ASEAN 50 and Beyond

ASEAN 50 and Beyond

วันที่นำเข้าข้อมูล 13 ก.ค. 2561

วันที่ปรับปรุงข้อมูล 27 พ.ย. 2565

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This article is written to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and to take a glimpse towards the future.


It has been 50 years, since the establishment of ASEAN on 8 August 1967 when Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand came together and signed the ‘Bangkok Declaration’. The aim was to work collaboratively towards regional peace and stability amid the Cold War conflicts. Then cooperation was extended to economic dimension as can be seen from the establishment of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992. ASEAN became an international organization in 2008 when the ASEAN Charter came into force. Subsequently, at the end of 2015, ASEAN reached another milestone and established ASEAN Community, within which Member States work together across political-security, economic as well as socio-cultural spheres. Today, we are entering the second year of the ASEAN Community.


Throughout these 50 years, ASEAN and its Member States have been confronted with and tested by a number of crises. For example, in 1997, most of ASEAN Member States were at the heart of the Asian Financial Crisis that was spread throughout the region and left scares on the global financial landscape. In recent years, conflicts in the South China Sea have threatened ASEAN unity and centrality. Although many would argue that ASEAN is ineffective, one would find it difficult to conclude that the region, and possibly the world, would be better off without this regional organisation.


So, where will ASEAN go from now? ASEAN has looked up to the European Union (EU) as a successful model of regional integration. However, with the aftermath of 2008 financial crisis concerning the Southern members of the EU (particularly Greece), the on-going migration crisis and BREXIT negotiations, the EU may be at best an inspiration and no longer be the suitable model for ASEAN. Given the diversities among ASEAN Member States, ASEAN may have to come up with its own answer.


With regard to efforts on regional integration and tackling common threats, ASEAN has taken the incremental approach. Its Member States have set up regional fora and mechanisms to deal with political-security, economic and socio-cultural issues. However, these fora and mechanisms are often slow, partly due to the fact that most, if not all, decisions have to be made by consensus. Despite the drawbacks, one could argue that it is precisely this consensus principle that has held ASEAN Member States together and there has not been any talk of ‘exit’ by its Member States, unlike the EU.


Looking forwards, ASEAN and its Member States will have to improve this regional organisation with increased efficiency and effectiveness. This could be done through a new approach of decision making for selected issues and/or beefing up the ASEAN Secretariat. After 50 years of a rather success story, one can be optimistic that ASEAN and its Member States will build on a solid platform of regional integration and implement its ‘ASEAN Way’ more effectively.



August 2017


 Pitchaporn Amphunan