The 20th ASEAN Summit. Phnom Penh 2012.


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The 20th ASEAN Summit. Phnom Penh 2012.

  1. 1. The Cambodia daily Asean insight 20th Asean Summit Phnom Penh, 2012 cuLture cLub taLking Points east vs. west backing burma euro vision Is ‘One Identity, One The most pressing Caught between Asean’s support of Viewing Europe asCommunity’ a realistic issues for Asean global powers, where its most controversial the middle path in proposition? members in 2012 is Asean heading? member global alliances
  2. 2. Asean insight countrY ProFiLes 6 Indonesia 10 Philippines 11 Malaysia 14 Burmaculture club 3 euro vision 16 15 Vietnam 18 Thailand 19 Cambodia 22 Singapore 23 Brunei 23 Laostalking Points 8 backing burma 20 east vs. west: a Delicate balance 12 Supplement Designer: Colin Meyn2 The Cambodia daily
  3. 3. By Michelle Vachon the cambodia daily In a region ‘caught in between,’ one must look past politics to see the social forces keeping Asean togetherCulture ClubT he theme that Cambodia picked as the to work more effectively at both the regional ganization which strives to build a peaceful re- 2012 chair of the Association of South- and global levels, with a stronger commitment gion, despite the many obstacles facing them,” east Asian Nations - “Asean: One Com- by its members, and better resources.” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, lead researcher munity, One Destiny”—encapsulates For 41 years, the association operated on the in political and strategic affairs at the Aseanthe incredible challenge that the 10 member basis of general statements such as the 1967 Studies Centre in Singapore.bloc has faced since the association’s creation Bangkok Declaration and several similar docu- “It has evolved over the years, judging from45 years ago. ments issued at summit meetings. However, Asean’s seriousness to play a major role in the Critics of Asean deplore the fact that, un- it was only in 2008 that an Asean charter was region, as reflected in its effort to come up withlike the European Union, Asean does not have adopted, providing the association with a legalcommon institutions with decision-making framework.powers or uniform laws and procedures apply- “The creation of the charter in 2008 is aing to every member. turning point in Asean history, [making it] a And yet “it’s hard to believe that Asean has rule-based organization,” Mr. Vannarith said. Looking at Asean, it lastedgone so far,” said Chheang Vannarith, execu- The fact that it could operate for so manytive director of the Cambodian Institute for Co- years without an actual charter is a reflection based on the personaloperation and Peace, a think tank and member of how Southeast Asian societies function, he relationships among theof the Asean Institute of Strategic and Interna- said. elite groups, among thetional Studies. “You look deep into the culture, history, In 1967, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, people’s mindsets: I think in Asia we have not leaders. It’s about personalSingapore and Thailand founded Asean “with gotten used to rule-based relationships or legal relationships and trust.the main objective of containing the spread of contracts, and instead function with social con-communism in the region and to solve the bor- tracts, kind of cultural contracts so to speak,”der conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia,” he said. “Looking at Asean, it lasted basedMr. Vannarith said. on the personal relationships among the elite Since then, border conflicts have multiplied groups, among the leaders. It’s about personal its own charter for the first time,” he added.and war has raged in some parts—including relationships and trust.” For Emmanuel Dialma, a French law profes-Cambodia. But the association has endured Adopting a charter demonstrates how Asean sor of comparative legal systems and businessand its membership increased to 10 countries is, on paper at least, moving away from a sys- laws in Cambodia, part of the reason Asean hasin the 1990s. tem stacked in favor of the elite and moving to- survived so long as a sort of country leaders’ As Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech wards a model based on legal foundations and club was partly due to the social foundationson Feb. 16, Cambodia’s aim this year is to cre- the inclusion of civil society. countries in the association share.ate “an Asean that is stronger and empowered “What defines Asean? I think this is an or- “What unites Asean people is the fact thatPhoto caption: Asean foreign ministers share a toast at their meeting in Jakarta on December 15, 2008, when the Asean charter was put into force. Reuters aPriL 3, 2012 3
  4. 4. Preetam Nai Gerald Yuvallos/Creative ComonsBelow, The opening ceremony of the Southeast Asia games in Jakarta in November. Above, A group of young women discuss technology at Barcamp Mekong, held inCan Tho, Vietnam, in 2010.they are Southeast Asians who share common a century: the Free World and the communist fighting over the origins of batik fabric in theanthropological structures that we call senior- world. They are in between everything and, 2000s to realize the strength of national prideity relations...which shape those societies at even geographically, it’s a key area.” in the region, Mr. Vannarith of the Cambodianevery level: social, political, familial, religious Moreover, Asean countries share a legacy Institute for Cooperation and Peace said.and moral,” he said. of having freed themselves—in some cases Border disputes such as the confrontation In democratic countries in which laws are through armed conflicts—from colonial pow- over Preah Vihear temple between Thailandmeant to apply equally to everyone, those ers. All members have co-existed against the and Cambodia often exacerbate nationalist sen-structures built around the notion of hierarchy backdrop of the Cold War and—with the ex- timent and are used by politicians for their ownmay clash with democratic principles but nev- ception of Cambodia, Laos and Burma—expe- ends, he said. “In order to get the votes youertheless continue to play an important role in rienced rapid economic expansion in the 1990s need to be nationalistic, to raise nationalisticsociety, Mr. Dialma said. leading up to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. sentiments.” Asean countries are also brought together While common cultural values are part of After all, it is only over the last few monthsby the fact that they are “in between,” he said. Asean’s strength, sovereignty and nationalism that Asean countries have begun to hoist the“In between two oceans: the Pacific and the contribute to its weakness. Asean flag at their embassies.Atlantic. In between two religious universes: One only needed to watch football matches “Asean countries have been, I think, very re-Muslim and Buddhist. In between two politi- at the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia last alistic about the notion of unity and diversity,”cal systems that structured the world for half November or look at Malaysia and Indonesia said Larry Strange, executive director of the4 The Cambodia daily
