A grand entrance by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), when it launches in less than nine weeks, onto the world stage was supposed to herald the dawning of a prosperous new age for the more than 600 million people who live within the region.
But the political realities are already delivering a different, unwanted take. Bad? Even Southeast Asia’s harshest critics are trying hard not to crow over the latest debacles, for fear of tempting fate with the region’s notoriously thin-skinned leaders.
Most telling is the toxic smog which has been allowed to escalate for 20 years. A Wall Street Journal report quoting Greenpeace says 110,000 people die annually from haze-related illnesses.