Integrity Legal

17th April 2011

This blogger recently read a rather interesting piece about the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is becoming increasingly clear that ASEAN will continue to play a key role in the regional politics of Southeast Asia notwithstanding the seemingly ever present role of domestic politics and bi-lateral relationships in all international contexts. To quote directly from a concisely written article by Amitav Acharya, American University, Washington and posted on the website EastAsiaForum.org:

ASEAN’s irrelevance or even death has been predicted several times before. At its birth in 1967, few people thought it would live to see another decade, given that the two previous attempts at regional cooperation in Southeast Asia — the Association of Southeast Asia and the MAPHILINDO (Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia) concept — ended within a few years after their creation. The Malaysia-Philippines dispute over Sabah in 1969, the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Indochina in 1975, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, have all been seen as critical blows to ASEAN. But ASEAN not only survived, it actually grew a bit stronger each time. So there is precedent, and hope, that ASEAN will be around in 2030.

But surviving is not the same as thriving. In 2030, ASEAN might keep plodding on, but will it still be a key player in regional peace, stability and prosperity in Asia? This question is more difficult to answer.

Clearly, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been a steadfast regional organization and seems likely to remain one in the future. It would appear from implications in the above quotation as if there are those who believe that dynamism must be maintained by ASEAN in the future in order to ensure continued prosperity. That stated, deftly maintaining coherent regional policies amidst intra-ASEAN tensions also appears to be of concern:

A second question about ASEAN’s future is what the state of intra-ASEAN relations will be. The ongoing skirmishes on the Thai-Cambodian border do not inspire confidence. Simmering rivalries and mistrust continue to cloud relationships between Singapore and Malaysia, Thailand and Burma, and Malaysia and Thailand. But this is a far cry from the 1960s and 1970s, and there is every reason to hope that these intra-ASEAN conflicts will not doom the organisation. They would need, however, to be managed carefully, especially with the help of existing and new mechanisms that ASEAN is currently seeking to develop.

Meanwhile, it would appear as though looking ahead at all regions of the world the prospects for some nations are not nearly as upbeat as those of ASEAN. It would appear as though tensions are arising in the countries of Saudi Arabia and Iran to the point that some commentators in the United States and on the World Wide Web are dubbing the situation a “New Cold War”.  To quote directly from an article written by Bill Spindle and Margaret Coker and posted on the Wall Street Journal‘s official website WSJ.com:

For all the attention the Mideast protests have received, their most notable impact on the region thus far hasn’t been an upswell of democracy. It has been a dramatic spike in tensions between two geopolitical titans, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

This new Middle East cold war comes complete with its own spy-versus-spy intrigues, disinformation campaigns, shadowy proxy forces, supercharged state rhetoric—and very high stakes.

Those reading this blog are highly encouraged to click on the hyperlinks noted above to read further from what may prove to be an important article. Although the political and economic winds of change tend to move about the global geopolitical landscape incrementally there come times where changes can occur quite rapidly and the unfolding situation in the Middle East would appear to be evolving in unprecedented ways. That stated, if two poles of regional geopolitical power are indeed coalescing, then that would be an issue of interest for all nations throughout the world since such information can have a substantial impact upon trade, economics, and political matters in an international context. Hopefully, the current turbulence will resolve itself toward the maintenance of peace for all concerned, but such a hope may in the end prove to have been optimistic.

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