What is ASEAN and What Will Really Happen on 2015?

By N Mark Castro

3 days ago Singapore-based journalist Sourav Goy posted in his article in Huffington Post the inherent problems of ONE ASEAN as applied to the “common man” of each member state.

He was right.


Picture1But who really cares anyway?

Because insofar as the governments of each member state of the ASEAN bloc is concerned, the Common Man is the least of their concern.

Actually, it’s also true for the European Union (EU) and other Western countries, kick in the Arabian peninsula as well.

Because if there’s one thing that the elite hate, it’s the whining, crying, begging noise of the Common Man.

What the hell really is ASEAN?

According to my infamous hard target research, which mainly involved Google and Wikipedia, which I’m sharing with you lazy readers, ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations[5] (ASEAN /ˈɑːsi.ɑːn/ ah-see-ahn,[6] /ˈɑːzi.ɑːn/ ah-zee-ahn)[7][8] is a geo-political and economic organisation of ten countries located in Southeast Asia, which was formed on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.[9] Since then, membership has expanded to include Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Its aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, protection of regional peace and stability, and opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.[10]

There, I’ve even copied the link for you.


ASEAN was preceded by an organisation called the Association of Southeast Asia, commonly called ASA, an alliance consisting of the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand that was formed in 1961. The bloc itself, however, was established on 8 August 1967, when foreign ministers of five countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – met at the Thai Department of Foreign Affairs building in Bangkok and signed the ASEAN Declaration, more commonly known as the Bangkok Declaration. The five foreign ministers – Adam Malik of Indonesia, Narciso Ramos of the Philippines, Abdul Razak of Malaysia, S. Rajaratnam of Singapore, and Thanat Khoman of Thailand – are considered the organisation’s Founding Fathers.[12]

The motivations for the birth of ASEAN were so that its members’ governing elite could concentrate on nation building, the common fear of communism, reduced faith in or mistrust of external powers in the 1960s, and a desire for economic development.

The bloc grew when Brunei Darussalam became the sixth member on 8 January 1984, barely a week after gaining independence on 1 January.[13]

There, right there — for everyone to see but most everyone else missed —

Picture2If everyone had just looked carefully, then all this trouble by the Common Man would have been resolved: GOVERNING ELITE.

Basically, this was a group of future dictators: Soeharto of Indonesia, Marcos of the Philippines, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and Mahathir of Malaysia, who didn’t want the communists to disrupt their power and to put their own vested interests and disguise it under national sovereignty and tell their neighbors that they are neutral and that there wouldn’t be any interference among them.


Then they sent their errand boys called Ministers or Secretaries of Foreign Affairs to sign an agreement on this.

Narciso Ramos — a staunch anti-communist, signed the Agreement in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. His son, Fidel Ramos, would also serve President Marcos and whom he would betray in the infamous EDSA I. He had had it with his cousin Ferdinand Marcos who would never appoint him as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of the Philippines because another cousin, Fabian Ver, was still around and was a favorite of Marcos. So Ramos had had it because he thought he was better and he had his West Point education to prove it.

He gathered around disgruntled soldiers and was hoping to make some noise when Marcos found out about it. Ramos hid in Camp Crame, together with then Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile who had fallen out of favor from Marcos. Together they hid in Camp Crame and asked their friends to protect them.

Gen. Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile

The elite, who was also disgruntled with Marcos because he got all the juicy contracts, joined Ramos and Enrile and since basic psychology tells you that mass follows class, the entire poor people of the Philippines joined the two cowards hiding in Camp Crame.

The opposition saw this as a great opportunity and started the song and dance affair which was blessed by the Catholic Church.

The reigning and ONLY Archbishop of Metro Manila at the time, as appointed by the Holy See of Rome, was a rich fat man called Jaime Cardinal Sin.

Jaime Cardinal Sin

No Hollywood script could’ve been better than that.

It had all the elements of drama, fireworks, soldiers in uniforms, protesting noisy youth, and a very impatient elite. There were vigils, prayers, a parade of holy statues, and food.

The whole world watched.

And Marcos and his family went on to an extended vacation in Hawaii.

