TheAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN is a regionalgrouping that was established on 8th August 1967 by the Founding Fathersof ASEAN: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Over theyears, ASEAN has gradually evolved and expanded as several countries joined theorganization: Brunei Darussalam on 8 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995,Laos and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and, lastly, Cambodia on 30 April 1999. 1Thispaper will inform and discuss about how ASEAN, as this year marks its 50thanniversary, has developed and expanded throughout the years from variousaspects: Political and Security aspects, Economic aspects, and, lastly, Socialand Culture aspects. In addition, this paper will discuss about the success andachievements of ASEAN, also, anticipate what the future holds for ASEAN, as aninternational organization, including its future impacts on Thailand and theworld.
Startingfrom the purposes of creating ASEAN, ASEAN’s primary objectives are to promoteregional stability, economic growth, political and security cooperation amongits 10 member states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, thePhilippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam2.Moreover, as set out in the ASEAN Declaration during the summit of ASEAN atBali in 1976,3the aims and purposes of ASEAN are to accelerate the economic growth, socialprogress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavors; topromote regional peace and stability; to expand their trade as well as toimprove transportation and communications.ASEANconsists of three community pillars that can consider as a main key point indeveloping ASEAN: Political-Security Community, Economic Community, andSocio-Cultural Community. These ASEAN communities assure that the goal ofraising and improving the living standards of its peoples is reflected through peace,security, harmony, the region’s economic and cultural development. ASEAN, also,has been developed in many aspects due to these three pillars.First,through political aspects, in order to deepen and expand ASEAN political andsecurity cooperation as well as strengthen ASEAN capacity in responding toregional and international challenges, the ASEAN Political-Security Communityor APSC was established. The main objective of APSC is to ensure that thecountries live peacefully with one another and the world in a democratic andharmonious environment.
Additionally, APSC has also consistently promotedprotection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. TheTreaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), signed on 24 February19764,was created as a peace treaty among Southeast Asian countries. It successfully servesas a solid foundation for peace and stability among Southeast Asia countriesand, also, other states outside Southeast Asia. As it currently has 35 states High ContractingParties, including major powers such as United States, European Union, andJapan, this treaty is considered to be one of the major and successful outcomesfrom ASEAN.Second,through economic aspects, AEC or ASEAN Economic Community is established tomake ASEAN a single market and production base with free flows of goods,skilled labor and investments across its member states, also, to become ahighly competitive region and fully apt into entering the global economy. Toprogress towards goals, ASEAN has signed several agreements to support AEC: theASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), the ASEAN Comprehensive InvestmentAgreement (ACIA); and ASEAN Agreement on the Movement of Natural Persons(AAMNP)5ASEANTrade in Goods Agreement or ATIGA reduces and eliminates tariff and nontariffmeasures, also, creates a legal framework to realize the free flow of goodswithin the AEC. In 2010, duties were eliminated on 99.2% of tariff lines for 6member states, including BruneiDarussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand6.
Trade in the region will also be facilitated through harmonized and streamlinedtrade as well as rules and procedures. Making it’s easier for investors toaccess to regional export markets, raw materials, production inputs. Also, makeit cheaper for production and business costs. TheASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement or ACIA improves the investmentenvironment by protecting and liberalizing cross-border investment activities;and, lastly, by embracing international best practices in investment. Makingmore conducive business environment in order to encourage investors to do andconduct business in the region. TheASEAN Agreement on the Movement of Natural Persons or AAMNP improves the movementof natural persons in order to have higher possibilities of hiring the peopleof the member states with diverse talents and specialties, as a result, it willbenefit ASEAN companies and employers as they start or conduct regionalcompanies.
Moreover,The ASEAN Free Trade Area of AFTA has made significant progress in the loweringof intra-regional tariffs. More than 99 percent of the products in the list of the6 ASEAN members (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,Singapore and Thailand) has been brought down to the 0-5 percent tariff range7.Furthermore, since the start of AFTA in 1993, ASEAN trade has increasedfrom 19.2 percent to 25.9 percent in 2016 and more than 90percent of goods are traded with no tariffs.8Byachieving the objectives of AEC, the investment environment in ASEAN is significantlyimproved and expanded as the AEC facilitates and encourages the implementationof trade, services, and investment. At the regional level, the AEC is critical indeveloping the ASEAN as a region. Nowadays, as a region, ASEAN is the 7thlargest economy in the world, with a combined GDP of $2.
