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Surin Pitsuwan and ASEAN: A Tribute

Date :  24/07/2018 - 24/07/2018
As you know, Dr Surin was a Thai Foreign Minister and statesman and later an ASEAN Secretary-General who put Southeast Asia’s regional organisation on the maps and in the minds of many in capitals around the world. Apart from being ASEAN’s tireless and charismatic spokesman, Dr Surin used his leadership skills and diplomatic acumen to come up with solutions and answers to many of Southeast Asia’s problems and challenges. His unfortunate and untimely passing on 30th November 2017 deprives the region of its most ardent and inspirational thinker, practitioner, spokesman, and leader. Accordingly, it is fitting that we remember Dr Surin for his many achievements and lasting results in favour and on behalf of ASEAN. 
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  Articles View All>> 
 Event Summary 2018
 

Public Lecture: DEMOCRACY’S DISCONTENTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA 

Southeast Asia is well known for its diverse regime types, ranging from absolute monarchy in Brunei and military government in Thailand to communist-party rule in Laos and Vietnams, with varying shades of democracy and dictatorship in between. Some of these regimes hold regular elections but harbor authoritarian values and practices rather than democratic characteristics and behavior. Twenty years ago, prospects for democracy in Southeast Asia seemed bright as democratization made inroads in the region. But recent trends have witnessed a regression and retreat of democracy. This public lecture and ensuing discussion will aim to tease out and dissect the causes and consequences of Southeast Asia’s discontents with democracy. Dr Mark Thompson is a longtime and well-known expert on the subject, and he will share his research findings and insights with us. 
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Public Forum: The Military in Thai Politics: Trends and Prospects (A Book Launch and Panel Discussion) 

Evidently, Thailand has had a military government since its latest coup in May 2014. The last time this happened was in 2006-07 following a similar putsch, but the military government at that time stayed in office for just 15 months, and left on time. Prior to 2006, Thailand had a military government for 13 months in 1991-92. Thus, over the past four decades, the current military government has been in power the longest. It also has further plans for Thai politics and appears intent to exert longer-term influence in the country. In this context, Dr Greg Raymond’s just-published Thai Military Power: A Culture of Strategic Accommodation is utterly timely, explaining the evolution and dynamics of the military’s role in Thai politics. We will launch Dr Raymond’s fine book at this public forum, starting with the author’s presentation of his research and findings, followed by a panel discussion as per the attached flyer. 
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Public Forum: CHINA’ S WAY: BRI, AIIB, NDB, SCS, LMC, ETC 

Amidst global power shift, China now looms large on the global stage. Its Belt and Road Initiative, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and New Development Bank have the potential to redraw the global economic landscape. China's role in Southeast Asia from the South China Sea to the Mekong Region - the latter within the framework of China-supported Lancang Mekong Cooperation - also may reshape regional dynamics, while China's bilateral relationships with most Southeast Asian countries have been strengthened while ASEAN's role, unity and centrality have become more problematic. As the smaller regional states grapple with ongoing changes on the ground and in the sea, other major powers beside China are on the move in their own different ways. Southeast Asia is a region clearly in flux, a consequential nexus and arena for contest and cooperation. What happens in Southeast Asia will be portentous for what will happen on the broader global canvass. This public forum brings together top experts on the subject of China's rise, dynamism, and strategic aims and intentions. We will start with Mr Jim Stent’s presentation based on his new book, China’s Banking Transformation: The Untold Story, as a way of launching into a more encompassing discussion on China, Southeast Asia, and broader geoeconomics and geopolitics. 
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Public Forum: Myanmar's Rohingya/Rakhine Crisis: Domestic Roots and International Dynamics 

As we are aware, Myanmar's promising reforms from 2011 culminated with elections four years later and a power-sharing agreement between generals and civilians, the latter led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Economic development has risen markedly, albeit from a low base, but fatigue and disillusion have beset democratization under high expectations. Due to the Suu Kyi-led government’s own fault and to intractable ethnic unrest, Myanmar has become a single-issue country revolving around the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in westernmost Rakhine state. Myanmar’s economy is poised to enjoy a prolonged expansion as more capital and labor are deployed on fertile land but the country's democratic politics will be messy and unsatisfactory, leaving its erstwhile supporters in the international community feeling jilted. Against this backdrop, our public forum on this occasion will examine the trends and dynamics of Myanmar's Rohingya/Rakhine crisis. 
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 Articles

