The hope was that more nations would join, giving what would appear to be a united front against what was perceived as a Communist threat in the region. When ASEAN was formed the United States was sending troops to Vietnam, and because of that fact the ASEAN nations refused admission to North Vietnam because of its ties to Russia and its invasion of Cambodia in 1978. In 1995, the nation of Cambodia obtained "observer status" and Communist Vietnam was admitted to ASEAN in an initiation ceremony in Kuala Lampur. The Malaysian Foreign Minister at the time, Abdullah Badawi conducted the ceremonies and said in a speech "With Vietnam's entry, a very important step has now been built towards reaching the target of making ASEAN truly the association of all Southeast Asian nations" (Son, 1995, 2.2). Shortly after Vietnam's welcome, however, a major leak developed in the ASEAN member states' economies.
The only countries that still had not been admitted to ASEAN by May of 1997 were Cambodia, Burma, and Laos. However, the idea of a United Southeast Asia was still a goal as the organization entered its 30th year. A willingness to "bend the rules" somewhat was expressed to deal with, what was at the time, considered the primary diplomatic barrier to unity -- the dictatorship in Burma (called Myanmar after a 1988 coup led by a military junta). An article in The Economist in March. 1997, wondered why the seven m