Birth of ASEAN
In August 1967, at the Laem Thaen, Bang Saen Beach, five statesmen from five neighboring lands huddled together, hammering out the final text of a short and simple document containing just five articles which marked a new beginning for their countries in the region.
They sat down together to make history on 8 August, 1967, in the main hall of the Department of Foreign Affairs building. Their speech and messages went far beyond, for they represented their countries and the dreams and aspirations of the five hundred million people who called them homes.
“….. We cannot survive for long as independent but isolated people unless we think and act together and unless we prove by deeds that we belong to a family of Southeast Asian nations…..” Tun Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.
“The fragmented economies of Southeast Asia, with each country pursuing its own limited objectives and dissipating its meager resources in the overlapping or even conflicting endeavors of sister states carry seeds of weakness… ASEAN therefore could marshal the still untapped potentials of this rich region through more substantial untied action” Narciso Ramos, Phillippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Adam Malik, Presidium Minister for Political Affairs and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia envisioned, “a region which can stand on its own feet, strong enough to defend itself against any negative influence from outside the region.”
S. Rajaratnam, Foreign Minister of Republic of Singapore: “We must think not only of our national interests but posit them against regional interests: that is a new way of thinking about our problems…”
On that day, they signed the Bangkok Declaration which set in motion the establishment of a regional organization known as ASEAN as representing “the collective will” of the nations of Southeast Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for the posterity the blessings of peace, freedom and posterity.
Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, Thanat Khoman who brought up the ASEAN idea to his Malaysian and Indonesian colleagues fourteen months earlier, was the final speaker.
“What we have decided today is only the small beginning of what we hope will be a long and continuous sequence of accomplishments of which we ourselves, those who will join us later and the generation to come can be proud.”
Brunei Darussalam later joined on 7 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.
AIMS AND PURPOSES
As set out in the ASEAN Declaration, the aims and purposes of ASEAN are:
- To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations;
- To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter;
- To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields;
- To provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, technical and administrative spheres;
- To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilisation of their agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, including the study of the problems of international commodity trade, the improvement of their transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of their peoples;
- To promote Southeast Asian studies; and
- To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation among themselves.
In their relations with one another, the ASEAN Member States have adopted the following fundamental principles, as contained in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) of 1976:
- Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations;
- The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion;
- Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another;
- Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner;
- Renunciation of the threat or use of force; and
- Effective cooperation among themselves.
The ASEAN Vision 2020, adopted by the ASEAN Leaders on the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN, agreed on a shared vision of ASEAN as a concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.
At the 9th ASEAN Summit in 2003, the ASEAN Leaders resolved that an ASEAN Community shall be established.
At the 12th ASEAN Summit in January 2007, the Leaders affirmed their strong commitment to accelerate the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015 and signed the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015.
The ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. Each pillar has its own Blueprint, and, together with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Strategic Framework and IAI Work Plan Phase II (2009-2015), they form the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community 2009-2015.