ISEAS Library Selects

Daily News on the Southeast Asian Region

5 December 2019  (pm) - 6 December 2019  (am)

This issue of Daily News Alert includes the following commentary attributed to a researcher at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. You can click on his name to go to the article 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. 
If you think your friends and colleagues would find this alert useful, please invite them to subscribe.

The Library usually releases the Daily News Alert around 3pm. If you have not been receiving our Daily News Alert in your inbox, your email system could be treating this alert as spam. You may add "" and "" to Safe Senders List (white list) through your email platform. The detailed self-help steps are available on our Library FAQ webpage
As part of the Library's ongoing efforts to make this reading experience more convenient for users, you can click on any of the links below to directly access the subject of your immediate interest.
Country Studies
Southeast Asia Countries
Brunei Darussalam
To view the full articles, please click on the hyperlink.  For those that require passwords (usually assigned to a particular PC in the Library) due to subscription restrictions imposed, please feel free to visit the Library during its  operating hours  
The Library hopes to continue providing timely and relevant information that will meet your research needs. We appreciate and value your feedback on our selection. Simply reply to this email or use our  online feedback form .   If you do not wish to receive our Daily News Alert, please click here   to unsubscribe. 

1 .
Cambodian Government Revokes Passports of 27 CNRP Members: Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revoked the passports of 27 members of the outlawed opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who have fled the country to avoid a government crackdown, accusing the activists of involvement in a plot to topple Prime Minister Hun Sen.


2 .
Economy key as Indonesia raises sails in South Pacific: The South Pacific Ocean has become a focal point of Indonesia's economic and development diplomacy, with the nation's top diplomat meeting with counterparts from the region that is fast becoming a battleground for influence among the world's superpowers.

3 .
Muhammadiyah at 107: New challenges, roles in education: First, regarding the disparity of quality among Muhammadiyah universities and schools, as the establishment of universities and schools is largely the work of members scattered across the archipelago, national-level planning for the institutions is obviously absent and national quality control is certainly a giant effort.
Alpha Amirrachman Secretary of the primary and secondary education council of the central board of Muhammadiyah
Jakarta Post, 6 December 2019

4 .
PISA result puts demographic bonus in doubt: Education expert Totok Amin Soefijanto of Paramadina University said the government would have to reform its education system if it wanted to make the best use of the demographic dividend. He said it should start by equipping teachers with more training and preservice preparation, including by reforming the recruitment process.

5 .
What makes the 212 movement still significant? This year's reunion was smaller than last year's due to the retreat of some influential figures and organizations (some have now joined the government's coalition) and the less powerful issues available for them to mobilize what they call ummah (Islamic society).
Azis Anwar Fachrudin and Afifur Rochman Syarani are researchers for the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies (CRCS), Gadjah Mada University.
Jakarta Post, 6 December 2019

6 .
Indonesia-Japan support wider local currency use for trade transaction: Indonesia and Japan support broader use of local currencies for bilateral trade and direct investment transactions following the inking of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the local currency settlement (LCS) framework in Tokyo, Thursday. The agreement between the Japanese Finance Ministry and the central bank of Indonesia had enabled the two parties to apply a direct quote and interbank trading of the Yen and Rupiah, Bank Indonesia noted in its press statement.

7 .
Why a War on Extremism in Indonesia May Create More Problems Than It Solves: While the challenge is real, the approach adopted by the Jokowi administration thus far suffers from serious limitations and challenges.

8 .
Indonesia More Vulnerable Today Than During Last Global Downturn: Report: The research also suggested that well-prepared companies had emerged winners during and after the past downturns, "yet, many senior executives in Indonesia have not begun to seriously prepare for [another one]." "Indonesian businesses could take lessons from 'winners' in the past downturns, that they had made four common moves," Nader Elkhweet, a partner in Bain & Company, said in a discussion with the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

9 .
OPINION: Why the private sector should invest in stunting reduction in Indonesia: The rate of stunting remains stubbornly high in Indonesia. Indonesia is currently ranked fifth among countries with the highest burden of stunting in children under 5 years. Childhood stunting is a silent emergency with negative consequences such as greater risks of illness and death, poor learning outcomes and poverty.

