Never before in its 45 years of existence has the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) received so much public attention in Thailand.
Until recently, Asean was merely an inaccessible acronym, confined to the stifling corridors of officialdom, notorious for its several hundred meetings per year. It was a platform for officials and bureaucracies of member states, otherwise known as "Track I", complemented by contributions and engagements from "Track II" of academics and regional think-tanks.
Such distance and deficit between Asia's most durable regional organisation at the top and its "Track III" inhabitants and stakeholders down below have been markedly reduced. Asean has belatedly become a household word, included in everyday parlance and featured in seminars and workshops almost on a daily basis. Yet most references to Asean in Thailand are centred on the Asean Economic Community (AEC), one of three so-called "pillars" of the much-vaunted Asean Community (AC), along with the Asean Political-Security Community (APSC) and Asean Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).