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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The ASEAN Declaration (In my own words) Part 1

Every organization has a beginning and ASEAN is no different. The ASEAN Declaration was more or less, ASEAN's "Declaration of Independence". It said we are ASEAN and we are not alone. This is my attempt to paraphrase the ASEAN Declaration and add a bit of commentary as well. The ASEAN Declaration is also known as the Bangkok Declaration because Bangkok, Thailand, is where it was signed by it's founders. 

ASEAN, which stands for the Association of South East Asian Nation, was formed August 8th, 1967 in Bangkok Thailand.  

ASEAN founders, considering their Southeast Asian similarities and common problems, felt the need to strengthen their existing bonds of regional solidarity and cooperation. Regionally, this was definitively needed. Indochina was a mess as the United States and her allies were trying to eliminate the communist from Vietnam. The Vietnam War was impacting much of mainland Southeast Asia to include Cambodia, Laos and parts of Thailand. 

Mistrust was in other places in ASEAN as well. For example, east of Indochina, the Philippines seem to be prospering under the highly controversial Ferdinand Marcos who was just starting out his 21 year reign as their president. The Marcos reign was filled with corruption, nepotism, despotism, political repression and human rights violations (Thanks Wiki). A bit southwest of the Philippines, Indonesia was recovering from a communist purge that took at least 500,000 lives following a failed coup by the 30 September Movement. Malaysia also was struggling with issues that would eventually turn into race riots in 1969 prior to the country prospering. Singapore also was struggling during this time period. At one point, Singapore was part of Malaysia and another point, expelled from Malaysia. Race riots also plagued this tiny island nation. On top of all of these problems in Southeast Asia, influences, such as the USA and China, were trying to pull the local Southeast Asian government's policies in various different directions. 

ASEAN would need to create an environment with which ASEAN members could respond to issues impacting the region. While they dreamed about it in 1967, it finally became reality with the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II on October 7th, 2003. The ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Social Cultural Community (ASCC) were conceptualized and agreed upon by all 10 ASEAN nations (Source). Up to this point, there was working going on dealing with issues specific to the 3 communities, but it wasn't grouped under the community system as it does in the APSC, AEC and ASCC. This gave structure to ASEAN.  

However, it's one thing to agree and it's another thing to do what you are agreeing to. So in 2007 and 2008, ASEAN Blueprints for the APSC, AEC, and the ASCC were released which listed the specific objectives ASEAN wants to achieve in it's integration process. Each blue print can be found on the ASEAN website under their respective community; however, to save time looking for it, you can link to it here: APSC, AEC, ASCC. I'll go more into detail on each community later.

ASEAN realized their cherished ideals of peace, freedom, social justice and economic well-being are best obtained by creating an atmosphere of understanding, good neighborliness and meaningful cooperation among the countries that are already bound together by history and similar culture.  They understood that each country share in the responsibility to strengthen the economic and social stability of the region to ensure peace and their own national development. In addition, ASEAN member states will be on guard to protect the region from any form of external influences that threaten the stability and security in order to preserve their national identities in accordance with the ideals and aspiration of their peoples. (Ok, this part I more or less copied from the ASEAN declaration)

Anyway, that ends Part 1 of the ASEAN Declaration. In part 2 I will look at their "declarations!"

To get a heads up on the declarations, feel free to read the ASEAN Declaration for yourself from the ASEAN website here

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand. My name is Mark Hefner and I'm studying business at Payap University International College.

Before I came to Payap or Thailand for that matter, I was a soldier in the USA. After 20 years of doing this, I retired, decided to change my life and felt like Thailand was the place to do that. Eventually, I ended up at Payap University and studied International Business Management (IBM) and an MBA. While the IBM degree is complete, the MBA has about 6 months left. 

Somewhere in the midst of my studies, I stumbled across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Since then I've slowly educated myself on the integration process that is happening now. 

I'm constantly amazed by the stories I'm reading across ASEAN from various so called experts when they comment about ASEAN. These experts have convinced me that there is lot of confusion about the ASEAN integration process. Often, the entire integration process is called the AEC 2015 when in reality, the AEC 2015 is only 1/3 of what is happening. 

I'll eventually explain all of this but first want to talk about where I get my information. The ASEAN website at is a very well organized and informative website. Everything that is happening right now and connected to the integration process, can be sourced from this website. 

However, the biggest problem for this region is the ASEAN website is 100% completely in English. All the documents that ASEAN creates are completely in English. For some countries like the Philippines, this is not a problem. For countries like Thailand, it's a huge problem. 

Thai people are some of the worst English speakers in the world. According to Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index (here), Thailand Ranks 55 out of 60 in it's ability of its citizens to speak English. That a 1 being the best and 60 having poor English abilities. Of the other ASEAN countries tested, Malaysia was 11, Singapore 12, Indonesia 25, and Vietnam 28. The rest of the ASEAN countries were not invited to participate in this survey.

This means decision makers, academics, leaders and students are waiting to be told about their country's ASEAN obligation by their government rather than go to the source and read the agreements themselves. 

Instead of being proactive, Thailand will end up being reactive to increased ASEAN competition by the other well read ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. Academics as well as people who's job it is to know are just getting it wrong. They are speculating on what they think is happening in ASEAN without knowing what is suppose to happen. In all fairness to Thailand, this is happening across ASEAN. 

Thus the reason for my blog. I could not take it anymore. It's time to embrace technology and share what I've found out about ASEAN and how it matters to 600 million people. I won't write a history lesson of Southeast Asia but I will go back in time a little for comparisons and introduction to ASEAN topics. 

If you have any questions please feel free to ask. My email is

Thanks for reading.