The association of South East Asian Nation, ASEAN, is a very geographic, political and economic organization of the ten countries in south East Asia. The association came into being 1967 a loose organization with Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines as Pioneer members. The association later expanded to include Burma Bruneirs Cambodia, Laos and Vidnam. These are full members of ASEAN
ASEAN was preceded by an organization called the Association of South East Asia, ASA formed in 1961 comprising the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. ASEAN was established in 1967 when the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singa pore and Thailand met in Bangkok, the Thai capital and signed the ASEAN declaration, which came to be known as the Bangkok, declaration.
Broadly speaking, ASEAN could be described as a product of the cold war. At a time when issues of international significance were mirrored along the East-West ideological stigmatization, ASEAN elites felt a need for a more non-aligned forum where issues of nation building could be harnessed. The fear of communism from the east was balanced by an equal lack of faith in the western alliance creating a climate of distrust and fear towards the outside environment. There was an urgent desire to lay solid foundations for the economic development of the respective countries involved and the entire region as a bloc. There was also the hope, particularly on the parts of Malaysia and Singapore, to contain what it saw as Indonesia’s hegemonic aspirations through the instrument of ASEAN. The feeling here is that under the umbrella of ASEAN, members would be more co-operative and less aggressive, thereby compelling each member to appreciate the desire for amore co-operative frame work..
Apart from geographical location, a prospective ASEAN membership must depend on the acceptance of the ASEAN treaty of amity and co-operation signed in 1976. It is also expected that members must meet the established trade liberalization requirements guiding the admission of new members. A prospective member must also win the consensus approval of all ASEAN members before such applications deemed successful.
ASEAN treaty allows now substantive members to attend meeting and relate with the organization on a co-operative basis. Some countries enjoy observer status which allows them to attend ASEAN meetings such the ministerial conference the ASEAN regional forum and the post ministerial conference countries outside the ASEAN region but who expresses significant interests in South-East Asia are granted dialogue partnership many countries outside the immediate ASEAN Geographical environment enjoy this status. This is a further reflection of ASEAN relevance in the political and economic consideration of other countries as a major player. Dialogue partners participate in the post- ministerial conference and ASEAN regional forum. Dialogue members of ASEAN include US, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, Russia, China, India, Australia and New Zealand. ASEAN has a free trade agreement with all these countries. The 1980s was a period of rapid economic growth for ASEAN countries. This led to the expansion of membership aimed at accommodating countries in the region with less economic capabilities. In 1996, ASEAN took a major political step by declaring that all south-east Asian countries would be granted membership of the organization by the year 2000. The implication of this move was that second tier developing economies were brought into the organization. The weak economics of Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Victnam required policy adjustments and creation of now set of guidelines in order to accommodate these lesser. Developed economic symptoms.
One of the major factors responsible for the formation of ASEAN was to guard against the treat of communism from china and Indo china countries (Combodia, Laos and Vietlan. These countries were however quickly assimilated into the organization. ASEAN do not have a laid down practice on political systems and human rights issues. Never at any points in the history of ASEAN were matters such as democracy, internal political conditions and human rights issues allowed to play significant roles in ASEAN relationship. The organizations do not look upon these factors as criteria for membership. The probably explains why countries with the most human rights rewards and democratic abuses are found within the organization ASEAN emphasizes a deliberate policy of political tolerance towards its members states.
ASEAN parades an array of different political system and connotations. In the Philippines and to a reasonable extent Thailand and Indonesia. Their democratic openness are graving. In Malaysia. Despotism and Plutocracy is still the order of the day. Communication dictatorship remaining Vietnam and Laos while absolute monarchy holds sway in Brunoi. Burma holds invariable record as one of the last vestiges of repressive military dictatorships in the world.
The fundamental principles of ASEAN include the following
1. Marital respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity and national identity of all nations
2. The right of every state to lead its nation existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion.
3. Non-interference in the internal affairs of on another
4. Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful unlearns.
5. Renunciation of the threat or use of force.
6. Effective co-operation among one another.
7. The acceleration of economic growth, social progress social progress, and cultural development among member states.
During its first 20 years of existence, asean concentrated its energy on building economic cultural and social ties among its members. In the 1990s however, the organization decided to bring into focus widen issues of political and security dimensions aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the region.
In 1993, the ASEAN regional forum (A.R.F) was created. This became a multi-lateral consultative forum whose aim was to promote preventive diplomacy, transparency defecne maters and confidence building in the region although ARF is primarily concerned with regional security co-operation and consultation, ASEAN do not aim at a definitive military pact. Members oppose a formal military commitment but instead opts for a web of loose bilateral military co-operative ties among different pairs of states as the best format for regional security arrangement. Most ASEAN countries have an inter locking series of bilateral security and military arrangements with many countries outside the region. Such arrangements include senior-level meetings, multi service military exercise, exchange training programmes and attendance of officers and non- commissioned officers at formal school causes these programmes are aimed at achieving transparency greater professionalism and regional understanding.
ASEAN do not have the intention of a formal military fact as an immediate objective though its individual steadily increase. With improvement in their economic positions many ASEAN countries have continued to upgrade their military systems through standardized training and purchases of never and better equipments. There is no fear of a regional arms race in the region. Most ASEAN countries have relatively small armed forces with the exception of Vietnam which has one of the largest armed forces in the world.
The south East Nuclear weapons free zone treaty was created in1997 banning all nuclear weapons in the ASEAN region. The aim again was to foster peace and satiability while eliminating unnecessary fear and distrust.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, asean has expanded its focus to include a more positive perspective on environmental issues. The asean wildlife enforcement network was created in 2005 to take up issues concerning wild life and endangered species. The Asia- pacific partnership on ulcam development and climate was also created in response to global change and environmental protection.
ASEAN members if not improve democracy as a system for its members. It accepts however that reasonable democratic principles should be encouraged as much as it is possible to do so within the internal political make up of individual states. The Bali concord 11 of 2003 subscribed to the notion of “democratic peace”. This means that all members countries believe that democratic processes will promote regional believe that democratic processes will promote regional peace and stability. The non- democratic members of asean also agree that democracy was something all states should aspire. Their position is that while democracy is desirable, it can neither be enforced nor improved. Member’s countries are encouraged to condition their democratic aspirations on their peculiar socio-cultural background and related circumstances. This explains why asean has refused to take any measure against the Burmese military leadership despite persistent criticism from the United States and its allies.
In 2006, asean was granted observer status at the united nations general assembly. As a response, the organization awarded the united nations the status of a “dialogue partner”
CRITICISM AND FAILURES
1. The principle of non-interference has blunted Asean efforts in handling the Burmese problem. The continued tolerance of large scale repression and human rights violations by the military regime in Myanmar reflects very badly on the entire organization. Myanmar remains a test case for Asean and until positive steps are taken in this regard, the organizations will continue to be viewed in bad light. The issue of political modernization by Asean members remain a very serious issues.
2. The consensus- based approach in decision making gives each member a veto in policy matters. This could lead to lond delay in decision making while at other times, decisions are significantly watered down to accommodate the sentiments of every one.
3. Asean is often reviewed on a mere talk shop. Long onwards yet short in action.
4. inequality- the disparity in the population, military size and economic standing of Asean members is seem as a factor of restraints