  5. 5. ReutersMalaysia’s soccer team celebrates after defeating Indonesia in a penalty shoot-out during their SEA Games final in Jakarta in November.Cambodia Development Resource Institute, an ficulties between China, Korea and Japan are part of a cohesive union and understand the no-independent research institute. actually going to be sorted out,” he said. “And tion of an Asean identity. “It’s an incredibly diverse region,” he said. I think there will be a sense of East Asia com- “If you ask people in the region where they“All the world’s major religions are here, in- munity emerging, but nothing like the Euro- are from, they will say, ‘I’m from Cambodia,credible differences in ethnicities, in political pean Union model. Thailand’ and so on. If you ask a European,systems, in social and cultural values...urban “It will not have that same degree of stan- he will say ‘I’m from the EU,’” Mr. Vannarithand rural divide. And in the development di- dardization or the same degree of bureaucracy said.vide, you still got three very poor, least devel- and it certainly will not have the same degree Asean people, he said, “don’t know muchoped countries in Asean: Cambodia, Laos and of negotiated, voluntary, giving-up of national what is going on with their neighbors. If theyMyanmar. And one of the challenges for them sovereignty because one of the cultural and po- know more, they communicate more. Thenis to bridge the development gap.” litical features that links Asean countries, and is the historical legacy [of rivalries and conflicts] Despite those differences, Asean member particularly important for countries like China, can be solved gradually through this kind ofcountries are beginning to see the value in is that national sovereignty is non-negotiable.” cultural, social communication, understandingdeepening regional cooperation as peace and As Mr. Dialma explained, “Asean is an orga- of each other.”stability in the region allows everyone to con- nization that operates on the principle of inter- Still, in terms of pop culture, younger gener-centrate on economic development, analysts governmental cooperation...whose character- ations in Asean are already connected to eachsay. istic is to take decisions based on a unanimous other, Mr. Strange said. Asean is also seeking further consolidation vote.” Every government involved must agree “There is a younger generation in South-so that it can remain independent and neutral for any decision to be taken. east Asia, particularly in young countries liketo China. Unlike the European Union whose institu- Cambodia, who is very much influenced by the “That’s why Asean tries to engage the tions can issue laws and guidelines applying layers of international and regional culture,” heUnited States, Russia, India, European Union to all country members, Asean has no such said. “You have most young Cambodians veryand so on. The more players come in, the more organization. This means that businesses used IT equipped, very linked into international popbalanced the playing field.... We call it dynamic to the EU system find it difficult to deal with culture but also very much influenced by theequilibrium in the region,” Mr. Vannarith said. Asean since no one has the authority to sign regional pop culture coming from—increasing- In the process, the notion of Asia Pacific agreements on behalf of all country members, ly—South Korea and China...and of course alsohas been transformed and is now perceived Mr. Dialma said. by their own national popular culture.throughout the world as the Asean countries And yet, as Asean moves towards its 2015 “So I think you’re seeing layers of influenceplus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Austra- goal of economic integration, Mr. Strange said, on the younger generations, and I think thelia, New Zealand, the US and Russia, he said. “Asean countries are going to be working hard political leaders and Asean bureaucrats also “Asean argues that one of the non-negotia- for economic integration, trade and investment can see there needs to be a much greater ef-bles in its future is the centrality of Asean to flows, movement of people, trade liberaliza- fort in communicating [to them] the sense ofwhatever happens in the future of the region,” tion, and so on. But it will not involve giving up being not just Cambodian but also a citizens ofMr. Strange said. “This is partly real and partly national sovereignty. So you won’t have like a Asean,” he said.a myth because the real players who will de- European Parliament, you won’t have a Euro- As Cambodia’s theme proclaims, Asean’stermine what that final architecture will look pean Commission.” goal this year is to give this association oflike will partly be Asean but it’s actually China, While there are efforts to bring about eco- countries a sense of community since destinyKorea and Japan. nomic and political cooperation, there is still a has placed them in the same region and linked “I’m an optimist and I think some of the dif- way to go before the people of the region feel their future. aPriL 3, 2012 5
  6. 6. COUNTRY PROFILE Indonesia Demonym: Indonesian motto: Unity in Diversity capital: Jakarta government: Unitary presidential constitutional republic Leader: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Vice President Boediono History: Independence from the Netherlands Declared Aug 17, 1945 Acknowledged Dec. 27, 1949 area: 1,919,440 km squared Population: 237,424,363 gDP: $1.126 trillion Per capita gDP: $4,744 currency: Rupiah ReutersHistory in Brief Portuguese traders were the first Europe-ans to make regular contact with Indonesiansin the early 16th century, and Dutch and Brit-ish traders soon followed. In 1602 the Dutchestablished the Dutch East India Company,becoming the dominant European power in theregion. In 1800, the Netherlands governmentnationalized their Indonesian colony, calling itthe Dutch East Indies. For most of the colonial period, Dutch con-trol over the archipelago of more than 17,000islands was tenuous and not until the 20th William Cho/Creative Comonscentury did the Dutch successfully dominate China’s President Hu Jintao, above left, welcomes his counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the Indonesianthe area within Indonesia’s current boundar- President’s visit to Beijing March. A roadside vista, above, overlooks an Indonesian volcano range.ies. The Japanese effectively ended Dutch rule of the political spectrum. Amid a failed coup mass street protests and eventually Suharto’swith their occupation of Indonesia during World attempt in 1965, the powerful Indonesian mili- resignation in 1998. East Timor seceded fromWar II. A UN report exposed that more than 4 tary stepped in and purged communist sympa- Indonesia in 1999 after a 25-year occupation.million Indonesia’s dies of famine and forced thizers throughout the country leading to the The county’s first direct presidential electionlabor during Japanese occupation. deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Po- was held in 2004, and despite sporadic domes- Sukarno declared independence from Japan litically weakened in the face of the killings, the tic conflicts, political stability has remainedin 1945 and was appointed president. An armed military had out-maneuvered Sukarno leading relatively high and the economy has performedstruggle against the Dutch, attempting to rees- to his removal and the rise of General Suharto well.tablish their rule, ended in 1949 and later that as the country’s president in Indonesia was a founding member of Asean.year the Dutch officially recognized Indonesia’s The new administration encouraged foreign It restored relations with China in 1990. Sepa-independence. As the father of independence, investment and saw great economic growth. ratist movements have occasionally led toSukarno’s ‘guided democracy’ gave way Though widely condemned for corruption and armed conflict, and subsequent allegations of to increasingly authoritarian rule, and his human rights offenses. human rights abuses from all sides. A 30-yearfocus on Indonesia following a path of self-re- No country was harder hit by the late 1990s struggle against the Free Aceh Movementliance alienated both those on the left and right Asian financial crisis than Indonesia, leading to ended with a ceasefire agreed to in 2005.6 The Cambodia daily