Don’t get me wrong. Marcos was a perfectly ghastly man. But I just couldn’t help but think that we were a little insane for thinking that God Almighty had reserved seats for us on His Right Hand.

Fidel Ramos, son of Narciso Ramos, would serve as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under Cory Aquino. When Cory’s term was up, it was a toss-up between then Speaker of the House and opposition stalwart Ramon Mitra and Fidel Ramos. They had a Gentleman’s Agreement that whoever was elected and chosen by their party mates, the other would support.

There was a national caucus of Lakas ng Bayan (LABAN), which was the political party that helped catapult Cory Aquino to the presidency.

Mitra won.

Ramos left the party, formed his own, got the support of a clueless Cory Aquino, and, if reports were to be believed, cheated his way to claim the presidency.

Tanah Abang-20120322-00838

Juan Ponce Enrile would become the Secretary of Defense under Cory Aquino and would use his soldiers to besiege her government with at least 7 coup d’etats. He would later become a senator and his right hand man, the charming anarchist in uniform Gringo Honasan would be a senator as well.

Both are currently under public ridicule and formal investigation for spending millions of taxpayers’ money under the PDAF (Philippine Development Assistance Fund) and transferring it to bogus NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) that ultimately benefitted their own wallets.

Imelda Marcos and children Bongbong and Imee would return to the Philippines, run for congress, win, run for the senate, win, run for governorship, win, and thumb their noses to the other “governing elite” that, yes, they just had a vacation and is now back.


And, across ASEAN neighbors Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia … well, you do know what happened there, right?

Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Lee Hsien, is still running things around in Singapore.

Remember Lee’s infamous comment to Asia’s Gambling Lord Stanley Ho when Stanley wanted to open up gambling in Singapore?


Years later, with failing economy, Lee Kuan Yew’s son Lee Hsien Loong implements this —

Mahathir would tilt the political and economic shape of Malaysia to favor Malays, hold onto power for so long, field trumped-up charges against then heir-apparent Anwar Ibharim, and disrupt succession by constantly criticizing the succeeding government. Of course, his business interests are well guarded.

Insofar as Indonesia’s Soeharto is concerned, he is the only dictator that never saw a prison cell, was well visited by other heads of state, and never declared guilty by any courts of law of the Republic of Indonesia. His son, Tommy Soeharto, was convicted of conspiring to kill a supreme court justice, was incarcerated for a few years, had sentence reduction, and was released free soon thereafter.

Governing elite.

Remember that next time you speak of ONE ASEAN.


So what will happen, really, when One Asean hits the fan?

  1. 1.            Economic community

ASEAN has emphasised regional cooperation in the “three pillars”, which are security, sociocultural integration, and economic integration. The regional grouping has made the most progress in economic integration by creating an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. The average economic growths of ASEAN’s member nations during 1989–2009 was Singapore with 6.73 percent, Malaysia with 6.15 percent, Indonesia with 5.16 percent, Thailand with 5.02 percent, and the Philippines with 3.79 percent. This economic growth was greater than the average Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economic growth, which was 2.83 percent.

  1. 2.            From CEPT to AEC

A Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) scheme to promote the free flow of goods within ASEAN lead to the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). The AFTA is an agreement by the member nations of ASEAN concerning local manufacturing in all ASEAN countries. The AFTA agreement was signed on 28 January 1992 in Singapore. When the AFTA agreement was originally signed, ASEAN had six members, namely, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Vietnam joined in 1995, Laos and Burma in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. The latecomers have not fully met the AFTA’s obligations, but they are officially considered part of the AFTA as they were required to sign the agreement upon entry into ASEAN, and were given longer time frames in which to meet AFTA’s tariff reduction obligations.

The next step is ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with main objectives are to create a:

  • single market and production base
  • highly competitive economic region
  • region of equitable economic development
  • region fully integrated into the global economy

Since 2007, the ASEAN countries gradually lower their import duties among them and targeted will be zero for most of the import duties at 2015.

Since 2011, AEC has agreed to strengthen the position and increase the competitive edges of small and medium enterprises (SME) in the ASEAN region.

