Critiques and Controversies on the ASEAN Flag

The ASEAN Flag is a symbol of unity and cooperation among Southeast Asian nations, with its design and colors representing the shared values and aspirations of its member states. However, despite its importance as a unifying symbol, the flag has also been met with critiques and controversies. In this article, we will delve into the history of the ASEAN Flag, its design and symbolism, as well as the critiques it has faced for its limited member representation, simplistic design, and similarity to other national flags. We will also discuss the controversies that have surrounded the flag, including the flag-burning incident and its use in protests. Finally, we will explore the proposed changes to the flag and responses from member states, as we consider the future of this important symbol of regional integration and cooperation.

History of the ASEAN Flag

History Of The Asean Flag
The ASEAN Flag was officially adopted on July 28, 1997. The flag was designed to represent the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional intergovernmental organization composed of ten member states in Southeast Asia. The flag consists of two equal horizontal halves, with a blue upper half representing peace and prosperity, and a red lower half representing courage and dynamism. There is a white emblem at the center of the flag, consisting of an amalgamation of 10 yellow five-pointed stars representing each of the member countries in a circle, which is in turn supported by a circular rope design. The flag’s design has gone through several changes over the years, with the current design being the fourth version. The evolution of ASEAN Flag designs has been a reflection of the changing face of ASEAN as a regional organization.

Design of the Flag

The design of the ASEAN flag features a blue background with ten yellow stars arranged in two rows. The ten stars represent the ten member countries of ASEAN, while the blue background symbolizes peace and stability.

The ratio of the flag is 2:3, meaning that it is two units wide and three units long. The ten stars are in a circular shape, with five stars in the top half and five in the bottom half, arranged in an imaginary circle with a radius of about half the flag’s height.

The shade of blue used in the flag is called “ASEAN blue,” which is defined by the ASEAN Secretariat as a specific color code: Pantone 286 C or CMYK 100, 60, 0, 6.

The design of the ASEAN flag was created in 1967 by a committee of ASEAN officials and was officially adopted on September 8, 1967. The flag’s design has remained unchanged since then and is a symbol of ASEAN’s unity and cooperation.

To ensure proper usage, the ASEAN Secretariat has provided guidelines on how to properly draw and display the ASEAN flag. These guidelines include specifications on the proper colors, dimensions, and placement of the flag. It is important to note that misusing the ASEAN flag could be seen as disrespectful to the organization and its member countries.

The design of the ASEAN flag is simple, yet symbolic, representing the unity and cooperation among its member countries. For more information on the meanings and symbols of the flag, visit the ASEAN Flag Meaning and Symbols page.

Symbolism of the Flag

The ASEAN flag is composed of 10 stripes in different colors, each representing the member states of the organization. The blue color found at the center of the flag signifies peace and stability, which is one of the main goals of ASEAN. The gold color of the glyph in the middle of the blue field represents prosperity for all ASEAN countries. Meanwhile, the circle surrounded by the 10 leaves represents the friendship and unity of the member states.

The 10 leaves of the circle represent the member countries of ASEAN, emphasizing equality among all member states. The leaves are encircled in a blue field that represents ASEAN’s unity in diversity. The colors of the stripes are also symbolic; red symbolizes courage and dynamism, white signifies purity and peace, blue indicates unity and stability, and yellow represents prosperity.

The new emblem or stylized Starburst emblem represents growth, dynamism, and vibrancy. The blue spiral represents a dynamic new resurgence, the red dot represents dynamism and the white dot represents the hopes and aspirations of ASEAN. The colors of the emblem are consistent with ASEAN’s overall color scheme.

As seen, the symbolism of the ASEAN flag is rich and powerful. The design of the flag and the colors used exemplify the aspirations of ASEAN and its member states. The utilization of the 10 stripes also represents the unity and equality of all members, making it a potent symbol of regional cooperation and collaboration. To learn more about the flags of the ASEAN member countries, check out our article on ASEAN Member Countries Flags Overview or how to Draw and Display ASEAN Flag Correctly.

Critiques of the ASEAN Flag

One of the major critiques of the ASEAN flag is the issue of limited member representation. The flag’s design only includes six colors representing the founding members of the organization. Later members were not given their own unique representation on the flag, which has caused some controversy and tension. This has led to calls for a redesign that would be more inclusive and representative of all members. Additionally, some have criticized the simplistic design of the flag, which they feel lacks creativity and depth. Finally, there have been comparisons to other national flags, particularly those of the United States and the European Union, which some feel diminishes the uniqueness and identity of the ASEAN flag. A comparison of ASEAN member countries flags can be found in this ASEAN member countries flags overview page.

