Understanding ASEAN: One Rising interest of citizens in ASEAN

  • By Sayar Mya (MOFA)
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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (2nd Left) and other ASEAN leaders join hands during a family photo before the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines on 13 November 2017.  Photo: Reuters

Over the years, the public’s interest in ASEAN is at the highest and still rising. In the past, the media in Myanmar only covered ASEAN for two or three times, showing photos of  Heads of State,  meeting each other to hold hands in the customary ASEAN way.Nowadays, a lot of attention is focused on Myanmar from ASEAN member countries and by the whole wide world.  Generally, media people in Myanmar have become more interested in ASEAN and it is widely reported to the general public.One of the factors is that Myanmar migrant workers are mostly heading to neighboring countries and landing there in pursuit of good paying jobs. There are three or four countries that Myanmar is more interested namely Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, where unskilled workers and students go in quest of a better life.The public interest became greater when State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the 31st ASEAN Summit held in Manila, Philippines in November 2017.
State Counsellor attends ASEAN summit in Manila State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit that began in Manila on Monday 13 November 2017, with the attendance of heads of state of the member countries and the partner nations.Following the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit, the events were as follows: ASEAN Plenary Session, ASEAN Business Advisory Council, ASEAN-US 40th Anniversary Commemorative Summit, 5thASEAN-US Summit, 20th ASEAN-China Summit, 19th ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit and 20th ASEAN-Japan Summit. At the opening ceremony in Manila, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, said that the two days of meetings presented an excellent opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions on matters of regional and international importance. “Terrorism and violent extremism endanger the peace, stability and security of our region because these threats know no boundaries,” Duterte said, who last month declared victory over Islamic State-inspired militants in the southern Philippines city of Marawi, on the island of Mindanao.Duterte identified terrorism and violent extremism as threats that “know no boundaries” and piracy and armed robbery in the region’s seas as damaging to economic growth.At the start of the ASEAN-only meeting, Duterte said issues he expects participants to discuss include threats posed by “non-traditional security issues” to the peace and stability and prosperity of the region.Following the ASEAN Plenary Session, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held talks with Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha at the Philippines International Convention Centre-PICC over bilateral cooperation. Afterwards, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the ASEAN Business Advisory Council meeting.Following the ASEAN BAC meeting, she participated in the ASEAN-US 40th Anniversary Commemorative Summit, 5th ASEAN-US Summit, 20th ASEAN-China Summit, 19th ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit and 20th ASEAN-Japan Summit.The ASEAN Summit was the most important event of the bloc this year in 2017 with the participation of leaders from 10 member countries and ASEAN partners.ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (L) shakes hands with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) before the opening ceremony of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, Philippines,on 13 November 2017. Photo: Reuters

Readers are mostly interested in short questions and answers.
What are the ASEAN plus 3 countries?ASEAN Plus Three (APT) is a forum that functions as a coordinator of co-operation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the three East Asia nations of China, Japan, and South Korea.
What is the ASEAN Economic Community?The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 is a major milestone in the regional economic integration agenda in ASEAN, offering opportunities in the form of a huge market of US$2.6 trillion and over 622 million people.
What is the vision of ASEAN in 2020?ASEAN VISION 2020: That vision is of ASEAN as a concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.
How many countries are there in ASEAN?As of 2010, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has 10 member states, one candidate member state, and one observer state. ASEAN was founded on 8 August 1967 with five members: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Is China in the ASEAN?The ASEAN–China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), also known as China–ASEAN Free Trade Area is a free trade area among the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the People’s Republic of China.
What is ASEAN plus Six?The regional framework known as the ASEAN plus Six, which consists of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea, took concrete shape at the first East Asia Summit in December 2005.
What is the purpose of the ASEAN?The ASEAN Declaration states that the aims and purposes of the Association are: (1) to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavors in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian nations, and (2) to promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter. In 1995, the ASEAN Heads of State and Government re-affirmed that “Cooperative peace and shared prosperity shall be the fundamental goals of ASEAN.”
ASEAN turned 50 yearsThe Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turned 50 on Tuesday 14 November 2017, helping to transform the region into a more stable one which has been developing economically despite certain territorial disputes and human rights concerns.Founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand with the objective of checking the influence of communism, the group was strengthened by the addition of Brunei (1987), Vietnam (1995), Laos (1997), Myanmar (1997) and Cambodia (1999), putting aside ideological differences.In half a century ASEAN has established itself as an economic power with a combined GDP of $2.55 trillion in 2016.Under the umbrella of the organization, the region has become a focal point of investment by foreign companies especially in automobile manufacturing, attracting 7% of global foreign investment in 2015, according to official data.Headquartered in Jakarta and with a joint population of 628 million, ASEAN estimates that it will grow jointly at a rate of 5% this year and become the world’s fifth largest economy in 2020, converting into the fourth largest by 2050.In the economic arena, one of the challenges for the group is bridging the huge development gap between the more well-off members like Singapore or Malaysia and backward ones like Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.Back in 2015, the association declared itself an integrated single market with free movement of goods, capital, services and skilled personnel, although many resolutions for economic integration remain pending.Despite many military conflicts in the region during these 50 years, stability has prevailed as ASEAN incorporated new members.The fight against terrorism, maritime piracy, drug and human trafficking are among the main objectives of the group.Foreign policy differences have also played a prominent role in its annual summits; and territorial disputes in the South China Sea have increasingly taken center stage.Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have sovereignty disputes over a group of islands and shoals that are also claimed in their entirety by China and Taiwan.For years the alliance has been working together with Beijing and Taipei to draft a code of conduct to administer this maritime space, rich in natural resources and through which one third of global maritime trade passes.Cambodia and Laos, countries close to the Chinese government, have in the past blocked the group’s attempts to issue a joint statement supporting the claims and interests of its members against China.Alleged human rights violations within the boundaries of member nations are also problematic and the association has often tried to avoid discussing them during summits.The author would like to use this term for ASEAN: “So far, so good”.

 

 (To be continued)

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