Southeast Asia is a sub-region of Asia, consisting of countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies at the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity (nationsonline.org). Southeast Asia is the terminology of its geographical name since the beginning of the earth. Whether they like or dislike those countries belonged to this geographical is known as Southeast Asia. Namely, they are Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
In ancient times, there were no countries like there is now. For example, current Myanmar was formed by eight different ethnic nationalities, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Burman, Arakan and Shan. There were also no fixed boundaries in ancient times in the whole Southeast Asian region. The current boundaries of the countries were mostly drawn by colonizers. Therefore ethnicity and territory are overlapping among Southeast Asian countries.
In history, outsiders used to call Southeast Asia in different ways to its differing parts. During the classical age, the existence of Southeast Asia has been known to the Greeks. The Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy in his Geographia named the Malay Peninsula as Aurea Chersonesus (Golden Peninsula) while Java was called Labadius. An ancient Hindu text may have earlier referred to mainland Southeast Asia as Suvarnabhumi which means land of gold and insular Southeast Asia as Suvarnadvipa which means island or peninsular of gold. Europeans first came to Southeast Asia in the 16th century (historyworld.net).
Southeast Asia agriculture is known for rice. Rice paddies are well-suited for monsoons in Southeast Asia. The rice paddies of Southeast Asia have existed for a millennia, with evidence for their existence coeval with the rise of agriculture in other parts of the globe (worldlibrary.org).
Formal grouping of the region
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in the acronym ASEAN, is a formal geo-political organization of ten countries located in Southeast Asia, the only formal regional grouping organization in Asia. They are Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
At the end of colonization and beginning of Cold War, ASEAN countries were struggling for nation building, the common fear of communism, reduced faith in or mistrust of external powers in the 1960s, and a desire for economic development. On 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) was signed by the 5 Southeast Asia countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand (asean.org).
Since then the day August 8 was becomes the founding day of ASEAN. Especially, these 5 countries had more worried in the vacuumed of security in the region in amidst of Cold War, tension between two blocks, communist and democracy groups. The other members, most of mainland Southeast Asia nations, were closer to China. Later, Myanmar, as well as, Lao PDR joined ASEAN together on the same 23 July 1997.
According to the group’s statement, its aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, protection of regional peace and stability, and opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully (asean.org).
The group becomes more formal when they developed ASEAN Charter. The ASEAN Charter entered into force on 15 December 2008 (asean.org). The ASEAN Charter serves as a firm foundation in achieving the ASEAN Community by providing legal status and institutional framework for ASEAN. It also codifies ASEAN norms, rules and values; sets clear targets for ASEAN; and presents accountability and compliance. In effect, the ASEAN Charter has become a legally binding agreement among the 10 ASEAN Member States. The group said it will also be registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations, pursuant to Article 102, Paragraph 1 of the Charter of the United Nations (asean.org).
ASEAN covers a land area of 4.46 million km², which is 3% of the total land area of the Earth, and has a population of approximately 600 million people, which is 8.8% of the world’s population (asean.org). Many economists believe ASEAN as a single entity ranks the eighth largest economy in the world.
Another important one the group has successfully developed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration at its November 2012 meeting in Phnom Penh. The Declaration details ASEAN nations’ commitment to human rights for its people (suhakam.org.my).
The future of ASEAN is bright and strong as the only and strongest Asian formal organization. ASEAN will keep going well in the future in the regional and international arena. It’s also time for other Asian countries to cooperate with ASEAN.