Recent controversial statement by Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Singaporean Prime Minister concerning Vietnam’s intervention in Cambodia between 1979 and 1980s, has put ASEAN unity in question. ASEAN was once a divided region, is easily cloven by its diversity in term of political regimes, security conditions, economic status, educational index and socio-cultural values and beliefs. Coming to border issues, ASEAN is even in danger of cleavage. Each ASEAN member state has educated nationalistic history to its people. Neighboring countries hardly find a common history in a certain time and space.
The only things that make ASEAN unified are principle of non-interference of internal affairs of its member states and consensus principle of decision making mechanism.
In this sense, ASEAN should look beyond political, security, economic and socio-cultural aspects. The knowledge of history and past events should be promoted. The consensus or interpretation of history and past events of the region should be made in an appropriate way and acceptable for all. ASEAN member states should educate their people the real and objective histories and not falsifying them that bring about extreme nationalism. Or ASEAN should leave the history behind and look forward to common development of the community of a shared future.
Dr. Kin Phea,
DG, International Relations
Institute of Cambodia