Before ASEAN, the countries of Southeast Asia had tried to establish a number of regional organizations to promote regional integration. These included, among others, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954, the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) in 1961 and MAPHILINDO, a group comprising Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia in 1963. All of them set out to strengthen relations between countries in the region and to promote cooperation in areas such as economics, science and culture.
Despite such efforts, these integrative processes yielded few results as they consisted of only 2-3 countries from the region. It was this need for a more inclusive and effective process that inspired Dr. Thanat Khoman, then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, to envision an association which would more broadly represent the countries of Southeast Asia.
In 1967, Dr. Thanat invited his counterparts from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore for informal talks in the seaside resort town of Bang Saen. It was these talks that led to an agreement to establish the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration on 8 August 1967.
The Bangkok Declaration provided that the aims and purposes of ASEAN shall be to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, agriculture and industries, scientific and transport spheres and to raise the living standards of their peoples.
“What we have decided today
is only a small beginning of what
we hope will be a long and continuous
sequence of accomplishments of which
we ourselves, those who will join us later
and the generations to come, can be proud.”
Dr. Thanat Khoman
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand
8 August 1967