April 5, 2011
Bandar Seri Begawan is not a thriving megalopolis, but it is not a hard place to access. One short flight from Singapore’s world-class Changi Airport puts you in the modern and clean Brunei International Airport just seven minutes from downtown—ten if there is traffic. The diminutive and calm capital of ASEAN’s smallest member, Brunei Darussalam, will host the ASEAN Energy Ministers this September.
Current plans are for 20 ministers to join the meeting to discuss the future of the region’s energy use, energy security, regionalizing electric power grids and pipelines, and the future for renewable power. ASEAN’s 10 ministers count for half of that number—then add China, India, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and others. Grappling with the implications of Japan’s crisis will be high on the agenda. These are important issues for the region and important issues for the United States.
The problem is that the U.S. secretary of energy, the brilliant Dr. Steven Chu, does not plan to be in Bandar Seri Begawan in September. By no means does this cast any aspersions on Dr. Chu’s leadership or vision. None of his predecessors have attended the ASEAN Energy Ministers meetings either. In fact, the U.S. secretaries of agriculture, transportation, health, and the treasury have not attended the ASEAN ministerial with their counterparts.
President Obama now meets annually with the ASEAN leaders in the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has chalked up perfect attendance at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) during her tenure; and the laser-focused Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was the first defense minister to sign up for the inaugural ASEAN Defense Minister Plus Eight (ADMM+) meeting in Hanoi last year. Their leadership is appreciated and has sent timely and strong messages to the 10-country grouping of more than 650 million people.
The question is whether it is time for the United States, with conscious design to promote its interests in maintaining the security and safety of its citizens and in creating new jobs and economically and strategically advancing its influence, to ask its cabinet to forward deploy in Asia.
Doing so would answer two important questions our allies and partners in Asia have at the top of their minds: (1) will the United States sustain its engagement in Asia; and (2) how can the United States institutionalize its engagement in Asia?
ASEAN is the core of new regional security and trade architecture. ASEAN is the place where the great powers of the twenty-first century meet to cooperate, collaborate, and compete. It is the fulcrum of twenty-first-century power—economic and strategic.
Critics will rightly say that ASEAN ministerial processes can be painfully bureaucratic and are not renowned for delivering results. However, other countries have now decided to fully engage these structures, namely China, Japan, and Korea, and to a greater and greater extent India, Australia, and New Zealand. These meetings are where the new rules of the Asia Pacific will be drawn up—new definitions of standards, regional connectivity and infrastructure, norms, and, importantly, relationships. China is acting strategically by engaging these ASEAN structures. To date, its engagement has been focused on promoting its own interests, but that could change.
U.S. engagement would smartly focus on capacity building and encouraging other ASEAN partners to co-invest in that effort to build a strong foundation—in ASEAN—for regional structures that will promote peace and prosperity throughout this century. In the process, U.S. interests such as investment, exports, and regional security could be advanced in a practical manner.
Bandar Seri Begawan is a long trip, and Secretary of Energy Chu’s time is a precious commodity. However, investing strategically in deepening and institutionalizing U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia is timely and important. A plan for stepping up this engagement would be a very strong ante for President Obama when he sits down at the table for his first East Asia Summit and his third U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting in Indonesia this fall.
- CSIS launches study on energy futures in Southeast Asia Former
- CSIS Director Nominated as Special Envoy to Burma
- TPP Meeting in Singapore ASEAN aid for Japan
- Anwar Ibrahim to Speak at CSIS
- Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF
- Amb. Kim Beazley to Speak at Georgetown
CSIS launches study on energy futures in Southeast Asia. On March 31, 2011, the CSIS Southeast Asia Program launched a study called “Energy Futures in Southeast Asia.” The initiative was marked by remarks from the Indonesian ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Dino Patti Djalal; General Electric Energy Infrastructure’s director for global strategy and planning, Peter Evans; senior fellow and deputy director of the CSIS Energy and National Security Program, David Pumphrey; and senior adviser and director of the CSIS Southeast Asia Program, Ernie Bower. They outlined the need for a comprehensive study of energy development in the region including technologies and innovation for renewable energy. The study, supported by grants from GE, Shell Petroleum, and Guardian Industries, will compile a baseline review of energy and the related environmental outlook, policies, and standards in Southeast Asia’s five largest countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The resulting data will be used to develop different scenarios or outcomes based on the potential choices made by officials. The study is designed to provide a policy framework for regulators and policymakers in Southeast Asia and the United States.
