After Tsunami: ASEAN Reborn?


Mohammad Hazyar Arumbinang, Intern staff ASEAN Studies Center UGM.

A powerful Indian Ocean earthquake was constructed on December 26, 2004, with the epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1-9.3. It caused the massive giant waves devastated thousands of communities along the coastline of the Indian Ocean. More than 240,000 people were killed. Tens of thousands went missing and are presumed dead, and more than a million people were displaced. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. [1] The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian emergency response. As part of commitment towards a partnership with local and global cooperation, especially the catastrophic involves the loss of many lives and beyond the capacity of the affected state to recover the conditions of the disaster-affected community and the environment. It just like wake up call for all human around the world. In all, the worldwide community donated more than US$ 14 billion in humanitarian aid.

The Tsunami was calculated has affected 14 countries around Southeast Asia area. Four Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries: Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia including Sri Lanka and India are the most affected state during the catastrophic event. Considering the ASEAN members were not willing to give up sovereignty rights at any level of the corporation, then how the ASEAN respond the international humanitarian assistance during emergency response? Does “ASEAN Way” still remain during the crisis?


Back to 29 June 1976, during an ASEAN meeting in Manila, the “ASEAN Declaration on Mutual Assistance on Natural Disaster” was signed. It was agreed to provide a catastrophe-stricken country was supposed to designate a national government agency acting as an internal coordinating body. [2]  Yet the declaration failed to call for a central institution that could have organized an ASEAN-wide relief effort. Meanwhile, in August 1997, huge forest fires on the island of Borneo caused immense air pollution in wide parts of the region. Consequently, ASEAN set up a “Regional Haze Action Plan”. Again, the country failed to adopt and implement a national haze prevention plan. From the series, ASEAN has failed to establish a fundamental framework on mutual cooperation disaster management and unsuccessful to play their role to manage the disaster within ASEAN areas. Reflecting on those fact, does ASEAN still has a serious commitment?


In the early morning, the widespread international community has been there in various host state and giving disaster relief as an international humanitarian mission. On that moment, the Southeast Asia seems like clearly borderless due to the crisis. The national sovereignty of the host state put a side but still respected during the disaster emergency response.

On January 6th, 2005, during the tsunami aftermath meeting, the ASEAN leaders issued a “Declaration on Action to Strengthen Emergency Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, and Prevention: On the Aftermath of the Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster of 26 December 2004”. They expressed their condolences and solidarity. They stated that the tsunami disaster calls for “global response” and appreciated the vast international help received. In order to prevent such a disaster in future, the ASEAN leaders declared their will to extend their regional mechanisms on disaster prevention and mitigation. This was to be done by training military and civilian personnel in disaster relief operations, as determined in the “ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action “.

Further, they stated their aim to put the “ASEAN Disaster Information Sharing and Communication Network” into action as provided for in the “ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Component of the Vientiane Action Program”. Following this case, the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) was signed in July 2005 and has been entered into force on 24 December 2009 [3]. ASEAN member countries also led the adoption of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 59/279 of 19 January 2005 to strengthen emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and prevention in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. The series efforts, led strengthening the ASEAN commitment for cooperation, coordination, technical assistance, and resource mobilization in all aspects of disaster management.

Finally, we have seen ASEAN playing an important role in preparing the disaster management due to minimizing the loss. It implies that ASEAN needs a massive crisis and devastating event to waking up the awareness of the community (ASEAN) in humanitarian issue.

[1] East-West Center, 2005, After The Tsunami: Human Rights of Vulnerable Populations, Berkeley: University of California Press.

[2] Gentner, heide Haruyo, “ASEAN: Cooperative disaster relief after the tsunami”, Journal of current Southeast Asian affairs, Volume XXIV, 2006.

[3] Association of Southeast Asian Nations, 2013, “ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Response (AADMER) Work Programme 2010-2015 (4th Reprint)”, accessed on April 20, 2016 at 09:54 AM.