The Brief Introduction To Asean Systems Politics Essay

23 Mar 2015

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Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is normally known as ASEAN, is an inter-governmental organization that consist of ten various nations. On August 8, 1967, five countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines Singapore and Thailand came to a meeting at Thai Department of Foreign Affairs building in Bangkok to sign the ASEAN Declaration, or more ordinarily known as Bangkok Declaration. Also, these five countries are also known as the Founding Members of ASEAN. Later on, Brunei has become one of the ASEAN members on January 8, 1984. On July 28, 1995, Vietnam joined ASEAN as the seventh member, and around two years later, Lao PDR and Myanmar also entered ASEAN. Cambodia should have joined ASEAN at the same time as Lao PDR and Myanmar, but it was suspended up until 1999 because of the internal political struggle. Obviously, these days, East Timor-Leste, which got independent from Indonesia in 2002, is geographically also located in Southeast Asia. As a result, it could also turn out to be one of the members, and now, it is being observed by the ASEAN member states.

These days, ASEAN mainly focus on improving "The three pillars of the ASEAN community which are the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)...." (Keng, 2009). APSC was created with the aim of maintaining peace and stability between states, establishing resolution system for multilateral conflicts, and mapping out cooperative framework to deal with both conventional and unconventional security threats. Also, AEC was created with the purpose of advancing regional economic opportunities, facilitating multilateral trading and gaining competitive advantages over other regions resulting in ASEAN's prosperity and well-being. Last, ASCC was established with the intention of building peaceful and harmonious coexistence in the region while providing social fringe benefits and stability. Although these three communities have not been successfully implemented, ASEAN does focus much on the three communities and hope to finish them by 2015.

The Emergence of ASEAN

There are two main reasons which led to the emergence of ASEAN. First, ASEAN was created with the purpose of reducing ASEAN member states' tensions. Of course, by 1967, most of the ASEAN members were in chaos since there were many wars which had just happened and had affected Southeast nations. Also, some states had just got their independence, so they did not have the potential in developing their own countries. As a result, they cooperated together so that they could assist one another. The Second point is that ASEAN states wanted to cut down the regional influence of the external actors in the region. During 1960s, it was hard for many nations to have full sovereignty since the world had been mainly organized by two superpowers which were the US and the USSR. Obviously, small states could not do anything during that period as they were afraid of the angers of either the US or the USSR. If small states aligned with the US, the USSR would be angry. Vice versa, if those small states aligned with the USSR, the US would be irritated. As those five nations realized that creating ASEAN will be an effective way which could keep them safe from the ideological conflict between the US and the USSR, they gathered together and signed the declaration. In addition, the creation of ASEAN also helps the five countries increase their voices in the international fora. Apparently, in the international community, a weak state would not influence the stronger state because the weak one does not have the ability to do so. As a consequence, weak states have to join together so that they can become stronger than the strong state. Then, they will have the opportunities to issue their problem to the stronger states.

The History of Cambodia to become Membership

Why was Cambodia late to join ASEAN?

After the election which was organized by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia in 1993, Cambodia was likely to fall into a politics which had two co-prime ministers. One was Cambodia People's Party (CPP) which was ruled by Mr. Hun Sen while another one was FUNCINPEC which was under controlled of Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Obviously, "Prince Norodom Ranariddh's royalist FUNCINPEC Party won the election with around 46 percent vote, followed by Mr. Hun Sen's CPP and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, respectively." ("1997 clashes in Cambodia," 2010). Although FUNCIPEC Party won the election and ruled the country, the CPP's role in the politics was even stronger in terms of military power. Consequently, the tensions between these two parties were created as the CPP's power was more powerful than the FUNCINPEC party. Those extended tensions were the reasons which caused the factional fighting among those two ruling parties in 1997, and also led to the delay of Cambodia's participation in ASEAN.

