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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN - pronounced AH-SEE-AHN) is a geo-political and economic organization of 10 countries located in Southeast Asia. ASEAN was formed on August 8, 1967 by the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, as a display of solidarity against communist expansion in Vietnam and insurgency within their own borders. Following the Bali Summit of 1976, the organization embarked on a programme of economic cooperation, which floundered in the mid-1980s only to be revived around a 1991 Thai proposal for a regional "free trade area". The countries meet annually.



ASEAN was founded by five states, mostly from maritime Southeast Asia: the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

The British protectorate of Brunei joined ASEAN six days after the country became independent from the United Kingdom on January 8, 1984.

The mainland states of Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar were later admitted. Vietnam joined ASEAN on July 28, 1995. Laos and Myanmar were admitted into ASEAN on July 23, 1997. Cambodia became the newest member when it was admitted on April 30, 1999.

The Melanesian state of Papua New Guinea has observer status in ASEAN. In 23 July 2006, Jose Ramos Horta, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, announced that it would sign a formal request to join the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations the next week in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Friday during a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Mr Ramos Horta said he expects the ASEAN accession process to take about five years.[1] Australia is also interested in becoming a member of ASEAN.[2]

The association includes about 8% of the world's population and in 2003 it had a combined GDP of about USD$700 billion, growing at an average rate of around 4% per annum. The economies of member countries of ASEAN are diverse, although its major products include electronics, petroleum, and wood.

The ASEAN countries are culturally rich. It includes more Muslims than any other geopolitical entity. About 240 million Muslims live mostly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Buddhism constitutes the main religion of mainland Southeast Asia and there are about 170 million Buddhists in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore. Roman Catholicism is predominant in the Philippines.

Through the Bali Concord 11 in 2003, ASEAN has subscribed to the notion of democratic peace, which means all member countries believe democratic processes will promote regional peace and stability. Also the non-democratic members all agreed that it was something all member states should aspire to.[3]



ASEAN was originally formed out of an organization called the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA), an alliance consisting of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand that formed in 1961. As such, ASA is considered the predecessor to ASEAN.

ASEAN itself was established on August 8, 1967, when foreign ministers of five countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand met at the Thai Department of Foreign Affairs building in Bangkok and signed the ASEAN Declaration (also known as the Bangkok Declaration). The five foreign ministers, considered the organization's Founding Fathers, were Adam Malik of Indonesia, Narciso R. Ramos of the Philippines, Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia, S. Rajaratnam of Singapore, and Thanat Khoman of Thailand.

The founding fathers envisaged that the organization would eventually encompass all countries in Southeast Asia.[citation needed]Brunei Darussalam became the sixth member of the ASEAN when it joined on January 8, 1984, barely a week after the country became independent on January 1. It would be a further 11 years before ASEAN expanded from its core six members. Vietnam became the seventh member—and the first Communist member of ASEAN—on July 28, 1995, and Laos and Myanmar joined two years later in July 23, 1997. Cambodia was to have joined the ASEAN together with Laos and Myanmar, but was deferred due to the country's internal political struggle. Cambodia later joined on April 30, 1999, following the stabilization of its government. Thus was completed the ASEAN-10—the organization of all countries in Southeast Asia.


The ASEAN Regional Forum

 ASEAN Regional Forum: ██ ASEAN countries ██ Other ASEAN Regional Forum participants
ASEAN Regional Forum: ██ ASEAN countries ██ Other ASEAN Regional Forum participants

ASEAN regularly conducts dialogue meetings with other countries and the European Union, collectively known as the ASEAN dialogue partners during the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

The ASEAN Regional Forum is an informal multilateral dialogue of 25 members that seeks to address security issues in the Asia-Pacific region. The ARF met for the first time in 1994. The current participants in the ARF are as follows: ASEAN, Australia, Canada, People's Republic of China, European Union, India, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, East Timor, and the United States. Bangladesh was added to ARF as the 26th member, starting from July 28, 2006.[4]

The ASEAN Summit

Main article: ASEAN Summit

The organization holds annual meetings in relation to economic, and cultural development of Southeast Asian countries.

The ASEAN Leaders' Formal Summit was first held in Bali, Indonesia in 1976. At first there was no set schedule due to domestic issues in the member countries. In 1992, leaders decided to hold meetings every three years; and in 2001 it was decided to meet annually to address urgent issues affecting the region. Member nations were assigned to be the summit host in alphabetical order except in the case of Myanmar which dropped its 2006 hosting rights in 2004 due to pressure from the United States and the European Union.

The formal summit meets for three days. The usual itinerary is as follows:

  • ASEAN leaders hold an internal organization meeting.
  • ASEAN leaders hold a conference together with foreign ministers of the ASEAN Regional Forum.
  • Leaders of 3 ASEAN Dialogue Partners (also known as ASEAN+3) namely China, Japan and South Korea hold a meeting with the ASEAN leaders.
  • A separate meeting is set for leaders of 2 ASEAN Dialogue Partners (also known as ASEAN-CER) namely Australia and New Zealand.

At the 11th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, new meetings were scheduled. These were:

  • East Asia Summit - converging ASEAN and six dialogue partners namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
  • ASEAN-Russia Summit - meeting between ASEAN leaders and the President of Russia.