Hun Sen is tempting fate in Cambodia's election - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Fair is foul and foul is fair in Cambodia ahead of its fifth general election since a United Nations-brokered peace agreement and a poll in 1993. 
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Maintaining what's left of rules-based order - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

For anyone who is alive today, the world as we know it has never been so stirred and shaken. The international order based on a common set of institutions, rules and norms that used to be widely cherished and universally beneficial is unravelling before our collective and helpless eyes. From an emerging United States-China trade war and Beijing's militarised occupation of the South China Sea to Russia's revanchist annexation of Crimea, world order over the past several years has been breaking down. Those who once set the rules, principally the US, are breaking them, while aspiring new rule-setters, mainly China, have not found sufficient international reception. Rule-takers, such as the smaller states in Asean, suffer the most when set rules lose cohesion, lustre and abidance. 
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South Korea is wooing Asean and India - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

For the first time since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, South Korea, under the helm of President Moon Jae-in, has effectively been embedded in the regional scheme of things --political/security, economic and social/cultural. The country's previous four presidents -- Kim Dae-jung, Roh Moo-hyun, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye -- tried to do the same but sadly they repeatedly failed. Every time these leaders wanted to focus on Southeast Asia and South Asia, something happened in the Northeast, the Korean Peninsula in particular, that immediately distracted them. They became mesmerised and forgot the region. There was no consistency whatsoever. 
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What the rescue of the trapped boys means - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Global news cycles over the past two weeks have been saturated by Thailand's gripping story of 12 boys from a local youth football team and their 25-year-old coach trapped in a labyrinthine and partially submerged cave complex in the Chiang Rai hills in the north of the country. Even after their successful rescue, the story continues. 
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Thailand’s role in Indo-Pacific strategy - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Although much has been said about Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy after US President Donald Trump put forward the broad and vague concept last November, nobody is really clear what it really means and its implications. Eight months have now elapsed. Some key features have emerged through speeches and comments by senior officials including US Defence Secretary Gen James Mattis in Singapore and Matthew Pottinger, Senior Director of Asian Department, National Security Council, in Yangon and Bangkok. 
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Pyongyang’s threats remain in South Korea - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

In summertime, Gangnam district of the South Korean capital is the place to go to observe the country’s dynamism and vibrancy. It is colourful and full of youthful energy. However, when you start casual conversations with youngsters here, immediately a different mood prevails. 
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Singapore a lesson for subpar countries - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

It would seem a cliché to say Singapore has figured it out. But it has, more or less, especially when compared to its subpar neighbours. 
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Random thoughts from Trump's nation - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Iknow Bruce Lee. Aargh...aargh...aargh…!," screamed a black driver in front of me at the intersection near the Marriott Hotel in Rockville, Maryland. 
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Trump-Kim meet a gift for Southeast Asia - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

All the hullabaloo surrounding the historic Trump-Kim summit in Singapore must be discarded if one wants to seriously assess the overall ripple effects, in particular, the four-point statement. For the region, at least for now, the tight knot of a nuclear war has been untied. After all, President Donald Trump gave his personal assurance of this after he returned to the United States from his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. That is good for Southeast Asia as a whole. If there is a war, the region's progress would be badly undermined as much as, if not more, than those of the two protagonists. The US provides a marketplace and the Korean Peninsula remains the last stronghold of long-awaited peace and stability. 
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The Trump-Kim summit and its aftermath - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

The unprecedented and dramatic summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, the current leaders of the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (otherwise known as North Korea), will go down in history as another case of "better the devil you know than the devil you don't". Since the Korean War stopped without a permanent truce in 1953, the world has become accustomed to the North Korean regime as a menace to regional peace and stability with ominous global ramifications because of its nuclear weapons. 
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