There was celebration in the air when the Director of the Denver Art Museum went to Cambodia in late March 2016. Traveling with him to stay permanently in Cambodia was a stolen 10th century Cambodian statue that had been missing from the country since the 1970s. When the museum in Colorado first gained knowledge and proof of the troubled history of the stone statue of Rama, it began efforts to get the work of art back to its original home. The museum’s voluntary effort, lauded by Cambodian officials, was just one of the many ways the state of Colorado and the ten countries in ASEAN have strengthened their ties in recent years.
Earlier in 2016, the University of Colorado at Denver hosted a ten day educational faculty development program entitled Understanding ASEAN: Perspectives from Singapore and the Philippines. The program was hosted by the university’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) with the aim of educating the university community about the diverse culture and business practices of Singapore and the Philippines. The event was also open to all fellow educational institutions with CIBERs which includes Ohio State, University of South Carolina, University of Washington, Michigan State University, San Diego State University, and others.
Cultural and educational connections between ASEAN countries and Colorado take many forms. The city of Denver is home to a Southeast Asian district with business like Vietnamese restaurants and cafes. Universities in Colorado share several joint initiatives with institutions in Southeast Asia, including a partnership between the University of Colorado - Boulder and Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic wherein students from both schools collaborate and design and build automobiles. Statewide, the ASEAN American population is over 67,, making up less than two percent of the total population but 35% of the state’s Asian population. Colorado boasts one of the largest ASEAN American populations among states in the Mountain West.
Lian Eytinge is research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Southern California.