Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Association of Southeast Asian Nations (8 August 1967)

Mutual declaration by five Southeast Asian countries that formed the basis of regional peace and cooperation within a bipolar, Cold War world. In Bangkok, Thailand, on 8 August 1967, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the declaration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN document consisted of five articles that established the objectives of the multilateral association and regional cooperation. In the context of the Cold War, the ASEAN declaration was important because it attempted to counter the influence of the United States and the threat of Soviet-backed communism in the region.

The ASEAN declaration provided mutual security for the signatory nations in a bifurcated world and in a historically unstable region. It provided mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of internal hostilities and potential confrontation among the participating nations. ASEAN also encouraged Southeast Asian countries to be self-reliant and to act as one united sphere against external influences and intervention. The overall aims of the agreement were to foster regional cohesion and cooperation, to fortify mutual interests, and to ease the problems among the signatory nations. It was hoped that this would facilitate regional peace, prosperity, and economic and social development.

The declaration's first article pronounced the establishment of regional cooperation through ASEAN. The second article laid out the general areas in which the aims were to be achieved. It advocated increased economic growth, promotion of social reform, and the cultural development of all the nations. ASEAN adhered to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations (UN) in order to promote regional security and stability. ASEAN members committed to collaboration in economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific, and administrative endeavors. Each nation was also committed to reciprocal aid in the areas of education, professionalization, and technical training. Included in this article was mutual cooperation in agriculture, trade, transportation, and communications. Many of these goals were designed to improve living standards in the member nations.

The third article established the mechanisms by which to carry out the goals of the second article. ASEAN nations agreed that foreign ministers would meet annually, with each nation hosting the meeting on a rotating basis. ASEAN also established a working body—the standing committee—to promote the aims and purposes of the declaration on an ongoing basis. The work of ASEAN would be further developed and promoted by the establishment of ad hoc and permanent subcommittees on an as-needed basis.

ASEAN's fourth article declared that membership would be open to other Southeast Asian nations. The fifth article asserted that ASEAN represented the "collective will" of the signatories and of Southeast Asia as a whole.

ASEAN was formed in part to present a united front against further communist expansion in the region. After 1976, the member states concentrated on programs of economic development and cooperation. ASEAN holds regular annual meetings in which the member states seek to work out common approaches to economic and cultural issues affecting Southeast Asia. Today, ASEAN numbers ten states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Together these states comprise about 8 percent of the world population.

Dewi I. Ball


Further Reading
Narine, Shaun. Explaining ASEAN: Regionalism in Southeast Asia. London: Lynne Rienner, 2002.
 

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