Mon, 08 Aug 1994

ASEAN has nothing to fear with Vietnam's entry

JAKARTA (JP): Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should go ahead and admit Vietnam despite its communist ideology, a foreign policy analyst says.

"The concerns that Vietnam's ideology will usurp the ASEAN countries is groundless because Vietnam itself is now moving to liberalize its economy," Marzuki Darusman was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying.

"Vietnam has changed, and ASEAN is treating it as a partner. There is no longer mutual suspicion between them," said Marzuki, whose views on foreign policy was widely sought when he was a member of the House of Representatives for Golkar.

Vietnam applied to join the regional organization during the last ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting in Bangkok in July.

Indonesia has been the least concerned about Vietnam's ideology and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas has predicted that Hanoi will be formally admitted in 1995.

ASEAN was formed exactly 27 years ago today by five countries which had one thing in common. They were all anti-communists.


In the 1980s, ASEAN -- now grouping Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand -- rallied against Vietnam's occupation in Cambodia. With the end of the Cambodian war, ASEAN is now looking to expand its membership, with Vietnam being the first candidate.

Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar may be next.

ASEAN officials earlier were reluctant to admit Vietnam for fear that Hanoi's backward economy would slow down their plan to establish a free trade area in the region.

There is no reason now not to admit Vietnam, Marzuki said.

"If ASEAN continues to be reluctant in accepting Vietnam's membership, then I think ASEAN in its 27th year remains an exclusive group and is incapable of bringing unity to the region or fostering progress in members' welfare."

"We cannot live in peace Southeast Asia if our neighbors are left behind. This will create a new security problem," said Marzuki, who now sits in the National Commission on Human Rights.

He said ASEAN should also work quickly to admit the other countries in Southeast Asia.

"A bigger ASEAN will be more influential in the world forum, both politically and economically. Southeast Asia has a prospect of becoming the most dynamic region in the next century," he said. (emb)