Asia-Europe Meeting

A separate forum for dialogue is the Asia-Europe Meeting which brings together the European Union and the ASEAN+3 groupings.

ASEAN Formal Summit
Number Date Country Place
1st 1976 February 23 - February 24 Flag of Indonesia Indonesia Bali
2nd 1977 August 4 - August 5 Flag of Malaysia Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
3rd 1987 December 14 - December 15 Flag of Philippines Philippines Metro Manila
4th 1992 January 27 - January 29 Flag of Singapore Singapore Singapore
5th 1995 December 14 - December 15 Flag of Thailand Thailand Bangkok
6th 1998 December 15 - December 16 Flag of Vietnam Vietnam Hanoi
7th 2001 November 5 - November 6 Flag of Brunei Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan
8th 2002 November 4 - November 5 Flag of Cambodia Cambodia Phnom Penh
9th 2003 October 7 - October 8 Flag of Indonesia Indonesia Bali
10th 2004 November 29 - November 30 Flag of Laos Laos Vientiane
11th 2005 December 12 - December 14 Flag of Malaysia Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
12th 2007 January 11 - January 14 (postponed in December 2006 because of Typhoon Seniang) Flag of Philippines Philippines Metro Cebu
13th 2007 Flag of Singapore Singapore Singapore
14th 2008 Flag of Thailand Thailand  
15th 2009 Flag of Vietnam Vietnam  

[1] - originally scheduled December 10-14 but was rescheduled to January 2007.

To address urgent regional issues, ASEAN leaders hold informal summit meetings while formal meetings were being prepared. Leaders decided to discontinue informal meetings in 2000 and hold formal meetings every year effective 2001.

ASEAN Informal Summit
Number Date Country Place
1st 1996 November 30 Flag of Indonesia Indonesia Jakarta
2nd 1997 December 14 - December 16 Flag of Malaysia Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
3rd 1999 November 27 - November 28 Flag of Philippines Philippines Metro Manila
4th 2000 November 22 - November 25 Flag of Singapore Singapore Singapore

Comparison with other Regional blocs

Most active regional blocs
bloc 1
Area (km²) Population GDP (PPP) ($US) Member
states 1
in millions per capita
EU 4,325,675 496,198,605 12,025,415 24,235 27
CARICOM 462,344 14,565,083 64,219 4,409 14+1 3
ECOWAS 5,112,903 251,646,263 342,519 1,361 15
CEMAC 3,020,142 34,970,529 85,136 2,435 6
EAC 1,763,777 97,865,428 104,239 1,065 3
CSN 17,339,153 370,158,470 2,868,430 7,749 10
GCC 2,285,844 35,869,438 536,223 14,949 6
SACU 2,693,418 51,055,878 541,433 10,605 5
COMESA 3,779,427 118,950,321 141,962 1,193 5
NAFTA 21,588,638 430,495,039 12,889,900 29,942 3
ASEAN 4,400,000 553,900,000 2,172,000 4,044 10
SAARC 5,136,740 1,467,255,669 4,074,031 2,777 8
Agadir 1,703,910 126,066,286 513,674 4,075 4
EurAsEC 20,789,100 208,067,618 1,689,137 8,118 6
CACM 422,614 37,816,598 159,536 4,219 5
PARTA 528,151 7,810,905 23,074 2,954 12+2 3

blocs and

countries 2
Area (km²) Population GDP (PPP) ($US) Political
in millions per capita
UN 133,178,011 6,411,682,270 55,167,630 8,604 192
Brazil 8,514,877 187,560,000 1,616,000 8,600 27
Canada 9,984,670 32,507,874 1,165,000 35,200 13
Germany 357,050 82,438,000 2,585,000 31,400 16
Japan 377,873 128,085,000 4,220,000 33,100 47
China (PRC) 4 9,596,960 1,306,847,624 10,000,000 7,600 33
India 3,287,590 1,102,600,000 4,042,000 3,700 35
Russia 17,075,200 143,782,338 1,723,000 12,100 89
USA 9,631,418 296,900,571 12,980,000 43,500 50
1 Including data only for full and most active members

2 The first five states in the World by area, population and GDP (PPP)
3 Including non-sovereign autonomous entities of other states

4 Data for the People's Republic of China does not include Hong Kong, Macau and
regions administered by the Republic of China (Taiwan).

██ smallest value among the blocs compared ██ largest value among the blocs compared

During 2004. Source: CIA World Factbook 2005, IMF WEO Database
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See also

  • ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution
  • ASEAN Free Trade Area
  • ASEAN Football Championship
  • List of members of the ASEAN
  • Asian Currency Unit
  • Southeast Asian Games
  • List of Trade blocs
  • East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC)
  • S.E.A. Write Award


  1. ^ "East Timor ASEAN bid", The Sun-Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2006-07-23. Retrieved on 2007-1-28.
  2. ^ "Australia Seeks Free-Trade Accord, Asean Membership at Summit", Bloomberg, Saturday, January 13 2007.
  3. ^ "Asean: Changing, but only slowly", BBC, Wednesday, 8 October, 2003.
  4. ^ Bangladesh joins ASEAN Regional Forum, Hindustan Times, July 22, 2006.

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