ISEAS Library Selects

Daily News on the Southeast Asian Region

10 December 2019  (pm) - 11 December 2019  (am)

This issue of Daily News Alert includes the following commentaries and citations attributed to researchers at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. You can click on their names to go to these articles directly.
This is a daily information alert service containing articles and commentaries selected by six ISEAS Library staff from 95 international and regional news sources every weekday morning. These news sources cover Southeast Asia and special topics relevant to the research interest/ direction/ agenda of ISEAS. 
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1 .
Cambodia and the great powers: In the second installment in our eight-week partnership with Future Forum looking at Cambodia in the decades to come, we examine the Kingdom's attempts to navigate the choppy waters of great power politics that threatens to submerge its domestic affairs and jeopardise its future.

2 .
Cambodia Angered Over US Sanctions on Two Businessmen Accused of Graft, Illegal Logging: Cambodia on Tuesday slammed a decision by the U.S. to sanction a business tycoon and a government official accused of graft and illegal logging, calling the move an attack on its national sovereignty and interference in its internal affairs.


3 .
Govt curbs radicalism in Islamic schools: As part of the government's efforts to curb religious radicalism, the Religious Affairs Ministry has issued a circular directing madrasah (Islamic religious schools) to limit content on khilafah (caliphate) and jihad in teaching materials. Critics have lambasted the decision, describing it as over the top and arguing it will limit education. However, supporters have said the move was necessary to curb the spread of religious radicalism.

4 .
Indonesia has reasons for optimism despite democratic setbacks: [Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) executive director Philips Vermonte] added that the post-New Order decentralization process also showed heartening results and had "created a pool of potential national leaders." He said that while a lot of attention was paid to the contentious 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election - which was marked by the trial and conviction of former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy - few noticed the more positive outcomes of the 2018 concurrent regional elections.

5 .
Jokowi, Supreme Court slammed for showing leniency to corruption convicts: According to [antigraft watchdog Indonesia Corruption Watch] ICW data, the average sentence for corruption convicts in 2018 was only two years and five months. The ICW also criticized the Supreme Court, the country's top court, which released 101 corruption convicts who had been sentenced by lower courts during 2007-2018.

6 .
Report reveals sexual abuse in Indonesian Catholic churches: Bishops Council of Indonesia (KWI) seminary commission secretary Joseph Kristanto said that, while he did not have definitive data about the number of sexual abuse victims in Catholic churches in the country, his team had received reports from informants detailing at least 56 victims.

7 .
RI's GDP growth to remain sluggish next year: Analysts: Indonesia's GDP growth is expected to remain sluggish in 2020 as weakening exports and commodity prices, in addition to global uncertainties, continue to take their toll on the economy. The country's economic growth is expected to grow by 5 percent this year and will remain the same in 2020, according to Singapore-based lender Bank DBS Indonesia economist Masyita Crystallin.

8 .
Anti-corruption Activist: President Jokowi Prefers Theatrics: A number of anti-corruption activists have criticized President Joko Widodo or Jokowi for not attending the global anti-corruption commemoration held at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) headquarters on Monday, December 9, 2019. Activists considered Jokowi's absence as an affirmation for his lack of commitment in eradicating corruption in Indonesia. Jakarta Legal Aid's Head of Advocacy M Isnur quipped Jokowi's preference to watch a school play at the SMKN 57 Jakarta, which present theatrical performances of three state-ministers in an anti-corruption play.

9 .
KPK Calls for Law Banning Ex-Corruptors from Running for Election: The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) suggested the President and the House of Representatives (DPR) draft regulations restricting ex-graft convicts from running for the regional head election. The law is necessary as long as the government is serious about enforcing the ban.

10 .
Indonesia: An e-commerce success story: Unlike in many other countries - especially in the West - informal commerce or social commerce is thriving in Indonesia. In fact, according to the latest available data, social commerce accounts for 40 percent of all e-commerce sales in the country. This indicates that many big e-commerce players such as JD and Lazada have not completely penetrated the e-commerce market in the country yet.

11 .
Indonesia's New Information Czar Names His Priorities: Johnny G. Plate, the new communication and information technology minister, says data privacy, talent and infrastructure development, and reviving his ministry's old role as the government's main spokesperson, would be his main priorities in the next five years.


