Prof. Charles Ng: 50th Anniversary of SEAGS

Charles_1Message from Prof. Charles Ng
President of the Hong Kong Geotechnical Society

Imagine what would have happened to the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society (SEAGS) over the last 50 years without its outstanding, visionary and devoted leaders! Where would it be without the contributions from prominent figures including Dr. Za-Chieh Moh, Professor Chin Fung Kee, Dr. Tan Swan Beng, Professors Arumugam Balasubramaniam and Yong Kwet Yew and Dr. Ooi Teik Aun? To me, the answer is obvious. As a relatively new life member of the SEAGS, I feel I owe a lot to these great and dedicated leaders.

The establishment of the SEAGS in 1967 provided a geotechnical breeding ground or incubator for five small geotechnical communities located in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand to grow, develop and exchange ideas. Moreover, the SEAGS has provided a platform for engineers and academics in these five communities to engage with each other and to reach our big global geotechnical family organisation – the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Society (ISSMGE).  Coincidentally, maybe, the five Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – established the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 8th August 1967 in Bangkok. The aims of the Association are to promote, among others, collaborations and economic growth and development between the countries of Southeast Asia. The synergy between the ideologies of the SEAGS and ASEAN undoubtedly aligned technical and economic prospects.

Inspired and strongly supported by Professor F. Tatsuoka (former VP for Asia between 2001 and 2005) during our exchanges on different occasions, I and six other Hong Kong engineers officially established the Hong Kong Geotechnical Society (HKGES) in 2003. This HKGES is essentially a “foreign” office of the Geotechnical Division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers to connect their members to the ISSMGE. Through the excellent breeding and “nutrients” provided by the SEAGS, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand are now all individual member societies of the ISSMGE. However, we are still strongly linked via the establishment of the Association of Geotechnical Societies in Southeast Asia (AGSSEA) in 2007. The creation of AGSSEA was led by Drs. Moh and Ooi and others in Kuala Lumpur, with Hong Kong being one of the three founding members. Currently, the Association has eight member societies including the Chinese Taipei Geotechnical Society, the Geotechnical Society of Singapore, HKGES, the Indonesian Geotechnical Society, the Malaysian Geotechnical Society, SEAGS, the Thai Geotechnical Society and the Vietnam Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. The vision of the AGSSEA ensures continuing cooperation among the eight geotechnical societies which contribute to the development and growth of geotechnical engineering in the region.

I was appointed as a board member of the ISSMGE by Professor Jean-Louis Briaud, who was the ISSMGE President from 2009 to 2013. Since my appointment, I have been fortunate enough to contribute to the ISSMGE International Seminars delivered in the Far East led by Professor Pedro Seco Pinto (the president of ISSMGE between 2005 and 2009), Dr. Ooi Teik Aun (former president of SEAGS from 2010 to 2016) and Professor Dennes Bergado (former long-serving secretary of SEAGS). The goal of these Seminars has been to promote both geotechnical engineering and friendship, as well as facilitate the exchange of ideas amongst countries in Far East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam (see Plates 1 and 2).

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Plate 1: Five lecturers and participants in the Phnom Penh (from left: Prof. Pinto, Dr. Ooi, Prof. Ng, Dr. Vuthy and Prof. Bergdo)

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Plate 2: Opening ceremony of the seminar in Yangon (Prof. Ng (3rd from the left), Dr. Ooi (6th from the left), Prof. Pinto (8th from the left) and Ir Z.Z. Aye (9th from the left)).

It is clear that the SEAGS has contributed significantly in the Far East in terms of education, training and research over the last 50 years.  However, key questions must be asked: what will be its future mission and role? I am sure that SEAGS should and will continue to nurture and support young geotechnical communities in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines etc., under the guidance of veterans and peer members such as Dr. Moh, Professors Yong and Balasubramaniam. Naturally, current excellent core leaders in the region, including Professors Noppadol Phienwej, Suttisak Soralump, San Shysan Lin, and Dr. Teik Aun Ooi, will continue to play vital and leading roles. Together with SEAGS, the AGSSEA will go from strength to strength. Moreover, the SEAGS will continue to contribute the economic growth and development in this ASEAN in various capacities (see Fig. 1). I believe the Far East will become a focal point for economic growth and development of the world in future.

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Charles W.W. Ng
Life member of the SEAGS and the President of the Hong Kong Geotechnical Society