  1. 3.            Comprehensive Investment Area

The ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Area (ACIA) will encourage the free flow of investment within ASEAN. The main principles of the ACIA are as follows

  • All industries are to be opened up for investment, with exclusions to be phased out according to schedules
  • National treatment is granted immediately to ASEAN investors with few exclusions
  • Elimination of investment impediments
  • Streamlining of investment process and procedures
  • Enhancing transparency
  • Undertaking investment facilitation measures

Full realisation of the ACIA with the removal of temporary exclusion lists in manufacturing agriculture, fisheries, forestry and mining is scheduled by 2010 for most ASEAN members and by 2015 for the CLMV (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Burma, and Vietnam) countries.

  1. 4.            Trade in Services

An ASEAN Framework Agreement on Trade in Services was adopted at the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in December 1995. Under AFAS, ASEAN Member States enter into successive rounds of negotiations to liberalise trade in services with the aim of submitting increasingly higher levels of commitments. The negotiations result in commitments that are set forth in schedules of specific commitments annexed to the Framework Agreement. These schedules are often referred to as packages of services commitments. At present, ASEAN has concluded seven packages of commitments under AFAS.

  1. 5.            Single Aviation Market

The ASEAN Single Aviation Market (ASEAN-SAM), is the region’s major aviation policy geared towards the development of a unified and single aviation market in Southeast Asia by 2015. The aviation policy was proposed by the ASEAN Air Transport Working Group, supported by the ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Meeting, and endorsed by the ASEAN Transport Ministers. The ASEAN-SAM is expected to fully liberalise air travel between member states in the ASEAN region, allowing ASEAN countries and airlines operating in the region to directly benefit from the growth in air travel around the world, and also freeing up tourism, trade, investment and services flows between member states. Since 1 December 2008, restrictions on the third and fourth freedoms of the air between capital cities of member states for air passengers services have been removed, while from 1 January 2009, full liberalisation of air freight services in the region took effect. On 1 January 2011, full liberalisation on fifth freedom traffic rights between all capital cities took effect.

The ASEAN Single Aviation Market policy will supersede existing unilateral, bilateral and multilateral air services agreements among member states which are inconsistent with its provisions.

  1. 6.            Free-trade agreements with other countries

ASEAN has concluded free trade agreements with China (expecting bilateral trade of $500 billion by 2015), Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and India. ASEAN-India bilateral trade crossed the $ 70 billion target in 2012 (target was to reach the level only by 2015). The agreement with People’s Republic of China created the ASEAN–China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which went into full effect on 1 January 2010. In addition, ASEAN is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union. Republic of China (Taiwan) has also expressed interest in an agreement with ASEAN but needs to overcome diplomatic objections from China.

  1. 7.            ASEAN six majors

ASEAN six majors refer to the six largest economies in the area with economies many times larger than the remaining four ASEAN countries.


GDP (nominal)




















So those complaining against this easily reflect their need to protect their own businesses … but, like it or not, folks, until and unless you’re part of the Governing Elite … or you’re eager enough to train under international standards as provided by blueVisions, you’re going to be in for a tough ride.

Make that call to:

And find out how it can help you in this One Asean



About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on September 14, 2013, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’m gone to say to my little brother, that he should also visit
    this webpage on regular basis to take updated from hottest reports.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Charlotte Setijadi

Anthropologist & Contemporary Historian of Chinese Diaspora in Southeast Asia


Street Photography • Astrophotography • iPhoneography • Portraits


Faces and Places


Unspinning spin and other distractions


This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Salt and Light

Talk minor, act major.


any screen one goals, Yours

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

We'll Always have Casablanca

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow...but soon! And for the rest of your life.

blueVisions Indonesia

Certainty, Innovation, Excellence.

blueVisions Australia

Certainty, Innovation, Excellence.

Health & Family

A healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit

Teppy and Her Other Sides

Eat well, live well, and be merry!


my collection of love & hearts for you and from you, around the world


Confronting stupid people with the cold hard conservative fist of truth


...of wander & wonders

%d bloggers like this: