Together, these men, along with the tranquility of Bang Saen, delivered the Bangkok Declaration, signed in Bangkok’s storied Saranrom Palace on August 8th, 1967; and assured their place as the founding fathers of the Association of South East Asian Nations, better known as ASEAN. They are:

  • Adam Malik, the newly appointed Foreign Minister of Indonesia;
  • Tun Abdul Razak, second-in-command to Abdul Rahman, the father of Malaysia;
  • Narcisco Ramos, the Foreign Secretary of the Philippines;
  • S. Rajaratnam, a Singaporean independence leader and its first Foreign Minister; and
  • Thanat Khoman, Thailand’s seasoned Foreign Minister and long-time advocate of regional reconciliation.

Just one look at Bang Saen, and one can imagine how the place lends itself to peaceful negotiations:

A review of the five remarkably short articles of the Bangkok Declaration reveals the loose and inclusive nature of the organization, Article: (1) establishes Asean; (2) sets out the aims and purposes of the Association, including to “promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law . . . and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter;” (3) establishes an Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers as a means of carrying out the work of the Association; (4) opens membership to all “States in the South-East Asian Region;” and (5) states the purpose of Asean to “represent the collective will of the nations of South-East Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and, through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for posterity the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity.”

Unusual in the art of treaty negotiation, the most contentious piece of text was in the preamble: “affirming that all foreign bases are temporary and remain only with the expressed concurrence of the countries concerned and are not intended to be used directly or indirectly to subvert the national independence and freedom of states,” included to placate Indonesian fears of the strong US-UK military presence in the region. The most telling feature of the original conception of Asean is its loose, barely-there structure. Whereas the path to European federation began with an institution invested with a limited and specific power, the High Authority of the Coal and Steal Community, the early Asean hinged entirely on an annual meeting between foreign ministers.

The Bangkok Declaration, in honour of the great organization it so modestly began, has since been renamed:

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THE ASEAN DECLARATION

The Presidium Minister for Political Affairs/ Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia,
the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the
Philippines, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore and the Minister of Foreign
Affairs of Thailand:

MINDFUL of the existence of mutual interests and common problems among
countries of South-East Asia and convinced of the need to strengthen further the
existing bonds of regional solidarity and cooperation;

DESIRING to establish a firm foundation for common action to promote regional cooperation in South-East Asia in the spirit of equality and partnership and thereby contribute towards peace, progress and prosperity in the region;

CONSCIOUS that in an increasingly interdependent world, the cherished ideals of
peace, freedom, social justice and economic well-being are best attained by fostering
good understanding, good neighbourliness and meaningful cooperation among the
countries of the region already bound together by ties of history and culture;

CONSIDERING that the countries of South East Asia share a primary responsibility
for strengthening the economic and social stability of the region and ensuring their
peaceful and progressive national development, and that they are determined to
ensure their stability and security from external interference in any form or
manifestation in order to preserve their national identities in accordance with the
ideals and aspirations of their peoples;

AFFIRMING that all foreign bases are temporary and remain only with the expressed
concurrence of the countries concerned and are not intended to be used directly or
indirectly to subvert the national independence and freedom of States in the area or
prejudice the orderly processes of their national development;

DO HEREBY DECLARE:

FIRST, the establishment of an Association for Regional Cooperation among the
countries of South-East Asia to be known as the Association of South-East Asian
Nations (ASEAN).

SECOND, that the aims and purposes of the Association shall be:

  1. To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of South-East Asian Nations;
  2. To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter;
  3. To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields;
  4. To provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, technical and administrative spheres;
  5. To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilization of their agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, including the study of the problems of international commodity trade, the improvement of their transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of their peoples;
  6. To promote South-East Asian studies;
  7. To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation among themselves.

THIRD, that to carry out these aims and purposes, the following machinery shall be
established:

(a) Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers, which shall be by rotation and
referred to as ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. Special Meetings of Foreign
Ministers may be convened as required.
(b) A Standing committee, under the chairmanship of the Foreign Minister of
the host country or his representative and having as its members the
accredited Ambassadors of the other member countries, to carry on the work
of the Association in between Meetings of Foreign Ministers.
(c) Ad-Hoc Committees and Permanent Committees of specialists and
officials on specific subjects.
(d) A National Secretariat in each member country to carry out the work of the
Association on behalf of that country and to service the Annual or Special
Meetings of Foreign Ministers, the Standing Committee and such other
committees as may hereafter be established.

FOURTH, that the Association is open for participation to all States in the South-East
Asian Region subscribing to the aforementioned aims, principles and purposes.

FIFTH, that the Association represents the collective will of the nations of South-East
Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and, through joint
efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for posterity the blessings of
peace, freedom and prosperity.

DONE in Bangkok on the Eighth Day of August in the Year One Thousand Nine
Hundred and Sixty-Seven.

For the Republic of Indonesia: ADAM MALIK, Presidium Minister for Political
Minister for Foreign Affairs

For Malaysia: TUN ABDUL RAZAK BIN HUSSEIN, Deputy Prime Minister
and Minister of Defence and Minister of National Development

For the Republic of the Philippines: MARCISO RAMOS, Secretary of Foreign
Affairs

For the Republic of Singapore: S. RAJARATNAM, Minister of Foreign Affairs

For the Kingdom of Thailand: THANAT KHOMAN, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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