DENPASAR, Indonesia — Assessing the Association of South East Asian Nations is always a tricky matter. The organization, which brings together 10 Southeast Asian countries, has been criticized lately for its inability to mediate the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia as well as for failing to put enough pressure on the Myanmar junta. These deserved criticisms also call into question a pillar of the association, namely the noninterference policy that prohibits intervention in members’ internal affairs. But “the ASEAN way” is unlikely to change anytime soon, and expecting the group to become the new European Union is unrealistic. Nevertheless, […]

Global Insider: Myanmar’s Energy and Trade Relations

Myanmar was recently reported to have concluded its first set of international energy deals — with China, Singapore and South Korea — since the installation of a nominally civilian government late last year. In an email interview, Matthew Smith, a senior consultant for EarthRights International, discussed Myanmar’s trade and energy relations. WPR: What is the current state of Myanmar’s energy sector, and who are its major international partners? Matthew Smith: Myanmar — also referred to as Burma — is rich in natural gas, and its rivers have the region’s greatest potential for hydropower generation. Investment in the energy sector is […]

‘Silencing’ Thailand’s Opposition

Opposition “Red Shirt” supporters in Thailand say they are being silenced ahead of an upcoming general election. Police have reportedly closed down several anti-government radio stations for “lacking licenses or permits to broadcast”. But activists say the only stations targeted were ones run by Red Shirt supporters.

DENPASAR, Indonesia — With Indonesia experiencing an escalation of terrorist violence, local analysts have focused on trying to determine who is behind each of the recent attacks. Assessing the nature and affiliation of the groups responsible is certainly important. But the current situation may be the result of several converging trends that suggest Indonesia must confront some of its persistent demons if it wants to contain terrorism. In its latest report, entitled “Indonesian Jihadism: Small Groups, Big Plans,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) outlined how homegrown terrorism in Indonesia has lately taken on a new form, with small cells operating […]

Thai-Cambodian Border Clash Largely a Manufactured Conflict

The brief flare-up of fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops that killed 10 people last month was largely portrayed as a dispute over which country rightfully controls a Hindu-Buddhist temple that has stood along the border between the two for nearly a millennium. Close observers of the region, however, explain that the recent troop buildups and violence are actually the product of a primarily manufactured conflict driven by nationalists scrambling to maintain a hold on power in both countries. “Basically what you have here is a war of convenience between two governments that would both benefit from a skirmish that […]

Global Insider: Myanmar’s Regional Relations

Thailand intends to close camps housing 140,000 refugees from neighboring Myanmar, in a decision announced shortly after Myanmar installed a new nominally civilian government following recent elections. In an email interview, Renaud Egreteau, a research assistant professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, discussed the regional implications of Myanmar’s new government. WPR: Has the change in government affected domestic or foreign policies? Renaud Egreteau: If a new civilian structure has replaced the former junta — an army-controlled “State Council” as it has been known since 1988 — changes in modes of governance, political practices and […]

Indonesia Braces for Reprisal Attacks

Questions remain about how Osama bin Laden was killed, but the impact of his death on Al Qaeda inspired groups is already being evaluated. Indonesia’s government has been fighting its own battle against such groups for years.