  7. 7. aPriL 3, 2012 7
  8. 8. Talking Points By SiMon lewiS the cambodia daily The last time Asean leaders met in Phnom Penh, terrorism was at the center of talks. This year, each country is coming with their own set of problems.A s Southeast Asia’s leaders opened sending his vice president instead, according people were arrested in anti-government the Asean summit on Nov. 4, 2002, in to Chinese news agency Xinhua. With an eye protests. What is more, Malaysia’s opposi- Phnom Penh, the threat of terrorism on elections in 2014, the government may fear tion leader Anwar Ibrahim seemed to capture after the 9/11 attacks on the World a repeat of fuel price-related unrest that con- that public sentiment when he was cleared inTrade Center was high on the agenda. tributed to the overthrow of President Suharto January of a sodomy charge that he claimed Nearly 10 years on, Cambodia is back as more than a decade ago. was politically motivated. The possibility of aAsean chair, but the regional, and global, back- Vietnam is also grappling with rising con- snap election this year has been raised in thedrop is very different. Terrorism is no longer a sumer prices. In March inflation there was re- local media, while the opposition says polls arematter weighing so heavily on people’s minds. corded at 14 percent, though the rate reached continually undermined by inconsistencies in “Asean has dealt with terrorism mostly... as high as 23 percent in August last year. In re- voter registration.through bilateral agreements and cooperation cent years there have also been signs of public In neighboring Thailand there are still ques-with non-Asean countries such as Australia unrest and dissatisfaction due to perceived cor- tion marks over its domestic stability. A violentand the US,” said Amitav Acharya, chair of the ruption, land issues and inequality, while the separatist insurgency among Muslims in theAmerican University’s Asean Studies Center country is still regularly criticized for its human south of the country continues to claim Washington and the author of “Construct- rights record. On Saturday, a series of coordinated bomb-ing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: In Malaysia, there are growing concerns ings in the city of Yala killed 14 people and in-Asean and the problem of regional order.” over civil liberties and Prime Minister Najib jured 340, according to the Associated Press, Asean has also taken its own measures to Razak’s rulership. Last year more than 1,000 in attacks targeted at shopping districts andcombat terrorism such as signing the Conven-tion on Counter Terrorism in 2007. But, inretrospect, some wonder whether the issue ofterrorism merited so much attention. “The threat of terrorism in Southeast Asiawas somewhat exaggerated to begin with, sono one should be claiming too much credit forreducing it,” Professor Acharya said. With the US now publicly stating that itis winning against global terrorism—partic-ularly since the death of Osama Bin Ladenin May—today’s challenges for security andstability in Asean have become much morecountry specific. Just last week in Indonesia tens of thousandsprotested against the removal of a fuel subsidythat had kept the price of gasoline among thelowest in the region. Following the protests,the Indonesian Parliament on Saturday blockedthe government’s plan to reduce the fuel sub- Reuterssidy. The move forced Indonesian President Prime Minister Hun Sen, above, speaks during the opening ceremony of the 16th Asean finance ministers’Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to pull out of this meeting in Phnom Penh on March 30. Cambodian military police, below, on patrol at Phnom Penh’s airportweek’s summit to attend to domestic matters, walk past flags of Asean nations as heads of state began to arrive for the Asean summit on November 3, 2002.8 The Cambodia daily
  9. 9. a high-rise hotel. And friction between ultra-nationalist yellow shirts and red shirts loyalto Thailand’s former Prime Minister ThaksinShinawatra still exists. There are also seriousquestions over what happens to the politicallandscape in Thailand once the revered ThaiKing Bhumibol Adulyadej passes away. Like Thailand, the Philippines has its ownchallenges with Muslim separatists—the MoroIslamic Liberation Front—seeking an autono-mous Muslim state. But more pressingly, the Philippines is oneof four Asean states claiming disputed territoryin the South China Sea. Oliver Hensengerth a lecturer in China andGlobal Politics at Northumbria University,England, said that “friendly” Cambodia wasexpected to steer Asean closer to China thanother countries in the region might choose todo so. While, he said, “Asean as a group has takento the view that China’s political and military Reutersinfluence in the region is inevitable. This is re-ally something that cannot be stopped, so it’sbetter to manage that influence rather than try- Asean as a group has taken to the view that China’s political and military influence in the region is inevitable. This is really something that cannot be stopped, so it’s better to manage that influence rather than trying to oppose to oppose it.” One country that analysts say is seeking tomanage China’s influence is Burma as it seeksto distance itself from total dependence on Bei-jing. Reuters In September, Burma suspended a Chineseproject to build a hydroelectric dam near thetwo countries’ border over environmental con-cerns. Recently Burma has promised reformon a wide range of matters from press freedomto democratic elections. However, whetherthese promises are carried out still remainsto be seen. Burma also has a challenge to curbtensions between the army and the country’smany armed ethnic minorities, who are seek-ing autonomy. Equally, Laos, like Cambodiamust address how it promotes economic de-velopment while making sure wealth tricklesdown to a still very poor population. Despite the array of pressing matters thatcome into this year’s Asean Summit, an over-arching subject matter has been difficult tocome by for the summit, said Joern Dosch, aprofessor of international relations at MonashUniversity’s Malaysian Campus, who has beenstudying Asean for more than 20 years. “It is not easy for Cambodia to be the chair—they don’t have any issue they want to raise,”Mr. Dosch said. “To make this Asean Summit a memorable US Navy/Creative Comons Anti-riot police block student protesters outside the parliament building in Jakarta on March 29. Buddhistone, Cambodia should have a firm idea about monks, center, walk at a pagoda in Nha Trang City, Vietnam, in March. Vietnam plans to send a group of sixwhat the main issues affecting the region are,” monks to reside on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, to re-establish abandoned pagodas. US andhe added. Singapore Navy ships, below, navigate through the South China Sea in formation aPriL 3, 2012 9