"In July 1993, Cambodia attended the 26th ASEAN ministerial meeting as an official guest for the first time since the group's inception." (Shaftel, ND). At that time, Prince Norodom Sirivudh, the minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was the representative of Cambodia attending the meeting. In December, 1994, the Secretary General of ASEAN visited Cambodia as a guest of Foreign Minister of Cambodia as Cambodia submitted the application for the observer status in 1994. In July, 1995, the application of Cambodia for observer status was approved, and Cambodia signed the Treaty of Amity when Vietnam was admitted as an ASEAN member that year. After the approval of Cambodia application for observer status, Burma's submission was also approved; therefore, ASEAN followed the Lao foreign minister who had the "…desire to join ASEAN on the group's 30th anniversary…." (Shaftel, ND). However, things did not go on well as what Cambodia had expected. Before Cambodia could join ASEAN, Cambodia needed to meet some of the ASEAN's criteria, but Cambodia's political instability could be considered as a barrier for Cambodia to join ASEAN in 1997. That year, "The violence that would ultimately delay Cambodia's ASEAN entry began when at least 19 people were killed and 125 were wounded after attackers tossed grenades at an opposition party demonstration near the National Assembly in Phnom Penh." (Shaftel, ND). After this attack, although the Prime Minister of Malaysia and senior Philippine Foreign Ministry officials had suggested Cambodia to solve its own internal political problems, Cambodia could not encounter the issues. Moreover, the tensions between Cambodia's two prime ministers became even worse. In July 5th and 6th, 1997, the tensions broke out between the CPP and FUNCINPEC before the ASEAN entry date. Therefore, only Burma and Lao PDR were able to become ASEAN members, and the Cambodia's admission to the ASEAN membership had been suspended because of the political instabilities between the two co-prime ministers. In 1998, after the election, Cambodia admitted itself to become ASEAN member again; ASEAN agreed. "Cambodia finally got the nod from ASEAN at a two-day summit in Hanoi later in December. At the summit, ASEAN leaders said they would admit Cambodia, though a date for a formal ceremony had not been set." (Shaftel, ND). In April 30, 1999, Cambodia was successfully become a member state in ASEAN. From that time on, Cambodia has got many benefits from ASEAN in terms of economic and political interest and also got more power in the international communities.

In conclusion, the political instability in 1997 was the main reason which blocked Cambodia from joining as an ASEAN member state. As Cambodia's government did not want the other states to interfere in its own political issue, there were a lot of Cambodian civilians who were killed and injured. In my own opinion, at that moment, the government should not use force to resolve the problem because the citizens would be affected the most. On the contrary, the government should have suggested to the international organizations such as the United Nations or ASEAN to help Cambodia solve the problem rather than solving by itself. International organizations would have more ways to resolve the problem, especially in a peace way.

The Economic Role of Cambodia in ASEAN

Cambodia's Role in Single Base Market and Production Base Market?

As one of the ASEAN's purposes was to ensure the regional economic growth, the leaders of each member states in ASEAN proclaimed in October 2003, "…that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) shall be the goal of regional economic integration (Bali Concord II) by 2020." ("Asean economic community blueprint [Electronic version]," 2007). However, in 2007, after the 12th ASEAN summit, all leaders asserted their powerful commitment to set up the single base market and production base market, so they agreed to speed up the establishment of AEC particularly by 2015, and to change ASEAN into a regional community with free flow of goods, services, investment, skilled labor, and capital. Cambodia did not reject the assertion made by the other nations although it can be a hardship for itself as it is still a developing country. Even though Cambodia cannot successfully achieve the five elements which exist in the single base market and the production base market, at least, Cambodia does do a good job in terms of enhancing the free flow of goods and investment.

The most powerful factor which Cambodia contributes to ASEAN is the free movement of goods. Apparently, AFTA, which was initiated by six ASEAN members in January 1992, has been created "…to increase ASEAN's competitiveness through trade and investment liberalization, and closer economic cooperation." (Cuyvers & Tummers, 2007). After AFTA has been created, ASEAN member states have built important development in terms of lowering of intra-regional tariffs through the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) Scheme for AFTA. Also, almost 100 percent of the products in the CEPT Inclusion List (IL) of ASEAN countries have been brought down to the 0-5 percent tariff range. This shows that Cambodia has played very important in the region since the other nation states can transfer their products into Cambodia with very low tariff rates. For instance, Thailand can export their clothes into Cambodia easier than it was in the 1990s because Cambodia was not the member of AFTA yet. In addition, in case if Cambodia is not a member of ASEAN, ASEAN states would have to pay tax as usual in order to trade with Cambodia; therefore, ASEAN has found a lot of benefits from Cambodia.