10 .
Indonesia's US$40 billion rail expansion could rival Hong Kong, Singapore while reigniting China-Japan rivalry: Project is part of President Joko Widodo's ambitious road map to create a US$7 trillion economy by 2045, with an emphasis on infrastructure

11 .
Avoiding Hypocrisy: A Joint decision letter (SKB) recently issued by 11 ministries and institutions smacks of the government's hypocrisy in combating radicalism. Using the pretense of nipping faith-based violence in the bud among civil servants, in many other arenas the state has allowed radicalism to occur, targeting minority groups. To date, adherents of Shia and Ahmadiyah, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities are sitting ducks for persecution by religious groupings.


12 .
Cycle of poverty in Malaysia's Kelantan state amid annual floods: She lives in Pasir Mas, Kelantan, which currently has the highest number of people displaced due to annual floods resulting from the monsoon season. The recurring flooding and subsequent rebuilding have trapped some on the eastern coast of peninsula Malaysia in a cycle of poverty.

13 .
English proficiency survey puts Malaysia as 'high' but still below Singapore: Out of 100 countries and regions rated in the EF English Proficiency Index 2019, the top four were the Netherlands (ranked first, 70.27 score), Sweden (68.74), Norway (67.93), Denmark (67.87). The same index found Singapore to have "very high" English proficiency. The republic was fifth globally with a 66.82 score, above the "high" proficiency nations of Philippines (20th rank, 60.14 score) and Malaysia (26th rank, 58.55 score).

14 .
The ugly faces of Umno-Baru: Was Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, the MP for Pasir Salak, under instruction to cause an uproar in Parliament and divert our attention from Zahid Hamidi's trial for Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT), money laundering and bribery? On 3 December, Tajuddin asked if the holy ash on Jelutong MP, RSN Rayer's forehead, came from the late Chin Peng's ashes. When he was accused of insulting the Hindus, Tajuddin back-tracked and denied the charge. Police reports were lodged and social media went into overdrive.

Malaysiakini, 6 December 2019

15 .
Turunkan suhu politik [Lower the political temperature]: Suhu politik boleh dipanaskan mengikut kehendak media dan orang politik. Sebab itu sangat sukar menurunkan suhu politik sama ada antara parti mahupun dalam parti. Apatah lagi antara kerajaan dan pembangkang. Tidak mudah tidak mempolitikkan sesuatu isu.
Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid
Sinar Harian, 6 December 2019

16 .
谁有能力驾驭老马 [Who is capable of controlling Mahathir]: 如今根据刘伟强所提呈的相关法案,当局选择针对国家元首委任首相人选资格方面直接切入,即修改联邦宪法第 43(2)(a) 条款,确保有关国会下议议员除了像过往般必须获得该院多数信任,以后也必须不曾在国会担任过 2 届任期首相。若从正面角度而言,这项修宪法案内容可谓非常严苛和坚决,即不管有关人选曾连任 2 届首相,或像敦马一样历史性中断担任 2 任首相,都将一概失去继续任相资格。但从负面的角度而言,由于大马国会可在 5 年任期内提早解散,而非像美国一样有固定期限的总统任期和选举。
吴健南 .
星洲日報 , 6 December 2019

17 .
限制首相任期的连锁反应 [Chain reaction from PM's term limit]: 假设安华在明年依照希盟的协议接班,那么理论上,他顶多也只能担任 8 年的首相,也就是余下 3 年的任期,以及下一届国会最长 5 年的任期;如果希盟还赢得政权的话。如果坊间有任何政治阴谋要阻止安华出任首相的话,那无疑,这个条款就是最厉害的 " 阳谋 " ,名正言顺、极大程度的压缩安华的首相任期。此时,只怕安华也已经拿不定主意,到底要不要中途接班了。
黄子豪 .
星洲日報 , 6 December 2019

18 .
Malaysia and the Lure of 'Smart Farming': There are promises but there are also pitfalls, as Mahathir can tell us

19 .
马华为什么不感激 4000 万拉曼拨款 [Why is MCA not appreciative of RM40m allocation for UTAR] 到目前为止,马华把 3000 万令吉的拨款,扭曲成是对拉曼的 " 攻击 " 对于马华而言,他们甚至不大关注学生们是否在这笔拨款上的受益。钱并没有受到他们的控制才是他们所在乎的。
Malaysian Insight, 5 December 2019

20 .
Opinion: Who's Muafakat Nasional's choice for PM? To [Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin], the time has not come to discuss who would be named Muafakat Nasional's prime minister. However according to MalaysiaKini, in saying this, Khaled did not dismiss calls by some who had suggested the return of Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the PM post. Khaled was non-committal if such a call could be a reality, or a possibility even.

