If Southeast Asia is an office that opens at 7am, Burma would be 30 minutes too early. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam would just be on time but Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines would be an hour late. An office with half of its staff coming in late wouldn’t do the job efficiently, would it?
Our region is in 4 Time Zones (UTC+6.30, +7, +8 and +9). Indonesia is the only country that uses 3 time zones from +7 to +9 and Burma is the only country that uses +6.30. If you would look closely at the map; Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is in line with Bangkok and Jakarta is in line with Hanoi at +7 -- but they are on a different time zone (+8). They share it with Manila, which is hundreds of miles east of Thailand. Have you ever wondered why?
In 1981, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammad changed their time zone to +8 to unify East and West Malaysia. And for economic cooperation, the great Lee Kwan Yew followed suit for Singapore because they will be in an awkward position. Meaning technically, the Philippines and Brunei should be the only countries in the +8 time zone.
If Southeast Asia is a hospital and baby Burma came in at 6:30 with an asthma attack, she has to wait 30 minutes to see if Dr. Thailand or Nurse Vietnam got a Ventolin inhaler. But when they came in at 7.00-- they don’t have any. Meanwhile, old Mrs. Laos and baby Cambodia came in with an asthma attack too! Now all of them -- panicked and all -- have to wait another hour to see if Dr. Singapore, Dr. Malaysia or Nurse Philippines have the inhaler. Unfortunately, when they came in at 8.00, it turned out that Dr. Indonesia got the inhaler but he’ll come in at 9.00! Now the hospital is in one BIG 2 ½ hour mess! An utter tragedy!
The ASEAN Common Time is an idea by the ASEAN to adapt a standard time for all member countries. The initiative will unify our great region – economic wise, for efficiency and mutual benefits.
If we can come to the office all at the same time, we can finish more work. And if we can come to the hospital altogether, we can relieve more patients and efficiently solve the problems.
What do you think?
-- Pisanu, Thailand
As posted on BISEAN