12 .
Can Laos profit from China rail link despite being US$1.5 billion in debt? Part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, the high-speed railway will connect Kunming in Yunnan province to Vientiane by 2021, and subsequently to Malaysia and Singapore. But Laos must plan well to benefit from the rail link's operations and not fall into a debt trap
Nick Freeman is an independent development consultant, and Associate Fellow in the Myanmar Studies Programme at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
South China Morning Post, 10 December 2019


13 .
Don't get carried away, Chinese voters warn MCA, BN after Tg Piai win: It led to Wee's compatriots in the opposition Barisan Nasional and MCA to declare that Chinese voters, who abandoned the coalition in droves over the past 10 years, are finally returning. But Tg Piai's own Chinese residents challenge this conclusion and told The Malaysian Insight that the recent by-election was more a loss for Pakatan Harapan rather than a win for BN and MCA.

Malaysian Insight, 11 December 2019

14 .
Agong harap hubungan Malaysia-UK terus berkembang [Agong hopes Malaysia-UK relationship will continue to grow]: Al-Sultan Abdullah bertitah hubungan kedua-dua negara selama ini berjalan dengan baik antaranya kerana wujud persamaan dalam sistem pentadbiran yang bertunjangkan kepada sistem Raja Berperlembagaan.

15 .
Cabaran dan masa depan graduan [Challenges and the future of graduates]: Jika dahulu manusia adalah aset utama dalam semua sektor pekerjaan, namun arus perubahan Revolusi Industri 4.0 menyebabkan banyak pengecilan tenaga kerja dikurangkan atau dimansuhkan.

16 .
Kembalikan Malaysia kepada acuan asal [Return Malaysia to its original mould]: Malaysia Baharu versi Pakatan Harapan yang berpijak kepada falsafah kesamarataan hakikatnya amat berbahaya lantaran menjanjikan sesuatu yang nampak menawan tetapi hakikatnya 'pepat di luar rencong di dalam'.

17 .
Malaysia's Mahathir pledges to step down for Anwar, but not before November: Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad, the world's oldest prime minister, promised on Tuesday to hand over power to anointed successor Anwar Ibrahim in spite of new sexual assault allegations against him. Mahathir, 94, told Reuters in an interview that he would not hand over before a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries that Malaysia is to host in November but could be ready after that.

18 .
Kunci Anwar ke Putrajaya di tangan Azmin' [Anwar's key to Putrajaya is in Azmin's hands]: Timbalan Presiden PKR, Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali bersama pendokong di belakangnya secara lantang mengkritik perjalanan kongres yang disifatkan sebagai satu pentas penghinaan buat kem Azmin yang diejek sebagai pengkhianat.

19 .
Young, low-income Malaysians are living beyond their means and drowning in debt, World Bank says: There is a high risk of bankruptcy among young people with limited financial knowledge who borrow money for consumer spending, report says. 'Impulse-buying behaviour, easy access to personal loans and credit card financing' heighten the risks, particularly among those aged 25 to 34.

20 .
Here's what the drama at Malaysian political congresses means for the key players: Last week, Malaysia's political parties Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and Amanah separately held their annual congresses. Dominating the headlines were the scuffles and barbs that flew between rival camps aligned to party president Anwar Ibrahim and deputy president Azmin Ali at PKR's gathering. Some observers argued that this was in contrast to the smooth sailing meeting over at Umno. The truth is that both parties are equally fragmented, with members of each party suspicious of one another.


21 .
Suu Kyi faces spotlight in Rohingya genocide trial: Today, international attention is firmly focused on Aung San Suu Kyi as she faces the judges in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague and presents Myanmar's side of the story. Her decision to personally defend the government against accusations of genocide has spurned a mass movement to support her. Throughout Myanmar, there have been demonstrations in support of her and vigils are being held throughout the country during the duration of the hearings. Others have travelled to The Hague to show their support.

22 .
Myanmar doing rather well despite the Lady hauled to Hague for Rohingya's plight: The World Bank is forecasting GDP growth of 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal year, with a slight uptick in the following year. It is one of the fastest growth rates among all East Asian countries. Asian investors barely hiccuped in response to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya community. Few new investors from the democracies of the West have arrived since then, but their absence has only whetted the appetite of investors from China, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and other Asian countries.

23 .
Behind Gambia's decision to prosecute Myanmar at the ICJ

24 .
Military MP urges govt to call NDSC meeting: The government should convene a National Defence and Security Council meeting and officially declare the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army (AA) as terrorist, insurgent groups as their terror attacks amount to showing contempt for and insulting the law, said Brig-Gen Kyaw San Lwin, Lower House Defence Services Personnel Representative at parliament on December 9.