The Bali Process. Foreign ministers Marty Natagelawa of Indonesia and Kevin Rudd of Australia convened and cochaired the fourth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime on March 29, 2011, in Bali. Senior officials from 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including all ASEAN countries, China, Australia, and the United States, attended the Ministerial Conference. Delegates discussed ways to establish a regional refugee center to curb illegal immigration and strengthen engagement on information and intelligence sharing through a voluntary reporting system on migrant smuggling. Read the Final Ministerial Statement here.
ASEAN ranked for business attractiveness. According to the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), Vietnam, with 41 percent of the vote, ranked as the top destination for ASEAN companies to invest in or expand in over the next three years. Singapore was second (with 36 percent), and Thailand third (with 34 percent). The report states that companies are satisfied with ASEAN implementing measures related to investment protection and efforts to establish transparent and predictable investment rules within Southeast Asia. But it also stressed that ASEAN should work more closely with the private sector on ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) initiatives and standardize trade regulations across member countries.
TPP meeting in Singapore. The sixth negotiating round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was held in Singapore on March 27, 2011. The areas covered included goods, services, investment, and government procurement. More than 400 delegates from the nine TPP countries participated in the meeting. According to a range of delegates, substantive headway was made during the round. Talks are now focusing on specific issues in text and exploring how to make the TPP legal framework more efficient, allow the creating of seamless supply chains, and improve regulatory coherence among member countries. Some U.S. negotiators also traveled to Malaysia and Vietnam before and after the formal round to advance the market access negotiations within TPP.
While TPP negotiators are working in earnest, momentum in the negotiation hinges on the success of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) that the administration is preparing to send to Capitol Hill. Legislative staff and experts say that important factions in Congress have indicated KORUS will not move if the U.S.-Colombia FTA is not submitted at the same time. At the time of this writing, rumors about a U.S.-Columbia deal on labor provisions in that FTA were still unconfirmed.
General Elections 2011: People’s Action Party unveils fresh faces. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) will field more than 20 new candidates in the General Elections this year, half of them in their 20s and 30s. The new batch represents the ruling party’s attempt to “self-renew” by injecting new blood into its ranks. Senior Minister S. Jayakumar and House Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi, who have both been in politics for the past several decades, announced that they will retire from politics and will not contest in the upcoming elections. The PAP traditionally retires a third of its serving members of parliament each election, with 24 stepping down during the previous polls in 2006.
Singaporean chosen to chair key IMF committee. Singapore’s finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was selected to head the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) for a three-year term. The committee is made up of 24 finance ministers or central bank governors from countries that reflect the makeup of the IMF, with the chairman holding a 25th seat. Members of the committee chose Tharman to succeed Egypt’s former finance minister, Youssef Boutros-Ghali, who stepped down after the Egyptian government was dissolved. For more detailed analysis, please read CSIS senior adviser Ernie Bower’s commentary on “Singapore: Leading by Its Wits” here.
Singapore to participate in G20 Cannes summit. France, the chair of the G20 this year, has invited Singapore to attend the G20 summit in Cannes on November 3–4 this year. Singapore will represent the Global Governance Group (3G group), an informal coalition of non-G20 nations, including Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Singapore is only one of five non-member countries invited to have a full seat at the summit. For more details on Singapore’s selection and role, click here.
Deputy Defense Minister visiting Washington. Singapore’s deputy secretary (policy) at the Ministry of Defence, Brigadier-General Gary Ang, will visit Washington, D.C., this week for consultations, including a private session with security policy experts at CSIS. General Ang leads his ministry’s development of defense policy, public affairs, and national education and is considered a rising star in Singapore’s security and defense establishment.
Burma earthquake. Earthquakes appear to be stalking Asia, as northern Burma was hit with a 6.8 magnitude event on March 17. The quake affected Burma, Laos, and Thailand and could be felt as far away as Bangkok. The epicenter was located about 55 miles north of Chiang Rai, Thailand. It was last reported that 73 people were killed and at least 111 injured. The United Nations reported that six aftershocks continued throughout the weekend. State-run radio broadcasts said that at least 390 homes, 14 monasteries, and 9 government buildings were destroyed.