Limited Member Representation

One of the main criticisms of the ASEAN flag is its limited member representation. The flag features a circle with ten gold stalks of padi, representing the ten member countries of ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. However, this design excludes the newer member states, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, as well as potential future member states.

Table 1: ASEAN Member States and Flag Representation

ASEAN Member States Flag Representation
Brunei Darussalam
Timor-Leste X
Papua New Guinea X

This limited representation has caused concern among some member states and potential future members who feel that they are not equally valued or included in the organization. There have been calls for a redesign of the flag to include all member states, as well as a debate over whether or not potential future member states should be considered during the design process.

In response to this criticism, some have argued that adding more stalks of padi to the flag would make it too cluttered and visually unappealing, while others have suggested incorporating the new member states in a different way, such as through the use of different colors or symbols.

The limited member representation of the ASEAN flag is a point of contention among member states and observers, and will likely continue to be a topic of discussion as the organization evolves and expands.

Simplistic Design

One of the most frequently cited criticisms of the ASEAN Flag is its simplistic design. While some view the design as elegant in its simplicity, others argue that it is too basic and lacks the creativity and complexity of other national flags.

Those who criticize the simplistic design of the ASEAN Flag argue that a more intricate and vibrant design would better represent the diverse cultures and people of the region. They contend that the current design is too basic and lacks the intricate details that are present in flags of other nations.

One specific point of criticism is the lack of colors in the ASEAN Flag. The flag only features blue and yellow, which some view as insufficient for representing the diverse peoples and cultures of Southeast Asia. Some argue that incorporating more colors into the flag design would better represent the diversity of the region.

Others argue that a more complex and intricate design would better represent the history and heritage of Southeast Asia. They suggest incorporating more intricate patterns and symbols into the design of the flag to better reflect the history and cultural depth of the region.

Despite these criticisms, supporters of the current design point out that the simple design is more easily recognizable and helps to create a sense of unity among member states. They argue that the simplicity of the ASEAN Flag is a strong symbol of the unity and cooperation that exists within the region.

The criticism of the simplistic design of the ASEAN Flag is a topic that continues to be debated among members of the region. While some argue that a more intricate and vibrant design would better represent the diversity of Southeast Asia, others point out the benefits of the current simple design.

Similarity to Other National Flags

One of the critiques of the ASEAN Flag is its similarity to other national flags. The flag features a blue background with ten yellow stars arranged in a circle. This design has sparked controversy due to its resemblance to national flags of other countries, such as the flag of the European Union, Samoa, and Vietnam.

The similarity to other flags can be seen as a lack of originality, creativity, and uniqueness to represent the ASEAN region, which comprises ten different nations. Some critics argue that the design of the flag reinforces the notion of a homogenous and assimilated Southeast Asia, ignoring the diverse traditions, cultures, and histories of each member state.

On the other hand, some argue that the similarity to other flags is not significant as many national flags share common elements such as colors and shapes. Additionally, the ASEAN Flag has distinct symbolic meanings that differentiate it from other flags. Nevertheless, the issue remains a point of discussion and debate.

In contrast to the critiques, some people view the similarity to other flags as a positive aspect of the ASEAN Flag. They argue that it creates a sense of harmony and cooperation among nations, and the design is respectful towards other cultures. The similarity can foster better relationships between ASEAN and other nations, and promote international trade and diplomacy.

To address the critique, discussions and proposals for changes to the design of the ASEAN Flag have been part of the agenda of some ASEAN meetings. The proposed changes include altering the shape of the stars, changing the position of the stars, or introducing new elements. However, no decision has been made, and the flag remains the same, at least for the time being.

The similarity to other national flags can be considered a critique or a positive aspect of the ASEAN Flag depending on one’s perspective. The design of the flag is an issue that attracts varying opinions and continues to be the topic of discussion among nations and people worldwide.

Controversies Surrounding the ASEAN Flag

Controversies Surrounding The Asean Flag
Controversies surrounding the ASEAN Flag have arisen since its adoption in 1997. One notable controversy was the flag-burning incident in Indonesia in 2016, where protesters burned the ASEAN Flag along with the Indonesian flag during a protest against the ASEAN Economic Community. The incident sparked outrage in the region and raised questions about the use and perceived importance of the flag. The ASEAN Flag has been used in various protests throughout the region, with some arguing that its use in such contexts diminishes the significance of the flag. Despite these controversies, the ASEAN Flag remains an important symbol of unity and cooperation among its member states.

The Flag-Burning Incident

The ASEAN Flag has been a centerpiece of discussion in Southeast Asia for a variety of reasons, but perhaps none has been as contentious as the Flag-Burning Incident. This event occurred in December 2016, during a protest against the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines. Demonstrators set fire to an effigy of the ASEAN Flag, sparking outrage from member countries and drawing attention to the divide between ASEAN and its constituents.

