Stands for "Association of South East Asian Nations".
Initially formed in 1967 as a weak alliance between the countries of Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. The vision was that they held out a bold vision of all countries in Southeast Asia cooperating actively towards peace, stability, progress and prosperity in the region.
The ASEAN Declaration was unveiled in Bangkok on August 8, 1967, where three aims and purposes of ASEAN were stated as follows:
"1. To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of South-East Asian Nations;
2. To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter; [and]
3. To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields; ..."
The ASEAN Declaration also said "the Association is open for participation to all States in the South-East Asian Region subscribing to the aforementioned aims, principles and purposes." It further stated that "the Association represents the collective will of the nations of South-East Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and, through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for posterity the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity."
Bold visions indeed, born of a decade of political and racial turmoil within the South-East Asian region.
Brunei was granted membership on January 7, 1984, one year after the country gained independence from the British.
Vietnam was granted membership on July 8, 1995.
It was decided, on November 30, 1996, that Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar should be simultaneously granted membership. However, as things turned out, Laos and Myanmar were admitted into ASEAN on July 23, 1997 while Cambodia had to wait until April 30, 1999.
In any case, agreements between ASEAN nations still mainly involve trade agreements and agreements not to meddle in each other's internal affairs. There are no solid binding military alliances between member nations.