Founded in 1967 as a talking shop to reduce conflict, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is now the strongest regional institution in Asia. Its mandate has expanded slowly, due to the diversity of interests among its ten members -- countries as different as democratic Indonesia, authoritarian Vietnam, cosmopolitan Singapore, and isolated Myanmar. Under pressure from civil-society groups, some member governments, and its own secretariat, the organization recently adopted a new charter, which came into force in December 2008. The contributors to this volume address tensions in the document between the classic ASEAN principles of consensus and nonintervention and newer principles such as democracy, good governance, and human rights. Can ASEAN do anything about curtailing repression in Myanmar? Can it strengthen cooperation to fight piracy, illegal trafficking, disease, and other nontraditional security threats? The charter marks a possible turning point but not a clear commitment.
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