With Thailand posting a 17-year record drop in exports for the first quarter of 2009, and the economy shrinking by 7.1 percent as a consequence, the global downturn is clearly causing severe problems for some one-time stellar performers. Like its Tiger Economy counterparts, Malaysia and Singapore, Thailand’s exports account for a majority of the country’s economic activity — more than 60 percent in Thailand’s case. Ultimately, these countries depend heavily on Western consumers buying the products they make, or the ones they make components for, depending on the particular industry and local position in the globalized manufacturing chain. Given their […]

East Timor PM Hit with Corruption Allegation

DILI, East Timor — Little over a year after declaring his intent to launch an anti-corruption commission, East Timor’s Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has been hit with renewed graft allegations, this time by ABC Australia. The story claims that Gusmao’s daughter is a shareholder in Prima Foods, a company that received a $3.5 million food-importing contract signed off on by the PM. In what is regarded as Asia’s poorest country per capita, oil revenues excluded, food security remains a pressing issue for many Timorese in rural areas. The annual “hunger season” in the early months of the year, when there […]

Protectionism Watch: East vs. West

Alex Evans, writing at Global Dashboard, flags the declines in net private capital flows to emerging markets as a form of hidden protectionism: These are precipitous declines — and the reason that theyconstitute protectionism is because developed country policymakers havebeen putting pressure on their banks to curtail to poorer countries,which are seen as riskier investments. Meanwhile, Le Monde flags the rising “Buy Chinese” sentiment in China, as domestic firms vie with foreign competitors for economic stimulus contracts: At the same time that foreign groups counted on the significant infrastructure spending anticipated in the government’s stimulus plan, a dozen state agencies […]

Conflict at Preah Vihear Threatening as UNESCO Meets

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand will be sorely tested this week, with Bangkok expected to ask UNESCO to review its decision to list the 11th-century temple of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has ordered Thailand’s representative to the World Heritage Committee to object to the 2008 listing of the Angkorian temple when the committee meets for its 33rd session in Seville, Spain. According to the Thai News Agency, Thailand will protest on the grounds that the listing has brought about conflict and losses between the two countries, running counter to UNESCO’s aim in […]

Another Somber Milestone for Suu Kyi

On Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi will celebrate her 64th birthday. As in previous years, she will do so from the confines of a captive space — but not the family home that has been her prison for 13 of the last 19 years. This year, the Nobel peace laureate will spend the day in Yangon’s Insein prison, awaiting the verdict of a trial largely viewed as purely political. Suu Kyi faces a sentence of five years in prison over charges she broke the terms of her house arrest by giving quarter to an American man who illegally swam to […]

Abu Sayyaf Seen Testing Relations With MNLF

SANDAKAN, Malaysia — Relations between the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are souring as the Filipino rebel factions increasingly differ on strategy for the pursuit of a homeland for indigenous people and the broader Islamic community. The pair occupy the tiny island haven of Jolo in the Sulu Sea where sources said the more conservative MNLF are increasingly irritated by an escalation in violence in the region baring all the hallmarks of the Abu Sayyaf. “The MNLF is up the hill and the Abu Sayyaf is down the hill and that’s the way they prefer it,” […]

TAWAU, Malaysia — The Philippine military has gained the upper hand over militants fighting for an independent Islamic homeland in the country’s south, after a series of deadly raids resulted in the destruction of rebel bases and pushed the conflict deeper into countryside. Given the geography and the thousands of islands that surround Mindanao, no one expects the Philippine military to achieve a definitive victory over the insurgents and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). But the offensive will restore some lost prestige to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo as she completes her last year of office. Arroyo was forced to […]

A revived maritime dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia has led to a series of chest-thumping incursions and face-offs between the two countries’ navies. The stand-off reached its zenith, for now, after the Indonesian Navy reported Malaysian warships had entered the oil-rich Ambalat area off the Borneo coast several times over the last two weeks. The provocations almost crossed the line into conflict, with an Indonesian vessel reportedly coming close to firing at one of the Malaysian ships. However, with both sides pointing the finger at the other, apportioning blame for the crisis is difficult. Indonesia claims that the Ambalat oil […]