6 trillion in 20169.And it is projected and expected to rank as the fourth-largest economy by 2050.10Witha market of over 600 million consumers and combined GDP of almost US$3 trillion, it is no doubt that ASEANhas a vibrant and growing economy ahead of it and will result inastonishing economic perspectives in the future.Third,through social and cultural aspects, ASEAN Socio-cultural or ASCC isestablished to achieve unity among the people as well as the member states ofASEAN. It aims to enhance the people welfare and livelihood; to lift the qualityof life of its people through cooperative activities that are people-orientedand environmental friendly; and to promote fundamental freedoms, genderequality, social justice as well as human rights.Thereare several significant commitments from ASCC to protect and promote humanrights. One of them is ASEAN Committee on Women.
As violence against woman isalso considered to be a violation of human rights in a form of discriminationagainst woman, therefore, ASEAN Committee on Women or ACW is established toeliminate and prevent any form of violence against woman. ACE empowers thevictims and survivors to access to information and remedies in order to claimtheir human rights. The approach also includes taking active steps to put humanrights standards in laws and policies. Moreover, ASEAN member states have also showntheir commitments by adopting a number of international human rights treatiesNotonly ASCC promotes human rights, it also ensures environmental sustainability.One of them is by promoting the sustainability of fresh water resources. Toprevent human health from the disease coming from the water, ASCC has placedstrong emphasis on the need to improved water. By using advanced technologies,in 2012, 100 percent of the population in Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, andThailand were able to access to improved water sources11.Moreover, the improvement is particularly apparent in Indonesia as thepercentage of improved water sources had increased from 44 percent in 2012 to87 percent in 2015.
12Overthe years, through ASEAN Socio-cultural community, ASEAN has shown theircommitments to strengthen social protection, promotion and protection of the rightsof women and children, improvement of people’s health and well-being, anddevelopment of opportunities for education, and environmental sustainability. Sothat it can lift the quality of life of its people.However,although ASEAN is actively promoting human rights, democracy and goodgovernance, unfortunately, the region has been going backward regarding humanrights and democracy issues. First, Myanmar has been widely criticized for itsfailure to deal and protect the Rohingya people, who continue to face rampantand systemic human rights violations. Second, in 2006, Thailand haswitnessed political instability which adversely affected tourism and investorconfidence not only in Thailand, but also ASEAN countries as Thailand’s economyis the ASEAN’s second largest after Indonesia.13Today,in 2017, as ASEAN has reached its 50th anniversary, thus, many areanticipated on what the future holds for ASEAN and how much impact it’s goingto create in the future. In terms ofeconomics, ASEAN has shown an outstanding record in recent years by growingaround 5 percent a year14.
At current growth rates, it is expected to be fifth largest economy in theworld by 2020 and become the fourth largest economy market after The EU, UnitedStates, and China by 2030.15However,inevitably, ASEAN’s economic is not entirely perfect and flawless. In a closerlook, inequality has been an issue in almost every country in ASEAN, also,between the countries. Therefore, it is a challenge whether, in the future,ASEAN will able to find and search for a solution to inequality problem thatcould slow down the economic development.Thailand,one of the ASEAN’s member states, has always benefited by increased marketshare inside ASEAN as Thailand’s market share has increased to 35.8 percent oneyear after the AEC’s opening. 16Moreover,Thailand’s international trade has also improved after the opening of AEC.
Therefore,it can be assumed and expected that if ASEAN’s economy is improving,undoubtedly, Thailand will be gaining benefits economically as well.Inconclusion, throughout the years, ASEAN has created many remarkableachievements despite having some challenges. Its journey for 50 years hasproved to be successful significantly through its economic performance, still,there are flaws that needed to be fixed or improved in certain areas. In theend, we can assure that ASEAN will be able to continue facing future and going forwardwith confidence towards the goals.