The free flow of investment is another point which illustrates that Cambodia plays a vital role in ASEAN economy. Noticeably, there are a few agreements which focus on the investments in ASEAN such as "…the Framework Agreement on the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA), 1998, while investment protection is accorded under a separate agreement i.e. the ASEAN Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investment, 1987 or commonly referred to as ASEAN Investment Guarantee Agreement (IGA)." ("Asean economic community blueprint [Electronic version]," 2007). However, those agreements have been enriched and combined into the ASEAN Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (ACIA) to meet challenges of increasing competition for foreign direct investment (FDI). "With ACIA, both domestic investors and foreign investors in ASEAN stand to gain from greater liberalization in investment and increased investment protection." (ASEAN-Secretariat, 2010). So far, Cambodia has approved the ACIA along with other seven members, comprising Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Viet Nam. After Cambodia joint the agreement, currently, the investments in Cambodia have increased dramatically in manufacturing goods and services. Vietnam, for instance, has invested in telecommunication service, known as Metfone. Metfone has widely spread its service to everywhere in Cambodia together with the urban and the rural areas. Moreover, with the ACIA, Cambodia is required to increase the protection to Metfone, and also to provide Metfone a more transparent, coherent, and expectable investment rules, regulations, policies and procedures. Similarly, not only the Vietnamese company -Metfone-, but also the other companies in the region are also capable in investing in Cambodia and get the same treat. As a result, in the investment field, ASEAN would find a lot advantages for integrating with Cambodia.

To sum up, Cambodia does place itself as an important role in economic sectors in ASEAN. Free flow of goods and investment are the two factors among the five which Cambodia can share effectively with other members. Without Cambodia, the economic efficiency and specialization of ASEAN in the international community might become weaker since it applies to a proverb-two heads are better than one head. Meaning that, with the participation of Cambodia, ASEAN would have more benefits than the losses although Cambodia is not a rich country.

The political and security role of Cambodia in ASEAN

After three decades of the formation of ASEAN, in the early 2000s, ASEAN has promoted another community which is called ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) to enhance the peace and stability in the region. ASEAN envisioned that this community will be achieved by 2020; also, "…the APSC seeks to strengthen the mutually beneficial relations between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners and friends." (ASEAN-Secretariat, 2009). After the joint of Cambodia in 1999, Cambodia has always been active as a member of ASEAN. Moreover, Cambodia does play significant role in terms of contributing efforts in order to solve political and security issues.

There are two main cases for political problems which Cambodia can notably involve in. First and foremost, it is the case of South China Sea (SCS) conflict. In SCS conflict, six countries including China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippine, and Vietnam are having the dispute over the South China Sea as that terrain is really appealing; it could benefit both strategical importance and natural resources. The reason why Cambodia can play a good role is that Cambodia does not have any territory in the SCS, so Cambodia may become a suitable negotiator for those claimant states. Clearly, Cambodia has good relations with both sides China and ASEAN members; therefore, those nations could believe that Cambodia would be unbiased to any country. Unlike Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand could not be good mediators because they seem to tilt to the US, so China would not be satisfied if the Philippines and Thailand act as the mediators. Another case would be the conflict between North and South Korea. North and South Korea, which have had struggle for many years, have just fought against each other again recently in November, 2010. Cambodia, as a member of ASEAN, can again act a mediator and find conflict resolutions for both Korea. If compare to some other nations in ASEAN, Cambodia will play better role since its relationship with North and South Korea is good. Unlike Cambodia, the Philippines would not be considered as a good negotiator for North Korea because it may think that Philippines tilt to the US, and the US's ideology is different from North Korea. Likewise, Thailand is also deemed as the Philippines. In short, in terms of political role, Cambodia is important for solving conflicts like the conflict in SCS and Korean peninsula.

