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BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
(From AIPO to AIPA) 

Ten years after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967 there was realization among the ASEAN parliamentarians that the strength of ASEAN emanates from the roots of its societies. Therefore, closer cooperation among the respective legislatures and the parliamentarians (being the representatives of the peoples of ASEAN), would result in greater participation by the peoples of the ASEAN countries in the efforts to achieve ASEANís three main original objectives: to promote the economic, social and cultural development of the region through various programmes of cooperation; to safeguard the political and economic stability of the region against Big Power rivalry; and to serve as a forum for the resolution of intra-regional differences as enunciated in the ASEAN Declaration adopted on 8thAugust 1967 in Bangkok.

 It was to significantly contribute through inter-parliamentary cooperation in the attainment of the goals and aspirations of ASEAN that the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO) was formed.

           

The First President of AIPO, Dr. Yeoh Ghim Seng (Singapore),
with Leaders of AIPO Delegation at the First General Assembly
of AIPO inSingapore, 1978 

The establishment of AIPO was at the initiative ofIndonesia. In the early 1970ís, encouraged by the progress being made by ASEAN, the Indonesian House of Representatives came up with the idea of setting up an organization consisting the parliaments of the then five ASEAN member countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The visits toIndonesia by a Malaysian parliamentary delegation in August 1973 and by aSingapore parliamentary delegation in November of the same year gave impetus to the idea of establishing parliamentary cooperation among the ASEAN parliaments. In the following year, 1974, the Indonesian House of Representatives sent a special mission toThailand and thePhilippines in May as well as toMalaysia andSingapore in September to seek support for the establishment of an ASEAN inter-parliamentary forum, and received a positive response.

Following the initial contacts, the Parliaments of ASEAN member-states agreed to hold the first meeting inJakarta to further discuss the realization of the idea to form a parliamentary cooperation forum, andIndonesia was chosen as the host of the First ASEAN Parliamentary Meeting (APM) from 8th to 11th January, 1975.

Indonesia as host of the First APM proposed the formulation and signing of the ďStatutes of the ASEAN Parliamentary Cooperation". The First APM agreed on the following: 

1.  To promote closer cooperation between the parliaments of ASEAN member ≠states;

2.  To hold regular meetings;

3.  To establish a Working Committee comprising 3 (three) representatives from each of the ASEAN Parliaments to be chaired by the Deputy Speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives with the Heads of Parliamentary Delegation of Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand as Vice-Chairmen. The Working Committee would be tasked as follows:

         Recommend the form and structure of the ASEAN Inter≠-Parliamentary forum for       cooperation.

         Prepare the draft Statutes of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation.

       4. The Working Committee was to meet one month after the First APM.

5.   The Second APM would be held inKuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

As a follow up to the First APM, the Working Committee meeting was held at Tugu, Puncak,Bogor;  in May, 1975 . The outcome was a proposal on  the form   and structure of the forum for inter-parliamentary cooperation and the proposed Statutes to be discussed at the Second APM. 

The Second APM was held inKuala Lumpur,Malaysia from 20th to 23rd August, 1975. TheKuala Lumpur meeting agreed on a change in the name of the proposed forum from the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation to the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO), but failed to reach consensus on the criteria and procedures for the organizationís membership. 

The Third APM was held inManila, thePhilippines from 29th August to 2nd September, 1977. The meeting unanimously agreed on the draft Statutes of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO).  

At the closure of the Third APM on 2nd September 1977, the Statutes of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO) were signed by the Heads of Delegation of the Parliaments of Indonesia,Malaysia, thePhilippines,Singapore andThailand which marked the birth of AIPO. 

According to Article 10 of the Statutes of AIPO, the General Assembly of AIPO shall be held annually, unless decided otherwise whereas Article 11 stipulated that the venue of the General Assembly shall be rotated among the Member Parliaments in alphabetical order. As the Third APM was held in thePhilippines, next in the alphabetical order wasSingapore. Therefore, the First AIPO General Assembly was held inSingapore in September 1978.

Since its inception in 1977, AIPO has held annual meetings of its General Assembly as follows:

