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Thursday, April 24, 2014


Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand. My name is Mark Hefner and I'm studying business at Payap University International College.

Before I came to Payap or Thailand for that matter, I was a soldier in the USA. After 20 years of doing this, I retired, decided to change my life and felt like Thailand was the place to do that. Eventually, I ended up at Payap University and studied International Business Management (IBM) and an MBA. While the IBM degree is complete, the MBA has about 6 months left. 

Somewhere in the midst of my studies, I stumbled across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Since then I've slowly educated myself on the integration process that is happening now. 

I'm constantly amazed by the stories I'm reading across ASEAN from various so called experts when they comment about ASEAN. These experts have convinced me that there is lot of confusion about the ASEAN integration process. Often, the entire integration process is called the AEC 2015 when in reality, the AEC 2015 is only 1/3 of what is happening. 

I'll eventually explain all of this but first want to talk about where I get my information. The ASEAN website at is a very well organized and informative website. Everything that is happening right now and connected to the integration process, can be sourced from this website. 

However, the biggest problem for this region is the ASEAN website is 100% completely in English. All the documents that ASEAN creates are completely in English. For some countries like the Philippines, this is not a problem. For countries like Thailand, it's a huge problem. 

Thai people are some of the worst English speakers in the world. According to Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index (here), Thailand Ranks 55 out of 60 in it's ability of its citizens to speak English. That a 1 being the best and 60 having poor English abilities. Of the other ASEAN countries tested, Malaysia was 11, Singapore 12, Indonesia 25, and Vietnam 28. The rest of the ASEAN countries were not invited to participate in this survey.

This means decision makers, academics, leaders and students are waiting to be told about their country's ASEAN obligation by their government rather than go to the source and read the agreements themselves. 

Instead of being proactive, Thailand will end up being reactive to increased ASEAN competition by the other well read ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. Academics as well as people who's job it is to know are just getting it wrong. They are speculating on what they think is happening in ASEAN without knowing what is suppose to happen. In all fairness to Thailand, this is happening across ASEAN. 

Thus the reason for my blog. I could not take it anymore. It's time to embrace technology and share what I've found out about ASEAN and how it matters to 600 million people. I won't write a history lesson of Southeast Asia but I will go back in time a little for comparisons and introduction to ASEAN topics. 

If you have any questions please feel free to ask. My email is

Thanks for reading.