South East Asia

 Brunei  Indonesia  Philippines  East Timor
 Burma  Laos  Singapore  Vietnam
 Cambodia  Malaysia  Thailand  
 This area is the border region between the cultures of India and those of China. Thus many of the peoples of this area are Buddhists, whose religion came from India, sometimes via Tibet. Some, such as the Thais and Cambodians, show many Hindu influences. On Bali these are very marked. Others, as in Malaysia and the rest of Indonesia, practice Islam which came to them from India and South Arabia (Hadhramaut). But many of the languages and peoples came from the north and show Chinese influence. In addition most countries of this area have large Chinese minorities. All except Thailand have been ruled by Europeans for some period.
It is possible that Indonesia has been an important center of cultural innovation: bananas, music. Its influence has diffused as far as Madagascar and possibly West Africa in the west and New Zealand in the south (assuming that the Austronesian languages originate in Java - see Oceania).


The Association of South East Asian states consists of those countries which were pro-western during the Cold War. All, except Thailand, had at one time been colonies of European countries, and in the case of the Philippines also of the United States. All of them had been occupied by Japanese forces during the second world war.
All were to some extent neo-colonies: that is, their policies have been strongly influenced by external powers. Indonesia had a military government imposed on it in 1965 by the action of United States covert operators; Thailand has been used as a military base and was the main center for military prostitution during the Vietnam war, and is now a center of sex tourism; Malaysia has been an important center of British influence, now much diminished. Brunei is a super-rich oil producer. Singapore is one of the Asian Tigers, or Newly Industrialized Countries.
There is a proposal for closer economic association along the lines of the European Community. However, their economies are very diverse. The Philippines is rather unsuccessful, partly because its resources were looted by the Marcos family during a long dictatorship, and continuing corruption. Indonesia also has a great deal of corruption which almost certainly prevents a lot of the necessary investment. ASEAN to some extent replaced SEATO, but is not formally a military alliance. (SEATO=South East Asia Treaty Organisation, intended by John Foster Dulles as the equivalent in Asia of NATO)

Last revised 22/05/12



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