The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional grouping founded on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines to promote economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the Southeast Asian region through multilateral cooperation. It also functions as a non-political platform to maintain peace and stability among member states and external partners. The grouping was formed when the foreign ministers – Adam Malik of Indonesia, Narciso Ramos of the Philippines, Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia, S. Rajaratnam of Singapore and Tun Thanat Khoman of Thailand – of the five founding member states convened in the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Bangkok to sign the ASEAN Declaration.
ASEAN has its origins in the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA). Constituted on 31 July 1961 with Malaya, Thailand and the Philippines as members, ASA fell short of becoming a viable regional grouping. This was due to numerous factors, including ASA’s inability to obtain endorsements from other Southeast Asian countries, most crucially Indonesia, and the breakdown of bilateral relations between two of its members – Malaya and the Philippines – over the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. However, following an improvement in multilateral ties marked by the end of Indonesia’s Confrontation policy in August 1966 against Malaysia and the normalisation of relations between Malaysia and the Philippines in June 1966, ASA initiated discussions to include more members. By May 1967, plans to enlarge ASA were replaced by a proposal to form a new grouping based on ASA’s framework. The initial name of the new grouping was Southeast Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, but this was later changed to ASEAN. Some of the joint development programmes first undertaken by ASEAN include projects to increase food production, promote tourism, ease travel restrictions, and enhance cooperation in the field of mass media through exchanges of radio and television programmes. Plans were also put in place to liberalise trade among members in a bid to improve intraregional trade.
Today, ASEAN is considered one of the most successful intergovernmental organisations in the developing world. Since its founding, the grouping has expanded to include other Southeast Asian states – Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos (1997), Myanmar (1997) and Cambodia (1999). It has also ratified many key agreements, particularly the ASEAN Free Trade Area Framework Agreement on 28 January 1992, which aimed to establish a free-trade area in the region by means of a Common Effective Preferential Tariff scheme. Another key agreement is the ASEAN Charter, which was ratified on 15 December 2008. The charter is the legal framework of the grouping as it codifies the rules and principles for ASEAN members, and outlines the organisational structure of the grouping.
1. Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (1978). 10 years ASEAN (pp. 14–15). Jakarta: ASEAN. Call no.: RSING 309.2233 TEN.
2. Association of Southeast Asian Nations, 1978, pp. 14–15.
3. The Asean aims: First 7-point accord signed. (1967, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (1997). Asean at 30 (p. 10). Jakarta: ASEAN. Call no.: RSING q341.2473 ASE.
4. Agreed – It’s Asean. (1967, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Beginning at Bangkok. (1961, August 4). The Straits Times, p. 8; Asa's last role. (1967, August 29). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Narine, S. (2002). Explaining ASEAN: Regionalism in Southeast Asia (pp. 11–12). Boulder, Colo.; London: Lynne Rienner Publishers. Call no.: RSEA 341.2473 NAR.
6. Narine, 2002, pp. 11–12.
7. Narine, 2002, pp. 12–13; Soon, much bigger ASA concept says Khoman. (1967, April 20). The Straits Times, p. 11; Asa revival. (1966, April 27). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. A bigger ASA: Foreign ministers to meet. (1967, May 31). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. The Straits Times, 8 Aug 1967, p. 1.
10. The first ten for Asean. (1968, February 25). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Association of Southeast Asian Nations, 1997, p. 10.
12. Brunei joins Asean. (1984, January 14). The Straits Times, p. 20; Lee, K. C. (1995, July 29). Vietnam now part of Asean. The Straits Times, p. 1; Lee, K. C. (1997, July 24). Laos and Myanmar admitted into Asean. The Straits Times, p. 1; Cambodia joins Asean. (1999, April 25). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Asean leaders back Afta fully as the answer to trade blocs. (1992, January 28). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja. (2008, December 16). Cheer as Asean member countries adopt charter. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.