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 Events Summary 2019

A Public Forum - “Mekong on More Minds: The Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of Mainland Southeast Asia” 

The Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions are amongst the most dynamic in the world as well as centres of economic growth for decades. As a result, these regions continue to experience geopolitical and geostrategic shifts. These shifts present opportunities as well as challenges between powerful major powers and countries in mainland and maritime Southeast Asia. Japan initiated the so-called “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy (FOIP) in 2016 during Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) VI held in Kenya, since then many researchers, journalists and policymakers have discussed what the FOIP Strategy, and its broader concept exactly means and what FOIP Strategy could be clearly spelled out for the functional areas of cooperation between Japan and Southeast Asian countries nowadays. 

A “Dream Thailand” Public Forum – “Thailand/Southeast Asia Between the United States and China: Dilemmas, Options, Prospects” 

The ongoing geopolitical and geoeconomic rivalry and competition between the United States and China have adversely affected the regional order and balance among Southeast Asian states and governments and ASEAN as their regional cooperative vehicle. No Southeast Asian state appears inclined to choose one superpower over the other. All would rather hedge and leverage between the two superpower giants to cope and navigate their way forward. But as the US-China confrontation intensifies, these two superpowers may eventually compel the regional states to pick a side. How should Southeast Asia respond? More specifically, how should Thailand react in view of its treaty alliance with the US and intimate ties with China? Addressing both Southeast Asia as a whole and Thailand on its own in their interaction and response to superpower competition and conflict, this public forum brings together an established panel of experts and scholars to discuss salient issues and challenges as key developments in the US-China faceoff unfold in the months ahead. 

A "Dream Thailand" Public Forum - “Free and Open Indo-Pacific and ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific: Drivers, Dynamics and Prospects” 

As you know, the Indo-Pacific is fast-becoming the new geographic frame of reference for the geopolitical and geoeconomic dynamics in what was more commonly called the Asia-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific, sometimes formally known as the United States-driven Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), has elicited mixed reactions around the region. Cognizant of the FOIP’s powerful drivers and staying power, ASEAN has responded with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific as a way of reasserting and maintaining ASEAN’s central role and function in regional affairs, navigating the ongoing and intensifying tensions between the US and China. This forum will examine the underpinnings and motivations of FOIP and AOIP, with implications for broader dynamics, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative and other regional endeavors. The speakers at this forum are drawn from Chulalongkorn University’s scholarly and academic community. 

A Public Forum on – “Multilateralism No More? The Future of World Order from Europe to Asia” 

It is common knowledge that the rules-based liberal international order that was set up after the Second World War is now under growing stress and strain. What used to be accepted as rules and norms in the international system is increasing contested and contentious. Multilateral cooperation among states and governments is at a low point, whereas regional, bilateral and even unilateral behavior among states is more common now than we can remember. The world trading system, for example, is at severe risk, as multilateral negotiations have been ineffective. Global financial governance is similarly challenged. This public forum addresses these issues and challenges. It kicks off with a keynote speech from Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, who would then join a panel discussion with two former Thai foreign ministers, H.E. Dr Kantathi Suphamongkhon and H.E. Mr Kasit Piromya. Time will be allotted for audience participation. 

A "Dream Thailand" Public Forum - “Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand: Issues and Insights” – A Book Launch and Discussion” 

.” This is a book launch, followed by a discussion. Dominic Faulder’s authorized biography of Khun Anand is rich in detail and instructive in its portrayal of Thailand’s consummate diplomat and two-time prime minister whose tenure in diplomacy, private sector, and government coincided with Thailand’s nation-building decades from the 1950s to the 1990s. After Dominic Faulder’s brief comments, we will be joined by former Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya who will share his own experience from diplomacy and government in reaction to and reflection on the book. Khun Anand himself may offer comments during the discussion. The overall aim of this public forum is not just to talk about an earlier era of government and diplomacy but also to tease out key issues, insights, and lessons from the recent past for what Thailand has been encountering in its political life in the contemporary period. 

A Public Forum - “ASEAN and the New World Disorder: Thailand, seeking a new balance” 

Thailand's murky election on March 24 serves as a prelude to a broader power struggle among competing players and institutions that now must operate under a new reign.

A profound reckoning so far in the 21st century between Thailand's monarchy-centred hierarchy and a democratic order based on popular rule will require compromise and mutual accommodation among competing interests to remain peaceful and workable. While the Thai economy has held up on a subpar basis, lagging ASEAN peers such as Vietnam and Indonesia, modest growth prospects could head south unless Thailand can generate new momentum and move forward after 15 years of stop-start progress. 

ISIS Co-organized Public Forum on "China on Responsible Global Superpower?" 

Venue is Room 209, Faculty of Economic, Chulalongkorn University 

Summary The Mekong Region 2.0: GMS, LMC, MA/MRC/MI, CICPEC/BRI, ACMECS, ETC 

In view of recent developments among Mekong countries, including progress on the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative’s China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, this workshop has taken on an added significance and timeliness. Our countries all have a stake in the Mekong region, and New Zealand is a promoter of Mekong regional cooperation, including its founding of the Mekong Institute, which provides capacity training and human resource development to Mekong societies. 

