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 Event Summary 2018

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. 

Elections, corruption and Thai democracy - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

People at home and abroad are calling for elections in Thailand on the premise of returning democracy to a country that has been under nearly four years of military government. 

Singapore's Asean tests: twists and turns - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Judging from the well-crafted statement on the Asean foreign ministers' retreat in the Lion City last week, Singapore as the current chair of the regional grouping has its work cut out for it. 

Cobra Gold 2018: No more cheap talk, just action - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

The Cobra Gold multilateral military exercise is a barometer of how strong the Thai-US security commitment is despite several hiccups in recent years. Thailand's strategic role and value cannot be underestimated, especially at this pivotal juncture with the fluid security landscape of the region. After nearly a decade of inertia, the Thai and US administrations are gradually fine-tuning their wave-lengths and meeting mutual security needs. 

Locating Thailand in the Indo-Pacific region - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Bluntly put, there are two reasons that propel Thailand to the front of the Asean queue in endorsing the US-led Indo-Pacific region concept. First of all, Thailand does not want the Indo-Pacific to concentrate on consultations between the US, India, Japan and Australia grouping -- known as the Quadrilateral or Quad. 

Trump can do more for Asean allies - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

When President Donald Trump decided to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS) last November, the Asean chair, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, was elated. However, roughly 56 hours after his arrival and after his participation in a series of meetings in Manila, the chair shuddered as the No.1 guest decided to leave early without attending the grouping's most exclusive leaders-only strategic forum, the 12th EAS. 

Mekong countries eye bold new future - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

When lead characters in a Chinese kung fu movie drink wine from the same cup, they are considered sworn brothers. They will fight and die together. Will all six riparian countries of the Lancang, or Mekong (Lan-Mei), share the same spirit of camaraderie as they all live on this magnificent river? There may be ominous signs during the Second Summit of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) on Jan 10-11 in Phnom Penh. 

Is Thailand's civil society waking up again? - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

It is hard to believe how the military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha that appeared so strong not so long ago now looks shaky enough to be untenable. 

Thailand's twin tests in the new yaer - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

It is a year of transitions - the Thais have a new king and pressure is growing for the military government to hold elections. But more than just polls are needed for Thai democracy to work well. 

A year of living dangerously in Thailand - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

They were supposed to be in power for the royal transition but they have stayed too long and now want to win an unavoidable election. 

Making Thai passports more powerful - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

For a country that welcomed more than 33 million visitors from well over 150 countries last year, it is shocking to find out that Thai passport holders can go to just 73 countries without visas. That is pathetic and unacceptable and well below Singapore and Malaysia whose citizens can visit 176 and 166 countries visa-free respectively. 

Authoritarianism is accelerating in Southeast Asia - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

The China model is winning, at the expense of liberal values

The year 2018 will mark the start of a period in which outright authoritarianism and illiberal quasi-democracy are likely to be Southeast Asia's prevailing norms. With few exceptions, liberal values and fundamental freedoms and rights will be manipulated and curtailed, even where elections continue to take place. Where authoritarianism holds sway, rights and freedoms will be suppressed altogether. 

Lessons from Thai votes on Jerusalem - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Thailand made a historic decision on 21 Dec to join 127 other United Nations member states in rejecting the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In the past, when push came to shove in a major diplomatic decision, Bangkok would normally duck the issue by practising "fence-sitting" to protect its perceived national interests. 

N Korea: An enemy at Asean's gate? - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Southeast Asia is no longer immune from North Korean nuclear destructive force. As tensions heighten by the day, the US, Japan, South Korea and China, in their thoughtful ways, are bringing the looming nuclear threat to the eardrums of all Asean leaders. A frequently asked question: Are they serious? 

Thailand wise to act as EU-Asean conduit - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

The first paragraph of the Council of the European Union conclusion on Thailand, released last Monday after the EU foreign ministerial meeting, provided an insight into the state of EU-Thai relations. It says: 

The tragedy of Thailand's Surin Pitsuwan - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Much has been and more will be said of Dr Surin Pitsuwan's sudden and unexpected passing due to heart failure on Nov 30, at age 68, just when he appeared to be going from strength to strength after his stint in 2008-12 as Asean secretary-general. Many will also say that among the 13 heads of Asean in its 50-year history, Surin was the most effective and formidable. Indeed, he managed to speak for and champion Asean's causes and roles in Asia and the wider world even long after he left the job. No secretary-general of Asean is likely to come anywhere near the level of his eloquence, charm and charisma, the presence and confidence that his tall frame and good looks yielded. But Asean was second best for Surin. He was better than what he ended up with, unable to find professional landings commensurate with what he could bring to the job. 

Myanmar's media development has stalled - Kavi Chongkitavorn 

The atmosphere surrounding the development of liberal media in Myanmar, which began in earnest and has been carefully nurtured since 2012, is in a serious state of amnesia. This sentiment is widely felt and shared throughout the media community in the country. 

Surin was Asean’s de facto foreign minister - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

It was the spring of 2007. The application deadline was quickly approaching for a qualified Thai candidate to serve as the 12th Asean secretary-general. 

Tensions will mount as regime holds on - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

After the most recent cabinet reshuffle produced the fifth line-up of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's government, it is clear the military intends to stay in power for the long term in one form or another. The reshuffle provided a more civilian look but let there be no doubt that Thailand still has a military government, led by generals who seized power more than three and a half years ago. As the top brass perpetuates its rule and puts off the election as long as they can, political tensions will mount as civilian-led forces agitate for a share of power and a return to popular rule. 

Myanmar goes ringside at China-India bout - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

China will go all out to help Myanmar in time of crisis. India will also help Myanmar, but it does not go all out," was the light-hearted comment made by a seasoned Asean diplomat based in Yangon recently. 

Singapore's Asean chair: think new and big - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) took oiver chairmanship from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the 31st Asean Summit in Manila last week. 

Regional order in East Asia after summits - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Four Asean leaders assume the traditional cross-handed 'unity' photo op following the 31st Asean summit in Manila on Tuesday. From left, From left, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesia President Joko Widodo, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. 

Duterte ends his colourful Asean lead role - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Rodrigo 'The Punisher' Duterte's term as Asean chairman effectively ends today, a year marked by tough talk but flexibility. 

Donald Trump must learn virtues of EAS - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

US President Donald Trump arrives in Beijing, China yesterday. Mr Trump's decision to attend the East Asia Summit could help firm up his ties with Asean. REUTERS 

Thailand needs to arrive in 21st century - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha takes part in the royal cremation ceremony for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Oct 26. The military-monarchy symbiotic relationship arose from Cold War conditions and circumstances. 
 Event Summary 2016

Migration, Terrorism and Democracy: Lessons and Challenges Across Asia and Africa 

Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS) Public Forum
“Migration, Terrorism and Democracy: Lessons and Challenges Across Asia and Africa”
Tuesday, 31st January 2017 at 9.00 – 11.00a.m. 

President Donald J. Trump: Meanings and Consequences for Southeast Asia and Thailand 

A “Dream Thailand” Public Forum Series
“President Donald J. Trump: Meanings and Consequences for Southeast Asia and Thailand”
Friday, 3rd February 2017