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Is ASEAN Changing? Rhetoric and Practice of Regional Norms

Atena Feraru
East China Normal University
Atena Feraru
East China Normal University
Open Panel

Abstract

There is no shortage of scholarly debate over the effectiveness of ASEAN as a regional organization in providing peace by constraining the behavior of its member states. On one hand, constructivists point to the development of norms of behavior that have changed states'' identities and thus contributed significantly to prevent armed conflict over protracted territorial disputes. On the other hand, realists look at the very different security arrangements of states in the region, their preference for dealing bilaterally with sensitive issues, and argue that ASEAN had little if anything to do with maintaining peace in the region. Both realists and constructivists however agree on one aspect: the norm of non-interference in internal affairs is central to ASEAN and member states generally adhere to it. This paper not only challenges this widespread consensus among scholars regarding the practice of ‘non - interference’, but goes beyond the debate on ASEAN effectiveness and focuses on the logic of rhetoric and practice of ASEAN norms of behavior. It argues that both ASEAN conflict management mechanism and application of the norm of non-interference are the result of the tendency of ASEAN leaders to prioritize their domestic interests over regional norms. It adopts a historical-sociological perspective to understand state behavior in the region and shed light on recent developments like: the adoption of the ASEAN Charter and the provision on the promotion of democracy, establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), Myanmar transition to a democratic form of government, large-scale protests in Thailand.