  10. 10. COUNTRY PROFILE Philippines Demonym: Filipino motto: “For God, People, Nature, and Country” capital: Manila official languages: Tagalog, English government: Unitary presidential constitutional republic Leader: President Benigno Aquino III History: Established April 27, 1565 Declared June 12, 1898 Self-government March 24, 1934 Recognized July 4, 1946 area: 299,764 km squared Population: 94,013,200 gDP: $394.0 billion Per capita gDP: $4,111 currency: Peso ReutersHistory in Brief Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage to the islandsin 1521 marked the beginning of an era ofSpanish interest and eventual colonization ofthe Philippines. The archipelago was namedLas Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain.Spanish rule of the islands was consolidated in1565 and lasted for more than 300 years beforethe country was ceded to the US after Spainsdefeat in the Spanish-American war. The coun-try was briefly occupied by Japan during WorldWar II. Christianity was widely adopted in thecolony during this time. Official Philippine independence was won in1945. Despite attempts to change the govern-ment to a federal, unicameral, or parliamentarygovernment in the country’s recent history, Stephan Munderit has remained constitutional republic with a Philippine President Benigno Aquino, left. The Manillapresidential system. the 1970s when it was in dispute with Malay- cathedral, above. The Philippines’ international relations are sia over the island of Sabah. Disagreementsheavily influenced by the 11 million Filipinos continue to exist with other regional countriesliving overseas. The country was a founding over the Spratly Islands.member of the UN and has continued to take The US is the closest military ally of thean active role in peacekeeping missions, par- Philippines and Japan is the largest donor of de-ticularly in East Timor. velopment assistance to the country. As a rem- The country is also a founding and active nant of US influence in the country, English ismember of Asean, and its relations with mem- widely spoken and there is a strong affinity forber states have improved dramatically since Western culture.10 The Cambodia daily
  11. 11. COUNTRY PROFILE Malaysia Demonym: Malaysian motto: “Unity Is Strength” capital: Kuala Lumpur official language: Bahasa Malaysia government: Federal constitutional elective monarchy and Federal parliamentary democracy Leaders: King Abdul Halim Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak History: Independence from the United Kingdom, Aug. 31, 1957 Federation of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore Sept. 16, 1963 area: 329,847 km squared Population: 28,334,135 gDP: $442.010 billion gDP per capita: $15,385 currency: Ringgit Office of the Prime Minister of Thailand/Creative CommonsMalaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, above, at anofficial visit to Thailand. The Petronas towers, right. George WittbergerHistory in Brief every five years. The head of government is Malaysia has its origins in the Malay King- the Prime Minister.doms present in the area which, from the 18th Actions such as the New Economic Policycentury, became subject to the British Em- were implemented to advance the standing ofpire. The first British territories were known the bumiputra, consisting of Malays and theas the Straits Settlements, whose establish- indigenous tribes who are considered the origi-ment became British protectorates. The ter- nal inhabitants of Malaysia, over non-bumipu-ritories on Peninsular Malaysia were first tra such as Malaysian Chinese and Malaysianunified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya Indians. These policies provide preferentialwas restructured as the Federation of Malaya treatment to bumiputra in various aspects ofand achieved independence on 31 August political and social life. Islamic laws passed by1957. Malaya united with Sabah, Sarawak, and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party in state leg-Singapore in September. Less than two years islative assemblies have been blocked by thelater in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federal government.federation. Malaysia was a founding member of Asean The government system is mostly modeled and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Inon the Westminster parliamentary system and 2008, Brunei and Malaysia announced an endthe legal system is based on English Common to claims of each other’s land, and to resolveLaw. The constitution declares Islam the state issues related to their maritime borders. Sin-religion while protecting freedom of religion. gapore’s land reclamation has caused tensionsThe King is an elected monarch chosen from with Malaysia, and maritime border disputesthe hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states exist with Indonesia. aPriL 3, 2012 11
  12. 12. Delicate By aBBy Seiff the cambodia daily For Asean, the ability to maintain friendly relations with China and the US will dictate its futureL ate last month, Cambodian officials made nearly nine times what it was a decade ago. of each with the US and China and, perhaps to an announcement wholly unsurpris- “It’s a giant, it’s a giant to all of the Asean a greater degree, on the relationship between ing to anyone with a modicum of coun- countries...and it’s not just a giant, it’s the giant the US and China. try knowledge: this year’s Asean chair next door,” Cheng-Chwee Kuik said. Sitting “It’s like two guys trying to court a lady,”would not be listing the South China Sea issue in a cafe in Phnom Penh, a day after CPP law- is how Dr. Kuik explains it. “Asean countrieson this week’s summit agenda. maker Cheam Yeap announced that the chair are trying to get benefits from both sides, but The move underscored that uncomfortable would not raise the South China Sea issue at leaders of the countries know very well thatand unavoidable reality of Asean—the body’s the summit, the China-Asean expert mulled all these come with certain risks. This is not amost influential figures are external actors. In over the delicate touch now required by Asean game that the Asean countries choose to play.few arenas has this been more evident over members who count China as a main and mon- It is a reality that they have to deal with. Theythe years than when it comes to the China umental economic force. have been trying very hard to live with it, andquestion. “As smaller actors, Asean countries do real- adjust to it.” For nearly two decades, the China question ize how tricky