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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

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Asia-Pacific students look to forge unity

Published on Aug 3, 2002

The four students representing Thailand at the 5th Hitachi Young Leader Initiative Conference, taking place in Singapore, joined forces with other university students from the Asia Pacific in taking steps towards forging regional cohesion.

The meeting, organised and sponsored by Hitachi, has brought together 24 young student leaders from universities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines to carve out a plan to promote regional unity while learning leadership skills to tackle the issues faced by the region.

The four Thai representatives are: Charoen Jiewsang, an engineering student from Chulalongkorn University, Panuwatana Ittigusumain of Thammasat University's economics faculty, Tiwat Nitchote, a business administration student from Mahidol University, and Wuithisorn Naruemityarn, a bio-medical science major also from Mahidol.

The four entered the conference as part of Hitachi's programme to promote leadership as well as entrepreneurial skills with a sense of corporate social responsibility.

However, the event is not all about training students to become future entrepreneurs. As Yoshiro Kuwata, executive vice president of Hitachi, put it, it is geared towards honing leadership skills among those who will go on to be become leaders in any other chosen field of occupation they pursue.

When it comes to forging regional cohesion, Asian youths stand head and shoulders above the world's political players, he said.

As a matter of fact, the calibre of the students participating in the event is quite high, considering the theme of the conference: "Forging Regional Cohesion for Global Advancement".

Thai students, along with their counterparts from the other countries, burnt a lot of midnight oil scribbling papers to be presented before a group of international journalists from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The results are distinct presentations laced with their sense of social consciousness and regional bond. In their speeches they tackled issues worthy of consideration by veteran politicians and entrepreneurs alike, such as "The Changing Role of the Media in Asia", "Cultivating Entrepreneurial Spirit in Asia", and "The Growing Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia".

Despite globalisation taking hold in Asia, the region is still under the spell of antiquated and outdated values, as can be seen in some education systems. As Grace TV Cruz, the former "Best Student Leader" of the University of the Philippines, put it: "We are still encouraged to memorise years and dates when taking exams. Countering outdated mindsets that have hindered the development of entrepreneurs within Asia would require a fundamental shift of Asian mindsets."

Cruz cited the lowering of barriers for entrepreneurs as a key fundamental to fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship.

"But no kind of leadership would benefit society at large without "corporate social responsibility [CSR]", said Thammasat's Panuwatana.

She said that even though CSR was still in its infancy in Asia, companies, large and small, should combine to "pay back", or engage in charitable work to benefit society in which they make profit from investment.

"First they should care about the environment on which the operation of their businesses might have an impact. Small companies should consider using recycled products. The concept of CSR is about improving the society we live in," said Panuwatana.

Other burning issues that have come under these young leaders' microscopes include the role and the state of the media in Asia.

Manote Tripathi


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