The four-day International Children’s Content Rights Fair (ICCRF)—which is taking place in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and ends its run on December 2—is focused on children’s content from ASEAN publishers while facilitating rights trading within the region and with overseas exhibitors.

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), established 51 years ago to collaborate on economic growth, social progress, and cultural development, is made up of 10 countries (with 10 different official languages) namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. A fast-growing region, this bloc uses English as the working language and has 651 million people, of which around 30% (or nearly 200 million) are below 18 years old.

Unlike other fairs in the region, ICCRF is not government-driven and therefore not tied to politics or specific policies, said Trasvin Jittidecharak, chair of the fair’s organizing committee. “It is led by N.C.C. Management and Development Ltd., an investment company that is passionate about advocating for reading and promoting great content for children, and we are looking into the long-term potential of bringing ASEAN publishers together to uncover new content, promote different cultures, and exchange industry ideas.” For Jittidecharak, the region’s fast-expanding middle class and economic strength is a big draw for fair participants regional and global.

The business matching session, which many participants deemed the best feature of last year’s inaugural event, is back. “We want to make sure that the exhibitors meet one another, discover their similarities and differences, and sit down to talk business,” said Jittidecharak, adding that many of the exhibitors “meet at international events such as Bologna, Frankfurt, or Shanghai, but are often too busy conducting international business to talk to, and connect with, their regional counterparts. ICCRF serves as a platform to address these missed opportunities.” The choice of Chiang Mai, she said, “is no accident. This city is about 30% cheaper than Bangkok—which already has a lot of things going on—and is served by an international airport that provides easy access from anywhere within the region.”

For overseas exhibitors such as Clavis (from Belgium) and Find Your Team (Italy), ICCRF provides a gateway to a new market with hidden talents and sales potential, and not just a platform to sell rights. As for India-based Tara Books, the fair’s special art exhibition allows it to showcase its collection of folk/indigenous art illustrations and award-winning hand-made books.

The ASEAN Illustrator Award, on the other hand, is about highlighting works by professional and amateur illustrators, and giving them a shot at international level recognition. This year’s top prize of $5,000 went to Mohd Khairul Azman Ismail from Malaysia for his unpublished work A Big Good Wolf. Seven other awards—one each for best illustrator in fiction and nonfiction, and five more for emerging talents—bring the cumulative prize monies to $12,500.

This edition of ICCRF also sees the participation of Big Bad Wolf Books, a Malaysian book fair started by remainder company BookXcess. Co-founder Jacqueline Ng is in town with director Surachet Worawongwasu to oversee BBW’s fifth event in Thailand since 2016. “We have witnessed the Thai market demand for English language books and publishers’ efforts in meeting that need. We are here—with one million books, of which 70%, or about 12,000 titles, are children’s books—to create the hype, boost the market, and help publishers with the distribution end of their creative content process,” said Ng, who has set up a product demo area just to educate and guide parents on the usage of selected unique titles.

For Jittidecharak, the second edition of ICCRF is “as much about the continual promotion of trade within the region as it is about presenting a bloc of unique and diverse culture, content, and talent to the rest of the world.”