A Public Forum - Thailand's ASEAN Chair: Challenges Ahead 

As is widely known, Thailand is ASEAN’s rotational chair for 2019. Thailand’s foreign policy team has geared up for this task for many months and is poised to carry out its duties in view of ASEAN’s myriad challenges from the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and the South China Sea to the regional navigation of the United States-China trade conflict. Global geopolitical tensions are on the rise, and ASEAN is in the thick of it. This public forum is intended to examine and explore Thailand’s challenges and opportunities as ASEAN Chair with a forward-looking view as how to best perform for the benefit of both ASEAN and its co-founder and birthplace. 

A Public Forum - Thirty and Hungry for Change: Meet the New Faces of Thai Politics 

Thailand’s looming election on 24 March has been highly participated, as the last completed poll took place in July 2011. This election will see more than seven million first-time voters among the 51-million electorate. Voices of the young and the new generation will count significantly, perhaps more than in previous polls. This seminar will feature three new politicians who are “young and hungry” for change in Thai politics and who are associated with Oxford Thai Foundation and LSE in Thailand. 

A Public Forum - An Uneasy Peace: China Power in A Divided World 

Amidst the ongoing global unravel and power shifts, underpinned by geopolitical tensions and issues such as the “trade war” between the United States and China, the rules-based liberal international order as we know it is under severe stress. It appears that, unless the international order is fundamentally readjusted and reformed, geopolitical tensions and geo-economics contestation are likely to deteriorate to the detriment of all concerned. Central to mitigating, resolving and finding ways forward is the US-China relationship. As US views are well known from the international media and other sources, this public forum takes opportunity from a visit to Bangkok by prominent Chinese think-tank and academic experts to provide Chinese perspectives on geopolitics and geo-economics. The Chinese experts are led by Tsinghua University’s Dr Yan Xuetong, who has been convening China’s premier World Peace Forum. Dr Yan has recently published a widely circulated article on China’s global outlook in Foreign Affairs, which forms the basis of our forum’s title ( 

(November 1, 2019) Thai chairmanship ends on upbeat note 

Just as Thailand's chairmanship of Asean is about to end and a flurry of Asean-related summits are about to transpire, this year has been more eventful for Southeast Asia's 10-member grouping than anticipated. Despite its domestic constraints, Thailand has managed to steer the sometimes unwieldy ship of Asean with limited propulsion and direction. If Vietnam as the next chair can build on momentum from this year, Asean might just be able to regain and reboot its role in the near term as the de facto bridge, broker and buffer for the wider Indo-Pacific region, notwithstanding its usual warts and flaws. 

(October 18, 2019) America at war within can't lead world 

The extraordinary country that once touted itself and was seen by many as the "leader of the free world" is no longer so great. America, the fabled "city upon a hill" and beacon of freedom and democracy for the world, is unwell from within, wracked by nasty divisions and visceral polarisation. 

(October 11, 2019) HK protests in a regional perspective 

When Hong Kong's protest movement against the Extradition Law Amendment Bill began on March 30, few could have anticipated that it would become a full-blown popular revolt. The protesters initially opposed the bill because it would allow the Hong Kong government to detain and extradite fugitives to mainland China. Despite the suspension and subsequent withdrawal of the bill by Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the protest movement has taken on a life of its own. As its end goals of universal suffrage, an independent inquiry into police conduct and Ms Lam's resignation harden, its endgame appears fraught with risks of intensifying confrontation and violence. 

(October 29, 2019) A sneak peek at the 35th Asean summit 

Next week, the sprawling IMPACT Muang Thong Thani complex will be temporarily transformed into an international arena for talks between the world's greatest movers-and-shakers. 

(October 22, 2019) Paradox belies Thailand-Malaysia ties 

This week marks one full year since Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad's much publicised visit to Thailand. During the landmark trip, he said that Malaysia under his leadership would do "whatever was possible" to achieve peace in southern Thailand. His comment gave a strong sense of deja vu to the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha that permanent peace and stability at the southern tip was close at hand. 

(October 15, 2019) Why Germany is seeking deeper ties with Asean 

With supersonic speed in terms of the decision and process, Germany will accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in around two weeks' time. If everything goes as planned on the German side, which requires cabinet endorsement, there will be a signing ceremony in Bangkok during the 35th Asean Summit from Oct 31-Nov 2. Bahrain will also join the ceremony. 
 Articles - Ms.GWEN ROBINSON

(May 29, 2019) Southeast Asia gains new leverage as China and US battle for influence 

BANGKOK -- There are two "friendship bridges" spanning the Tonle Sap river in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. One is labeled the Cambodia-Japanese friendship bridge; the other is the Cambodia-China friendship bridge. 

(May 29, 2019) A Chinese military base in Southeast Asia? Some say it's inevitable 

BANGKOK -- Big-power rivalry in the Asia-Pacific region has shifted the focus from military firepower toward competition over infrastructure and investment, spurred by China's Belt and Road scheme and the U.S. and Japan-led Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. Yet traditional security concerns are more vital than ever, in some cases determining the rollout of megaprojects and military activity.