Archive for category ASEAN

The fiction of a unified, harmonised Asean

David Pilling
Financial Times
December 9, 2015

The bloc favours consensus. Its lack of overarching ambition is a strength as well as its weakness

If you think European nations are having a hard time holding it together — strained by disputes over immigration, austerity and debt — spare a thought for the 10 countries that form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

True, compared with Europe, they face few fatally divisive problems. Most of Southeast Asia is contending with the impact of a slowing China and braced for the turbulence that could accompany the steady normalisation of US monetary policy. Yet there are no big financial transfers within Asean, a loose federation akin to the EU of the 1950s. No country is threatening to leave, nor are there fundamental differences over the direction of policy.

Still, as Asean prepares for an important milestone this month — the creation of a theoretically single market — it is worth reflecting on the incredible diversity of the “new bloc on the block”. Read the rest of this entry »

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ASEAN summit tarnished by Malaysian corruption scandal involving PM

Thomas Maresca
Special for USA TODAY
November 22, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — As the summit of Southeast Asian nations ended here Sunday, much of the focus was not on the leaders’ discussions with President Obama but on a corruption scandal dogging the summit’s host and his government’s crackdown on civil liberties.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who told Obama that he is “committed to reforms,” stands accused of shifting nearly $700 million from a government-owned development fund into private bank accounts.

The fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), is under investigation in Malaysia, the United States, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Switzerland. Opposition leaders in parliament filed a formal no-confidence vote against him in October. Read the rest of this entry »

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Celebrating democracy

Economist
Nov 14th 2015

– Politics in Myanmar YANGON

THE excitement was palpable. In the pre-dawn dark of November 8th, 30 minutes before voting in Myanmar’s general election began, the queue at a polling station in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, stretched for several blocks. In midmorning a line of voters trailing through a monastery’s leafy grounds suddenly shifted to allow a frail elderly woman, carried up a flight of stairs by two young men, to cast her ballot. Through blazing midday sun and afternoon rainstorms, Myanmar’s citizens turned out to vote in their country’s first competitive general election since 1990—most of them, it appeared, to deliver a blow to the army, which has controlled the country for half a century.

Full results are not yet in, but as The Economist went to press, the National League for Democracy (NLD), an opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a longtime democracy activist, had won 291 parliamentary seats, compared with just 33 taken by the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and 35 by assorted ethnic parties and independent candidates. Miss Suu Kyi believes the NLD is on track to win at least 75% of the seats contested—enough to give it a majority, despite the constitution’s provision that one-quarter of the seats must be reserved for the army. Read the rest of this entry »

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Addressing the transboundary haze problem: Open letter to the Indonesian ambassador

— Lim Guan Eng
Malay Mail Online
October 27, 2015

OCTOBER 27 — Your Excellency Ambassador Herman Prayitno,

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing transboundary haze pollution which has adversely affected the wellbeing and livelihood of millions of people in the region, including Malaysians and Indonesians. We would like to express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with our fellow Indonesians who are suffering much more, living so much closer to the forest fires hotspots.

In Malaysia, as air quality deteriorates, schools are frequently closed and consequently half a million of students are affected. The negative impact on our economy resulting from cancelled outdoor events, falling tourists arrival and overall declining productivity — although difficult to accurately assess at the current moment — are huge and irreversible. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will the next two months be as disastrous for Malaysia as the past two month?

Will the next two months be as disastrous for Malaysia as the past two months?

Before the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched an offensive against his enemies inside and outside of UMNO two months ago, Malaysians were already quite punch-drunk with a myriad of scandals of high-level political corruption which included the two mega-scandals of 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal banking accounts, the blocking of the whistleblower website Sarawak Report, a notice to Interpol for the arrest of editor of Sarawak Report, Claire Rewcastle Brown, the three-month suspension of the Edge publications, and a slew of police actions under Section 124 of Penal Code against purported international plotters to “topple” Najib as Prime Minister.

On 28th July, Najib launched a multi-pronged offensives which included:

• abrupt sacking of his Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister for Regional Development, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal for continuing to raise questions about the 1MDB scandal which Muhyiddin in his last speech as DPM to the Cheras UMNO Division said had ballooned from a RM42 billion to “over RM50 billion” scandal;

• the sacking of Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail, with a charge sheet appearing subsequently giving support to the speculation that Gani was preparing to prosecute Najib for corruption over the 1MDB scandal when his action was pre-empted by Najib’s summary dismissal in the nick-of-time; and

• sabotage of Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigations into the 1MDB scandal by the elevation of the Chairman and three committee members as Minister and deputy ministers, causing PAC investigations into 1MDB scandal to grind to a halt for more than three months until the four vacancies are filled in the October meeting of Parliament.

