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Economic versus Political Liberalisation in ASEAN: Public Opinion among University Students in Four Member Countries

ABSTRACT

As a regionalism initiative, establishment of the ASEAN Community needs plausible level of public awareness, good public perception and strong public support from the public for its legitimacy. The current paper discusses the opinion among the public pertaining to regional economic integration under the ASEAN Economic Community initiative in comparison to political-security cooperation under the ASEAN Political Security Community in 2015 among educated public in four ASEAN countries, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The study aims to solicit and compare the current situation of public opinion of these two kinds of liberalisation in ASEAN within the context of awareness, perception, and support. The research objectives were achieved by means of statistical measures and analyses on the opinion among 1,471 Gen Y respondents in these four ASEAN countries gathered from a public opinion survey in 2015. The study reveals interesting findings. Firstly, it found that the extent of awareness of both APSC and AEC is still weak resulting in weak extent of perceived relevancy and benefits as well as weak support for APSC and moderate-level support for AEC. Secondly, by comparing the opinion on APSC to AEC, the study found that awareness, perception and support for economic integration in ASEAN were in fact higher than political security cooperation. Finally, some implications of these issues are discussed.

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