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Welcome to Nat10ns, the Southeast Asia International Affairs Programme blog at LSE IDEAS. This blog aims to facilitate dialogue and understanding of the politics, economy, policies, current issues and diverse cultures amongst the ten nations of ASEAN. Our contributors are from various backgrounds and organisations and we welcome any other PhD students, academics or professionals to be part of this community.

Malaysia: Catch-22 Implications of Anwar Ibrahim’s Acquittal
Dr Majid blogs at LSE IDEAS Southeast Asia: 'On the government of Malaysia’s side it is whether or not to appeal against the High Court decision to acquit the former Deputy Prime Minister of the charge of sodomy under the country’s Penal Code. Both the government and the Anwar-led opposition were surprised by the decision....'

Myanmar: Mixing Hope with Realism
Dr. Zarni from the Human Security and Civil Society Unit of the Department of International Development LSE was sceptical and pessimistic about the political changes taking place in Myanmar which have given rise to hope the regime there is embarked …

Elite Politics under the Spotlight: Whither Thailand (again)?
Dr Martin Gainsborough sums up the discussions from the recent LSE IDEAS event on 'Politics and the Rule of Law in Thailand: Reflections on the 2011 Elections', highlighting the attempts by the speakers to go beneath the surface of contemporary Thai politics.

Nat10ns: Islam and the State
A follow-up blog to the recent seminar on 'Islam and the State: A Southeast Asian Perspective'. Dr Munir Majid relates the discussions from the event and shares his views on Islam and its challenges and rights within Islamic and non-Islamic countries.

Trouble Merging Singapore, Oz Stock Exchanges
By Emmanuel Yujuico: A political backlash threatens to derail the proposed $8.3 billion takeover of Australia's largest stock-market operator by Singapore Exchange Ltd. Key lawmakers signalled they may block the deal because it gives a foreign investor too much control of the Sydney-based exchange. Meanwhile, the president of Tokyo Stock Exchange Group Inc., which owns 4.99% of the Singapore exchange, criticized the deal.

Migrant Workers and Human Rights In Southeast Asia
Amnesty International has focused on migrant rights in Malaysia and Thailand, two main receiving countries of migrant workers in Southeast Asia. The vast majority of migrant workers in Thailand are from Myanmar, some of whom are also potentially refugees fleeing from persecution.

Nat10ns: Vinashin - State Capitalism Undone in Vietnam?
By Emmanuel Yujuico:Vietnam has received much attention in recent years as a China mini-me. Their most obvious shared characteristic is being among the last few communist states (we too have the Lao People's Democratic Republic in ASEAN). One must remember, though, that these two states didn't get along well for a very long time over Vietnam invading Chinese client state Cambodia during its Khmer Rouge years. And, among ASEAN members, Vietnam most strenuously contests dominion over the South China Sea islands with China. So there's not much love lost here.

Nat10ns: US versus Singapore Education
By Emmanuel Yujuico: With nearly all US states on the brink of financial ruin, it is no surprise that schoolteachers are facing the axe lest the federal government ante up more debt to dump on future generations in typical American fashion. Yet, the damning thing is that lawmakers are not trying to improve the US educational system but to stem further declines.

Nat10ns: Why Mexicans, not Filipino Migrants were hit in 09
By Emmanuel Yujuico: Among lands sending emigres, perhaps none match the Philippines in terms of the geographical spread and variety of occupations filled by its economic migrants.

Just Nuke It: Is Cash-Rich Burma Pursuing Fission?
By Emmanuel Yujuico: It is no big secret that Burma is rich in natural resources--particularly natural gas. In their quest to secure energy supplies, many neighbouring countries have risked incurring the disapproval of Washington by warming to Myanmar's ruling junta for economic reasons. At the end of the day, Washington's globocop tendencies only go so far in a world where scarcity of any number of resources is only set to intensify.

Nat10ns: Just shoot it - Cambodia's Military-Business Tie-ins
By Emmanuel Yujuico: Through the initiative of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Cambodian military is exploring the use of corporate sponsorship of the armed forces [!] as a means of raising revenue. As you might expect, this is raising all sorts of issues about the military serving public, not private interests.

