ASEAN community is the significant changing of Thailand both national and international level. These changes have affected ways of life, economic system, socio-cultural community, and cooperation between the state actors and non-state actors like civil society organization and private sectors. The Department of Local Administration has seen the important of these issues can shape our local society, and then we have created the information center on ASEAN for Thai bureaucracy and other mechanisms to use the database making contributions.
Before ASEAN, the countries of Southeast Asia had tried to establish a number of regional organizations to promote regional integration. These included, among others, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954, the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) in 1961 and MAPHILINDO, a group comprising Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia in 1963. All of them set out to strengthen relations between countries in the region and to promote cooperation in areas such as economics, science and culture.
In the beginning, Thailand joined Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore in establishing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), signing the Bangkok Declaration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thailand on 8 August 1967, at Laem Thaen, known as the “Spirit of Bangsaen”. ASEAN was conceived with an aim to promote peace and accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavors in a spirit of equality and partnership. It evolved to become a main driving force for the region and later on expanded to include every country within the region. Brunei Darussalam then joined on 7 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN.
The peace and stability that the Southeast Asian countries have been enjoying today to a large extent, largely due to ASEAN's role as a forum that promotes and fosters trust and confidence amongst its Member States. ASEAN has successfully maintained peace, stability and security in the region through the various frameworks and mechanisms, such as Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) (1971), Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) (1976), and Southeast Asian Nuclear‐Weapon‐Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) (1995). To further enhance regional cooperation in political and security issues, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was established in 1994, which now comprises 27 participating countries including all major regional players. The ARF who serves as a forum for constructive dialogue and consultation to promote confidence‐building and preventive diplomacy in the region.
As set out in the ASEAN Declaration, the aims and purposes of ASEAN are:
1) To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavors in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast 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;
3) To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields;
4) To provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, technical and administrative spheres;
5) To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilization of their agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, including the study of the problems of international commodity trade, the improvement of their transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of their peoples;
6) To promote Southeast Asian studies; and
7) To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation among themselves.
Until now, The ASEAN Vision 2020, adopted by the ASEAN Leaders on the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN, agreed on a shared vision of ASEAN as a concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies. The ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. Each pillar has its own Blueprint, and, together with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Strategic Framework and IAI Work Plan Phase II (2009-2015), they form the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community 2009-2015.
For Thailand, the governments have a country strategy that had a meeting on October 13, 2012, to plan a strategy, vision, and direction of Thailand and the ASEAN Community. Consequently, Thailand has the vision that ‘Thailand increases competitiveness, well-being, equality, and fairness’, including four strategies:
1) Growth and Competitiveness
2) Inclusive Growth
3) Green Growth
4) Internal Process
Thailand’s ambition to build an ASEAN Community is also reflected in the theme that was chosen for the 15th ASEAN Summit – “Enhancing Connectivity, Empowering Peoples” which echoes Thailand’s vision that in moving forward with the creation of an ASEAN Community, ASEAN should focus its efforts in three areas: creating a Community that is action oriented, fostering a Community that is interconnected both physically and through mutual understanding, and realizing the goal of a Community that truly belongs to the peoples of ASEAN.
In conclusion, Thailand would gain advantages within the ASEAN cooperation in these following points:
1) The region as a whole must become a single market and production base to produce and commercialize goods and services anywhere in ASEAN that is an opportunity for Thai public and private sectors.
2) The ASEAN cooperation will support preventions of international threats that directly and indirectly harm Thai people such as natural disaster, epidemic disease, drug smuggling, and so on.
3) The cooperation has a tripartite mechanism to deal with any conflicts between member states, or even domestic issues such as Rohingya refugees crisis.
4) The ASEAN charter has supported and advanced values of democracy, governance, rule of law, human rights, and non-violent solutions for conflicts.
5) Thailand has higher leverages in ASEAN cooperation and the world to enhance dialogue and cooperation with ASEAN member states and external relations for mutual benefit and interest.