New government in Burma. On March 30, 2011, Burmese state media issued a broadcast stating that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) had been officially dissolved to make way for the new ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The junta has reconstituted itself continuously over the last several decades, changing names and even the capital city, but without real change in political structure or creating new political space. The pattern appears to be repeating. Former prime minister Thein Sein was officially sworn in as the country’s new president, and General Min Aung Hlaing replaced Than Shwe as the new army chief. Prior to his nomination, Min Aung Hlaing served as the Chief of Bureau of Special Operations for the Shan and Karenni states, playing a key role in the negotiation process with the northern rebels. Analysts believe the new army chief’s role will be subordinate to the newly formed State Supreme Council (SSC), headed by Than Shwe.
Burma envoy to be nominated. Media reports corroborated privately by senior officials from the Obama administration indicate that the president will soon nominate Derek Mitchell as the first U.S. special envoy to Burma. The position is mandated by the Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts (JADE) Act of 2008, a legacy of the late congressman Tom Lantos. Mitchell is currently at the Department of Defense as acting assistant secretary of defense for East Asia and the Pacific. He helped start the Southeast Asia program during his time at CSIS. Naming an envoy indicates the administration is focusing on exploring options for change in Burma.
Impact of democracy movements in the Middle East. On March 27, 2011, more than 10,000 Muslims marched in Indonesia to support pro-democracy and reform movements in Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen. Democracy supporters called for the immediate resignation of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. While supporting those seeking democracy, many protesters rejected international military intervention and the NATO “no fly” zone. Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) echoed the Indonesian people’s sentiment and called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping force; he also offered to send Indonesian troops to participate in the peacekeeping mission.
Indonesia prepares the extradition of terror suspect. On March 30, 2011, the Indonesian police sent a team to Pakistan to confirm the identity of Umar Patek, a top suspect in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. Patek, deputy commander of Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asia affiliate Jamaah Islamiyah, was arrested in Pakistan on January 25, 2011. The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now awaiting an official request from the police before taking steps to negotiate the extradition of Patek back to Indonesia.
Indonesian investment interest in Timor-Leste resources. During a March 29, 2011, meeting between Indonesian president SBY and Timor-Leste prime minister Xanana Gusmao, SBY expressed interest in investing in the Timorese oil and mining infrastructures, among other industries. Teuku Faizasyah, spokesman for SBY, said that economic cooperation is “vital to developing infrastructure, trade, and tourism in East Timor.” Indonesia, the current chair of ASEAN, has indicated its support for Timor-Leste’s membership in the regional grouping. Timor-Leste formalized its independence in 2002.
Sarawak election will influence timing of general election. Prime Minister Najib Razak said he would wait for the outcome of the April 16 Sarawak elections before deciding whether to call for early general elections. Najib’s party, Barisan Nasional (BN), has done well in the by-elections held since the 2008 general elections. Barisan won 8 of the 16 by-elections held after 2008, including 5 won since November 2010. Najib said that BN’s wins in the by-elections demonstrated the people supported his government’s reforms. Najib is confident that BN will win the Sarawak state elections and regain some of the states lost to the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat—Selangor, Penang, and Kelantan. If BN wins a majority of two-thirds or more in Sarawak next week, general elections are likely to be held this year. If the margin is lower, national elections may be held early in 2012.
Malaysia a production hub for Japanese high-end electronics. According to the chairman and CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Yasuo Hayashi, Malaysia has become a major production hub for Japanese electronics companies in medium to high-end products and appliances despite competition from other countries to attract Japanese manufacturing investment. Malaysia’s capable workforce, attractive investment environment, and stable government make it a welcome investment destination. Hayashi further pointed out that Malaysia had “graduated” from developing-country status and is capable of undertaking more sophisticated tasks. Many Japanese companies, including Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, have moved significant elements of their operations to Malaysia. This trend could accelerate in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Army chief to visit Washington. Chief of the Army General Dato' Zulkifeli bin Mohamed Zin of Malaysia will visit Washington, D.C., for consultations with U.S. counterparts at the end of April. He will also visit CSIS for private discussions with defense and security policy experts. General Zulkifeli is thought to be in line to succeed General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Azizan Ariffin as chief of the Malaysian Defence Force.
