Changes in ASEAN Nations: Preparing in prayer

Things are changing in ASEAN and the year 2015 is slated as one key moments when the laws related to the movement of people across the borders of ASEAN countries will be changed. It has recently been announced that ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will begin on 31st December 2015.

There seems to be mixed thoughts about this upcoming event. Thailand, the wealthiest country in the Mekong region, feels it may be inundated with people from neighbouring countries seeking opportunity and higher paid jobs. Poorer countries fear a ‘brain drain’ of professional people looking to put their skills on the open market and ending up in Singapore, Malaysia, or one of the second tier economies of Thailand or Vietnam.

Trade will be made easier with less border control and special economic zones will be established to further enhance the prospects of doing trade together. Presumably economic focus areas like the Great Mekong Sub-region will become even more important.

With increased movement of people and goods across national borders social problems in border zones will be on the increase too. In a press release on the 31st October 2012, when the Asian Development Bank announced new funding for HIV/AIDS education, awareness and prevention programmes in Laos and Viet Nam, it wrote:

“As people and products move more freely across borders, so do communicable diseases, such as HIV,” said Emiko Masaki, Social Sector Economist at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “This project will help in strengthening the HIV response systems of Viet Nam and Lao PDR to protect their most vulnerable populations with information, skills, supplies and access to quality healthcare services.”

“Border regions have some of the poorest and most isolated populations, with limited access to health services and limited knowledge of HIV risks. New cross border roads, and the mushrooming of hotels, casinos and other businesses in border areas, have increased the threat of HIV infection”.

These changes can and should affect approaches to ministry by the Church and missions. Pray for strategic preparedness for these changes, and pray for God’s greater purposes to be revealed and achieved.

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