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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

NZ View of South East Asia

NZ View of South East Asia

How NZ views Malaysia and Singapore can be seen quite clearly from Mr Talboy's comments after his tour of the Asean countries the report argues that there are two views to the present situation in South-East Asia. The pessimistic view (whose proponents claim to be realistic) that communist expansion in Indo-China will lead Hanoi to give substantial material support to the insurgent movements in Thailand and Malaysia, assuming that support for these movements take priority over consolidation in Indo-China.

It claims that the insurgents will step up the exploitation of grievances like Bangkok's traditional neglect of the remote North-east provinces or racial animosity in Malaysia. While Bangkok and K.L. do the most to overcome the worst of their problems time is not on their side The optimistic view is that the new Socialist Republic of Vietnam will prove to be as nationalist us it is communist and that it will have to concentrate more on consolidating its position internally in Indo-China. It will not give more than moral support to the Thai and Malaysian insurgent movements. This view assumes that there is a new spirit of determination in the Asean countries to solve their political, social and economic problems.

He says that the National government should bear both these views in mind. Put another way it means that the government cannot decide for itself what exactly is happening in SEA. (It is interesting that South-last Asia is always interpreted according to the threat it poses to NZs security. It is always described as an insecure, unstable region needing the solid stable support of Godzone and Australia, And look how "stable" NZ has been since November last year).

Basically, he said the Asean countries accept that the contest that they are in cannot he won solely or merely by military means, The challenge is one in which they have to convince people that their form of government and socioeconomic organisation is preferable to the ones they have to compete within Indo-China.

The danger is that some governments may feel that the way to go about doing this is by conducting mass public relations exercises to show the people that they are doing well socially and economically even if they are not. In Malaysia for example the old myth that the Malays hold the reins of political power and the Chinese are economically supreme seems to be giving away as the true facts become known.

A study for the Ontario Economic Council by a Dr Osmeey Mehmet on income distribution in Malaysia between 1947 and 1967 utilizes a profile by race and rural areas. The study shows that the principal beneficiaries of rapid economic growth have been urban Malays, followed by rural non-Malays (i.e. Chinese and Indians), urban non-Malays and rural Malays (the largest numerical group). The popular political and economic myths do not stand up to this evidence.