For security role, there are also two main points which Cambodia has engaged vitally with ASEAN. Obviously, the most important is that Cambodia helps ASEAN prevent the spread of avian influenza. "Since outbreaks occurred in 2004, ASEAN Member Countries have worked closely with each other and key international agencies/organizations to contain outbreaks and prevent transmission." (ASEAN-Secretariat, ND). Like other members, Cambodia has always been active in promoting the advertisement through newspaper and televisions to its citizens of how to protect themselves from the infection of avian influenza. In doing so, not only Cambodian citizens can avoid the confrontation of being harm, but also the other nations in ASEAN as well as Cambodia has helped reduce the amount of spreading. The other powerful point is that Cambodia has participated well in solving food security issue. Evidently, Cambodia is still a developing country, and it experts in producing agricultural products. The amount of agricultural products in Cambodia not only can provide enough food to its own citizens, but it also has the ability to export the products to the other countries as well; as a result, ASEAN does not have to care much about the food security in the region. In addition, Cambodia also helps ASEAN to maintain the price of rice not to appreciate. If Cambodia does not export the agricultural products, the price of rice in the region may go up because the amount of rice supply will be decreased. In brief, health security and food security are the two main features which Cambodia has performed well in the security role.

To sum up, although Cambodia does not have the potential to act like other developed countries in ASEAN, Cambodia does try to maximize its role in APSC with the intention of achieving the APSC by 2020. In my point of view, I strongly believe that Cambodia would be able to help more as Cambodia has been improving itself day by day.

The future perspectives of ASEAN toward Cambodia

As stated in the previous parts, it shows that the other ASEAN member states and Cambodia have been relying on each other in terms of economy, politics and security issues. Certainly, those other states and Cambodia are not only engaging with one another for the present time, but they will also connect together in the future. As a result, they will have their own perceptions toward each other because they want to develop themselves. Specifically, democratization can be the main objective which ASEAN will influence Cambodia in order to meet its requirement to become a more prosperous regional community.

There are two main reasons why ASEAN want Cambodia to develop itself into a democratic country: geopolitical factor and regional factor. First, "Based on geopolitical factor, if ASEAN is not democratized, it could be economically absorbed by either forces namely China or a wider East Asian regional grouping in which Japan and China are dominant." (Leng & Chheang, 2009). For Cambodia, if it is still an authoritarian and non-democratic country, Cambodia will be easily influenced by the EAC countries, especially China. China is a communist party, and it has the policy of dealing with the issues individually with other states one by one, so China would give aids to Cambodia which is a non-democratic state, and those aids will split Cambodia from ASEAN. In terms of dealing with China's influence on Cambodia, ASEAN would not just stay still and let Cambodia become isolated because that isolation would affect the interest of ASEAN as a whole. In order to avoid the China's pressure, ASEAN will heighten the voice of Cambodia so that Cambodia would feel that it is relevant to the community and tilt back to ASEAN. Another reason for democratization is due to regional element. The regional factor is related to the socio-economic development. Precisely, some ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines have caused the increase of middle class which aggressively pushes for democracy. Consequently, due to the fear of losing their own interest, those democratic states will try to ensure democracy and they will enforce both democratic and non-democratic states in the region. Cambodia will be indispensably counted and persuaded since it is still not a democratic state. In addition, if Cambodia is not likely to adopt democracy, ASEAN might finish up with economic and social chaos because there is not only Cambodia, but there are also other countries like Myanmar and Vietnam which are dictatorial. These dictatorial countries will be able to cause controversial discussion in the ASEAN meetings as they have different point of view. As a consequence, with the aim of avoiding this situation, ASEAN will try to find ways to bring all states together including Cambodia. In short, these are the reasons why ASEAN want Cambodia to adopt democracy.

In conclusion, Cambodia may become democratic in the future due to the need of ASEAN. In my point of view, after the ASEAN communities are successfully achieved by 2020, the whole ASEAN will become prosperous as the Western countries and become relevant to the world community as a whole.



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