Backgrounder: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will gather in Phnom Penh on Monday to attend the 36th ministerial meeting.

The meeting is expected to focus on regional economic integration and building up of related institutions. It is also expected to discuss the implementation of the decision of the 8th ASEAN summit held in Phnom Penh last November, the follow-up to the SARS summit in Bangkok last April, the implementation of the Hanoi Plan of Action adopted in 1998 for the setting up of free investment zones, and dialogue with ASEAN partners.

ASEAN was established on August 8, 1967, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration, also known as the Bangkok Declaration, by foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

It was later expanded to include Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmarand Cambodia. Papua New Guinea became its observer in 1995.

ASEAN has 10 dialogue partners -- Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, South Korea andthe United States.

The ASEAN region spans an area of some 4.5 million square kilometers, where 14 official languages are spoken and about sevenreligions are adhered to. Its population was estimated at 512 million in 2000.

Organization structure of ASEAN comprises Summit meeting (the highest authority of ASEAN bringing together the heads of government of the member countries), Ministerial Meeting, the Standing Committee, Secretariat, various Committees and Senior Officials' Meeting.

The Bangkok Declaration united the ASEAN members in joint efforts to promote economic cooperation and the welfare of the people in the region. It set out guidelines for ASEAN's activitiesand defined the aims of the organization.

The ASEAN nations come together with three main objectives in mind: to promote the economic, social and cultural development of the region through cooperative programs; to safeguard the political and economic stability of the region against big power rivalry; and to serve as a forum for the resolution of intra-regional differences.

People's Daily Online ---