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 Events Summary 2019

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 ( 

(February 13, 2019) Why Hanoi won Trump-Kim summit - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Bangkok, Hanoi and Hawaii were three of the possible venues mentioned when the US and North Korea agreed to have a second summit. However, when the final decision was made just days ahead of the announcement by President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address, Hanoi stood alone as the site for the second summit between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Feb 27-28. 

(February 11, 2019) Royal command sets a new balance - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Thailand's political earthquake last Friday has caught observers at home and abroad off guard. Within half a day, Thai politics went through an unprecedented political roller coaster. It all ended with a press release from the royal palace at night, effectively reversing what had taken place in the morning. 

(February 8, 2019) Gen Prayut's uncommon dictatorship - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

When confronted with the contention that Thailand's upcoming election is rigged and manipulated, the insiders and advisers of the Thai government will say otherwise. They argue that this poll is no more rigged than its predecessors and the incumbents and power holders of the day will naturally and understandably arrange for constitutional laws and election rules to be written to suit their interests and boost their poll chances. Some of this rationalisation is true, but most of it is self-interested hogwash. 

(February 5, 2019) Beyond US-China spat: Asean's options - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Despite all the pleasantries in Washington, DC surrounding the latest US-China trade talks over the past week, the rivalry between the world's two largest economies will not subside anytime soon. For years, US-China relations have been on top of the agenda in most of the countries in the Southeast Asian region, but never before have those ties stooped to the present level of animosity. 

(January 29, 2019) Elevating the TAC as a global code of conduct - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

A reference of Asean's most well-known regional code of conduct, known as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), in the Chiang Mai retreat's statement, deserves recognition. It was intriguing, coming at this juncture, as to why it deserved a distinctive paragraph with 90 words. Indeed, the TAC has been the life and soul of Asean since its founding in 1967. 

(January 25, 2019) Election Commission must assert itself - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Thailand is supposed to have an independent Election Commission (EC) that oversees all electoral contests from local polls to national referendums. But as Thailand heads towards a general election on March 24, the seven-member EC has appeared less than eager and enthusiastic and too beholden to government preferences in staging what will be Thailand's first election in nearly nine years. 

(January 22, 2019) Asean must make EU a strategic partner - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Asean can be vicious, as relations with the European Union demonstrate. At the Chiang Mai retreat last week, the official status of the EU as a new strategic dialogue partner was one of the prominent issues taken up by Asean foreign ministers. The press statement issued by the chair simply said that the EU's status, which Asean has agreed in principle, is still subject "to further details and time to be worked out". In a nutshell, it is still in limbo. 

(January 15, 2019) ASEAN can ease US-China tensions - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

After proving its durability for more than five decades, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is fraying and is at risk of marginalization and irrelevance. 

(January 15, 2019) The significance of Asean's retreats - Kavi Chongkittavorn 

Asean's foreign ministers will meet for the first time under Thailand's chairmanship in Chiang Mai on Thursday and Friday. 

(January 11, 2019) Thailand's year of hunting normality - Thitinan Pongsudhirak 

Three related events that will shape Thailand's path this year and beyond are evidently the coronation of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, the much-anticipated election, and the once-a-decade rotational chairmanship of Asean.