The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an international organization. On 8th August 1967, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines formed the ASEAN. At that time, communism was growing in Vietnam, and these five countries were also facing problems inside their own countries. In this background, these five countries created ASEAN as a show of common display of cooperation. In short, the purpose of the organization is political and economic cooperation. The organization is headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia.
There had been an earlier organization called the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA). It was an international organization of Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. These three countries had formed ASA in 1961. It was named because all the countries in it are a part of Southeast Asia.
In 1976, the ASEAN countries held a conference in Bali. After this, these countries started closer economic cooperation. But, by the mid-1980s, the activities of the ASEAN had slowed down. By 1991, Thailand proposed a free trade area. The ASEAN countries meet every year to talk about many matters.
Originally there were only five members of the ASEAN. Brunei Darussalam joined the ASEAN on 7 January 1984. Vietnam joined the ASEAN on 28 July 1995. Laos and Myanmar joined the ASEAN on 23 July 1997. Cambodia became a member on 30th April 1999. East Timor is the only Southeast Asian country that is not a member of ASEAN. However both East Timor and Papua New Guinea (which is not considered geographically a part of Southeast Asia) are observers of ASEAN and wish to become full members of ASEAN.
Some information about ASEAN countries is as follows:
- About 8% of the population of the world lives in ASEAN countries. About 240 million Muslims live in these countries, mostly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
- About 170 million Christians live in these countries, mostly in the Philippines.
- About 170 million Buddhists live in these countries, mostly in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Singapore.
- The major products of the ASEAN countries are electronics, petroleum, and wood. The total Gross domestic product of these countries are $1,073.9 billion USD.
- All the countries of the ASEAN countries have old cultures, and different types of governments.
The ASEAN countries had created an ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). 27 countries are members of the ASEAN Regional Forum. The leaders of these countries meet and talk about various matters, especially security and economic cooperation. The current members in the ARF are: Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Australia, Canada, the People's Republic of China, the European Union, India, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, East Timor, United States, and Sri Lanka.
The ASEAN holds a meeting every year. The meeting lasts for 3 days, and the members discuss many things.