Elections in July. Deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban said that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would dissolve the parliament before May 10, setting the stage for elections in early July. By law, the government has to call for elections within 45 to 60 days after the dissolving of the House of Representatives. The Abhisit government says it is confident that the Democrat party and its coalition partners will garner enough votes to continue its rule. The opposition Puea Thai Party is likely to be led by former prime minister Thaksin’s younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Elections could be an important step in moving toward reconciliation in the politically divided kingdom. However, disputed elections could raise political tensions anew.
Flooding in Thailand’s south. Severe flooding and mudslides have hit eight provinces in southern Thailand. Flooding left 25 people dead and thousands evacuated. Homes, schools, and infrastructure including roads and bridges have been damaged. An airport closed after its runway was submerged, making evacuation and aid delivery difficult. Some villages were engulfed in six feet of mud. Thai military deployed search and rescue missions and air-dropped supplies to isolated areas. Flooding is expected to hurt Thai export of frozen foods as an estimated 60,000 tons of shrimp were washed away. Seventy percent of the country’s shrimp exports come from the south.
The American Friends of Christchurch (AFOC) established. The organization, an initiative by the United States–New Zealand Council, supports broad-based earthquake-relief efforts in Christchurch, New Zealand, and underlines the strong and vibrant United States–New Zealand partnership. The stakeholders in AFOC include representatives from business as well as education, policy, and other not-for-profit organizations. Former U.S. National Security Council director Peter Watson and former U.S. senator Evan Bayh are cochairing AFOC.. New Zealand ambassador Mike Moore underscored the importance of the initiative in his second Christchurch newsletter, available here. For more information about how to contribute to the reconstruction effort in Christchurch and participate in AFOC, please visit here.
The passing of Ambassador Denis McLean. Ambassador McLean was the New Zealand ambassador to the United States who was appointed to restore diplomatic ties between New Zealand and the United States after disagreement over nuclear ship visits in the 1980s. A champion for strong bilateral ties, he served in Washington from 1991 to 1994. “He is remembered in Washington as a man who determinedly mended relations and maintained otherwise close intelligence, political, and economic ties in what could otherwise have been a free-fall in diplomatic relations,” writes Zachary Abuza, professor of national security strategy at the National War College, National Defense University, and professor of political science and international relations at Simmons College, about his friend on our blog.
The rebuilding of Christchurch. The government of New Zealand has established a new agency to lead the reconstruction of earthquake-hit Christchurch. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will be able to relax, suspend, or extend laws and regulations to help the region recover. It will be established for five years and be reviewed annually. New Zealand deputy state services commissioner John Ombler will serve as its interim chief executive while an urgent search is conducted for a permanent appointment. Estimated costs for reconstruction amount to nearly 6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Vietnam’s trade deficit eases. According to the General Statistics Office (GSO) of Vietnam, the country’s trade deficit eased slightly in the first three months of 2011. Vietnam’s trade deficit was $3.43 billion in the same period in 2010, but eased to $3.03 billion in the first months of this year. Exports rose 33.7 percent, from $19.25 billion in the first quarter of 2010, while imports gained 23.8 percent to $22.3 billion. Hanoi has made bringing prices under control its number one priority. According to World Bank economist Deepak Mishra, however, the fall in the trade deficit is still “very small.”
Vietnam raises interest rates. The State Bank of Vietnam raised the recapitalizing and repurchase interest rate from 12 percent to 13 percent for both rates. The benchmark rate remains unchanged at 9 percent and the rediscount rate at 12 percent, up from 7 per cent last month. The rate announcement came after authorities announced they would cut public investment by $2.39 billion, or 7.4 percent of the revised budget. Authorities are struggling to restore confidence in the dong, which has been devalued four times in the past 15 months and stands at an 18-year low.
Vietnamese activist handed 7-year jail sentence. Prominent Vietnamese legal activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was sentenced to seven years in jail for suing the prime minister and for calling for an end to one-party rule in Vietnam. Though Vu’s father was a close ally of Ho Chi Minh, analysts say that the heavy sentence demonstrates the government will not tolerate criticism of the system, regardless of pedigree. Vu’s case is one of many political convictions that have been on the rise over the past two and a half years, accompanied by a rise in the severity of punishment. Supporters participating in a vigil outside the court were dragged away by police; and after one of Vu’s lawyers was removed from court, his remaining defense team walked out in protest. Although U.S.-Vietnam relations have been steadily improving, Vu’s case demonstrates that questions over human rights, civil society, and religious groups will remain a focal point in the relationship.
