ASEAN Community is a regional cooperation which has shaped economic, social, and political standpoints for the 10 member states in Southeast Asia, such as The Great Mekong Subregion Cooperation (GMS), Ayeyawady-Chaophraya-Makong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC). The cooperation has challenged of ASEAN since 1957 when ASEAN was established by Bangkok Declaration. The role of local governments in local development is a critical question in the context of the ASEAN integration. Decentralization offers local government, the private sector and local communities the opportunity to work together in new ways to engage the local economy with regional and international level. There are two questions for the ASEAN roadmap and local politics, including local society and administrative organization.
First question: Do local administrative organizations know about ASEAN Community and the changing rules and institutions? What is the point for local interests?
Second question: How to prepare local administrative organization, as a close government organization to people’s everyday lives, become a part of socio-economic cooperation of ASEAN?
The Department of Local Administration (DLA) has realized this necessity, and then created a center of information for preparing local administrative organizations to change under new situation which came from ASEAN Community. DLA has a strategic plan for local administrative organization to engage with ASEAN in 2015 that consists of five strategies:
1) To support local infrastructure developments and communications for economic integration and tourism;
2) To increase human resource capacity and administrative system for local public services;
3) To support ASEAN identity and preserve local culture to be a unity with diversity;
4) To create sustainable development in local area;
5) To maintain local order and stability as a peaceful community.
It can be clearly seen that regional integration is not only a matter for the capitals, but has a supranational, national and local dimension. National, local government and civil society will become a partnership to promote small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on the global and regional market, sustainable development, and competition across borders. Moreover, Local governments play a vital role in providing the conditions and encouraging inclusive economic growth and socio-cultural cooperation. Consequently, local administrative organizations in Thailand should be changed and prepared for these following points:
a. Preparing information center to keep updating about rules and activities;
b. Preparing language, both English and other neighbor languages;
c. Establishing a language institution to support local staff.
2) Creating a center of local socio-economic development to engage economic connectivity and to integrate local development with ASEAN Blueprints:
a. Infrastructure development;
b. Preparing security system and rules for labor movement across border;
c. Supporting creative and eco-tourism;
d. Corroborating a local plan for development, both human and natural resource management;
e. Preparing social safety net in local community.
3) The collaboration between local administrative organizations and other ASEAN member state organizations in a particular issue, such as local investment.
4) Socio-cultural management should be examined to merge and learn local culture with ASEAN identity. For example, The ASEAN Eco-Schools Programme aims at creating a school culture geared towards environmental protection and preservation through management and greening activities.
5) Integrating political-security administration becomes a role of local administrative organizations to monitor flows of labor, capitals, and information.
After considering all of preparation carefully, local administrative organizations have to prepare for a changing local society after ASEAN Community. This will enable local government officials to understand better the components of ASEAN integration such as human resource development requirements, trade and investment promotions, policy reforms on domestic industries to be globally competitive, and infrastructure and logistical support requirements. This is why a center of information on ASEAN is a vital part of change and adaptation to accelerate the awareness of local governments on how regional integration will work and how this will affect local governance in particular areas.