The intention to draft the constitution had been formally tabled at the 11th ASEAN Summit held in December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Ten ASEAN leaders, one each from each member state, called the ASEAN Eminent Persons Group were assigned to produce recommendations of the drafting of the charter.
In the 12th ASEAN Summit held in January 2007 in Cebu, the Philippines, several basic proposals were made public. The ASEAN Leaders, therefore, agreed during the Summit to set up a "high level task force on the drafting of the ASEAN Charter" composed of 10 high level government officials from ten member countries.
The task force then held 13 meetings during 2007. Some of the proposals include the removal of non-interference policy that is central to the regional group since its formation in the 1960s, and to set up a human rights body.
Principles set out in the charter include:
- Emphasising the centrality of ASEAN in regional cooperation.
- Respect for the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty, non-interference and national identities of ASEAN members.
- Promoting regional peace and identity, peaceful settlements of disputes through dialogue and consultation, and the renunciation of aggression.
- Upholding international law with respect to human rights, social justice and multilateral trade.
- Encouraging regional integration of trade.
- Appointment of a Secretary-General and Permanent Representatives of ASEAN.
- Establishment of a human rights body and an unresolved dispute mechanism, to be decided at ASEAN Summits.
- Development of friendly external relations and a position with the UN (like the EU)
- Increasing the number of ASEAN summits to twice a year and the ability to convene for emergency situations.
- Reiterating the use of the ASEAN flag, anthem, emblem and national ASEAN day on August 8.
|Member State||Government Ratification||Deposit of
Instrument of Ratification
|Singapore||December 18, 2007||January 7, 2008||Prime Minister|
|Brunei||January 31, 2008||February 15, 2008||Sultan|
|Laos||February 14, 2008||February 20, 2008||Prime Minister|
|Malaysia||February 14, 2008||February 20, 2008||Foreign Minister|
|Vietnam||March 14, 2008||March 19, 2008||Minister of Foreign Affairs|
|Cambodia||February 25, 2008||April 18, 2008||National Assembly|
|Burma (Myanmar)||July 21, 2008||July 21, 2008||Foreign Minister|
|Philippines||October 7, 2008||November 12, 2008||Senate|
|Indonesia||October 21, 2008||November 13, 2008||The House of Representatives|
|Thailand||September 16, 2008||November 14, 2008||Parliament|
The Charter came into force in December 2008, thirty days after Thailand's delivery of the final instrument of ratification. Thailand's permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Don Pramudwinai, deposited the document with ASEAN secretary-general, Surin Pitsuwan, at the Thai mission in New York on November 14. He issued a statement saying, "This is certainly an occasion to celebrate for the 570 million people of ASEAN. This means that when the ASEAN leaders gather at their annual summit in mid December, the ASEAN Charter will have come into force." He was referring to the charter coming into after the 14th Summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from December 13 to 18. In doing so he added that celebrations would follow not only for the full ratification of the charter but also the entering into force of the new basic law of ASEAN, "It will be a rules-based and people-oriented organisation with its own legal personality."
On December 15, 2008, the members of ASEAN met in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to launch a charter, signed in November 2007, with the aim of moving closer to "an EU-style community". The charter turns ASEAN into a legal entity and aims to create a single free-trade area for the region encompassing 500 million people. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated: "This is a momentous development when ASEAN is consolidating, integrating and transforming itself into a community. It is achieved while ASEAN seeks a more vigorous role in Asian and global affairs at a time when the international system is experiencing a seismic shift," he added, referring to climate change and economic upheaval. Southeast Asia is no longer the bitterly divided, war-torn region it was in the 1960s and 1970s." The charter's aims included:
- "Respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states"
- "Peaceful settlement of disputes"
- "Non-interference in member states' internal affairs"
- "Right to live without external interference"
However, the ongoing global financial crisis was stated as being a threat to the goals envisioned by the charter, and also set forth the idea of a proposed human rights body to be discussed at a future summit in February 2009. This proposal caused controversy, as the body would not have the power to impose sanctions or punish countries who violate citizens' rights and would therefore be limited in effectiveness.
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