Happy 46th Birthday, ASEAN!
ASEAN turns 46 today, and with the establishment of the ASEAN Community just two years away, many Member States are actively promoting the grouping to their people.
The celebrations this years are a little more special, as ASEAN's birthday coincides with one of the most important dates on the Islamic calendar – the Eid al-Fitr, which is also known as the Hari Raya Lebaran. To facilitate Muslims traveling home for the holiday, the Indonesian government had arranged a week-long break. In line with the same consideration for our Muslim staff and guests, the ASEAN Secretariat also move the ASEAN celebrations to 23 August.
The special coincidence of holidays has led to spread of celebrations, as Member States which are less affected continue with the commemoration today.
Malaysia, which will have the important task of seeing the last leg of the preparations for the ASEAN Community in 2015, is the first off the block with the commemoration. The government kicked with a “Get to Know ASEAN” event in Johore as early as May. Also scheduled is an ASEAN Bowling tournament, as well as seminars and forums.
Brunei's theme of “Our People, Our Future Together” is an important foundation of ASEAN, and this is also a focus of the celebrations.
“On this year’s theme, ‘Our people, Our Future Together’, we emphasise the role of our people in ASEAN’s community building efforts and look beyond 2015. With the programmes that have been organised for our youth, we are equipping them with the necessary attributes and values to face tomorrow’s challenges. They are after all the future leaders of ASEAN.
As we celebrate today’s achievements, we should not forget the Founding Fathers of ASEAN. The ASEAN/Bangkok Declaration, which they signed in 1967, is an important document that paved the way for many other ASEAN agreements and declarations. We should carry on their wisdom, vision and courage and let them be the source of ASEAN’s inspiration into the future. In this spirit, we pay our respects to them. In this spirit, we pay our respects to them,” said His Majesty, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, in his ASEAN Day message. Brunei is the chair of ASEAN this year.
ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh also pointed out that “at its essence, ASEAN is really about the ASEAN peoples building a Community and a future together”.
“ASEAN Day reminds us of the dream that we are now turning into reality.
As we raise the ASEAN flag in all ten Member States and in all the countries where we nurture relations and making our presence felt -- not only are we celebrating the past, not only are we reveling on the gains and achievements of the present -- we are also asserting ASEAN to the rest of the world, staking a claim of a bright and prosperous future for our peoples,” said SG Minh in his message.
The meaning of ASEAN, and what it means to our people, is a centre of focus for many commemoration activities.
Thailand's Foreign Ministry is organising an ASEAN Quiz, an ASEAN Exhibition, which include a display of the winning works of an ASEAN Drawing competition. This is in addition to a seminar on “ASEAN Community: One vision, multiculturalism, and how can we live together?”.
Over in Myanmar, official messages of congratulations are conveyed by the President and the Vice-President today. On top of formal celebartions, winners of an ASEAN essay writing competition will be presented their prizes by Myanmar's Education Minister, and the Foreign Minister. Myanmar will chair ASEAN for the first time next year, and the occasion is one of the most-anticipated event for many international, regional, as well as local media.
In the Philippines, winners of an ASEAN painting contest were presented their prizes yesterday. Other than formal celebrations, several schools are also organising activities of their own.
In addition to publicity and outreach activities, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Cambodia will also join several fellow member States in raising the ASEAN flag. This ceremony will also be carried out in their missions around the world. Singapore will hold the ASEAN Day celebrations and reception on August 15.
Director for Community Affairs Development at the ASEAN Secretariat