the situation is.... Most Asean If, and it is a big if, Asean can handle the deli-has pervaded much of Asean’s consciousness. countries do not want to overplay the security cate balance between the two, the rewards willIt played a key role in 1995 when China’s en- issues, in large part because of the extent of be high. But it takes a deft touch and a body notcroachment on the Philippines-claimed Mis- economic and also other benefits these coun- lauded for its cohesion or focus of purpose maychief Reef forced the body to make its first and tries are getting from the giant,” said Mr. Kuik, not prove the swiftest of actors.only joint condemnation of China’s activities. who is an associate professor of strategic stud- “When Asean acts with one voice it canBut in subsequent years, the relationship has ies and international relations at the National exert influence on China because China doeswarmed and China has brokered deals with a University of Malaysia. “Looking to the future not want to be isolated, nor does it want to seenumber of Asean states agreeing to settle dis- there are lots of uncertainties. One is what is external influence into the region.... But Aseanputes strictly bilaterally. In 2002, a joint free- going to happen between the US and China.” does not want to allow this relationship to be-trade agreement was signed, and the Sino-Ase- Despite the power of China—both eco- come a hostile one and among Asean memberan relationship became both highly necessary nomically and strategically—it is impossible to states there are differences and divergent in-and unavoidable. discuss the Eastern superpower without men- terests in how to handle relations with China,” Since then, China’s relationship with Asean tioning its Western counterpart. Much of Ase- explained Jingdong Yuan, acting director ofas a whole and with its member states indi- an’s success or failure in the coming years de- University of Sydney’s Center for Internationalvidually has mushroomed. Sino-Asean trade pends less on the relationships of the member Security Studies.reached a staggering $362 billion last year, countries to one-another than the relationship “Asean is playing a delicate balancing act12 The Cambodia daily
  13. 13. Balance Brian Scott. Kenny Louie/Creative Commons If, and it is a big if, Asean can handle the delicate balance between the two,with its engagement with China and its grow- It talks to India to build up ties with the US. But in the end Asean the rewards will be high. Suddenly, the relationship isn’t wholly unbal-wants the US to be an insurance policy but But it takes a deft touch anced. Asean needs China, yes, but it turns outdoes not want to see conflicts breaking out be- China now needs Asean too.tween China and the US. It will remain a chal- and a body not lauded “China needs Asean to reconfirm its legiti-lenge to manage the South China Sea dispute for its cohesion or focus macy as regional power, to erase its old imagebut overall I think minor incidents and conflicts of a threat, to trade with Asean and revive itswill continue but they are unlikely to escalate of purpose may not prove sphere of influence in this part of the world, toto major military confrontation,” Mr. Jiangdong the swiftest of actors. use Asean to balance the influence of Japan,continued. India and US in Southeast Asia,” said Pavin Smack in the middle, researchers agree, is Chachavalpongpun, lead researcher for politicalthe South China Sea situation. Four of Asean’s and strategic affairs at the Institute of South-10 member states are claimants to territory, east Asian Studies’ Asean Studies Center.while China claims the entirety of the sea. It pressure. Most Asean countries do understand Could the South China Sea issue be the onehas led, unsurprisingly, to clashes; and the re- China’s concerns, and they don’t want to push to rupture the relationship, to tear Asean andcent entrance of India onto the scene, primed China into a corner. Some of the Asean coun- China (and possibly the US and India) asun-with an oil exploration agreement granted by tries feel that China has its own domestic con- der? Possibly, but not likely and not anytimeVietnam, has ratcheted up the pressure. While siderations too, and it is also trying to accom- soon, agreed most researchers interviewedsome academics think the issue is given too modate, trying to adjust.” this month. Asean may hone its ability to playmuch credence, many believe how Asean han- Pointing to the 2002 Declaration of Con- the great powers off one another or it may finddles (or ignores, as the case may be) the slip- duct—a non-binding agreement which sets out itself flying too close to the sun. One thing wepery issue will go far in determining its fate. how claimants will resolve their dispute—Dr. know for sure: there’s nothing novel about it. Dr. Kuik refers to it as a lever. “China knows Kuik and others called it an unprecedented “It’s a recurring pattern...way back to thevery well that if it refuses to discuss the South milestone in Sino-Asean relations and a bell- Cold War, this is pretty much the game. TheChina Sea issue with the Asean countries, wether of China’s shifting attitude. If the giant actors change. But power balancing, checkssome of these countries may move to involve would make concessions to the dwarf, perhaps and balance among the big powers have alwaysother big powers, to bring up the issue at the it wasn’t so powerless after all. In the interim, been there,” said Dr. Kuik. “This is not some-multilateral forums. This will be far more unac- Asean has grown both more powerful and more thing we choose to play. As smaller actors,ceptable to China, as it will face even stronger calculating. It looks to the US to play off China. what options do we have?” April 3, 2012 13
  14. 14. COUNTRY PROFILE Burma Demonym:Burmese Capital: Naypyidaw Official language: Burmese Government: Unitary presidential republic leader: President Thein Sein History: Pagan Dynasty 23 December 849 Toungoo Dynasty 16 October 1510 Konbaung Dynasty 29 February 1752 Independence (from England) Jan. 4 1948 Coup d’état 2 March 1962 New constitution 30 March 2011 Area: Total 676,578 km squared population: 60,280,000 GDp: $81.553 billion per capita GDp: $1,307 Currency: Kyat CommonsBurma’s President Thein Sein, right, shakes handswith US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during theirdiplomatic visit in Naypyidaw in December.History in Brief Burma was under the colonial rule of Eng-land from 1886 to 1948. Resentment of colonialrule was strong among the Burmese, who ri-oted against British rules throughout the firsthalf of the century. Burmese monks were, andcontinue to be, at the front of popular people’smovements. Following World War II, Aung San,the father of pro-democracy leader Aung SanSuu Kyi, led negotiations that led to the Pang-long Agreement, which unified Burma and, de-spite his assassination at the hands of British-backed rivals, eventually led to the formation ofthe Democratic Republic of Burma in 1948. On March 2, 1962, Ne Win led a coup d’etat Reeda Malik/Creative Commonsand the military junta seized control and have Visitors at the Shewagon pagoda, above, as twilight falls on Rangoon.continued to rule the country