21 .
Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim says former aide's sexual assault claim is 'politics at its worst'


22 .
Tensions Between National Army And Mon Rebels Flare on Myanmar-Thai Border: Myanmar military officer held talks on Thursday with ethnic Mon rebels in a bid to ease tensions at a village on the country's border with Thailand, where more than 1,000 residents have sought shelter in monasteries and rubber plantations amid recent hostilities between the two sides, people with knowledge of the situation said.


23 .
Philippines needs to improve its education system: The research arm of Switzerland-based business school, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) recently released the results of its survey on the talent competitiveness of 63 countries from around the world. Based on the rankings, the Philippines managed to jump up to 49th place from 55th last year. Regardless of the jump, the ASEAN country, unfortunately, still performed the worst when compared to other bloc members. In order to understand how this happened, it's important to look at what the study uses for its indicators.

24 .
Philippines economy: Rethinking infrastructure: The government's ambitious infrastructure programme, commonly referred to as "Build, Build, Build", has got off to a slow start. It was launched in 2017 with the aim of modernising the country's crumbling infrastructure within six years, utilising a combined investment of P8trn (US$154.4bn). However, by late 2019 only two out of 75 projects have been completed. Bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of technical expertise are among the reasons for the delay. The focus has now shifted towards a public-private partnership (PPP) model. The Economist Intelligence Unit maintains its view that the authorities will struggle to complete the bulk of its infrastructure agenda before the next presidential election in 2022.

25 .
Philippine national power grid IPO can guard against China threat: senator: That's the view of Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of the Philippine Senate's energy committee, who used a televised interview on Wednesday to remind the NGCP that under the franchise granted to the private firm by Congress in January 2009, it was required to sell 20 per cent of its equity in an initial public offering (IPO) within 10 years of operation. "This is really one of the most important features of the franchise," Gatchalian said.


26 .
Digital transformation pivotal to future of Singapore SMEs: HEADING into 2020, digital transformation will continue to be a strong theme for Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), driven by government support and a push for increased productivity.

27 .
Singapore strikes its first official blows against fake news: "Facebook is legally required to tell you that the Singapore government says this post has false information," reads the message, which links to a government website. It appeared on November 30th on a post published by the States Times Review, a blog which delights in hectoring the Singaporean authorities. The post alleged that the country's elections are rigged and that the next one could "possibly turn Singapore into a Christian state". The idea that the ruling People's Action Party is trying to turn Singapore into a theocracy is absurd-even "scurrilous", as the government put it.

28 .
马苏里 马来新诗之父 [Masuri - father of modern Malay poetry]: 马苏里是与乌斯曼 · 阿旺( Usman Awang 1929-2001 )齐名的马来诗人,两者都是新加坡 "50 年代作家行列 " ASAS'50 )的中坚分子。不同的是,乌斯曼在马来半岛出生,马来亚独立后回去马来亚;出生于新加坡、在马来亚深造的马苏里,却回到新加坡继续为马来文坛效力。如果当时马苏里也加入 " 回归 " 队伍,新加坡马来文坛将失去一颗光辉夺目的彗星。

29 .
Google explains ban on political ads regulated under Pofma code of conduct in e-mail to SDP: Google has explained its decision to stop accepting political advertisements regulated under Singapore's law against fake news, after it came under fire from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) over the policy. SDP chairman Paul Tambyah likened the move to a ban on freedom of speech in an exchange of e-mails with Google that his party made public on Tuesday (Dec 3).


30 .
Elderly are biggest spreaders of fake news: Thailand's Digital Economy and Society Minister, Buddhipongse Punnakanta revealed recently that about 500,000 items of suspected fake news were spread on social media over the past month alone. The biggest culprits? The country's elderly. Buddhipongse said that it was the ministry's anti-fake news centre that detected the approximately half a million items of possible fake news.

TimorTimor-Leste (East Timor)

31 .
Can Tourism Become the New Economic Driver for Timor-Leste? Tourism could help drive Timor-Leste's economy forward long after oil and gas have run their courses.


32 .
Ha Noi adopts plan to cut emissions: 'Green Initiates for Ha Noi' will focus on air quality management, waste management, energy, urban planning, and green living with sustainable consumption. The department will develop an air monitoring network using low-cost air pollution sensors in selected areas of the city to provide online updates for the public regarding pollution levels.