Nat10ns: S21 Documentary, Junta Nukes, and a Rice Shortage?
By Collin Spears: Reference to a review of “S21, The Khmer Rogue Killing Machine”. The documentary interviews former Khmer Rogue members who worked at the infamous S21 prison camp, an update to Burmese Junta’s nuclear ambitions and how the economy in Southeast Asia will worsen due to droughts affecting Thailand and Vietnam's rice producers.

Nat10ns: CAFTA - More Proof US is Losing SE Asia to China
By Emmanuel Yujuico: It is no big secret that the US is making a ham out of its efforts to engage Southeast Asia. While Barack Obama can't even be bothered to get on board Air Force One for a trip to Indonesia [more here], some others are making a move on what was once an American lake--the Pacific.

Obama the 'First Pacific President? Yeah, right.'
By Emmanuel Yujuico: Among other things, something about American leadership that unnerves the rest of the world is its tendency to make vapid claims. While you can say that this is par for the course as far as politicians go as serial overpromisers and underdeliverers, the incumbent US president has two things going against him in terms of getting along better with us in Southeast Asia.

The Economic Architect of Singapore Passes Away
By Emmanuel Yujuico: It is with sadness that I report the passing of one of the great men who built the country that is now the envy of the rest of Southeast Asia and, indeed, much of the developing world.

Myanmar and Nuclear Ambitions
By Collin A Spears: In the strategic footsteps of North Korea, Myanmar’s leaders are also building a complex network of tunnels, bunkers and other underground installations where they and their military hardware would be hidden against any external aerial attack, including presumably from the United States.

Nat10ns: Passion of the Red Shirts - When the Samurai Falls
By Collin A Spears: Over the last couple of days things have escalated again in Bangkok. It is unclear what ignited the latest round of violence, but it appears that Wednesday’s rejection of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s proposed compromise, after its initial tentative acceptance by the Red Shirts, caused the government to run out of patience.

Presidential Landslide Victory in Milestone Philipine Elections
Eva-Lotta Hedman on Nat10ns: The May 10th general elections marked a milestone for democracy in the Philippines. Front-runner presidential candidate Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino has won a landslide victory, thus setting the stage for an orderly transition of power from incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Overall, the successful introduction of a computerised vote-counting system allowed for election results to be reported with unprecedented speed and credibility.

Three Greek Riot Fatalities; Indonesia in May '98? 1500
By Emmanuel Yujuico: It is a sad fact of life that we are often disconnected to those suffering calamities by increasing removes based on distance and dissimilarity from ourselves. Dr Emmanuel Yujuico reminds us of the similar if not more dire situation that Indonesia was in.

Nat10ns: Passion of the Red Shirts - The Grand Compromise?
By Collin A Spears: PM Abhisit Vejjajiva gave a nationally televised speech, on Monday, offering a “reconciliation plan” to the entrenched Red Shirt opposition protesters (United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)). The proposal would include calling for new parliamentary elections on November 14, 2010.

Nat10ns: Mighty Money - Russian Ruble and Indonesian Rupiah
By Emmanuel Yujuico: We tend to think the dollar is strong when the euro is weak since it is usually the anti-dollar. However, the unique woes being heaped on the common currency by Greece obscure the observation that there are many other currencies that are quite strong against the US dollar at the moment.

Nat10ns - Razaks ghosts come home to roost and an explosive new year in Burma
By Collin A Spears: PM Najib Razak has launched an economic reform initiative, the New Economic Model (NEM), which is geared to transform Malaysia into a developed nation by 2020.

Nat10ns - The Passion of the Red Shirts
By Collin A Spears: Over the last week the situation in Thailand has deteriorated, with as many as 24 people dead and over 800 injured since the new round of Red Shirt protests begin over 2 weeks ago.

Malaysia's New Economic Model: Making choices
IDEAS Senior Fellow Danny Quah blogs about his experience serving on Malaysia's National Economic Advisory Council. In June 2009, Malaysia's Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak asked if I would serve on his council of economic advisors, the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC). This Council was to come up with a New Economic Model for the country. It would not be a group that got together every month to finetune the economy. This Council was not to sift through the entrails of inventory reports, and propose economic policies to lean against the wind.

