On 29th January 2019, Paragon International University, formerly known as Zaman Univeresity, cooperated with the Institute of Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn University in organizing an international conference about connectivity, mobility and integration in the ASEAN region. Thirteen scholars and researchers from both universities presented their papers on different topics related to the theme so that students and the public could gain insight about connectivity and ASEAN’s integration.
Dr Sok Udom DETH, Rector of ParagonIU, said in his opening remarks that connectivity and integration in ASEAN are topics known to the majority of the people in the region, while knowledge about the process of integration underground is relatively unknown. ParagonIU hoped to offer students and researchers the opportunity to explore “connectivity” in ASEAN, through this international conference. Rector, Dr. Sok Udom continued that, ParagonIU would also organize different international events and workshops in the future to dessiminate knowledge of other topics to the public.
Suggested in his paper presentation about the Sino-US confrontation in Southeast Asia, Mr. Vannak RO, an instructor from ParagonIU, claimed both superpowers had so far used different tools to expand or maintain their influence in the Southeast Asian region. For China, the country had used several projects and methods for expansion, including its Belt Road Initiative and Asia’s Infrastructure Development Bank so that this rising power could build up its dominance in the region and return to national rejuvenation as China once was a global military and economic power in its empire’s period. The US, on the other hand, had used geopolitical tools such as its Indo-Pacific Strategy to counter-balance Chinese influence in ASEAN and the Asian Pacific. In his paper, Mr. Vannak, commented that this confrontation had pushed Southeast Asian nations to choose one route or another between the two powerful countries.
Mr. Phal Niseiy SAO, Deputy Editor-In-Chief, responsible for international news at the Thmey Thmey media agency and a researcher to the international conference, presented on the indirect impacts of climate changes over ASEAN’s security landscape. Mr Niseiy said that, climate change had caused the region to endure food crisises which have led to conflicts among politicians, armed groups and private citizens over a lack of food resources. Climate change also impacted plantations and the overall ecology as the rise of the sea level had so far reduced the total fishing numbers all over the world. The issue of climate change had additionally induced a sub-issue of water shortages as state and non-state actors could potentially use water as their weapon for war. These outcomes were suggested by Mr. Niseiy. The deputy editor-in-chief of Thmey Thmey continued that land disputes could happen because land plots with good fertility have so far been reduced because of climate change. Niseiy warned lower Mekong’s countries to be cautious; the countries are vulnerable to climate change because of domestic issues including poor governance, poverty and limited competence of state institutions.
Ms Vichny CHANCHEM, a sophomore student majoring in International Relations and Political Science at ParagonIU, showed her interest in topics including China’s visions on Mekong-Lancang cooperation, influence of Sino-US confrontation in ASEAN and the Belt Road Initiative. Vichny said, the conference offered her an opportunity to explore events recently developed in regards to the US-China confrontation. Additionally, Vichny was better able to understand the visions and perspectives of Thai scholars from Chulalongkorn, whose views might be somewhat different from local scholars over the mentioned issues. Finally, Vichny summarized the lessons she received from the event.
Dr Kairat MOLDASHEV, head of the IR and Politicial Science department at ParagonIU and main organizer of the event said, the conference is just the first activity for cooperation between ParagonIU and Chulalongkorn University. In the long run, both universities planned to cooperate on research and other conferences and that scholars from Chulalongkorn would pay visits to ParagonIU to give guest lectures and presentations, according to Dr. Kairat. It should be noted this was not the first time ParagonIU had organized international conferences for local and foreign researchers. Previously, the university organized an international conference on management, economics, business and social studies in November 2018, where many foreign scholars, including those from India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam presented their research papers.