25 .
The West should listen to Suu Kyi at The Hague: Her decision to appear at the tribunal startled many outside Myanmar. Many Western media outlets, analysts and human rights observers accused the Nobel peace laureate of condoning human rights abuses and seeking to gain political points by deciding to testify in person. But they neglect the fact, deliberately or not, that as the leader of Myanmar, Suu Kyi knows her country, the difficulties in solving the Rohingya conundrum and the efforts the country has made in solving the problem, better than any outsider.
Yu Ning
Global Times, 10 December 2019

26 .
ICJ hearing begins with Gambia putting its case against Myanmar: Myanmar has said that military action in 2017 was promoted by deadly attacks on Myanmar border guards by groups of ARSA terrorists. She is expected to argue that the ICJ has no jurisdiction over the case. Tambadou, a former prosecutor at the tribunal into the Rwanda's 1994 genocide, said Myanmar's military operation involved "mass murder, mass rape and mass torture, children being burned alive in their homes and places of worship."

27 .
Tackling Inequality is Critical for Human Development - UNDP: UNDP points out that, seen from a long-term trend, between 1990 and 2018, Myanmar's HDI value has increased from 0.349 to 0.584, an increase of 67.2 per cent. Indeed, a significant achievement. Myanmar is now in the group of countries categorized as having 'medium human development'.

28 .
Corporate governance in Myanmar -A reference from Singapore: Myanmar is pushing to publish its Corporate Governance Code in 2020. While such a move may improve investor confidence and attract more foreign direct investments, it also means a significant change in the way local companies operate. But this is a leap of faith that they can take with confidence, going by the experience of their ASEAN neighbour, Singapore.

29 .
Government sets sights on curbing illegal trade: Vice President U Myint Swe said at the meeting that illegal trade through border areas has serious impacts on local small and medium businesses, and urged efforts to combat the problem be stepped up. As part of the efforts, the government has formed the Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee, which will focus on promoting cooperation between state-level government departments on key focus areas and strategies to curb the issue.

30 .
In Myanmar Army's Corner, Aung San Suu Kyi Will Defend It in Rohingya Genocide Case: Her boost in popularity is well timed for the National League for Democracy, facing its first re-election campaign since its landslide victory four years ago... "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's trip to The Hague is definitely related to the 2020 election," said Khun Gamani, a social researcher. "I think she is desperate to get the Burmese Army's recognition and deference."

31 .
Gambia Presents Genocide Case at ICJ Against Myanmar Over Rohingya Expulsion: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is leading the country's defense team dispassionately observed the proceedings during the first day of the three-day hearings... The United States meanwhile announced Tuesday that it has added Myanmar military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other commanders to its list of individuals sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, initially crafted to deal with rights abuses in Russia and to apply targeted sanctions to culpable officials.

32 .
How Myanmar's Elections Could Dampen Its Investment Climate: The lead-up to Myanmar's 2020 election will bring risks of greater communal violence, stepped up military offensives and labor actions that could roil the country internally.


33 .
Duterte to end martial law in Philippine south after 2 years: "The palace is confident on the capability of our security forces in maintaining the peace and security of Mindanao without extending martial law," Panelo said in a statement. "The people of Mindanao are assured that any incipient major threat in the region would be nipped in the bud."

Asahi Shimbun (AJW), 10 December 2019

34 .
Duterte to ease jittery investors by ending Mindanao martial law: Martial law is set to expire on Dec. 31, having been declared after Islamic State-aligned militants laid siege to the city of Marawi in May 2017. The siege lasted five months, but Duterte previously asked Congress to extend martial law due to the region's volatile security.


35 .
Private sector economists raise Singapore 2019 growth forecast to 0.7%, narrow 2020's to 1.5-1.9%: Private sector economists have raised their outlook for Singapore's economy this year, after growth in the third quarter came in slightly better than expected, and buoyed by stronger hopes for electronics-led manufacturing. They now expect gross domestic product to increase by 0.7 per cent in 2019, up from 0.6 per cent in the previous survey in September, according to the latest quarterly poll of professional forecasters by the Monetary Authority of Singapore released on Wednesday (Dec 11).