It Lives! Asian Monetary Fund Meet AMRO
By Emmanuel Yujuico: If public institutions in East Asia, whether central banks or finance ministries, were found wanting, it is not because they pursued inappropriate macroeconomic demand management policies, but because they failed to safeguard the stability of the financial system.

Red Monday - The Roots of Thailand's Unrest
Dr Tim Forsyth argues that Thailand's failure to build trust in its elections means that more violence is likely in the short term.

More Passion of the Redshirt, Indonesia and China, Malaysia and Illegal Aliens
By Collin A Spears: Ahead of Obama’s June visit to the archipelago, it is also valuable to consider how the Indonesian - American relationship is viewed on the Indonesian street. Recently, some right wing Muslim groups have joined forces with secular Indonesian nationalists (the former, a minority of the electorate according to the last presidential elections) to actively condemn the United States in favour of China.

Red Shirts meet THE MAN, Indonesia's role and more...
By Collin A Spears: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva not only kept his word to meet with opposition Red Shirt leaders, but also allowed the exchange to be carried live on state television.

Burma's National League for Democracy: A Fateful Choice?
East Asia Forum - by Trevor Wilson, ANU: There is widespread speculation that Burma’s National League for Democracy (NLD) will shortly decide against registering for Burma’s 2010 elections under the heavily unbalanced election law promulgated by Burma’s military regime in early March.

Regionalism in Asia: Why we should stick with existing structures
East Asia Forum - by Ezra Vogel, Harvard University: The past half century has been a period of largely fruitful regional cooperation in the East Asia region. Some believe that a new grouping of states would further facilitate regional cooperation. I disagree, and believe that existing forums offer the best opportunity for leaders in the Asia-Pacific to work together in solving regional and global problems.

Reforming Housing for the Poor in the Philippines
East Asia Forum - by Marife Ballesteros, PIDS: The enactment in the nineties of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992 and the Comprehensive Shelter Finance Act (CISFA) of 1994, two pro-poor housing legislations, greatly changed the Philippines’ policy on housing the poor.

CAFTA Angst, Indonesian Strength, and the Mekong Drip | Southeast Asia
By Collin A Spears: Touted as the world’s biggest free-trade area, CAFTA will bring together 1.7 million consumers with a combined gross domestic product of US$5.9 trillion and total trade of $1.3 trillion. Under the agreement, trade between China and Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore has become duty-free for more than 7,000 products.

Red Shirts Strike Back and More CAFTA Blues
By Collin A Spears: Since the weekend, 120,000 to 250,000 Red Shirts have concentrated on Bangkok, demanding that Thai PM Abhisit dissolve Parliament and call for new elections, which they believe will usher the opposition into a majority, and hopefully signal the return of ousted and exiled Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Starving the Rohingya, Corrupt Yudhoyono, and Jail for Rebels in the News
By Collin A Spears: The would be assassins of Timornese President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão have been given sentences ranging from 16 to 24 years in prison. This would-be junta rebels was mostly composed of disaffected police and military.

Malaysia's misplaced economic priorities | East Asia Forum
East Asia Forum - by Greg Lopez, ANU: The persistent decline in Malaysia’s economic performance since the East Asian Financial Crisis (EAFC) of 1997/98 and the government’s mishandling of the global shocks that preceded the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) were a key reason for the ‘political tsunami’ that hit Barisan Nasional (BN) at the 12th General Election (12GE) on 8th March, 2008.

(Nearly) Everything on Asian Economic Integration
By Emmanuel Yujuico: My memory has just been jogged by a recent LSE talk I attended concerning Asia's role in the world trading system featuring Ambassador Frank Lavin, formerly the Undersecretary for International Trade at the US Department of Commerce during the second Bush 43 term.

Indonesia: SBY struggles to live up to expectations | East Asia Forum
East Asia Forum - by Hal Hill, ANU: When Prime Minister Rudd talks with President Yudhoyono this week, they will be able to reflect on what a fickle, mean and unpredictable business politics is.

Tale of Two Labour Exporters: Philippines and Mexico
By Emmanuel Yujuico: In US mainstream media, there is not much differentiation made between legal and illegal migrants or skilled and unskilled migrants. Worse, these perceptions are generally coloured by xenophobic projections on others who are out to "steal our jobs" or who are "illegals.