  • 1st AIPO General Assembly of AIPO inSingapore, 26 - 28 September 1978
  • 2nd General Assembly of AIPO inBangkok,Thailand, 27 September - 3 October 1979
  • 3rd General Assembly of AIPO inJakarta,Indonesia, 2 - 6 September 1980
  • 4th General Assembly of AIPO inKuala Lumpur,Malaysia, 2 - 6 February 1982
  • 5th General Assembly of AIPO inManila,Philippines, 5 - 9 April 1983
  • 6th General Assembly of AIPO inSingapore, 5 - 7 October 1983
  • 7th General Assembly of AIPO inBangkok,Thailand, 2 - 6 October 1984
  • 8th General Assembly of AIPO inJakarta,Indonesia, 22 - 29 September 1985
  • 9th General Assembly of AIPO inKuala Lumpur,Malaysia, 24 - 30 January 1988
  • 10th General Assembly of AIPO inManila,Philippines, 21 - 26 August 1989
  • 11th General Assembly of AIPO inSingapore, 10 - 15 September 1990
  • 12th General Assembly of AIPO inBangkok,Thailand, 18 - 23 November 1991
  • 13th General Assembly of AIPO inJakarta,Indonesia, 21 - 26 September 1992
  • 14th General Assembly of AIPO inKuala Lumpur,Malaysia, 19 - 26 September 1993
  • 15th General Assembly of AIPO inManila,Philippines, 19 - 24 September 1994
  • 16th General Assembly of AIPO inSingapore, 18 - 23 September 1995
  • 17th General Assembly of AIPO inPhuket,Thailand, 16 - 21 September 1996
  • 18th General Assembly of AIPO inBali,Indonesia, 1 - 6 September 1997
  • 19th General Assembly of AIPO inKuala Lumpur,Malaysia, 24 - 28 August 1998
  • 20th General Assembly of AIPO inManila,Philippines, 19 - 24 September 1999
  • 21st General Assembly of AIPO inSingapore, 10 - 15 September 2000
  • 22nd General Assembly of AIPO inBangkok,Thailand, 2 - 7 September 2001
  • 23rd General Assembly of AIPO in HaNoi,Viet Nam, 8 - 13 September 2002
  • 24th General Assembly of AIPO inJakarta,Indonesia, 7-12 September 2003
  • 25th General Assembly of AIPO inPhnom Phen,Cambodia,12-17 September 2004
  • 26th General Assembly of AIPO inVientiane, Lao PDR, 18-23 September 2005
  • 27th General Assembly of AIPO inCebu City,Philippines, 10-15 September 2006
  • 28th General Assembly of AIPA inKuala Lumpur,Malaysia, 19-24 August 2007 

At each AIPO General Assembly, AIPO has dialogues with its dialogue partners, namely the parliaments ofAustralia,Canada,China, Japan,Republic ofKorea,New Zealand,Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, and the European Parliament. The participation of the dialogue partners at the AIPO General Assemblies in addition to the exchange of visits had helped established a network of relationships, closer contacts and understanding among parliamentarians.

The history of the development of AIPO was closely linked to that of ASEAN. Countries in the Southeast Asian region would join AIPO as members or special observers after they became members of ASEAN. Thus as the membership of ASEAN expanded, AIPOís membership likewise increased.  

In 1995Vietnam was admitted as an AIPO member followed by Lao Peopleís Democratic Republic in 1997 andCambodia in 1999.Brunei and the Union of Myanmar have no legislatures and as such they had been accredited Special Observer status. Since joining ASEAN in 1984Brunei had attended AIPO General Assemblies as an observer and participated as a permanent Special Observer from 1993 onwards. The Union of Myanmar first participated in AIPA activities as Special Observer in 1997 and was accorded permanent Special Observer status since 1999. 

Hence by year 2000, AIPO comprised of 8 (eight) Member Parliaments in ASEAN, namely, the parliaments of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. As mentioned earlier, Brunei Darussalam and the Union of Myanmar have no legislatures, and as such they were accredited Special Observer status participating fully in AIPO activities. 

As ASEAN progress towards the building of an ASEAN community by 2015, the aspiration of establishing an ASEAN Parliament resurfaced. The idea of an ASEAN Parliament was first proposed by thePhilippines delegation at the 3rd AIPO General Assembly held inJakarta in 1980. However, at the 27th AIPO General Assembly held inCebu City, thePhilippines in 2006, there was consensus that the ASEAN Parliament would be a long term goal. It was further concurred that it would be more appropriate at this juncture to first proceed with the transformation of the organization into a more effective and closely integrated institution and along with it to change the organizationís name from the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO) to the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) including amending the Statutes of AIPO to become the Statutes of AIPA. 

The new Statutes of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) was signed on 17th April 2007 by the member countries of AIPO, namely, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao Peopleís Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam as well as the Special Observer Country of Brunei Darussalam during the Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee of AIPO held in Kuala Lumpur from 16th to 19th April 2007.  AIPO member country, thePhilippines, did not attend the meeting due to its national elections and is expected to sign the new Statutes of AIPA in due course. Likewise Special Observer Country,Myanmar has yet to sign the new Statutes. 

The signing of the Statutes of AIPA on 17th April 2007 inKuala Lumpur replacing the previous Statutes of AIPO marked the transformation of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization or AIPO into the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly or AIPA. A new era of a more closely integrated ASEAN inter-parliamentary cooperation has set in.