From AIPO to AIPA

Ten years after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1970, there was a realization among 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 effort to achieve ASEAN’s three main original objectives: to promote the economic, social and cultural development of the region through various programs 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, Thailand.

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 in Singapore, 1978.

The establishment of AIPO was at the initiative of Indonesia. In the early 1970’s, encouraged by the progress being made by ASEAN, the Indonesian House of Representatives came up with the idea of setting up an organization composed of the parliaments of the then five ASEAN member countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The visits to Indonesia by a Malaysian parliamentary delegation in August 1973 and by a Singapore parliamentary delegation November of the same year gave impetus to the idea of establishing parliamentary cooperation among the ASEAN parliaments. The following year, the Indonesian House of Representatives sent a special mission to Thailand and the Philippines in May as well as to Malaysia and Singapore 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 Countries agreed to hold the first meeting in Jakarta to further discuss the realization of the idea to form a parliamentary cooperation forum, and Indonesia 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 “Statutes 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.
  4. The Working Committee was tasked as to:
  • recommend the form and structure of the ASEAN Inter­-Parliamentary forum for cooperation,
  • prepare the draft Statutes of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation,
  • meet one month after the First APM,
  • the Second APM would be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

As a follow up to the First APM, the Working Committee meeting was held at Tugu, Puncak, Bogor, Indonesia 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 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 20th to 23rd August 1975. The Kuala 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 a consensus on the criteria and procedures for the organization’s membership.

The Third APM was held in Manila, the Philippines from 29 August to 2 September 1977. The meeting unanimously agreed on the draft Statutes of the AIPO.

At the closure of the Third APM, the AIPO Statutes were signed by the heads of delegation of the Parliaments of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and marked the birth of AIPO.

According to Article 10 of the AIPO Statutes, the GA shall be held annually, unless decided otherwise; whereas Article 11 stipulated that the GA venue shall be rotated among the Member Parliaments in alphabetical order.

As the Third APM was held in the Philippines, the next GA was held in Singapore in September 1978.

Since its inception in 1977, AIPO held the GA as follows:

  • 1st General Assembly of AIPO in Singapore, 26 – 28 September 1978
  • 2nd General Assembly of AIPO in Bangkok, Thailand, 27 September – 3 October 1979
  • 3rd General Assembly of AIPO in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2 – 6 September 1980
  • 4th General Assembly of AIPO in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2 – 6 February 1982
  • 5th General Assembly of AIPO in Manila, Philippines, 5 – 9 April 1983
  • 6th General Assembly of AIPO in Singapore, 5 – 7 October 1983
  • 7th General Assembly of AIPO in Bangkok, Thailand, 2 – 6 October 1984
  • 8th General Assembly of AIPO in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 – 29 September 1985
  • 9th General Assembly of AIPO in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 24 – 30 January 1988
  • 10th General Assembly of AIPO in Manila, Philippines, 21 – 26 August 1989
  • 11th General Assembly of AIPO in Singapore, 10 – 15 September 1990
  • 12th General Assembly of AIPO in Bangkok, Thailand, 18 – 23 November 1991
  • 13th General Assembly of AIPO in Jakarta, Indonesia, 21 – 26 September 1992
  • 14th General Assembly of AIPO in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 19 – 26 September 1993
  • 15th General Assembly of AIPO in Manila, Philippines, 19 – 24 September 1994
  • 16th General Assembly of AIPO in Singapore, 18 – 23 September 1995
  • 17th General Assembly of AIPO in Phuket, Thailand, 16 – 21 September 1996
  • 18th General Assembly of AIPO in Bali, Indonesia, 1 – 6 September 1997
  • 19th General Assembly of AIPO in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 24 – 28 August 1998
  • 20th General Assembly of AIPO in Manila, Philippines, 19 – 24 September 1999
  • 21st General Assembly of AIPO in Singapore, 10 – 15 September 2000
  • 22nd General Assembly of AIPO in Bangkok, Thailand, 2 – 7 September 2001
  • 23rd General Assembly of AIPO in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, 8 – 13 September 2002
  • 24th General Assembly of AIPO in Jakarta, Indonesia, 7 – 12 September 2003
  • 25th General Assembly of AIPO in Phnom Phen,Cambodia,12 – 17 September 2004
  • 26th General Assembly of AIPO in Vientiane, Lao PDR, 18 – 23 September 2005
  • 27th General Assembly of AIPO in Cebu City, Philippines, 10 – 15 September 2006
  • 28th General Assembly of AIPA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 19 – 24 August 2007
  • 29th General Assembly of AIPA in Singapore, 19 – 24 August 2008
  • 30th General Assembly of AIPA in Pataya City, Thailand, 2 – 8 August 2009
  • 31st General Assembly of AIPA in Hanoi, Viet Nam, 20 – 24 September 2010
  • 32nd General Assembly of AIPA in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 18 – 24 September 2011
  • 33rd General Assembly of AIPA in Mataram, Lombok, Indonesia, 16 – 22 September 2012
  • 34th General Assembly of AIPA in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, 17 – 23 September 2013
  • 35th General Assembly of AIPA in Vientiane, Lao PDR, 14 – 20 September 2014
  • 36th General Assembly of AIPA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 6 – 12 September 2015
  • 37th General Assembly of AIPA in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar 29 September – 3 October 2016
  • 38th General Assembly of AIPA in Manila, Philippines 14 - 20 September 2017

At each GA, AIPO met with dialogue partners Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, 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 establish a network of relationships, closer contacts and understanding among parliamentarians.

(India was accepted as the 10th dialogue partner during the 31st GA in Hanoi, Vietnam in September 2010.)

The history of the development of AIPO was closely linked to that of the 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, AIPO’s membership likewise increased.

In 1995, Vietnam was admitted as an AIPO member followed by Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999. Brunei and the Union of Myanmar have no legislatures and as such they had been given the Special Observer status. Since joining ASEAN in 1984, Brunei had attended AIPO GAs 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 comprises eight (8) Member Parliaments, namely: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

During the 30th AIPA GA in Pattaya City, Thailand, the Legislative Council of Brunei Darussalam attained its full membership, leaving Myanmar as the only Special Observer country.

ASEAN Parliament

As the 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 the Philippines delegation at the 3rd AIPO General Assembly held in Jakarta in 1980. However, at the 27th AIPO General Assembly held in Cebu City, the Philippines 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 the change the organization’s name from the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO) to the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), which included the amendment of the AIPO Statutes into the AIPA Statutes.

The new AIPA Statutes was signed on the 17th of April 2007 by Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam and Special Observer Country 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 Philippines did not attend the meeting due to its national elections and did so in a later date. Special Observer Country Myanmar has yet to sign the new Statutes.