Is Asean a Toothless Tiger?

Topics: Southeast Asia, ASEAN, Singapore Pages: 6 (1764 words) Published: February 9, 2013

Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) established officially on 8th August 1967 in Bangkok by the participating Government and its members were Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Its purpose was to ensure the survival of its members by promoting regional stability and limiting competition between them.[1] The Bangkok Declaration gave birth to ASEAN and it states that the objectives of ASEAN are to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.[2] There are definitely some positive and negative perspectives on ASEAN especially when being struck by a few crises but on top of that, ASEAN is still breathing up till today. To today’s date, ASEAN is made up of 10 countries namely, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The achievements of ASEAN are impressive since its existence since there is no armed conflict between the ASEAN members in a region previously beset by confrontation although bilateral tensions arises on several occasions. Internationally, ASEAN has managed to attain a high profile and the regional grouping has acted in concert in the economic as well as in the diplomatic spheres.[3]

A tiger is being explain as a fierce or brave animal and is feared by anyone just by putting tiger on their mind. To be further explained in our context is brave in making decision and act accordingly to the decision made. On the other hand, a toothless tiger is a fearless animal and is a laughing factor even when putting it on our mind. Simply put, a toothless tiger in our context is an organisation that did not make any action but only say things without accomplishing it and in other words it is simply referred to ‘a talk show’. Everybody would agree upon action speaks louder than words for which ASEAN did not take this into their consideration by holding on to their principle of Non-interference. There are three important codes of conduct for the Non-interference principle governing intra-ASEAN relations. First, members are discouraged to criticise or intervene members’ internal affairs. Second, it commits members to deny sanctuary or support to groups seeking to subverts or overthrow the governments of member states.[4] Third, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s the principle discouraged members from providing external powers with any form of support deemed subversive to other members.[5]

In the early 1960s, the non-interference policy has brought up conflicts of its origin that involves Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Examples of this explained when an independent Malaysia is being opposed by Indonesia and Philippines for which the territories inclusive of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. Brunei and also some factions in Sabah and Sarawak opposed their inclusion. Konfrontasi was a policy of regional disruption that becomes the crucial conflict that involved Indonesia’s aggressive acts against Malaysia. Also, Jakarta sponsored low-level military incursions into Malaysia and gave subversive groups in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Mainland Malaysia training and other forms of support in an effort to destabilise the nascent nation. Moreover, the presence of the role of powers such as Britain, the Soviet Union, the U.S. and the Netherlands led to mutual distrust among future ASEAN states.

Another area to be looked at why ASEAN may be referred as a toothless tiger is for their tepid response to the Burmese junta’s Human rights violations and obstruction of democracy. Here, the relaxation of the non-interference doctrine has varying implications among the ASEAN members. As a result of this, the junta not only continues to resist visits by foreign delegations but also offers limited access to its domestic affairs, even to fellow ASEAN members. ASEAN is substantially at loss when dealing with Burma where this is further explained when there is no...
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