36 .
Baht, jobless surge spells tough times: Media reports and analyses from various news agencies are in agreement about the Thai economy. And it is not at all good news. Despite the government's efforts to stimulate the economy, it is clear that the 2019 economic growth rate will fall far short of the already very modest 3% target.


37 .
Promoting cashless payments to boost internet economy: Cashless payments would not only increase of the circulation of capital, it would also help boost the internet economy, said Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam. He was speaking at the E-payment Eco-system Development Forum 2019 under the theme "Motivation by Chip Technology" in Ha Noi on Tuesday. The forum was co-organised by Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Viet Nam Economic Times) and the National Payment Corporation of Viet Nam (NAPAS).

38 .
Winners and losers in Vietnam's retail market: In the last decade the entry of new players into Vietnam's retail market has forced some old ones out and intensified competition.

39 .
Vietnam, Australia hold 7th diplomatic - defence strategic dialogue: The 7th diplomatic - defence strategic dialogue between Vietnam and Australia, an annual activity since 2012, took place in Canberra on December 10. They said defence collaboration is an important pillar in the Vietnam - Australia strategic partnership, agreeing to continue effectively carrying out bilateral and multilateral defence cooperation activities on the basis of the 2010 memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation and the 2018 joint vision statement on enhancing defence ties.

40 .
Vietnam's richest man is spending US$2 billion to sell electric cars to Americans: Pham Nhat Vuong, the billionaire behind auto start-up VinFast, is following in the footsteps of Chinese carmakers who have yet to crack the US market. VinFast counts Toyota, Ford and Hyundai among its competitors and this year began selling cars with BMW-licensed engines

41 .
Vietnam's contributions to global human rights: Over the past seven decades, Vietnam has significantly contributed to human rights. The country has struggled to defend national independence and reunification to ensure that all Vietnamese can fully enjoy human rights, including the right to live in peace, independence, and freedom, and to decide their own faith and growth.

ASEANASEAN/Southeast Asia

42 .
Real-life tragedies of modern slavery at sea: Greenpeace Southeast Asia, with the help of Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI), uncovered patterns that suggest debt bondage. By analyzing contracts, letters of guarantee and related documents, the report reveals a dark pattern of recruitment and how Indonesian migrant fishers end up grossly underpaid.
Arifsyah Nasution. Regional oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Jakarta Post, 11 December 2019

AsiaAsia Pacific

43 .
India to overtake Japan as world's No. 3 economy in 2029: India's economy, currently about half the size of Japan's, is destined to reach roughly $10 trillion by 2035, according to JCER's latest annual Medium-Term Forecast on Asian Economies. Japan's GDP was estimated at $4.9 trillion by the World Bank in 2018.

44 .
OPINION: Japan offers Southeast Asia way out of US-China rivalry: Asian geopolitics is often reduced to great-power rivalry between the U.S. and China. This is especially the case in Southeast Asia, where regional leaders have repeatedly expressed their unwillingness to choose between the two. What is often missed in this binary perspective, however, is the critical role of Japan, not only as a major economic player but also, now, a security provider.
Richard Heydarian
Nikkei Asian Review, 11 December 2019

SCSEast/South China Sea

45 .
US warplanes on Beijing's radar in South China Sea, American air force chiefs say: The US Air Force's frequent activities over the South China Sea might not attract the same attention as the US Navy's, but they still played an important role in negotiations with China, according to American air force officers.

SpecialComprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) / Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

46 .
India to remain in RCEP, but put country first: India's commerce and industry minister says his country will continue participating in a planned regional trade pact, but will not conclude a deal that does not benefit the country. Piyush Goyal was speaking to the parliament on Tuesday about the government's stance on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, trade agreement.

Global Economy

47 .
Trade war enters more dangerous phase: Last week was not a good one for world trade and it is only going to get worse. Given the unrelenting trend of growing restrictions on trade in the past two years, it is quite certain that the aggressive trade measures announced by the US recently will trigger tit-for-tat measures by others. Since there is no longer an effective global framework to resolve the fundamental differences among nations that lie behind this descent into protectionism, smaller countries in our region will have to fend for themselves. This calls for a deeper rethink of how trade-dependent countries should formulate policy resĀ­ponses to better protect themselves in this more unforgiving world.

48 .
Murder on the Multilateral Express: The paralysis of the Appellate Body [at the WTO] means more than the mere inconvenience of losing the opportunity to appeal. Instead, it will have major repercussions on the multilateral trading system.


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