ASEAN was preceded by the short-lived ASA (Association of Southeast Asia), founded in 1961 by Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. These three countries would eventually cooperate with Indonesia and Singapore to draft and sign the Bangkok Resolution on August 8, 1967, which established ASEAN. The organization expanded when Brunei joined in 1984, followed by Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia in the late 90s. As the organization’s size doubled, so did its emblem, which depicts ten yellow rice stalks on a backdrop of red and blue. A majority of ASEAN’s members were decolonized only in the years following WWII. Indeed, the main impetus for the organization’s inception may have been the desire to fill in the power vacuum created by the recently withdrawn colonial powers. The organization operates primarily on an economic level, working to find compromises between the interests of each nation and the region as a whole. It also works within the political sphere, attempting to establish the region’s solidarity through its unified actions. Structure
The highest body of ASEAN is the annual summit (ASEAN Summit). The chairmanship of the ASEAN Summit and Ministerial Conferences rotates annually between member states in alphabetical order. The Head Office of the ASEAN Secretariat is located in Jakarta, Indonesia; in addition, each country features its own local foreign minister. ASEAN is also divided into three central Community Councils: Political-Security, Economic, and Socio-Cultural, each of which presides over several Sectoral Ministerial Bodies. ASEAN’s decision-making process features its own hierarchy, divided into Tracks. Track I encompasses all official decisions made by diplomatic representatives of the member states. Track II deals with hypothetical policies proposed mainly by think tanks and academic institutions, essentially serving as a forum for potential ideas. Track III is also a forum, one that consists of civil society groups and special-interest lobbies. Though this structure implies the possibility of citizens‘ ideas trickling up to the inter-governmental level, the reality is that most of ASEAN’s decisions are made by senior officials, independently of the represented masses‘ knowledge. Recent Developments
On December 15, 2008, the organization officially adopted the new ASEAN Charter, which establishes ASEAN as a legal entity and pushes the region closer to becoming a unified free trade sector. The Charter stresses peaceful settlement of disputes and respect for each state’s sovereignty and internal affairs. While this may signal that ASEAN is indeed moving towards reaching the status of the EU, the organization’s inability to impose sanctions and lack of judicial power puts its power of influence in question.
After years of discussion, the negotiation among Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries over the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community finally reached an amiable agreement. Recently, the ASEAN national leaders who gathered in Jakarta and attended the ASEAN Summit said that ASEAN will follow the ASEAN integration path and continue to push forward the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community; and to strengthen the influential power of ASEAN in international affairs. Although the agreed on ASEAN Economic Community framework has not yet fully complied with the requirement of all ASEAN countries, we can still say that it is a good agreement. In accordance to the agreement that has already been reached, ASEAN will soon come out with a more formal ASEAN Economic Community Agreement that comes with executive power. The agreement will go in line with the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in order to push forward the specific task for ASEAN countries to promote free trade in Southeast Asia. This is certainly an epoch-making milestone. It is an agreement that is worth our effort to seriously making in-depth analysis, in-depth study and...