Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was an international organization
for collective defense in Southeast Asia. This organization was created by the
Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, or Manila Pact, signed in September
1954 in Manila, Philippines, as part of the American Truman Doctrine for
creating anti-communist and collective defenses treaties. The organization was
established on 19 February 1955 at a meeting for treaty partners in Bangkok,
Thailand. The members included eight nations which were Australia, New Zealand,
Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, France, United Kingdom, and United States. Despite
being called the “Southeast Asian Treaty Organization”, there were only two
Southeast Asian countries that became members.

        SEATO’s initial purpose was primarily to
block further communist gains in Southeast Asia. The agreements and treaties
were intended to contain communist countries (like China, in SEATO’s case). The formation of SEATO was also a response to the demand of Southeast
Asian area to be protected against communist expansionism, especially since it
spreads through military aggression in Korea and Indochina, as well as
through subversion supported by organized armed forces in the Philippines and Malaysia. Another function of SEATO was
also to fund cultural and educational programs, that still in fact leave long-standing
results in Southeast Asia. SEATO was intended to be a Southeast Asian version
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, more commonly known as NATO, where
the military forces of each member nation 
would be coordinated to act as collective defense of the members’
nations. Organizationally, the organization was headed by the Secretary General,
whose office was made in a meeting in Canberra at 1957.

         The Philippines joined due to close
ties with the United States and in part of the growing concern over rising
communist insurgency threatening its own government. Thailand, also then joined
due to similar circumstances, and threat of Chinese communist subversion
forming in the country itself. Indonesia and Burma, on another stand, both
preferred to maintain neutrality instead of taking part in the organization.
Malaya, including Singapore, deemed it politically difficult to provide a
formal support to the organization. However so, the two countries did in turn
faced developments due to ties with Great Britain.  Lastly, as for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos,
the three countries were prevented from joining any international military
alliance due to the Geneva Agreements of 1954 that were signed after the fall
of French Indochina. These countries, although denied participation, did fall
under the area protected by SEATO and given “observers” status. All in all, the membership reflected a mid-1950s combination of
anti-communist Western nations and similar nations in Southeast Asia.

              The creation of SEATO was another example of the
tensions which existed between the United States and the Soviet Union in the
period of cold war. Not only did the member countries lost interest in the organization,
but its involvement in the Vietnam War heightened tensions between Russia and the
US. SEATO did not have a way to authorize military action if need be, and is
therefore different to organizations like NATO, for instance. SEATO’s charter
didn’t have anything that allowed its member nations to establish or create a
military force. There was also no intelligence-gathering system organized
within the organization. The inabilities upon having such significant resources
only added to the organization’s prospect to fail. For many obvious reasons, SEATO’s
members began leaving in the 1970s. By the time the Vietnam War ended in 1975,
the organization no longer had a reason to proceed with its operations. Come 30th
June, 1977, SEATO no longer existed as an organization.

       However so, it’s important to acknowledge
the organization’s achievements as well. Aside from trying to stop communist
gains, SEATO’s members also worked on improving mutual social and economic
issues. Those activities were overseen by SEATO’s committee of information,
education, culture, and labor activities, which proved to be some of the
organization’s most recognizable success. Events that were to be taken to
account were the creation of SEATO Graduate School of Engineering, now the
Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand to train engineers, and SEATO’s sponsorship
for technical programs for supervisors and workmen. Even more, SEATO had also
provided funding for research in the fields of agriculture and medicine. In 1959,
the organization built the Cholera Research Laboratory in Bangkok, then building
a second laboratory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Dhaka laboratory soon became the
largest cholera research factory, and later renamed as the International
Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research.  

     All things considered,
SEATO had obviously intended to fulfill an important purpose in Southeast Asia,
yet it still came as no surprise that it didn’t continue to thrive. Aside from
the fact that the countries in Southeast Asia have not been fully invested in
the organization itself, there wasn’t any effective influences or power to be
used to do what was needed to be done. Most of its members were instead focused
on other organizations like NATO, or hadn’t been bothered to fully focus in it.
Hence the famous “zoo of toothless tigers” criticism. However so, it was still
reputable that such an organization was created for a very important purpose,
no matter its nonfulfillment.