ASEAN may have been moving at a snail’s pace when it was first established on Aug. 8, 1976, but it is moving on the right track now, experts say.

While experts praise the development ASEAN has achieved in its 44 years, it seems that the regional grouping still has significant homework to reach its goal — the ASEAN Community by 2015.

University of Indonesia security expert Andi Widjajanto said Monday that in the 44th anniversary of ASEAN, Indonesia, the current chair, had managed to accelerate the agenda and come up with breakthroughs in the ASEAN Security Community.

“[ASEAN member countries] have started military cooperation among themselves, for example, joint drills for disaster response and humanitarian assistance,” he told The Jakarta Post.

“There is also an idea raised by Malaysia of forging a consortium to develop the Southeast Asian defense industry. ASEAN has never had this idea before.”

However, some ASEAN countries are moving against the spirit of the ASEAN Community 2015, which is intended to promote security and stability, by increased arms development, he said.

“Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia are developing offensive weapons, such as jet fighters and war submarines,” Andi said.

“They don’t match [the spirit of] the ASEAN Community 2015, which should see a relaxation in arms development.”

He also highlighted the inability of ASEAN to work out a dispute settlement mechanism, especially for territorial problems, thus conflicting parties chose to take a non-ASEAN track, be it via bilateral or international forums, including the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.

Indonesia Defense University ASEAN expert Bantarto Bandoro said that in 44 years ASEAN had indeed gained recognition, both regionally and internationally, but it should not be “too satisfied” with its achievements.

“There are more productive things ASEAN should do for the good of the people of ASEAN,” he told the Post.

He also said ASEAN should work its way out of common perspectives of big countries, such as the United States and China.

Several ASEAN countries, such as Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines, lean toward the US more than China, which has Myanmar as its loyal ally in the backyard. Vietnam has increasingly taken sides with the US in the South China Sea dispute.

For development in human rights, ASEAN nailed down momentum when it established the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights in 2010, which gave hope for the people of ASEAN, says a rights campaigner.

Human Rights Resource Center for ASEAN (HRRCA) director Marzuki Darusman said Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand in particular, as well as Malaysia, have experienced a drastic increase in the number of local and international non-governmental organizations.

“These countries are ready to enter the era of human rights because civil society has taken its share in democracy development,” he told the Post.

While there are concerns about democracy development in Malaysia due to the vested interests of political parties, Singapore, which is infamous for its authoritarian government, is beginning to make ideas of human rights public, he said.

In the meantime, no one should expect Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to change into democracies over the short term, he said.

In the economic field, economist Harbrinderjit Singh Dillon said some ASEAN countries lag behind others due to rampant corruption, for example in Malaysia and Indonesia, and in the principle of market liberalization.

“Indonesia used to be pro-people, but now it’s moving to liberalism, where the market recognizes the sellers and the buyers, but not the poor people,” he told the Post.

“The banking sector takes the side of corporations, to which, not the people, regional administrations also prioritize land [ownership].” –Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta