

"We can't just bang the table and storm off" said veteran diplomat Ong Keng Yong.

Mr Ong was sharing his experience working as the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), at a dialogue session with over 200 students from all 10 ASEAN member states.

They are gathered at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) on 19th December 2014 to witness the opening ceremony of the Youth Model ASEAN Conference (YMAC) 2014.

Mr Ong Keng Yong delivering an address as the Guest-of-Honour at the opening ceremony of YMAC 2014

How it works in ASEAN
The student delegates had many questions for Mr Ong, who is also the Executive Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Some students wanted to know the process of the discussions during actual ASEAN conferences while others were more interested in how conflicts between the countries were settled. Mr Ong explained some policies can take up to 20 years before they can be implemented. He also said that it is important to hear every country out to make sure everyone benefits from the changes.

These are great tips for the students who will assume the role of diplomats to discuss regional affairs over the next four days.

Rebekah Tay En Qi, 18, who is a Committee Chair from Singapore, said "I feel that the sharing made by the Guest of Honour was quite insightful. I think it's exciting and I'm definitely looking forward to the next four days."

Multi-ethnic fun, food and games
The dialogue session was one of the highlights of the opening ceremony. There were also dazzling performances such as the sand art by ITE College East Animation Club and a song performed by students from the polytechnics in Singapore. The show was topped by a Dikir Barat performance by SP's Malay Language Society which incorporated the theme for YMAC 2014 - "Voices Today Echoes Tomorrow".

Song performance by SP's Malay Language Society and vocalists from various polytechnics

After the concert, delegates were treated to a diverse spread of food from the various ASEAN countries. There were also booths displaying traditional games from the respective countries and delegates were invited to play.

I'm ready!
Some students had to make sacrifices to be able to attend YMAC. Nguyen Cong Duc, 20, from Vietnam had to delay sitting for two exam papers for a few months. But he's not too both bothered.

"It's a good thing, I don't mind this," he said.

Pengiram Mohamad Hassanal, 21, from Brunei was thrilled to meet new people.

He said "We have to mingle around and be friendly with each other, that's most important."


Written by Shivaanan Selvasevaran Year 2, Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media.