Question: Has Southeast Asia been successful in ceasing conflicts and promoting cooperation? This is the focus of our group. In the following sections, we shall examine how conflicts erupted in Southeast Asia, the consequences of the conflicts (one being the formation of ASEAN), and how ASEAN maintained peace in the region. In the last part, we shall see how ASEAN is still relevant in the 21st century.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a 10-member strong regional organization in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia has been a historically important region because of its vital waterways linking the Middle East and India to China. When India and China were at the height of their power, they extended their empires to Southeast Asia — the influence of these two great empires can still be seen in the present-day societies. In the 14th century, the Portuguese were the first to colonize the region and they were subsequently followed by other European powers. At the dawn of the 20th century, the entire Southeast Asia had become colonial territory, with the notable exception of Thailand, though it was subjected to great restriction in its diplomatic maneuverings with the Europeans. After independence, Southeast Asia remained an attraction to the United States and Soviet Union in Cold War politics, as both superpowers struggled for influence in the region. Surprisingly, the former colonial masters had little influence or interest in the region, perhaps because of their own economic woes or political trouble after World War 2. With the conclusion of the Cold War, the importance of Southeast Asia to Western policy-makers has declined. The Western media has also constantly portrayed ASEAN as being inept, weak and insignificant, with regards to its own members and external relations.
After independence, Southeast Asia remained an attraction to the United States and Soviet Union in Cold War politics, as both superpowers struggled for influence in the region. Surprisingly, the former colonial masters had little influence or interest in the region, perhaps because of their own economic woes or political trouble after World War 2. With the conclusion of the Cold War, the importance of Southeast Asia to Western policy–makers has declined. The Western media has also constantly portrayed ASEAN as being inept, weak and insignificant, with regards to its own members and external relations.
We believe that the success of ASEAN cannot be measured using Western yardsticks. Southeast Asia is so diverse and different that it coming together to form an organization is a success. In the sections of our website, you shall see how conflict-prone Southeast Asia was gradually transformed into its present-day stable region. With half a billion people in the region and integration of its economy in process, ASEAN will play a major role in Asian economy after India and China. Despite its relative peace, there are still geopolitical hotspots in Southeast Asia — secessionist movements in southern Thailand, communist rebels in Philippines and terrorist networks in Indonesia, to name a few. The US has even declared the region the second front in the War on Terror. However, it seems that in recent years the US has by-passed the region due to its troubles in the Middle East. The dichotomy of ASEAN is that it has so much potential for economic growth but yet also holds much potential for political troubles, which will in turn affect external actors. The world cannot afford to ignore ASEAN, either economically or politically.
Our targeted audience for our website is global students, particularly the West. This website can be used effectively by teachers who wish to teach their students about Southeast Asian history or Southeast Asian contemporary issues. Students will understand the unique features of Southeast Asia and gain a broader knowledge of international relations, economics and political science applied to this region. Perhaps more importantly, Southeast Asia still represents an oasis of exoticness which appeals to the students’ sense of adventure. We hope this website will spark their interest in the region — with different government types, different cultures, different languages and different religions, Southeast Asia is such an interesting region for studying.