Read the rest of this entry »

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2015, year that never was for Malaysia

– Rizal Rozhan
The Malaysian Insider
21 August 2015

To be honest, as a student of international relations, and a fan of international affairs, 2015 was supposed to be a benchmark year for Malaysia. A year to prove that Malaysia can strut her stuff in the global plane.

Once more, like 2014 (we were anticipating Visit Malaysia year to boost our tourism, yet we were marred with a series of unfortunate events), this year is turning out to be a disaster as well.

Even worse than 2014.

Because this time, the problems which beset Malaysia are not those caused externally. This time, we brought ourselves to the chopping board. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia should convene emergency meeting of Environment Ministers of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia for urgent common ASEAN action to deal with haze emergency choking three nations

Malaysia should convene an emergency meeting of the Environment Ministers of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia for urgent common ASEAN action to deal with the haze emergency choking the three nations.

The haze condition in Johore state in general and in Johor Baru in particular continues to be in hazardous condition with the air pollutant index (API) readings in Kota Tinggi and Pasir Gudang reaching 314 and 323 at 11 am respectively.

Malaysians can still remember they were told that the government would declare a state of emergency once the API reached 301, but there seems to be a singular lack of seriousness whether by the National Disaster Relief Management Committee or the Ministry of Environment with the current haze emergency although hundreds of schools in Johore have been closed in the past few days because of the haze emergency.

Who should be the Malaysian “czar” in the war against haze in the current environmental disaster – the new Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of the National Disaster Relief Management Committee or the Environment Minister? Is it Datuk Shahidan Kassim or Datuk Seri G. Palanivel? Read the rest of this entry »

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Southeast Asia: What to Expect in 2012

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Council on Foreign Relations, US
January 3, 2012

The year 2011 saw some of the biggest political developments in Southeast Asia in decades. Burma finally seemed poised for real change, while Thailand continued to move closer to the brink of self-immolation, as political in-fighting worsened. The United States, China, and ASEAN nations continued to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, to a point where, now, it seems unlikely anyone can back off their claims and truly sit down at the table to negotiate some kind of agreement. Singapore had its most competitive election in generations, while in Malaysia massive street protests clearly have rattled the government. Even smaller states faced political turmoil: Papua New Guinea went for weeks with two prime ministers and the potential for civil strife, before the situation was resolved.

What, then, should we expect for an encore? Here are several trends to watch: Read the rest of this entry »

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Asia must safeguard its growth by protecting its people

By Noeleen Heyzer | November 18, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

NOV 18 — While European and North American leaders struggle to regain fiscal credibility by cutting back social entitlements, those of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in Bali this week at a historic turning point, an economic coming of age for their region, which may require them to move in the opposite direction.

Asia remains by far the most dynamic region in the world and the locomotive of global growth. Its growth rate is one and a half times that of any other region. But this growth has been accompanied by growing inequalities, and remains fragile.

The region’s recovery has come under pressure in recent months from multiple crises — increases in food and energy prices, the continuing global financial crisis, and severe disruptions in Japan and six ASEAN countries caused by adverse climate conditions and natural disasters. Because of these multiple shocks 42 million additional people will fall into poverty by the end of 2011, according to estimates by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
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Malaysia and ASEAN should support Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for a second multi-ethnic Panglong Conference to create a federal democracy in Burma to foster democratization and national reconciliation

Malaysia should play a leading active role in ASEAN to promote peace, democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar as Malaysia, under the then Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, was responsible for Myanmar’s entry into ASEAN in 1997 despite ASEAN reservations and international criticisms on the ground that a policy of “constructive engagement” approach would pave the way for democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar and security and stability in the region.

Thirteen years have elapsed but none of these objectives had been achieved.

Nine days ago, on 13th November, 2010, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was released after spending 15 of 21 years in detention under the Myanmese military junta, a release which was long overdue as the series of incarceration against the Nobel Peace Prize Laureatte should not have occurred in the first place.