33 .
Vietnam mulls new rail link to Chinese border: Vietnam is considering a VND100 trillion broad gauge railway running from Hai Phong City to Lao Cai Province on the border with China.
Viet Chung & Doan Loan
VnExpress International, 6 December 2019

34 .
Vietnam to promote ASEAN unity during ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020: According to Deputy FM Dung, the theme of Vietnam's ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020 is "Cohesive and Responsive," which reflects Vietnam's wish to have an ASEAN standing firmly against impacts of regional and international situations. Asked about preparations for Vietnam's ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020, the Deputy FM said Vietnam will promote five priorities, first of all bringing into play ASEAN's role and positive contribution in maintaining a peaceful, security and stable environment in the region.

35 .
Germany supports early ratification of EVFTA, EVIPA: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh hosted a reception in Hanoi on December 5 for State Secretary of the German Federal Foreign Office Andreas Michaelis, during which he affirmed Vietnam's recognition of great importance to ties with Germany, its key partner in the Europe as well as the European Union (EU). Germany backs the promotion of Vietnam-EU relations as well as the early ratification of the EU - Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA), has said State Secretary of the German Federal Foreign Office Andreas Michaelis.

ASEANASEAN/Southeast Asia

36 .
Mekong left starving: Known for its signature reddish-brown waters, the Mekong River recently turned a bright blue in some parts. Its crystal-clear water may be beautiful to look at, but this change is a symptom of a sick and starving river. For ecologists and observers, it will be too naive not to point the finger at the usual suspects -- dams.

37 .
Mekong River region on more minds: As Vietnam is poised to take over the rotational chair of Asean in January 2020, its second foremost foreign policy priority after the South China Sea is reportedly the Mekong River region. While the South China Sea, where more than one third of global shipping passes, is considered an overall Asean concern, the Mekong region is left to the five riparian countries in mainland Southeast Asia to deal with in view of China's upstream hydropower dams that have led to frequent droughts and depleted fish stocks in downstream communities, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam.

38 .
For smart cities, the future is regional: IN November 2019, South Korea announced the launch of a consultative council on smart city projects with the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean). This comes on the back on ongoing efforts by the US and China to engage with the Asean Smart Cities Network (ASCN).

39 .
For all the focus on Asia's high achievers, the laggards are many: China led the education rankings, but an ageing population and gap with Southeast Asia might mark down the whole region.

40 .
Tourists Love the Mekong River's New Aquamarine Color. But It's a Troubling Sign: The water levels have also become unusually low, exposing sandbanks that allow the curious to stand in the middle of the river. Low water levels pose an obvious problem for fishermen and farmers, but experts say the decline in sediment exposes a different danger that can result in greater erosion of the river's banks and bed.

41 .
Ninth ASEAN Maritime Forum gets underway in Danang: The central city of Danang is playing host to the ninth ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF 9) as the event officially opened on December 5, with over 50 delegates from 10 ASEAN member states and the ASEAN Secretariat in attendance. AMF 9 is set to see a host of topics discussed, including the implementation of maritime security and safety, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the enhancement of connectivity, maritime environmental protection measures, and maritime tourism development.

42 .
Vietnam to champion 'cohesive' ASEAN despite testy ties with China: Next in line to chair the 10-nation bloc, Hanoi was pushing for a more "cohesive and responsive" ASEAN next year, setting the tone for the contestation of a decades-long dispute in the South China Sea, international relations expert Aleksius Jemadu said on Tuesday. The Pelita Harapan University scholar argued that a more cohesive ASEAN would serve as a platform for Vietnam to increase its bargaining power in negotiations for a final draft of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, which is currently being negotiated among ASEAN countries and China.


43 .
US Should Bounce Back From Its ASEAN 2019 Letdown: President Donald Trump's absence from the recently concluded East Asia Summit in Bangkok represents another missed diplomatic opportunity to engage one of the world's most vibrant and dynamic regions. At a time of increasing great-power competition, concern about apparent US retreat from multilateralism, doubts about its security commitments, and worries about its transactionalism, Trump's presence could have sent a message itself.

AsiaAsia Pacific

44 .
Connectivity plans in Indo-Pacific need institutional support for governance, standards and sustainability: Asean has clearly brought out its intention to use the Outlook as a guide for its engagement in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions to contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability, freedom and prosperity. Its next task is to bring important partners and infrastructure plans under an institutional framework which can help develop and implement the shared principles of governance, standards and sustainable financing of connectivity for economic growth.
Anita Prakash is the director of Policy Relations at the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA).
Nation, 6 December 2019

45 .
Asian neighbors lose confidence in Xi Jinping's policies: Survey: Respondents in Japan were the most negative on Xi, with 81% saying they had no confidence in him. This was followed by 74% in South Korea and 54% in Australia. In the Philippines, however, 58% had confidence in Xi, while 35% did not.

