By M K Anwar
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday praised and paid tribute to the vision of the "founding fathers" of Asean.
In a message on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the founding of Asean, His Majesty said that it is now time to look forward to the future that Asean offers to the 500 million people it represents.
Brunei officially became the sixth member of Asean following the signing of the declaration of admission in January, 1984.
It is time for us to pay tribute to the vision of our founders and it is also time to be proud of all that Asean has accomplished, said His Majesty.
Reminiscing the past, His Majesty praised the foresight of the regions' leaders who guided Asean through the turbulent period to become an organisation comprised of 10 nations that are strong and independent, respected throughout the world and in command of their own futures.
Asean was established on August 8, 1967 in Bangkok by the five original member countries -- Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Brunei joined in 1984, Vietnam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and finally Cambodia in 1999.
"It was the most dangerous period in the Cold War and we, the nations of Southeast Asia, were its fiercest battleground," His Majesty said.
There was a famous theory about Asean back then, His Majesty pointed out, in which it was described as "dominoes" where one push will collapse all in a heap.
Now, 40 years later, we see a totally different Southeast Asia and the former "dominoes" are strong, upright and respected throughout the world.
"Where once we were five, we are now 10.
"Where once the world came to us to make war, they now join us in common friendship and peaceful endeavour."
His Majesty in the special message also emphasised the shift from Asean being a recipient of aid to become a regional partner that today has independent agreements with the great economic powers and is moving towards its regional economic integration.
The monarch also highlighted that once the future of Asean members were decided by others and now it has become the opposite where members now plan our own future confidently and boldly.
His Majesty also regarded the signing of the Asean Charter at the end of the year as the start of a new era in Asean's modern history and this would complete the immediate vision of its founding fathers.
The Asean Charter is considered by many as another important milestone after the Asean Declaration of 1967.
It is said to enshrine the values and principles of the member countries to which everyone will adhere. Furthermore Asean's first charter will make the organisation into a rules based association like the European Union and give it a legal identity in the international arena.
His Majesty expressed Brunei's renewed and lasting commitment to the future of the region and wished all the neighbouring countries, friends and partners in Asean a most enjoyable celebration of Asean's 40th Anniversary.
- Borneo Bulletin
(9th August 2007)