ASEAN Rickshaw Run
Braving the rural dirt tracks and urban traffic jams of Southeast Asia, Team Oxford Project Southeast Asia completed the inaugural ASEAN Rickshaw Run by successfully driving a tuk-tuk from Indonesia to Thailand. The three Oxford University graduates who formed the team undertook the adventure as part of an effort to create a Centre for Southeast Asian studies at the University of Oxford. They have also raised over £1,300 (to date) for pan-Southeast Asian disability charity The Cambodia Trust and global conservation partnership BirdLife International.
The members of Team Oxford Project Southeast Asia are: Dr. CHAN Xin Hui (Singapore), Dr. THUM Ping Tjin (Singapore) and Tom HOOGERVORST (the Netherlands). During their journey, they were challenged by numerous breakdowns of the dangerously underpowered and poorly constructed tuk-tuk, the theft of their fuel and tools, Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams, and Sumatra’s underdeveloped back roads. Of the 28 teams which set out from Jakarta for Bangkok, three teams failed to finish altogether, a further seven arrived after the official end time, and many were unable to finish on their own power and had to have their tuk-tuks trucked to the finish line. The flooding of Bangkok also necessitated a last minute change in the finish line from Bangkok to Krabi. Undeterred, the team successfully completed the challenge on time and drove over the finish line on 29 October with their tuk-tuk intact.
The three team members are all of Southeast Asian descent and graduates of the University, and thus embody Oxford’s intimate relationship with the Southeast Asian region. Their route through Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Penang (as well as, originally, Bangkok) was designed to be a powerful symbol of Oxford’s long-standing presence in the region by physically connecting examples of Oxford’s links in Southeast Asia. Apart from visiting The Cambodia Trust’s Jakarta School and Oxford’s medical research centres in the region, the team also held charity fundraising events that were well attended by Oxford’s numerous alumni and supporters. In Singapore, this took the form of a “Free Trishaw Tours by Oxford Graduates” event, where the team gave members of the public free trishaw rides around the City Hall and Padang area while wearing full academic dress including gowns and mortarboards.
In addition, the team were delighted by the strength of support that greeted them throughout Southeast Asia for the establishment of a world-class Centre of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Oxford. They received endorsements from ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Marty Natalegawa, and Timor-Leste President Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, as well as other Southeast Asian leaders, diplomats, academics, and alumni whom they met during their journey. The team also attracted significant media coverage, including BBC Indonesia, the Jakarta Globe, and live radio interviews on BFM Radio 89.9 and ABC Radio Australia.
“Contrary to popular belief, there is a great sense of Southeast Asian consciousness throughout the region,” commented Dr. Thum. “Wherever we went, people responded to our Centre for Southeast Asian Studies and to the powerful symbolism of our physically driving across Southeast Asia with great warmth and enthusiasm, and we found unanimous agreement that a world-class Centre for Southeast Asian Studies was of great importance,” added Dr. Chan.
The Cambodia Trust was founded by Dr. Peter Carey and others in 1989 to equip the victims of anti-personnel mines in Cambodia with artificial limbs and orthopaedic aids. It has since expanded its activities to seven Southeast Asian countries and now helps to treat all kinds of physical handicaps. It is the largest provider of international standard prosthetic & orthotic education in the world.
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