46 .
SILK ROAD BLUES: Questions dog China's Belt and Road Initiative plans for Myanmar and the world: Prior to the unveiling of the BRI project, Chinese investment and projects in Myanmar have been marred in controversy, including the Myitsone Dam project in Kachin State that was put on hold in 2011 by the former government of Thein Sein, and the furor and protests over the Chinese-run copper mine in Letpaduang that saw farmers pushed off their land and damage to the environment. While these projects came before the unveiling of the BRI, their modus operandi and flaws point to a highhandedness and dismissal of local concerns, highlighted recently by the alleged arrogant manner in which the Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar dressed down ethnic armed organization opponents of the Myitsone Dam in private talks.

SCSEast/South China Sea

47 .
Vietnam confronts China in the South China Sea: Vietnam's key conundrum is whether it should risk open conflict with China to defend its maritime sovereignty. Strategically, the situation is not too dismal for Hanoi. Its elongated mainland and improved defence capabilities, alongside its experience, makes Vietnam both capable and indomitable within ASEAN. Its multi-layered defence system can inflict substantial costs upon any unlawful operation near its coast. But any conflict would cause major disruptions to Vietnam's development priorities and must remain a last resort.
Do Thanh Hai, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam
East Asia Forum, 6 December 2019

48 .
Managing South China Sea Challenge: The South China Sea is one of the significant potential flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific region. This important oceanic space contains enormous amount of important raw materials and straddles through exclusive economic zones of some of the countries of the ASEAN bloc, besides being a maritime route through which trillions of dollars of cargo pass through to countries such as China, Japan South Korea and other nations. This global common is being threatened by China through massive land reclamation measures and artificial island building activities, besides militarization with a view of intimidate the small ASEAN nations who have competing claims to areas falling under theirs EEZs.

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

49 .
Out Of RCEP: Need For Synergising The Domestic And The International: Joining the RCEP would have made the Indian economy more vulnerable and exacerbated prevailing un-competitiveness. Resultantly, New Delhi opted to take a protectionist approach towards its industries and farmers, and refrained from joining the RCEP. While this choice was logical in the current circumstances, in the long run, protectionism will lead to economic isolation in the region and inhibit growth. Lack of competition will eventually make industries more unfit for global markets and wary of competition, leading to a deepening of the export crisis and acceleration of economic slowdown. At this juncture, New Delhi must get the economy back on track and re-build the confidence of the industries and other stakeholders as priority.

Global Economy

50 .
Signs are pointing to global economic recession: THE 2008 financial crisis furnished markets with a painful lesson in 'Minsky moments', when asset prices collapse following a prolonged period of reckless speculative activity. Despite the clearest signals of gross global credit misallocation and the serious mispricing of credit risk, markets and policymakers seem remarkably sanguine. The possibility of a violent repricing of risky assets, which could lead to large strains in the financial markets, is apparently far from their minds.

51 .
Commentary: Why economists are terrible at predicting the state of the economy: Ailing economies and crumbling politics prompt big questions about the discipline's foundations, says former World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu.

US Foreign Policy

52 .
Most countries will rebuild a world order the US can't stop: Political chaos has become a new normal for the US. As the presidential election approaches, confusion has worsened while the country's foreign policy has become the focus of political games between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. This has severely restricted US foreign policy from being rational, and has victimized China-US ties. The impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump launched by the Democrats has intensified friction between the two political parties, and the Republicans have fought back.

Global Times, 4 December 2019


The info alert is sent to subscribers in the afternoon of Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays). After preliminary selection and collation cut-off around noon, the Library will proceed with the final selection and formatting, which typically will take about 2 hours, before its release around 3 pm or, in the event of special issues being sent, 4 pm. If you have not been receiving past issues regularly, you may want to check your email configuration that may have blocked the delivery.

You may also like to view the immediate past two weeks' issues via the ISEAS Library webpage:

All Back issues of info alert are available at ISEAS Library.

Best effort has been made to ensure the external links provided are valid as of the collation/published date. However, it is still possible that the host servers to the news/articles may be unavailable due to heavy internet traffic or other administrative and technical reasons.
We welcome your suggestions to help us improve the quality of the service. Please take a moment to give us your feedback via the  online feedback form.