Understand China's Foreign Policy, Know Zheng He
By Emmanuel Yujuico: This is an addendum to a recent post I've made concerning my views on how China should curry favour with ASEAN. While performing research on China's diplomatic outreach to Southeast Asia, I've been struck by the constant allusion of Chinese officials to the historical figure of Zheng He.

Abu Sayyaf Strikes Back, More Sen-Rainsy Drama, and Sino-Indo Trade ...
By Collin A Spears: As an update to the growing backlash in SE Asia over the China-ASEAN FTA, the Berita Jakarta is already blaming It can be seen from the decline in the city’s export value by 4.80 percent or US$ 2.828 billion in January this year, from that of December last year reaching US$ 2.968. But, it is higher than the export value in the same period of last year by 20.50 percent.

Red Shirts Evolve and Dong Still Under Pressure
By Collin A Spears: This blog has followed the “Shinawatra Saga” in Thailand for awhile. Thitinan Pongsudhirak has an interesting editorial on the issues at OpinionAsia. Mr. Pongsudhirak contends that the core issue is not Shinawatra, but democracy and social justice. For this reason, he believes the Red Shirts (a.k.a. The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, UDD) movement is evolving beyond Shinawatra, although his treatment is still the primary focus of the group.

In the Shadow of the Dragon: Free Trade With China A Win-Win
By Collin A Spears: This blog previously commented on rising opposition to and grumbling over the China - ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in Southeast Asia, which went into effect on 90 percent of products, on January 1, 2010 Times Magazine Online has an article concerning more of the downsides of the FTA.

Singapore weathers the crisis and prepares for a stronger year
East Asia Forum - by Siow Yue Chia, Singapore Institute of International Affairs: The story on Singapore in 2009 has been that of a vulnerable small and open economy overcoming the fallout from the global financial crisis with sound economic and financial fundamentals, good governance and a timely stimulus package.

Uncertainty reigns over Thailand's political and royal power
East Asia Forum - by Nicholas Farrelly, New Mandala, ANU: In Thailand the number ‘nine’ is usually considered the most auspicious. It is associated with the reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty. Spoken in Thai, it also sounds like a word for ‘progress’ (kaew). 9, 99, 999, et cetera, are regarded with special reverence: luck and good fortune are denominated in 9s.

Trivia Time! What's the World's Largest Trade Bloc?
By Emmanuel Yujuico

China-ASEAN FTA: Will Indonesia cry 'No Mas'?
By Emmanuel Yujuico: For those of you interested in my line of work concerning Southeast Asian economic integration, the start of the year brought into play two important events: First, the first six members of ASEAN--Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand--have eliminated tariffs between them (at least for merchandise not on the sensitive goods list) at the start of the year.

Yuan Regional Trade? SE Asia Can Now Use RMB
By Emmanuel Yujuico: Now the game is truly on in contesting regional hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. Formerly the bailiwick of the United States, unresolved conflicts that are not going well in the Middle East and South Asia have perhaps distracted it from conducting diplomacy there--particularly Southeast Asia.

Obama's Quite Pointless ASEAN (Mis)Adventures
By Emmanuel Yujuico: And so it has come to pass: the American president made his way to Singapore in order to enlighten its leaders in the ways of peace, freedom, and democracy. However, things haven't gone as convincingly as they could've been IMHO. Let's go about things in order.

White Man's Burden 2009: "Enlightening" SE Asia
By Emmanuel Yujuico: There is an inbuilt streak which dies hard in many Anglo-Saxons to enlighten us backward coloured people who haven't seen the obvious advantages of capitalist liberal democracy. Nevermind, of course, rather contradictory episodes of subrime frivolity and Guantanamo Ghraibing misadventures as not-so-shining examples of both.

Southeast Asia FTA Mania: How bout US-ASEAN?
By Emmanuel Yujuico: The remarkable proliferation of free trade agreements worldwide--many of which commentators attribute to the stalling of the Doha round--is no more evident than in Southeast Asia. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has, in recent years, inked deals with Australia and New Zealand (AANZFTA), China, South Korea, Japan, and India.