Prosecutors appeal for a life term for Duch. Former Khmer Rouge prison warden Duch was sentenced to 30 years in prison in July 2010 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Duch appealed his decision and argued that he was acting as “a minor secretary” following orders and should therefore be released. In response, prosecutors at Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court appealed for a life term for Duch, claiming that he lacked remorse for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people. A ruling on the appeal is expected in late June.
Lakeside residents’ plan rejected by government. In February, residents of Boeung Kak released an alternative development plan for the controversial lake development project, requesting that 15 hectares of the land be set aside for families threatened with eviction. Their request was rejected after a meeting with Phnom Penh municipal governor Kep Chuktema. Human rights groups estimate that the development plan will lead to the eviction of approximately 4,000 families.
Air France returns to Cambodia. Air France returned to Cambodia after 37 years, reopening a route that was previously seized by the Khmer Rouge. The last Air France flight left Cambodia in June 1947. The resumption of flights from Paris and Phnom Penh is a part of the airline’s growth strategy, embracing exchange with a developing country that welcomed over two million tourists last year.
Laos continues its bid for membership in the World Trade Organization. Xaysomphone Phomvihane, vice president of Laos’s National Assembly, announced that one of the main focuses of the new assembly is the integration of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic into the world community, including becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Another focus is the implementation of the seventh five-year National Socio-Economic Development Plan. Laos applied to join the WTO in 1998. Currently, bilateral market access negotiations are under way. China recently announced that it strongly supports Laos becoming a member and congratulated Laos on its negotiations preparation. U.S. support for Laos’s WTO membership is seen as a critical benchmark in the effort.
Laos needs emergency food aid. According to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), more than 111,000 people in Laos will need emergency food aid before the next harvest in November. WFP spokeswomen Cornelia Patz said that the WFP is now raising funds to support an emergency rice distribution in June or July. A joint study by the WFP and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that recent weather shocks heavily affected the vulnerable households that have not yet recovered from Typhoon Ketsana, which struck in October 2009.
Laos and Vietnam cooperate in stock market. On March 27, 2011m Laos and Vietnam held the inauguration ceremony for the Lane Xang Securities Company, a joint venture between the Lao Development Bank (LDP) and Vietnam’s Sacombank Securities Joint Stock Company. The new company will not only strengthen historical ties between Vietnam and Laos, but also help develop modern technology for customer service and enhance stock market management tools for both countries.
Philippines to improve military facilities near Spratly Islands. On March 28, 2011, President Aquino revealed that the government would allocate around $184 million to upgrade Navy and Air Force facilities in Palawan, near the disputed Spratly Islands. Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Oban said the military will use the funds to make improvements to equipment, including navy vessels and air force assets like long-range patrol aircraft and air defense radar, and to repair the airstrip at Pag-asa Island, one of the largest islands that is part of the Spratlys and currently occupied by Philippine troops. General Oban said that the allocated funds would serve as a first step in an effort to bolster the country’s military presence in the Spratlys and its capability to safeguard its strategic interests.
Philippine government to lead PPP road show to China. On April 10, 2011, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima will lead a government delegation to China to meet with Chinese companies under the banner of the Aquino administration’s public-private partnership programs (PPP) initiative. The delegation will seek investment in transportation infrastructure projects. Five infrastructure projects totaling $1 billion under the PPP program have been launched since early March, including the NLEX-SLEX Connector Project and the privatization of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and MRT 3 operations.
60th ANZAC Day on April 25. Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) day marks the anniversary of the first major partnership between Australia and New Zealand during the First World War in Gallipoli, Turkey. The partnership has proven to be enduring and will continue to be vitally important to support peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Both countries have prepared for dawn services at various war memorials where members of the defense services march to their local memorials. Ambassador Kim Beazley of Australia and Ambassador Mike Moore of New Zealand will host a similar memorial at Washington National Cathedral for invited guests.
