On 8 August, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bangkok Declaration commemorating the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The regional grouping’s signature achievement is that it has created an environment of regional security and growing mutual confidence among member states, which promoted economic growth and internal stability. It has also facilitated regional relationships with the major powers as well as international and regional organisations.
Initially, ASEAN provided the gel which helped the pro-Western governments in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand broaden their international support in response to the threats of domestic communist insurgencies and a widening war in Indochina. But progress was slow. As newly independent states, the focus was on building a sense of nationhood, not creating a commitment to a broader regional identity. This changed in 1975 following the emergence of communist regimes in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and an awareness that the United States was unlikely to intervene to combat the threat posed by communist insurgencies after its defeat in Vietnam.
… Barry Desker is Distinguished Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and its founding dean from 2007 to 2014. This first appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of ASEAN Focus, a publication of the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
Last updated on 11/08/2017