With over 2,200 political prisoners still in detention in Burma, is Suu Kyi’s release a sign that the Myanmese military junta is ready seriously to address the challenges of democratization and national reconciliation in Burma?
Read the rest of this entry »

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ASEAN must strengthen UN efforts to bring about peace and justice in Burma/Myanmar

For the AIPMC, the election in Burma/Myanmar was already a foregone conclusion.
We did not consider them an election at all. In fact, we named them a non-election for the country’s people.

Our conclusion was based on careful scrutiny of the facts on the ground, including a strictly controlled constitution-drafting process, a rigged referendum in the midst of the disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis, the use of the election laws and other laws to exclude the opposition, the widespread intimidation of political candidates and the exclusion of significant sections of the electorate from the electoral process.

Today, we are horrified that our worst fears are turning into reality. The counting process of the votes has not been transparent, and complaints about advance voting fraud and other irregularities are growing stronger. Burma/Myanmar’s Union Election Commission now needs to heed the call of the country’s citizens and political parties to ensure a transparent counting process, investigate all claims and refuse to certify any results until these investigations are complete.

ASEAN has welcomed the elections in Burma/Myanmar as a significant step forward in the implementation of the regime’s seven-step road map. The AIPMC does not share this assessment. These elections were a fake. They are not going to bring about a government by the people, with the people and for the people, a government that will wholeheartedly seek the sustainable development of Burma/Myanmar and its people.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Fraud, voter intimidation mar Burma vote

By South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel, wires
ABC/Reuters

Updated 2 hours 34 minutes ago

Allegations of fraud and voter intimidation are overshadowing Burma’s first election in 20 years.

The allegations are not unexpected. Burma’s military leaders may have resigned to become civilians ahead of the poll but the lead up to the election has been rife with manipulation to make sure the junta’s party wins.

Election laws have banned the key opposition, ruled out some ethnic groups and quarantined a quarter of the parliament for the military.

Now there are allegations that voters have been threatened with job losses or even loss of citizenship if they do not vote for the ruling party. Read the rest of this entry »

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Support a UN Commission of Inquiry into international crimes in Myanmar not next weekend’s general election

OPEN LETTER TO ASEAN LEADERS

Your Excellencies,

The 17th ASEAN Summit has concluded, and, as elected representatives of the peoples of ASEAN, we are disappointed by its outcome and by your passivity in the face of this weekend’s election in Myanmar.

The election is about to be conducted under a new constitution, enacted in 2008, which was drafted by an assembly whose members were handpicked by the country’s current ruling military regime and conducted without open and inclusive input from the people of Myanmar. The constitution is designed to assure the continued dominance of the military regime under the guise of a democratically elected civilian government, notably reserving one-quarter of seats in parliament for the military.

Additionally, five electoral laws and four decrees promulgated earlier this year violate democratic principles by restricting current political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other key leaders of the country’s democracy and ethnic movement, from participating in the polls.

In light of this, Myanmar’s general election can in no way be acknowledged as conforming to internationally accepted standards of freedom and fairness. They are a farce and a non-election for the country’s people. Your hopes that Myanmar will open up the process and create conditions conducive to free and fair elections less than a week before they are due to take place are therefore misguided. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hanoi ASEAN Summit should take a strong stand to demand free, fair and inclusive elections in Myanmar allowing participation by Aung San Suu Kyi or ASEAN should withhold recognition of legitimacy for election result

The 16th ASEAN Summit currently being held in Hanoi should take a strong stand to demand free, fair and inclusive elections in Myanmar allowing participation by Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi or ASEAN should withhold recognition of legitimacy for the Myanmese election result.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in Hanoi yesterday that all countries, including Malaysia, must play their part for the concept of ASEAN community to become a reality.

He said ASEAN must take the multilateral resolutions agreed at the regional stage seriously if the grouping is to realize the ASEAN community by 2005.

Najib and all ASEAN leaders must be mindful that the ASEAN community is based on three pillars, economic, political and socio-cultural, in particular the human rights commitments made by all the ASEAN governments in the ASEAN Charter “to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Section 7).
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ASEAN must condemn ASSK’s 18-month house arrest as an unacceptable violation of ASEAN Charter on human rights

ASEAN and individual ASEAN governments must make clear their condemnation of another 18-month house arrest of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi by the Myanmese military junta as an unacceptable violation of ASEAN Charter on Human Rights.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Phuket last month had endorsed the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the ASEAN Commission on Human Rights, which is to be launched at the ASEAN Summit in October but the latest egregious violation of human rights by the Myanmar military junta raises the question whether such an ASEAN Human Rights Commission would represent a step forward in the promotion and protection of human rights or just a figleaf to give legitimacy to continuing gross human rights violations in the region.