since. In 1988, after demonstrations throughoutthe country, known as the 8888 uprising, the hurricance Nargis killed more than 130,000 and past decade, neighboring countries—namelymilitary-led government held democratic elec- decimated parts of the country in May 2008. India and China—have continued to do busi-tions for the first time in 30 years, with Aung The military junta, led by Than Shwe, was ness with Burma, largely due to its vast min-San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy dissolved in 2011 following a general election eral and natural resource winning 80% of the seats. The military, in 2010 and a civilian government, headed by Despite being rich in natual resources,having officially renamed the country Myan- President Thein Sein, a former military official Burma’s economy has been slow to develop.mar, refused to cede power. himself, installed. Though widely believed to The country’s average annual gross domestic Nonetheless, Burma was admitted into Ase- be unfair, these elections, along with the re- product growth of 2.9 percent is the lowest inan in 1997. The 2007 “saffron revolution” and lease of political prisoners and other reforms, the region.ensuing violent crackdown by the government have begun to open the country both politically The country has been embroiled in one ofbrought harsh criticism from the international and economically. the world’s longest-running civil wars sincecommunity, as did the refusal of the govern- Despite economic sanctions imposed by independence, with the military pitted againstment to allow proper aid into the country after many Western countries on Burma over the various ethnic groups based in border areas.14 The Cambodia daily
  15. 15. COUNTRY PROFILE Vietnam Demonym: Vietnamese Motto: “Independence – Freedom – Happiness” Capital: Hanoi Official language: Vietnamese Government: Marxist–Leninist single-party state leaders: President Truong Tan Sang Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung History: Independence from China 938 Independence from France 2 September 1945 Reunification 2 July 1976 Area: 331,210 km squared GDp: $299.6 billion per capita GDp: $3,354.8 Currency: Dong ReutersHistory in Brief The Vietnamese became independent fromImperial China in the year 938, and succes-sive Vietnamese dynasties expanded the na-tion geographically and politically until Francecolonized the Indochina Peninsula in the mid-19th century. The defeat and expulsion of theFrench following The First Indochina War in1954 left Vietnam divided politically into twocountries. With heavy intervention by the USafter the French withdrawal in the aftermathof their defeat in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu,Vietnam was soon engulfed in the Second Indo-china War, which ended with the fall of Saigonin 1975 and the victory by North Vietnam, sup-ported by its communist allies, over the gov-ernment of South Vietnam, supported by US Pierre Mounierand other anti-communist countries. In 1986, Above left, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, right, meets with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr. Fertilethe Vietnamese government began to institute valleys, above, in Sapa, Vietnam.economic and political reforms under the DoMoi (renovation) principal, which modernized the media, it is a one-party state and has beenthe economy and led to diplomatic relations criticized for it repression of dissenting voices.with the West and East Asian countries. Hanoi Skyrocketing inflations has all taken the sheennormalized relations with is wartime enemy, off Vietnam’s economic success, while creep-the United States, in 1995, the same year that ing corruption and land disputes are moving toit joined Asean, becoming the seventh member the fore as a serious issue for the government.since the organization’s founding. Since 2000, A key foreign policy issue for Vietnam has beenVietnam has experienced phenomenal eco- its relationship with its largest neighbor, China.nomic growth, which has been among the high- Vietnam has laid down its sovereignty prin-est in the world. Despite its economic open- ciple and insistence on cultural independenceness, Vietnam still maintains full control over for centuries. April 3, 2012 15
  16. 16. Backing Burma By ZsomBor Peter the cambodia daily Burma has just begun getting closer with the West, but it has long been embraced by its Asean neighborsT wo days before the Asean Summit in mostly Western nations must now ask them- “The reforms underway in Burma are large- Phnom Penh, millions of Burmese cast selves whether the vote was good enough to ly the result of domestic factors over which ex- their ballots on Sunday for candidates start lifting longstanding sanctions on Burma. ternal forces, including Asean, have had rela- from the ruling United Solidarity and There is “an aspect of Myanmar’s potential tively little control,” Mr. Jones said.Development Party, pro-democracy icon Aung transition that should be unsettling to policy Thailand’s move to end decades of supportSan Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, makers,” Council on Foreign Relations fellow for a number of insurgent ethnic minorityand a handful of other political players. Joshua Kurlantzick wrote in December. “It ap- groups in northern Burma helped encouraged As the historic election wrapped up, the rest pears to bear little relation to the decades of the groups to join with the government in theof the world was assessing the elections in effort by outside nations,” he wrote. drafting of a constitution after 2004, while theterms of a running tally on reform in Burma. Lee Jones, a lecturer at Queen Mary, Uni- experience of post-Suharto Indonesia offers a The election, though not perfect, was a key versity of London, who has written extensively model out of direct military rule.test of the regime’s commitment to change, and on Asean, tends to agree. “Asean also prevented Burma falling into16 The Cambodia daily
  17. 17. total international isolation or dependence onChina, reminding both reformers and hardlin-ers that there was an alternative path to tread,”Mr. Lee said. “Of course, this path was never one of thor-oughgoing liberalization, given Asean’s ownilliberal regimes. And in the early 1990s inparticular, Asean investment and other formsof assistance arguably strengthened the re-gime. So its [Asean’s] contribution is decidedlymixed,” he added. By the time Burma was invited to join Ase-an in the late 1990s, its military rulers—whograbbed power in a 1962 coup (after just fouryears of Independence from Britain)—hadfirmly established their regime among themost repressive in the world. In 1988, when pro-democracy protests sweptthrough Rangoon, in what would become Bur-ma’s Tiananmen Square moment, the militaryresponded by killing more than 3,000 people.In surprisingly fair elections two years later,the regime lost to the NLD but refused to cedepower. Ms. Suu Kyi remained under house ar- Reutersrest, hundreds of other dissidents were locked Left page clockwise from top left: Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses supporters in Kawhmuup, the army’s battles with rebellious ethnic township prior to Burma’s by-elections on March 31. Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, holds hands with Burmeseminorities raged on, and independent media counterpart Than Shwe as they arrive for a dinner of Southeast Asian leaders in Singapore in November 2000.were forced into the shadows. Burma’s current President Thein Sein, right, leads former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in a visit to Burma’s capital Naypyidaw. Laos Foreign Minister Somsavat Lengsavad, second from left, and his Burmese When Burma’s military cracked down on counterpart U Ohn Gyaw sign an agreement to be formally admitted into Asean in Kuala Lumpur in July 1997.protesting monks in September 2007, Asean Pictured above: Demonstrators protest against Burma’s bid to join Asean in Kuala Lumpur in July 1997.was quick to speak out. At a meeting of itsforeign ministers at the UN’s New York head-quarters, the Asean bloc condemned the use of “Burma is being squeezed by great powers,automatic weapons against the demonstrators China, India and even the US, so turning toand urged that the “utmost restraint” be exer- Burma is being squeezed Asean is a safe choice because there will be nocised. pressure from Asean. Looking up to Asean is But beyond condemnations of the 2007 vio- by great turning a part of Burma trying to diversify its foreignlence, little changed: the West tightened sanc- to Asean is a safe choice policy choices rather than having to rely ontions while Asean continued to pursue a mix those big powers alone.”of non-interference and “constructive engage- because there will be no At the same time, Asean also wants to playment.” pressure from Asean. a bigger role in Burma, said the University of With condemnation of the military regime London’s Mr. Jones.reaching a crescendo, some were questioning “Asean does...crave a constructive role towhether it had been wise to have admitted play in order to demonstrate its oft-questionedBurma to the regional group. relevance,” Mr. Jones said. Such a role could “Southeast Asian leaders argued that once Asean researcher at Singapore’s Institute of possibly be helping to mediate between Burmain Asean, [Burma’s] leaders would have more Southeast Asian Studies. and the West or—in Singapore’s case, say—contact with the outside world, see how freer In its latest global scorecard of political rights helping to improve “the parlous state of Bur-economics and politics had brought prosperity covering events up until the end of 2011, the ma’s bureaucracy.”to neighboring nations, and want to open their US-based Freedom House organization gave Ultimately, though, Mr. Jones still believesown country more,” Mr. Kurlantzick of the Burma, Laos and Vietnam all a seven, the low- that “Asean’s future role, as in the past, will beCFR wrote. est score possible on their index of rankings. limited by what the Burmese government will In the process, India and Indonesia—a fellow Cambodia and Brunei get a six from Free- permit.”Asean member and the bloc’s largest econo- dom House, while Singapore and Thailand And where will all this leave Burma in themy—tightened economic and political ties with got a four. That means that seven out of the coming years?Burma, Mr. Kurlantzick said. 10 Asean members ranked on the bottom half For all the pace of Burma’s recent reforms, “Yet there is little evidence that either of of the scale, and they do little better on the Mr. Jones said he could not see the countrythese two giants changed the Burmese mili- group’s ranking of civil liberties. overtaking other Asean members.tary’s mind. To the contrary, despite their dem- If neither the carrot of Asean engagement “Burma’s trajectory is likely to be closer toocratic credentials, both India and Indonesia in nor the stick of Western sanctions can take Cambodia’s,” Mr. Jones said.recent years appeared to become more willing credit for the reforms now reshaping Burma, “A single party dominating the scene thanksto simply support the Burmese generals,” he why was there such a sudden shift in the mili- to a rigged political system, its control of for-said. tary’s policies? For that answer, most observ- merly publicly-owned assets and the dispens- “Whatever is motivating the government’s ers point to China, and the Burmese leader- ing of patronage generated by natural resourcenew changes, there’s no reason to believe it ship’s fears of having grown too dependent on exploitation and politicized privatization pro-was international pressure,” he added. an overbearing Beijing. cesses. As in Cambodia, the military will con- Because of their own illiberal tendencies and But Burma will likely not want to move too tinue to play a large role, and the space theweak internal mechanisms, Asean has never far toward the West either, and its pursuit of a opposition enjoy will likely remain heavily con-been able to force its members into complying comfortable middle ground could give Asean strained.”with demands for improved governance. a bigger role to play in the path that Burma But Burma does bear at least one advantage “For example, it will be difficult for Singapore takes, Mr. Pavin, of the ISAS, said. over Cambodia, Mr. Jones added: a wildly popu-to condemn Burma for the lack of media free- “I think Asean will have a big role to play in lar opposition leader in Ms. Suu Kyi.dom. It will be hard for Thailand to tell Burma influencing the regime, surely from now until “But she faces an uphill struggle on an un-to go ahead with reconciliation plans with its 2014 when Burma will chair Asean, Mr. Pavin even playing field, and the country’s oppositionopposition,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an added. forces are profoundly fragmented,” he said. April 3, 2012 17
  18. 18. COUNTRY PROFILE Thailand Demonym: Thai Capital: Bangkok Official language: Thai Government: Unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy leaders: King Bhumibol Adulyadej Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra History: Constitutional monarchy 24 June 1932 Area: 513,120 km squared population: 66,720,153 GDp: $616.783 billion per capita GDp: $9,598 Currency: BahtHistory in Brief Since reform of Thailand’s absolute mon-archy in 1932, the country’s leadership hasranged from military dictators to elected primeministers, but the hereditary monarch has al-ways been acknowledged as ultimate head ofstate. And Thailand’s revered King BhumibolAdulyadej, having reigned since 1946, is theworld’s longest-serving head of state. DuringWorld War II, the Japanese Imperial Army de-manded the right to move troops across Thai-land to the Malayan frontier. Japan invadedThailand and briefly engaged the Thai Armybefore an armistice was ordered and Thailandagreed to give Japan free passage in exchangefor their assistance in regaining territories lostto the colonial French and British empires. After the war, Thailand emerged as a staunchally of the United States. Thailand was a found-ing member of Asean. In recent years, Thailandhas taken an increasingly active role on theinternational stage. When East Timor gainedindependence from Indonesia, Thailand con-tributed troops to the international peacekeep-ing effort there. Thailand has also contributedtroops to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistanand Iraq. During his time as Prime Minister, ThaksinShinawatra was ambitious to position Thailandas a regional leader, initiating various develop-ment projects in poorer neighboring countriessuch as Laos. Mr. Thaksin was ousted in amilitary coup in 2006, by some estimates itwas the 18 coups and coup attempt in Thailandsince 1932. Thailand remains painfully dividedbetween the rural and urban poor and the “es-tablishment elite” comprising of royalists, themilitary, civil servants and the educated, urban- Bruno Iderihaized middle class. Though tourism is one of its A traditional Thai temple,biggest industries, a Muslim insurgency in the above. Thai Prime Ministersouth of the country has claimed thousands of Yingluck Shinawatra, left.people since 2004. Since 2008, Thailand has been embroiled insporadic border battles with Cambodia overdisputed territory around the Preah Viheartemple. Reuters18 The Cambodia daily