Australia to continue uranium exports. Australia intends to remain a major exporter of uranium. Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated the nuclear crisis in Japan has not altered her government’s trade policy. According to the Australian Uranium Association, Australia ships 9,000 to 10,000 tons of uranium oxide concentrate annually, fulfilling roughly one-fifth of global demand.
PM’s and parliamentary computers hacked. Computers belonging to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and at least 10 ministers, including the foreign minister and defense minister, were hacked. The government said the computers were used only for daily communication and not for handling sensitive information. Thousands of e-mails were accessed by the hackers. The attack was a major breach of national security and a poignant reminder of the need for enhanced cyber security measures.
Brunei to speed shipments of natural gas to Japan. Brunei has diverted some of its natural gas shipments to Japan, following a request by Japan’s government for Brunei to speed up natural gas shipments to the country. Japan’s ambassador to Brunei, Noriki Hirose, said that the decision is very important to Japan, as the country is suffering from electricity shortages resulting from the shutdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant that was damaged in the earthquake. Japan imports one-tenth of its natural gas consumption from Brunei; the Sultanate is the fourth-largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world.
Brunei to host ASEAN energy meeting. Brunei will host the 29th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting in September. Brunei’s minister of energy, Pehin Dato Haji Mohd Yasmin, announced that the theme for this years’ meeting, “ASEAN Connectivity,” will be based on the Master Plan for ASEAN Connectivity that was adopted in Hanoi in October 2010. Twenty energy ministers will attend the three-day conference, including officials from dialogue partners Japan, Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Although the United States participates in other leading ASEAN forums at the ministerial level—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attending the ASEAN Regional Forum, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates attending the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus—the U.S. secretary of energy has not yet engaged in the ASEAN Energy Ministers Meeting. By changing this policy, the United States could help anchor its substantive engagement in the region and convince regional partners that it is institutionalizing its participation as a full and active partner.
No agreement with Australia in refugee framework. Australia’s proposal for a refugee processing center in Timor-Leste was effectively removed from the agenda before the beginning of the Bali ministerial last month. The omission is a blow to Canberra and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who had hoped Bali would be the forum to advance the concept.
Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership. Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão visited the ASEAN Secretariat on March 23, 2011, and was received by ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan. Prime Minister Gusmão and Dr. Surin exchanged views on the application of Timor-Leste to join ASEAN. Prime Minister Gusmão also emphasized that Timor-Leste is making active efforts to prepare itself for the membership, now that peace and the political situation in the country have been secured. Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia expressed his full support for Timor-Leste’s membership during a visit in Phnom Penh by Timor-Leste’s president, Jose Ramos-Horta.. Indonesia and Thailand have also shown support, while Singapore had reservations. Read Ernie Bower’s note on Timor-Leste’s bid for ASEAN membership: http://cogitasia.com/bringing-timor-leste-east-timor-into-asean/
Papua New Guinea (PNG)
Prime minister to be suspended for two weeks. Papua New Guinea’s prime minster, Sir Michael Somare, will be suspended for two weeks without pay starting April 4 for official misconduct. A tribunal found the prime minister guilty of 13 counts of filing late or incomplete financial returns to the Ombudsman Commission. Sir Michael has agreed to serve out his punishment; he emerged from the court to cheering crowds and remarked that he could “take a holiday.” Unsurprisingly, the opposition has denounced the sentence as a mockery of the rule of law. However, the trial marks the first time a Papua New Guinean prime minister has been tried in an official tribunal and found guilty on official misconduct charges.
Caption: Prime minister Sir Michael Somare giving a speech. Sir Michael has been suspended for two weeks for official misconduct; the opposition is denouncing the sentence as a mockery of the rule of law.
China finalized $340 million loan deals with PNG. Papua New Guinea has signed $88 million in loan agreements with the Export Import (Exim) Bank of China, which will fund a community college project and an integrated government information system. The bank is also finalizing loans for an industrial park at Madang and university dormitories for the University of Doroka, which would bring the total money loaned to $340 million. Minister of Finance and Treasurer Peter O’Neill said that his country stood to benefit greatly from the loans and that the loan terms were very attractive compared with those of other commercial lenders.
