restricted access 12. The Association of Southeast Asian Studies
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12 SEA NewEra.indd 241 4/27/10 2:40:43 PM 12 SEA NewEra.indd 242 4/27/10 2:40:43 PM This page intentionally left blank. 243 Rodolfo C. Severino No discussion of Southeast Asia as a region is complete without touching on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. ASEAN is the institution that has brought the countries of Southeast Asia together. It is ASEAN that deals with the world on behalf of Southeast Asia as a whole. Through its activities , ASEAN has promoted mutual confidence among its member states and their peoples and built networks of friendship and cooperation among them. Through its norms for inter-state relations and the habits of consultation and dialogue that it fosters, ASEAN has helped keep the region peaceful and stable. ASEAN has been the main institutional vehicle for integrating the regional economy. It has provided a framework for the nations and peoples of Southeast Asia to cooperate in dealing with such common threats as environmental degradation, communicable diseases, international terrorism, and transnational crime. The links between ASEAN and other countries have strengthened those countries’ ties with individual ASEAN members as well as the fabric of peace and cooperation in the region and in the world. ASEAN has been the hub and convener of the regionalization process in East Asia and beyond. ASEAN was founded on 8 August 1967, when the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand signed the ASEAN Declaration in Bangkok. The two-page document set forth the Association’s objectives as economic growth, social progress, cultural development, peace and stability, and cooperation for common purposes in a broad range of areas. REGIONAL PEACE AND STABILITY The overriding purpose of the new Association, however, was to ensure that disputes among its members did not develop into conflict and that the 12The Association of Southeast Asian Nations 12 SEA NewEra.indd 243 4/27/10 2:40:44 PM Reproduced from Southeast Asia in a New Era: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN edited by Rodolfo C. Severino, Elspeth Thomson and Mark Hong (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2010). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN 244 region was kept out of the quarrels of the great powers. At the same time, the region would be open to friendship and cooperation with the rest of the world. From the beginning, ASEAN has adhered to three basic principles in conducting the relations among nations: • The renunciation of the use or threat of force; • The peaceful settlement of disputes; and • Non-interference in one another’s internal affairs. If we examine the historical circumstances at the time of ASEAN’s founding, we can easily understand why the ASEAN members adopted these principles. Indonesia had just undergone a violent change of regime and had emerged from a “confrontation” with Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysia and Singapore had just gone through an acrimonious separation. The Philippines continued to lay claim to the North Borneo territory that had become part of the Malaysian State of Sabah. Malaysia had territorial disputes with all its immediate neighbours. Nearby, the war in Indochina was raging, threatening Thailand. Every one of ASEAN’s founding states was imperilled by Communist insurgency or subversion or both. China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was spilling over into Southeast Asia. The United States was bogged down in the war in Vietnam. The Cold War was at its height. Against such a turbulent background of armed conflict, interference in neighbours’ internal affairs and mutual suspicion, ASEAN’s members learned important lessons in how to develop and maintain regional peace and stability. The region was both blessed and burdened by a great diversity of races, languages, cultures, religions, ethnic origins, historical legacies and experiences, development levels, political, economic and social philosophies, and strategic outlooks — among the nations of Southeast Asia and within them. This diversity, enriching as it was, could also easily upset the stability of the region or any country in it. It could just as easily be exploited by neighbours or external powers for their own national purposes. The potential for conflict in both this diversity and the international environment impelled the founding nations of ASEAN to...


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