Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Nearly eight in 10 Malaysians considered the COVID-19 pandemic the most immediate threat to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to a regional survey.

A report from the Singapore-based ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute released on February 16 showed 57.8 percent of Malaysians polled said ASEAN countries must consider unemployment and economic recession as a serious challenge.

This was followed by political instability in the region (50.4 percent), increasing military tensions (28.9 percent), socioeconomic gaps and climate change (26.7 percent each), deteriorating human rights conditions (20.7 percent), as well as terrorism (11.1 percent).

Concerns among Malaysians about COVID-19 attracted about 75.4 percent of respondents, citing it as the biggest threat ahead of unemployment and the economic recession. ASEAN's ability to overcome current pandemic challenges are concerned by 49.0 percent of respondents.

Another key issue for Southeast Asia is the urgency to tackle climate change and extreme weather which already affected the region by 2021, the report said.

The survey, conducted between November 11 and December 31, 2021, had involved 1,677 respondents, with 8.1 percent from Malaysia. Most of the respondents were academics from think tanks or research institutions.

Established in 1968, the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute is a regional centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security, and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment./.