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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Asean: Reform or die?
Asean, the South-East Asian regional grouping, must reform or die - that's the message Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has delivered to the organisation's foreign ministers meeting in Bangkok.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
He says the 33-year-old Association must become leaner in its operations and strengthen co-operation if it is to respond effectively to challenges such as East Timor and the region's recent economic crisis.
But some members - particularly those with more authoritarian governments - have raised objections, saying Asean should stick with its traditions of non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
What do you think? Is Asean still relevant? Does an organisation that brings together high-tech Singapore with the rural backwardness of countries like Laos have a future? Tell us what you think.
An organisation like Asean is essential for the advancement of a region which is more diverse and complicated than the Balkans. It is amazing how ignorant we are of our neighbours.
Isao Tanaka, Japan
Kipling justified colonialism as the white man's burden. The person who claims the West has a right to interfere for human rights is a modern version of Kipling. When the West carved up Africa it ignored ethnic boundaries and look at the horrendous mess it created at this date, a century later.
Matt LG, UK
Asean has never been able to do anything positive apart from SEA games and an opportunity for foreign ministers to gather and play golf with each other. The aim and vision since it was formed NEVER materialised. There are countries in state of war and debilitating poverty for far too long and too serious to ignore. Basic human rights were never entertained hence the Asean community will remain "developing" countries forever...
Christopher Hobe Morrison, USA
People who say the West has no right to lecture Asean on democratisation - certain government leaders in the region and other developing countries spring to mind here - are, of course, deliberately attacking the messenger and not addressing the message. The fact is there are plenty of people within Asean and other third world nations who are crying out for a more progressive, liberal society and greater individual and press freedoms. Such room for manoeuvre is an important factor in determining quality of life for many people, as well as providing the checks and balances that autocratic governments so despise.
Mohd Saheed bin Maideen, Canada
As a citizen of one of the member ASEAN countries, I can't see any significant benefit for any individual country apart from the fact that a membership of ASEAN automatically allows the countries to participate in the SEA games (The South East Asians games).
ASEAN is a very loose organisation due to cultural diversity. We are trying to set our goals and how to achieve them. We cannot afford to let each member country go its own way.
I believe in order to truly understand ASEAN and its members, we have to understand thier perspectives and how they define themselves. It would be ignorant, myopic, and arrogant if we are to understand ASEAN from a purely 'Western' view. If we compare western IGO's to ASEAN it would be an injustice because the definitions and terminology we would we be using has already a certain degree of bias. This is 'orientalism' as Edward Said wrote.
Asean is by any measure an organisation that is there only to give publicity or statesman image to mostly leaders of completely corrupt administrations. Not only corrupt but nepotistic, favouritistic and administrations lacking most basic human rights.
Although E Timor is Indonesia's problem, Thai troops have been there under the name of the UN. At the moment Asean is working towards closer internal as well as external integration with the trans-Asean networks of highways, railways, power lines etc. In the near future Asean will create its own common currency to even out the effect of speculation.
We are now already converging via the currency exchange agreement to equalise regional currencies to hedge off future crisis. The state of integration is a only a decade or so behind Europe, and with the common internal tariff-efficiencies in productive countries really shows.
CEO H. Tran, Vietnam
I would imagine that they would ignore each other's views. China ignores the rest of the world's view, so why not ASEAN as well?
ASEAN never believed in poking its nose in the internal affairs of its member countries, nor will it on its own ever do so in future. It does have a glorious future, provided the organisation maintains this rich tradition and does not allow itself to be dictated by some of the key regional players like the U.S., Japan or Canada in the name of globalisation or whatever in any given situation.
It must be remembered that this regional grouping has always been capable of taking nitty-gritty decisions based on fairplay and justice. Long live ASEAN!
Albert Devakaram, India
John Brownlee, England
ASEAN has a significant importance in the development of South-East Asia. During the economic decline of many member countries of ASEAN including Malaysia, Singapore etc, it was important for an organisation to be united and stand up to face the financial crisis. This unity gave ASEAN a boost and confidence from Western economies with e.g. President Clinton visiting some East Asian Countries etc.
I think that co-operation between international representatives has shown with the recent G8 meetings, that little is ever agreed upon of any worthwhile significance. Individual countries have to take their own stance if they wish things to be changed. It reminds me of a saying, which twists scripture slightly: "For God so loved the world, He didn't send a committee!"
As there are regional organisations like NAFTA, European Union, NATO, Organisation of African Unity, OPEC etc, to deal with issues common to their member countries, Asean could deal with topics of concern to its members such as the forest fires of Indonesia, the Spratley islands, piracy on the busy sea lanes of surrounding open waters, financial meltdown of the local economies without reference to the Western-dominated Bretton Woods institutions, sharing their experience in the political and economic fields as they emerge from the recent crisis.
Non-interference is outdated, but "interference" as it's been practiced lately doesn't work either. There's no real coherent strategy or raison d'etre behind it.
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