Next week (Thursday, August 4th), the heads of government of the five member states of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, will hold their second summit meeting in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Next week (Thursday, August 4th), the heads of government of the five member states of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, will hold their second summit meeting in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. They will be considering the future plans for the association, and how they can work still more closely together; and also setting out to strengthen their economic ties with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
SYNOPSIS: The members are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. They held their first summit meeting in the Indonesian island of Bali in February of last year, though the Association has been in existence for 10 years. In a treaty of friendship, they pledged themselves to respect the independence of all nations, settle their differences peacefully and co-operate in the economic, social and cultural fields.
The Thai Prime Minister, Mr. Thanin Kraivichien, will be the one new face among the heads of government at this year's meeting. When he and the king's representative (in the white uniform) welcomed President Suharto of Indonesia to Bangkok early in July, he had been in office for nine months. Mr. Thanin was appointed last October, after a military coup removed his predecessor, Mr. Seni Pramoj. President Suharto had gone to Thailand for preliminary talks about the forthcoming ASEAN summit.
Another change since last year: SEATO, the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, has closed down. ASEAN has always set its face against becoming a military alliance, but its members co-operate in operations against subversion. The Thai and Malaysian authorities, for instance, work together against Communist guerrilla activity on their common border.
Malaysia and Indonesia also work together policing their common border between Sarawak and Kalimantan; and Indonesia and the Philippines co-operate to stop smuggling. But the ASEAN states draw a firm distinction between this kind of co-operation and belonging to a military bloc like SEATO, with western members.
The Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister, Phan Hien, got a warm welcome in Manila last July. When Communist governments were established in Indo-China two years ago, the ASEAN nations held out the hand of friendship. The Cambodian Foreign Minister, Ieng Sary met the Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia in March, and it looked as though relations might improve.
But fierce fighting, which broke out along the Cambodian border with Thailand last January flared up again this month. In January, about 20 people were killed in one Thai village by Khmer Rouge forces.
Last week, the Thais called up aircraft and artillery after several hundred Cambodian troops were reported to have crossed the border.
The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Takeo Fukuda, will be going to Kuala Lumpur to meet the ASEAN leaders immediately after the summit. So will the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand. Mr. Fukuda has recently had talks with President Marcos of the Philippines, who also attended a trade fair in Tokyo. The ASEAN countries want to increase their trade with all three developed countries in the Pacific region, and particularly to get more of their own products into Japanese, Australian and New Zealand markets. They see economic development as the best guarantee of political stability throughout the South-East Asian area.