The current buzzword is Asean, and while the cultural and linguistic differences of the 10 Southeast Asian nations present a series of hurdles to the planned 2015 economic union, everyone wants to move fast and ride the headwind.
Take for instance the Thai web portal kapook.com. The popular website has recently launched a Myanmar-language page, and by timing it to coincide with the historic visit of Aung Saan Suu Kyi, it's gaining headway on the new Asean road. At http://burma.kapook.com, the elegant scribbling of the Myanmar alphabet tops the picture of Suu Kyi on her trip in Thailand _ it reads: "The whole world is watching: Suu Kyi visits Thailand."
The design is simple, text-based, with a few more photos of the icon punctuating the page. The story proceeds to give information about the number of Myanmar labourers in Thailand, including quotes from migrant workers who revel in Suu Kyi's visit.
"Our aim is to make web pages in the languages of the Asean countries," says webmaster Poramate Minsiri. "It just happened that our Myanmar page was ready first, and coincided with the time Suu Kyi was in Bangkok. We have partners in Myanmar, as well as in other Asean countries, and we will gradually launch more pages in other regional languages."
Poramate adds that the main audience of the page are the people of Myanmar who live and work in Thailand. "We want the page to be a centre of news and information for Myanmar people here. We also include practical information about government contacts because we know a lot of migrant workers will be our readers."
At the moment, the advertisement on top of the page is still a Thai one. But soon _ who knows? _ the flow of language and information among Asean members will generate new dynamism that will leave those who don't want to move with it far behind.
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