ASEAN : Origin and Evolution

ASEAN’s Origin and Evolution The Bangkok Declaration gave way to the establishment of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) on 8th August 1967. Reasons for establishment:

  • There was no regional group in Southeast Asia earlier
  • Conflict-resolution of Indonesia-Malaysia conflict called Konfrontasi
  • Communists rebellions supported by China and USST against pro-Western governments in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines
  • Superpower intervention during the Cold War- IndoChina
  • Economic Nationalism and Underdevelopment

  ASEAN Members asean-member-nations 1967: Originally, it was a five-member organization and they were the founders and they are:

  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Philippines
  • Singapore

Today, it’s a 10-member organization and the five other members are:

  • Brunei : Joined in 1984
  • Vietnam : 1995
  • Myanmar : 1997
  • Laos : 1997
  • Cambodia : 1999 (ASEAN 10)

  What is South East Asia? Mainland South East Asia It is east of Indian Subcontinent and South of China. It is combination of two aspects I & II:

  1. Mainland South East Asia
  2. Myanmar
  3. Thailand
  4. Cambodia
  5. Laos
  6. Singapore
  7. Brunei


  1. Archipelagoes to South and East of Mainland
  2. Indonesia
  3. Philippines

    Early Regional Groupings SEATO – South East Asia Treaty Organisation – American alliance, in which only Thailand and Philippines were members from the region. Malphilindo  was founded in 1963 by Malaya, Philippines, Indonesia. ASA – The Association of South East Asia. It had a more direct link with ASEAN. It was set up in 1961. It was founded by Prime Minister of Malaya and had Thailand, Malaya, Philippines as it members. It was basically set up as an anti-communist organisation to counter insurgency and outside intervention.   Evolution of ASEAN

  • All nations of South East Asia were colonies except Thailand, which had been spared the plight of colonial subject.
  • England, France, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and United States all had established their colonies in this part of the world.
  • European education become the destruction for the colonial empires as it introduced to the local elites the concept of nationalism, national self-destruction and revolutionary socialism. Furthermore, the independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India and nationalist movement led Dr. Sun Yet Sen in China.
  • Japanese occupation in World War – II was a means to the demands for independence and with it European invincibility was directly challenged and Asian self-confidence was confirmed.
  • After the end of World War II between 1945-1960, there was rapid withdrawal of European powers from Southeast Asia, and it’s nationalism was against external influence.
  • Some exits were benign, but some were fought, while some were negotiated. All this led to resurgence to nationalism and jingoistic behaviour in military and nationalist leaders which ultimately culminated with authoritarian rulers in some countries.
  • The early years of independence were marked by twin demands of nation building and post war reconstruction, but the path and process to achieve that was tough and spoiled with lots of social issues.
  • With greater external intervention by USSR and USA in 1960s and increasing influence of CHINA, there was a threat to stability and prosperity of this area in the world , to which Southeast Asian nations answered by setting up a regional grouping for a better integration of this part.


  • In 1967, after change in government in Indonesia and following the end of confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia, the Indonesian establishment changed their mindset and proposed for a regional association.
  • Eventually, ASA was incorporated into an enlarged and renamed organization, ASEAN.
  • Generally, the Vietnam War between communist and non-communist group, which was at its peak at that time gave way to the ASEAN. And, this struggle brought the intervention of world super power to their doorstep that was a direct threat to the region.
  • Five leaders of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Philippines met at Bangkok on 8th August 1967 and announced Bangkok declaration for the set up of ASEAN.
  • Bangkok declaration emphasizes on the need to ‘strengthen existing regional bonds’, it talks in terms of equality and partnership in the search for ‘peace, progress, and prosperity’.
  • It also enunciates concerns about external interference in any form or manifestation and that all foreign bases are temporary and remain only with the express concurrence of the countries.
  • At the end, declaration made it clear that membership was open for all the nations of South East Asia.


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