The Reaction to the Incident

The Flag-Burning Incident came as a shock to many, and it didn’t take long for various stakeholders to express their opinions. Leaders of ASEAN countries condemned the act and called for an investigation, as well as greater respect for the organization and its symbols. Some observers argued that the demonstration was not meant to undermine ASEAN, but to call attention to the many issues affecting the region. Regardless, the incident highlighted the challenges facing ASEAN and its continued relevance in a changing political landscape.

The Impact on ASEAN

The Flag-Burning Incident also had a significant impact on the reputation and image of ASEAN. Critics of the organization quickly seized on the event, pointing to it as evidence of the lack of unity and purpose within ASEAN. It also became a rallying cry for those who oppose the organization and its policies, particularly in regards to human rights violations and trade agreements.

The Lessons Learned

Many in ASEAN took the Flag-Burning Incident as an opportunity to reflect on the organization’s shortcomings and ways to improve. Some called for greater communication and transparency, while others advocated for more meaningful engagement with grassroots organizations and civil society. The incident also highlighted the need for ASEAN to address issues such as social justice and sustainability in order to remain relevant in the eyes of its constituents.

The Flag-Burning Incident was a significant moment in the history of the ASEAN Flag. While it caused shock and outrage among stakeholders, it also served as a wake-up call for the organization to reevaluate its priorities and engagement with its member countries. The incident underscored the need for greater unity and communication among ASEAN countries, and for the organization to better address the needs and concerns of its constituents.

Use of the Flag in Protests

The ASEAN flag has been used as a symbol of solidarity and unity in various protests and demonstrations throughout the region. However, this usage has also sparked controversies and debates among the member states.

Positive Views

Some have praised the use of the flag in protests, as it emphasizes the common goals and aspirations for a more integrated and cohesive ASEAN community. Pro-democracy activists in Thailand, for example, have prominently displayed the ASEAN flag along with their country’s national flag in demonstrations against authoritarianism and military rule. They argue that the ASEAN flag represents the principles of democracy, human rights, and good governance, which they seek to promote not only within their own country but also in the region as a whole.

Similarly, student activists in Indonesia have used the ASEAN flag in their campaigns for greater regional cooperation on environmental protection and climate change mitigation. They maintain that the flag symbolizes the shared responsibility of all ASEAN countries to address pressing global issues that affect the well-being of their citizens and the planet.

Criticism and Controversies

On the other hand, the use of the ASEAN flag in protests has also faced criticism and opposition from some member states, particularly those that are more politically conservative or sensitive to national sovereignty issues.

For example, the Malaysian government has expressed concern over the use of the ASEAN flag by opposition groups during rallies, arguing that it could be interpreted as an attempt to undermine the country’s independence and unity. In response, the government has sought to ban the use of the flag in political protests, citing the need to respect national symbols and institutions.

Likewise, the Philippine government has raised objections to the use of the ASEAN flag in demonstrations against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Officials argued that the flag should not be used to advance specific national interests or agendas, but rather should represent the collective interests of all ASEAN countries.


The use of the ASEAN flag in protests reflects the diversity of perspectives and values within the region. While some see it as a powerful symbol of regional identity and solidarity, others view it as a sensitive issue that requires careful consideration of national and cultural contexts. As ASEAN continues to evolve and adapt to changing political and social dynamics, the role and significance of its flag will undoubtedly continue to be a subject of critiques and controversies.

Future of the ASEAN Flag

The future of the ASEAN flag has been a topic of discussions among member states. Some proposals for changing the flag have been put forward, including adding a ninth point to represent Timor-Leste, the newest member of ASEAN. Others suggest changing the colors of the flag to better represent the region’s diversity, or incorporating symbols that represent ASEAN’s goals and values. However, there are also concerns about the potential costs and logistics of changing the flag, as well as the need to gain consensus from all member states. Some member states have expressed their support for keeping the current design, citing its simplicity and recognizability. As ASEAN continues to evolve and expand, the question of whether to update the flag will remain a point of discussion in the years to come.

Proposed Changes to the Flag

Over the years, there have been discussions regarding changes to the ASEAN flag design. Some critics argue that the current design lacks originality and doesn’t fully embody the cultural diversity of the member states. Others believe that the current design is outdated and doesn’t represent the ASEAN community in a modern context.

One proposed change is to add another color to the flag. The current flag is composed of blue, red, white, and yellow stripes. Some have suggested adding green to the flag to represent nature and the environment. Another suggestion is to add an additional stripe to represent the region’s diverse cultural heritage.

Another proposal is to update the emblem on the flag. The current emblem consists of ten stalks of padi (rice) encircled by a ring of colors representing the member states. Some suggested updates include modernizing the emblem to represent the ASEAN’s progress in technology and innovation.

