BANGKOK, Nov 4– The Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) has grown tremendously over the years to become the most stable regional organisation in the world today, said Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“ASEAN is today the most stable regional organisation in the world, compared with EU (European Union), they are having problems,” the prime minister, who is in town to attend the 35th ASEAN Summit here, told the Malaysian media today.
He said that the regional grouping’s successes were clearly reflected on the desire of many other countries that had wanted to join the grouping as well as the expanding cooperation among its member states.
“ASEAN has grown tremendously with more areas of cooperation now. So many people want to join us.
“Like Timor Leste, they want to join, I think we should accept them, but some member countries are still not comfortable,” he said.
ASEAN was incepted in 1967 with only five founding members namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Laos and Myanmar were later admitted as the ninth and tenth member of the 10 member grouping in July 1997.
Aside from that, it has managed to forge a close partnership with six countries in the Asia Pacific region – China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand – which collectively is known as ASEAN +6.
Dr Mahathir added the regional grouping is also now reaping the fruits of its vision and cooperation, including being recognised as the East Asian community.
He added that the East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) has now also become a reality.
“People now refer to ASEAN +3 (China, Japan and South Korea) as the East Asian community. So we (ASEAN) have finally succeeded in being recognised as the East Asian community,” he said.
The East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC), a regional free trade zone for the ASEAN +3, was mooted by Dr Mahathir in 1997 as a reaction to ASEAN integration into the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
Dr Mahathir, 94, returned as the country’s prime minister after leading the Pakatan Harapan to victory and into power during the 14th General Election in May 2018. During his first stint of premiership, he had served the country for 22 years before retiring in October 2003.
“This is the second time (year) I am attending (the summit) since 2018. ASEAN Summit now has a lot of new leaders.
“Because of democracy, people change leaders. It is not like before where the leaders were always the same people,” he said.
He had also described the summit and its related summits with the theme “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability” as a success, adding that all the meetings, on the whole, went well.
The three-day biannual summit held at the IMPACT Convention and Exhibition, here, ended today.
Next year’s ASEAN Summit will be held in Vietnam.