In the aftermath of the Brexit, Southeast Asia watchers are asking the question: Could it also happen in ASEAN?
My answer: No.
Let’s call this hypothetical situation “X-exit.” There is no known potential candidate to be the “X “country in X-exit.
All member governments in ASEAN still see as valid the original reason for the establishment and the existence of ASEAN – to create and maintain regional peace and security, and to prevent the balkanization of Southeast Asia by superpowers.
Regional peace and security, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation’s peace-oriented principles, and the nuclear weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia benefit all ASEAN members. In the wake of the growing U.S.-China rivalry, ASEAN provides its members with a safe collective choice of being “pro-ASEAN” without antagonizing China or alienating the United States.
Maintaining regional peace and security will require a strong and united ASEAN with the capability to pursue constructive cooperation with external partners. This requires concerted efforts of all in ASEAN and this will keep all member governments together in the grouping.
Small members like Brunei Darussalam, Laos, and Cambodia enjoy the equality in ASEAN, which enhances national security and independence. They also benefit from the international recognition and support which comes with ASEAN membership. Laos, for example, will for the first time host a state visit by a U.S. president when Barack Obama goes to Vientiane for the ASEAN-U.S. Summit and the East Asia Summit in September.
Larger members like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam see and take advantage of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) opportunities. Indonesia, meanwhile, can still play a de facto leadership role of being the first among equals in ASEAN.
As things stand now, there are three additional reasons X-exit will not happen in ASEAN.