Today In History: Signing Of ASEAN Declaration, 1967

ASEAN was created on 8 August 1967, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration by ministers when the foreign ministers of five Southeast Asian nations – 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 organization was predated by ASEAN the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA), a group consisting of Thailand, the Philippines, and the Federation of Malaya which had been formed in 1961.

The ASEAN Declaration cited economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the region, regional peace, collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest, to provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities, to collaborate for better utilization of agriculture and industry to raise the living standards of the people, to promote Southeast Asian studies and to maintain close, beneficial co-operation with existing international organizations with similar aims and purposes.

Behind the principles were both the shedding of shared colonial pasts and a real fear of communism shared between the nations- all the signatory countries had battled communist insurgencies within there borders, and the war between North and South Vietnam had spilled over into to neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

The had also been serious tensions between the parties- such as the Indonesian-Malaysian conflict, a small-scale confrontation fought over the formation of the new Malaysian state and control of Borneo. This conflict lasted 3.5 years and involved the British army.

Thailand, facing a threat from Chinese sponsored communist factions, also had problems with separatist rebels in the southern provinces bordering Malaysia.

Singapore, which in 1963, joined with Malaya, the North Borneo, and Sarawak to form the new Federation of Malaysia was expelled by the Malaysian parliament 9 August 1965, which left Singapore as an independent country.

After months of diplomacy, including 4 days at the beginning of August 1967 when the five Foreign Ministers spent were isolated together in the Thai resort of Bang Saen, where they practiced ‘tennis shirt diplomacy’ over rounds of golf, the ASEAN Declaration, also known as the  Bangkok Declaration, the founding document of Association of Southeast Asian Nations was signed in Bangkok on 8 August 1967 by the five founding members,

On 7 January 1984, Brunei became ASEAN’s sixth member and on 28 July 1995, Vietnam joined as the seventh member.  Laos and Myanmar joined on 23 July 1997, with  Cambodia due to join at the same time, but the 1997 fighting between the CPP and FUNCINPEC delayed entry. It then joined on 30 April 1999.

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