Xayaburi dam proposal delayed. The efforts of 263 environmental groups have succeeded in delaying a key decision on the Xayaburi dam proposed by Laos. The four lower Mekong basin countries—Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam—have agreed to delay the dam’s approval until the next meeting on April 21. Laos wants the dam approved despite a recent independent report recommending a 10-year suspension on dams citing the environmental impact on fishing and communities along the Mekong River.
Asia-Pacific experts warn of reduced water resources in next decade. According to Swedish scholar Maria Larsson, the Mekong River basin will lack water in the next decade due to current utilization methods and poor water resources management. Moreover, plans to build dams on the Mekong River’s main stem will affect the river's currents and reduce the amount of silt running into the lower basin as well as destroy the biodiversity of the lower river basin. Scholars presented their findings at the first session of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) Study Group on Water Resources Security. According to Le Huu Ti, an expert on the Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Committee (ESCAP) of the UN, ASEAN should play a key role at the Asia-Pacific Water Summit slated for 2012 in Bangkok. Cambodia will play host to the second session of the CSCAP Study Group this year.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
China warns against South China Sea exploration. On March 30, 2011, the Philippines Department of Energy said that the UK-based company Forum Energy completed seismic surveys in the Reed Bank in the disputed South China Sea waters. In response to the plan, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters that China holds “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands and those transgressions by other countries or companies to explore those waters without China’s consent is “illegal and invalid.” Beijing’s embassy in Manila has requested a copy of the Forum Energy announcement.
“Moving Forward: The Future of the U.S.-Indonesia Relationship,” CSIS Southeast Asia Program roundtable with Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States His Excellency Dr. Dino Patti Djalal on April 11. This off-the-record roundtable is by invitation only; please e-mail SoutheastAsiaProgram@csis.org with any questions.
“Democracy in Asia,” CSIS Southeast Asia Program Banyan Tree Forum with Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the People’s Justice Party and former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, on April 14, 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. Anwar will share his views on democracy’s progress in Asia and the impact of recent developments in North Africa and western Asia on Southeast Asia’s political perspective, among other topics. RSVP to SoutheastAsiaProgram@csis.org
“Trade Politics and Australia’s Economic Performance,” CED (Committee for Economic Development) Policy Luncheon with the Honorable Kim Beazley, Australian Ambassador to the United States, on April 5, Noon–1:30 p.m. More details here.
“International Aid in Southeast Asia: Empowering Change or Perpetuating the Status Quo?” East-West Center in Washington Asia Pacific Security Seminar on April 7, Noon–1:15 p.m. To RSVP by April 6.
“Combating Human Trafficking in Asia,” U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing chaired by Senator Jim Webb. Watch live hearing on April 7, 2:15 p.m.
“Mindanao: Overcoming Conflict,” Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Conflict Management Program student research trip panel presentation and discussion on April 8, 12:30 p.m., Rome Auditorium, 1619 Massachusetts Ave., NW. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Myanmar and the Two Koreas: Dangers and Opportunities,” a full-day conference on April 11 cohosted by the Southeast Asia Studies Program and the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and Georgetown University. The conference will illuminate important relationships between North and South Korea and Myanmar, analyze regional implications of such relationships, and seek to inform U.S. policy. For an agenda of the conference, visit here. To RSVP, please click here.
“Indonesia's National Climate Change Mitigation Actions: Paving the Way Towards NAMAs (National Appropriate Mitigation Actions),”a presentation hosted by the United States–Indonesia Society (USINDO) and the World Resources Institute, on April 12, 2:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m. For more details and to RSVP, please email email@example.com by April 10.
U.S.-Japan-Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) on April 13 in Washington D.C. Originally convened at the sub-cabinet level in mid-2002, the TSD was upgraded to the status of a “strategic dialogue” in May 2005.
2011 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund on April 16–17. Details of the meeting can be found here.
“Transnational Advocacy Networks and Combating Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia,” George Washington University Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Asia Society on April 19, 12:30 p.m.–1:45 p.m. For more details and to RSVP, click here.
“The Annual ANZAC Lecture: On ANZUS Turning 60,” The Honorable Kim Beazley, Ambassador of Australia to the United States, at Georgetown University Center for Australian and New Zealand studies on April 20, 6:30 p.m. For more details and to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Poverty, Climate Change, and Health in the Pacific Islands,” a seminar by the Georgetown University Center for Australian and New Zealand studies on April 28, 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. For more details and to RSVP, email email@example.com.
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