The rich cultural and social milieu of Southeast Asia provides a superb background within which to study the region’s national economies and the way that they are linked as an economic region, particularly via participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The intellectual richness of the region’s diversity is augmented by the wide variety of national economic structures that add to the regional mosaic. As a result, studying and teaching about Southeast Asia is truly an enjoyable intellectual adventure that needs to begin with a search for a useful geographic identification of “Southeast Asia.” The ten members of ASEAN combine to meet this need by providing a useful regional identity, since they form a reasonably contiguous geographic area with a combined population of approximately 480 million people, or about one out of every 12.5 people living on the planet.
ASEAN in Action
The Association was created via the Bangkok Declaration of 1967 when the five original member countries jointly accepted principles of agreement and practice. The five were Singapore, now the newest member of the developed, industrialized, market economy country group, and Thailand and Malaysia, each currently considered a newly industrializing, resource-rich, middle-income developing country. The Philippines and Indonesia were also among the original five, and each is considered a resource-rich, middle-income developing country. The five were joined in 1985 by high-income, oil-rich Brunei. During the mid to late 1990s, the Association added four more members: Vietnam, a large, resource endowed, lower-income, less developed country, followed by Laos and Myanmar (Burma), two small, resource-poor, lowerincome, less developed nations, followed by Cambodia, another small, poor and underdeveloped country.