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EDS-More to Follow Hke120812 Yearender: 1997, Year of Cooperation


               by Wu Dingbao 

               KUALA LUMPUR (Dec. 8) XINHUA - For
               the Association of Southeast Asian
               Nations (ASEAN), the outgoing year of
               1997 is a year of cooperation with many
               events worth being recorded in its history
               for both sweet and bitter memories. 

               In the year when ASEAN celebrated its
               30th anniversary, the first and foremost
               sweet memorable event was the
               expansion of the regional grouping. 

               At the 30th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
               (AMM) held in Malaysia in July, Laos and
               Myanmar were admitted into the fold of
               ASEAN which also groups Brunei,
               Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
               Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

               On the issue of Myanmar's admission,
               ASEAN faced with pressure from certain
               Western countries. But by making a right
               decision to admit Myanmar against the
               pressure, ASEAN showed its
               independence and maturity in dealing with
               its own regional issues. 

               The expansion put ASEAN, now with a
               population of 480 million and gross
               domestic product of 711 billion U.S.
               dollars, in a better position to contribute to
               regional peace and stability. 

               With Laos and Myanmar in, ASEAN was
               left with only one step ahead toward
               realizing the vision of a united Southeast
               Asia or ASEAN-10, that is, to embrace all
               the countries in the dynamic region. 

               Cambodia's ASEAN membership,
               together with that of Laos and Myanmar,
               was initially okayed by ASEAN foreign
               ministers at their first special meeting here
               on May 31 as a mark to commemorate the
               30th anniversary of ASEAN, but it was
               deferred at the second special meeting of
               the foreign ministers on July 10 in the
               wake of sudden changes in the situation in
               that country. 

               ASEAN is still making efforts to welcome
               Cambodia to the family and most ASEAN
               leaders pledged that the admission of
               Cambodia was just a matter of time. 

               Unfortunately, the delight of ASEAN in
               celebrating its 30th anniversary with an
               enlarged membership went side by side
               with the unexpected bitter experience that
               some members saw their currencies
               depreciated over the past few months. 

               Weaknesses in the currencies of some
               ASEAN economies have been
               accompanied by volatility and sharp
               declines in regional stock markets. 

               The instability emerged first in early July
               when Thailand allowed its baht to have a
               "managed" float in the wake of speculative
               attacks on the currency in mid-May, and
               then spread to neighboring economies
               such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the
               Philippines and Singapore, notably all
               founding members of ASEAN, resulting in
               a currency crisis in the region. (More) 

               =12080419 08/12/97 04:23 GMT