The continued house arrest of Suu Kyi represents at least four things:

  • Firstly, the mortal fear the Myanmar military junta has for the 64-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate who had spent 14 of the past 20 years in incarceration and recognition her unsurpassed power to evoke the hopes of the people of Burma for democracy, justice and national reconciliation. This is the reason for the term of 18 months of additional house arrest, barring her from campaigning in next year’s national elections although the Myanmar military junta had already in a sham referendum written a new constitution to exclude her from being a candidate.

  • Read the rest of this entry »

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Aung San Suu Kyi – AIPMC calls for ASEAN suspension of Myanmar and to consider sanctions option

[The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar (AIPMC) after a meeting in Bangkok on Monday night (25th May 2009) issued the following statement]

ASEAN MPs call on tougher ASEAN actions on Myanmar including Suspension

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) calls on ASEAN to suspend Myanmar’s membership in the regional bloc if the country’s military regime continues to detain its democracy leader, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s unjust current six-year house arrest is due to expire on 27 May 2009, but the regime has brought on further trumped-up charges against her and is likely to detain her for a further three to five years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aung San Suu Kyi – AIPMC to meet in Bangkok to demand ASEAN governments take tough stand to secure her release

The United Nations Security Council has called for the release of Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma and expressed its concern over her current trial.

In a unanimous statement, the 15-council members expressed their concern about the “political impact” of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi charging her with violating the terms of her house arrest.

What is Malaysia and ASEAN doing to express in the strongest possible terms that Aung San Suu Kyi should be released on Wednesday May 27 on the expiry of her six-year illegal detention or the Myanmar military junta must face condemnation by the other ASEAN states? Read the rest of this entry »

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ASEM FMM 9 should endorse the proposal for an international inquiry of 15 years of human rights abuses in Myanmar like those conducted for atrocities in Darfur, Rwanda and Yugoslavia

The reimposition of restrictions on reporters and diplomats attending the trial of Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi a day after opening up the proceedings yesterday betray the true colours of the Myanmar military junta with regard to its utter disregard to universal principles of human rights and the ASEAN Charter.

The Myanmese military junta must not be allowed to get away with its nefarious agenda, which is to keep Suu Kyi in continued incarceration although her six-year illegal detention is to expire in six days time on May 27 and to extend it during next year’s elections.

It is not to ASEAN’s credit that the regional organization has been so mute and helpless to the flagrant violation of human rights in the continued persecution of Suu Kyi, who had already been detained for more than 13 of the past 19 years, as not a single ASEAN head of state or government had said a single word at the first crisis faced by the ASEAN Charter on the commitment of the individual ASEAN countries to promote and protect human rights.

It is six days to the countdown of expiry of Suu Kyi’s illegal detention on May 27 and all ASEAN governments must put maximum and daily pressure on the Myanmar military junta to release the Nobel Peace Prize Laureatte next Wednesday or face dire consequences.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial – “Grave concern” by Thailand, ASEAN Chair welcome but grossly inadequate

The statement of “grave concern” by Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, about the fragile health and perilous personal safety and freedom of Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is welcome but grossly inadequate.

While the reminder to the Myanmar military junta about the call of ASEAN leaders for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi is appropriate, it is meaingless unless ASEAN leaders are prepared to take concrete measures to address the first crisis faced by the ASEAN Charter which had committed the member ASEAN nations to protect and promote human rights in their respective countries. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aung San Suu Kyi’s Monday trial – Malaysian Cabinet should condemn Myanmar junta on Wednesday

ASEAN should condemn the Myanmar military junta if its proceeds tomorrow with the arbitrary trial of Nobel Peace Prize Laureatee and Burmese pro-democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi despite world-wide protests and release her from the notorious Insein Prison.

The revocation of the licence of a top lawyer, Aung Thien, barring him from defending Suu Kyi is ominous sign of the length the Myanmese military junta is prepared to go ensure that she remains in detention despite the expected expiry of her six-year house arrest on May 27 and to keep her sidelined ahead of the junta’s promised elections in 2010 as part of its sham seven-step “roadmap to democracy”.

Malaysia should take the lead in such ASEAN condemnation which should be formally decided by the Cabinet at its meeting on Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »

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