By Dato Sieh Kok Chi

In less than a month, the 30th edition of the SEA Games will be held in the Philippines. 2019 is also the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the SEA Games, then known as the SEAP Games in 1959.

It is therefore opportune to review some of the achievements of SEA Games, over the last 60 years.


1958 – Inaugural meeting of the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games Federation was initiated by Thailand and was held on 22nd May 1958 in Tokyo, during the Tokyo Asian Games. The countries which attended the meeting were Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand and Vietnam.

1959 – The first Council Meeting of the Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games Federation, was held in Bangkok on 25th and 26th June 1959, with the 6 founder members. The Constitution of the SEAP Games Federation was approved. Council decided to invite Singapore to be a member of SEA Games Federation. At the same time, members of the 1st Executive Committee of the SEP Games Federation were elected as follows:

• First President of the Federation – General Prabhas Charusatiara of Thailand

• Vice President of the Federation – Luang Nayapradit of Thailand

• Honorary Secretary of the Federation – Dr Kalya Israsena of Thailand

• Other pioneer members of the committee included Ms U Paing of Burma, His Highness Sisowath Essaro of Cambodia, Mr Nakkhla Souvannong of Laos, Mr Thong Poh Nyen of Malaysia and Mr Nguyen Phuoc Vong of Vietnam

1959 – The 1st SEAP Games was held in Bangkok from 12th to 17th December 1959 with 6 countries.

1961 – The 2nd SEAP Games was held in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar) from 11th to 16th December 1961 with 7 countries.

1963 – The 3rd SEAP Games which was to be hosted by Cambodia had to be postponed.

1965 – The postponed 3rd SEAP Games was held in Kuala Lumpur, from 14th to 21st September 1965, with 7 countries.

1975 – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam did not participate in the 8th SEAP Games, held in Bangkok, leaving only 4 countries.

1977 – SEAP Games Federation decided to expand its membership to include Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Philippine, making a total of 10 members and changing its name to Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Federation. The 9th SEA Games was held in Kuala Lumpur, from 19th to 26th December 1977, with 7 member countries.

1989 – Laos and Vietnam participated in the 15th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, after a lapse of 16 years. Cambodia did not participate as its NOC was no longer recognised by the IOC.

1995 – Cambodia NOC received IOC recognition on 1st January 1995 and returned to the SEA Games Federation by participating in the 18th SEA Games in Chiangmai.

1999 – Brunei Darussalam hosted the 20th SEA Games for the first time from 07-15 August 1999 with 10 countries.

2003 – Timor Leste received IOC recognition on 1st January 2003 and was admitted as a member of the Federation and participated in the 23rd SEA Games, which was hosted by Vietnam for the first time, from 05-13 December 2003, with 11 countries.

2009 – Laos hosted the 25th SEA Games in Vientiene for the first time, from 09-18 December 2009, with 11 countries.

2013 – Myanmar hosted the 27th SEA Games after 44 years.

2019 – Philippines hosts the 30th SEA Games from 30th November to 11th December 2019..

The two most important milestones are as follows:

• The establishment of the SEA Games Federation on 25th and 26th June 1959 and the approval of its very fair and good Charter.

• The expansion of the SEAP Games to the SEA Games by the inclusion of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Philippines in 1977 and the inclusion of Timor Leste in 2003.


• The SEA Games Federation is one of the most, if not the most, democratic Games Federation in the world, where every member NOC is equal and autonomous.

• The Federation does not have a permanent headquarters, thus saving the Federation any unnecessary expenses

• Hosting of the SEA Games is by rotation. Hence there is no bidding to host the Games and no wastage of funds in the bidding process.

• There are no elections of office bearers of the Federation. Hence there is no politiking, campaigning and lobbying for positions.

• The Host NOC of the SEA Games becomes the Headquarters of the Federation, with its President and Secretary General assuming the positions of President and Secretary General of the Federation for 2 years.

• Every member NOC of the Federation therefore has the opportunity to hold office in the Federation, thus sharing its culture, ethics, and providing diversity to the SEA Games.

• The Host NOC of the SEA Games assigns the organisation of the SEA Games as well as the rights of the Games to its government.

• The Organizing Committee of the SEA Games does not have to pay any sanction fee to the Federation or any financial assistance to the participating NOCs.

• The respective governments of the member NOCs of the Federation have full trust, respect and confidence on the Federation and provide 100% of the funding to host the Games where their turns are due.

• The capital cost such as the construction and upgrading of new and existing sports facilities, purchase of sports equipments, security, traffic control, TV broadcast, etc., are totally funded by government.

• No funds of the Organizing Committee pass through the Federation and thus there is no question of the Federation taking advantage of the Organizing Committee.

Based on the above principles and special features, the SEA Games has, over the past 60 years, grown from strength to strength. Except for 1963, the SEA Games has been held without interruptions. In fact the hosts for the next two Games, in 2021 (Vietnam) and 2023 (Cambodia) , have been confirmed.


• Improvements in standards of the athletes and sports in the SEA Games region.

• The hosting of the SEA Games provides the opportunity and the reason for governments of the host country to construct international standard sports facilities. Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam. constructed new sports complexes when the SEA Games were hosted in the above countries. Philippines, the host of the 30th SEA Games has constructed a new Sports City in Clark City. Cambodia, which is hosting the 2023 SEA Games is in the process of constructing new sports facilities and upgrading their existing sports facilities.

• Produced efficient and experienced sports managers and administrators

• Provided opportunities for Technical Officials in the region to gain more experience and knowledge to be promoted to the ranks of International Technical Officials.

• Increased the knowledge and competence of the member NOCs in the organization of multi-sports Games. The member NOCs of the SEA Games Federation have organized many international and continental Games such as Asian Games (Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines), Commonwealth Games (Malaysia), Youth Olympic Games (Singapore), Asian Indoor Games and Asian Beach Games (Vietnam).

• Spurred the establishment of government funded institutes of sports science to aid in the training and preparation of coaches and athletes.

• Promoting and encouraging sports tourism as part of the SEA Games

• Strengthening friendship and understanding amongst the youth of the Region.

• Promoting and development the sports equipment industry in SEA Region.