The ASEAN Way After 46 Years

ASEAN Culture History Opinion

Forty-six years ago today, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the ASEAN Declaration (aka Bangkok Declaration) officially forming the Association of South-East Asian Nations or ASEAN. Almost two decades later, Brunei joined in 1984. Followed by VietNam in 1995, Laos in 1997, Myanmar in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”ASEAN Regional Flag” type=”image” alt=”ASEAN-flag-w1280.png” ]

Did you know that without the formation of ASEAN, the region would have plunge into war? ASEAN was the key in keeping the region intact, even to this day.

Forty-one years later, all ten members ratified the monumental ASEAN Charter on the 16th of December 2008. The first constitution for the grouping, the new driving force of the region. The new identity of ASEAN. The change of the association from being mainly political in nature to a shift to being a grassroots organization.

The ASEAN Anthem

Raise our flag high, sky high
Embrace the pride in our heart
ASEAN we are bonded as one

Look-in out to the world.
For peace, our goal from the very start
And prosperity to last.

We dare to dream, we care to share
Together for ASEAN!
We dare to dream, we care to share
For it’s the way of ASEAN!

Where is ASEAN now?

It was four years ago when I imagined an ASEAN City. Before and after that, I’ve said my piece about ASEAN. I’m happy to say that the grassroots movement has grown fast and wide. The citizens of each member country are no longer passive and cynical (a deadly combination).

Before 2008, there were only very few ASEANs who cares about the association. After the ratification of ASEAN’s first constitution, it reached the point where I can say that the next leaders of the region will be of the ASEAN-mindset. Of regionalism instead of protectionism. Of working together, regardless of our diversity.

Yes, nationalism and protectionism are both very much alive. It shows whenever we are being affected by our neighbors. But these two strong personality of the ASEAN peoples can be turned into an ASEAN personality. Nationalism in the regional level. Protectionism in the regional level, especially now that we are being threatened by China. We should join forces in all aspects of society.

The ASEAN Way: We Dare to Dream. We Care to Share.

This is part of what we champion as the ASEAN Way. The common understanding of it is “non-interference” but there is another layer to it. Unity without giving up each others sovereignty.

ASEAN is no longer headed to an EU-like, US-like, or UN-like future after how we have witnessed the slow crumbling of these three unity systems. ASEAN is carving its own that perfectly fits and works for our very diversed cultures and sea dominated region (we have more bodies of water than land, did you know that?)

The ASEAN Way is unity as a region, as one people yet sovereign and independent. We are not a federation like the United States of America. We are not an organization patterned on the United Nations, because of our non-interference stance. Definitely we are not an EU-type association that is aiming for the return of the Holy Roman Empire.

No. The ASEAN Way is about independence, guidance, support, and understanding. Born out of the non-interference stance. Melded together because of the world trying to crush and control us. A unique concept, not found anywhere else in the world nor in history. A concept that the world doesn’t understand.

46 years. We built this system, you and me. It fits our region. You may have a different culture than us. You may be in favour of the communist economic format. You may have lived all your life in a City-State. Or a Muslim. A Christian. Convervative. It all doesn’t matter between us.

The world repeatedly said that we will never achieve unification and integration. Well, we’ve proven them wrong. We are in a better position today than they are. The gold laying duck landed in ASEAN, not theirs. The Western world and China used us, left us, and are now trying to get a foothold again in our region. Because they now know that we are a force to reckon with.

They now know what ASEAN is. Who we are. What we are. Our diversity is what makes us strong. Our differences is what drives us to band together and understand each other. They don’t have that. They only know “control” and “dominance”, sugar-coated with “establishing a good civilization”.

Be proud that you are an ASEAN. Be thankful that ASEAN was founded. Be hopeful of the future because ASEAN is here to stay.

As I always say, Think regional. Think ASEAN!

Happy 46th ASEAN Day my fellow Asean Citizens!

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The ASEAN Way After 46 Years by ᜌᜓᜃᜒ (Yuki|雪亮) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Legal Notice.

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