Alternatively, some suggest creating a new design altogether. This would allow for a fresh start and present an opportunity to create a design that better embodies the ASEAN community. However, this proposal has been met with criticism, as the current flag is already a symbol of unity and cooperation for the region.

Responses from Member States

The proposed changes have elicited mixed responses from the ASEAN member states. Some members believe that any change to the flag would be a disrespect to the flag’s history and the ASEAN’s accomplishments. They argue that changing the flag would undermine the current sense of unity and cooperation.

Other member states believe that updating the flag is necessary to represent ASEAN in a modern context and to better reflect the cultural diversity of the region. They believe that the redesign will make the flag more attractive and better represent ASEAN on an international stage.

The debate on the proposed changes to the ASEAN flag design is ongoing. Nonetheless, the ASEAN remains committed to promoting unity and cooperation among its member states, and the flag is a symbol of this commitment.

Responses from Member States

The responses from member states regarding proposed changes to the ASEAN flag have been mixed. Some countries have expressed support for the idea of updating the design, while others have opposed any changes.

Supportive Responses:

Philippines: Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has expressed openness to discussing changes to the flag, stating that “it’s the right time to look at [the flag design] again.”
Thailand: Thai Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has also stated that he is open to revisiting the flag design, citing the need to reflect the diversity of ASEAN member states through the flag.
Indonesia: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed his support for a new ASEAN flag design, calling for a more modern and dynamic representation of the region.

Oppositional Responses:

Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stated that he is against any changes to the current flag, citing the emblem’s historical significance.
Malaysia: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has also opposed changing the design, arguing that the current flag already represents ASEAN’s unity and diversity.
Cambodia: Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn has expressed his opposition to any proposed changes, stating that the current flag design carries “a strong message of regional unity.”

It is still unclear whether any changes will ultimately be made to the ASEAN flag, as member states have yet to reach a consensus on the matter. Nevertheless, the discussion surrounding the flag has sparked important conversations about the representation of regional unity and diversity within the ASEAN community.


In conclusion, the ASEAN Flag has been subject to various critiques and controversies. While the design and symbolism of the flag have been praised, some have criticized its limited member representation and simplistic design.

The similarity to other national flags has also been a point of contention, causing confusion and misunderstandings in international events. Meanwhile, controversies surrounding the flag, particularly the flag-burning incident and its use in protests, highlight the intensity of political tensions in ASEAN countries.

Despite these challenges, proposals for changes to the flag have been put forward, and member states have expressed their responses. The future of the ASEAN Flag remains uncertain, but it is clear that it plays an important role in representing the collective identity of ASEAN and its member countries.

Overall, the ASEAN Flag is a unique symbol that reflects the cultural and political diversity of the region. While it has faced its fair share of criticisms and controversies, it remains a potent emblem that unites ASEAN and its peoples. The ASEAN Flag may undergo changes in the future, but its significance as a symbol of regional unity and cooperation will undoubtedly endure.

Pros Cons
Design: Simple and elegant Limited Member Representation: Not all member countries are equally represented
Symbolism: Represents spirit of unity, cooperation, and friendship Simplistic Design: Some feel it lacks creativity and distinctiveness
Similarity to Other National Flags: Can cause confusion and misunderstandings
Controversies: Flag-burning incidents and use in protests highlight political tensions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ASEAN Flag?

The ASEAN Flag is the official flag of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Who designed the ASEAN Flag?

The ASEAN Flag was designed by a Filipino artist named Antonio Gonzales.

What does the ASEAN Flag symbolize?

The 10-pointed star symbolizes the organization’s ten member countries, while the blue represents peace and stability, and the red represents courage and dynamism.

Why are there only 10 points on the star in the ASEAN Flag?

There are only 10 points on the star in the ASEAN Flag because it represents the 10 member countries of ASEAN.

What is the criticism of the ASEAN Flag?

The main criticism of the ASEAN Flag is the lack of representation for some member states.

Why is the design of the ASEAN Flag considered simplistic?

The design of the ASEAN Flag is considered simplistic because it only consists of two colors, blue and red, and a 10-pointed star.

What is the similarity that the ASEAN Flag shares with other national flags?

The ASEAN Flag has a similarity to the national flags of East Timor and Mongolia, which also have a blue field with a red star symbol.

What is the controversy surrounding the ASEAN Flag burning incident?

The flag-burning incident involved a group of Cambodian protestors who burned the ASEAN Flag to show their dissatisfaction with ASEAN’s policies.

Why is the use of the ASEAN Flag in protests controversial?

The use of the ASEAN Flag in protests is controversial because it can be seen as disrespectful and can cause tension between member states.

What are the proposed changes to the ASEAN Flag?

There have been no proposed changes to the ASEAN Flag as of yet.


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