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What is ASEAN?

ASEAN is an economic organization, consisting of 10 countries in Southeast Asia. It was established with the objective of promoting mutual cooperation and facilitating economic, political, security, military, educational and socio-cultural integration between its members and the rest of Asia. ASEAN stands for ”Association of South East Asian Nations.”
The primary objective of ASEAN is to accelerate economic growth in Southeast Asia as well as achieve social progress and cultural development. In addition, to build regional peace and stability in accordance with the principles of the rule of law and the UN Charter.

ASEAN consists of 10 south-east countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

History of ASEAN

The former name of ASEAN was ”The Association of Southeast Asia (ASA)”, which was formed on July 31, 1961, by Thailand, Philippines and the Federation of Malaya. On 8 August 1967, ASEAN began its journey with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration by the foreign ministers of five countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Hence, the founding countries of ASEAN are five.
The main reason for the creation of ASEAN was motivated by the fear of communism in the region. After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the organization gained greater cohesion after the balance of power shifted. The first ASEAN summit was held in 1976, in Bali, Indonesia.
The end of the Cold War allowed ASEAN countries to exercise greater political freedom in the region. In the 1990s, ASEAN emerged as a leading alliance on regional trade and security issues.
On 15 December 1995, the “Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone” agreement was signed, making Southeast Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone. On March 28, 1997, this agreement entered into force. On 21 June 2001, after ratification by the Philippines, it banned all nuclear weapons in the region.
On 7 January 1984, Brunei became the sixth member of ASEAN and on 28 July 1995, Vietnam joined as the seventh member. Laos and Myanmar joined ASEAN on 23 July 1997. Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar were supposed to join on the same date but were delayed due to coups and other internal instability in 1997. Cambodia became the latest tenth country to join on 30 April 1999, following government stabilization.
In 2006, ASEAN was granted observer status at the UN General Assembly. As a result, the organization granted the UN ‘dialogue partner’ status.

Objectives of ASEAN

According to the ASEAN Declaration, its aims and objectives are,
  • Accelerating economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.
  • Providing training and research facilities to others, including mutual assistance, assistance in matters of regional peace, cooperation and interests.
  • To promote the better use of agriculture and industry to improve the standard of living of the people. Developing and expanding education in Southeast Asia.
  • To maintain close, beneficial cooperation with existing international organizations with similar goals.
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