  19. 19. COUNTRY PROFILE Cambodia Demonym: Cambodian Motto: Nation, Religion, King Capital: Phnom Penh Official language: Khmer Government: Unitary parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy leaders: King Norodom Sihamoni Prime Minister Hun Sen History: French Colonization 1863 Independence from France Nov. 9, 1953 Area: 181,035 km squared population: 14,805,358 GDp: $32.489 billion per capita GDp: $2,470 Currency: Riel ReutersHistory in Brief Cambodia was as a protectorate of Francefrom 1863 to 1953 under the umbrella ofFrench Indochina, though it was occupied byJapan for four years from 1941. King NorodomSihanouk ascended to the throne in 1941 withthe support of the French, but stepped down topursue politics and Cambodia peacefully gainedindependence under his Prince Sihanouk’sleadership in 1953. The prince was ousted in amilitary coup led by General Lon Nol in 1970.From 1969 to 1973, US forces bombed thenneutral Cambodia and, according to US Air Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, top left, embraces his Burmese counterpart Thein Sein. Dusk falls on AngkorForce data, dropped 2,756,941 tons of explo- Wat, above.sives on 113,716 sites in rural Cambodia. TheKhmer Rouge took power in 1975. The Mao- restored as King in 1993, the same year demo-ist-modeled regime, led by Pol Pot, changed cratic elections were held under the supervi-the official name of the country to Democratic sion of Untac.Kampuchea. The Khmer Rouge attempted to In 1997, forces loyal to then second-Primeturn the country into a communist agrarian Minister Hun Sen ousted then first-Primestate. It is believed that up to two million Cam- Minister Norodom Ranariddh. Cambodia joinedbodians died during the Khmer Rouge regime, Asean in 1999, having had its entry deferredbetween 1975 and 1979. due to the factional fighting in 1997. Cambodia In 1979, the Vietnamese army, supporting has close relations with both the US and China,a small force of Cambodian troops, pushed each of which has become key a strategic part-the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh, and ner, economically and politically.remained in Cambodia until 1989. The Paris Since 2008, Cambodia has been embroiled inPeace accords were agreed upon in 1991 and sporadic battles with Thailand over a disputedended major fighting in the country’s two de- area around the Preah Vihear temple on theircades of civil war. The United National Transi- shared border. Prime Minister Hun Sen thistional Authority in Cambodia (Untac) entered year celebrated 27 years in power and is one ofthe country in 1991. Norodom Sihanouk was the longest ruling leaders in Asia. April 3, 2012 19
  20. 20. By simon marks the cambodia daily In the global game of strategic positioning, the EU might be Asean’s most pragmatic partner Asean CrossroadsI n Asia’s Century, Asean has a difficult trade and economic growth, but, also in terms region a key partner for the future. choice to make: does it turn east to gain le- of political stability and security,” he added. “Put simply the world has changed and Brit- verage alongside the rise of China, or shift Europe is putting a greater focus on Asean ain must too if we are to prevent our role and westward and align itself with the US? and is now the region’s second largest trad- influence in international affairs from declining. Or does the EU offer a third way to Asean as ing partner after China—an amount equal to Key to this challenge will be making the mosta way of avoiding being subsumed in the Chi- around 11 percent of Asean’s total trade. of the opportunities presented by a new inter-nese wave? The EU is also the largest investor in South- national paradigm in which economic power In the great game of strategic positioning, east Asia, said Mr. Mann. The EU’s Com- and influence is moving east and south,” Mr.options for Asean are being carefully weighed missioner Karel De Gucht participated in the Hague the knowledge that going too far in either second EU-Asean Business Summit in Phnom Asean countries “hold substantial geopo-direction could upset a finely crafted balance. Penh on Sunday, where investors and govern- litical significance, with important influence If Asean sees its future as a choice between ment officials discussed ways to improve trade on neighboring major powers China, India andthe US and China, the world’s two largest and investment ties. Japan. This means that they should be, and are,economies, it will also have to navigate its way As well as agreeing with Vietnam’s Trade key partners for Britain on issues ranging frombetween two countries that remain ideologi- Minister Vu Huy Hoang to begin negotiations climate change to non proliferation,” he said.cally opposed on a plethora if issues. on a free trade agreement, Mr de Gucht said Last year the British government signed a In the EU, Asean has a partner that is out- in a speech on Sunday that talks would start strategic partnership with Vietnam coveringside of the power struggle playing out between on developing a free trade agreement between trade, political relations and security. And inthe US and China. It also has a body that Asean the entire Asean region and the EU. November, during a visit to Indonesia, Britain’sitself is trying to emulate in its approach to “We know that there is still untapped poten- Business Secretary Vince Cable launched thematters of trade and freedom of movement. tial in the trade and investment relationship. We UK-Asean Business Council. “EU and Asean are natural partners. When are, therefore, actively pursuing negotiations “Certainly, everyone can gain from Asean’sfaced with a challenge, we both have a natural for Free Trade Agreements with countries of economic integration,” said Joshua Kurlantzik,tendency to look first for multilateral solutions. Asean. We intend these bilateral negotiations a fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council onAnd we have similar aspirations,” said Michael to be stepping stones eventually to a region-to- Foreign Relations.Mann, spokesman for Christine Ashton, the region free trade agreement,” Mr. Mann said. “Western companies long have pushed forEU’s high representative. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague such integration, since they would like to be “We strongly support further Asean integra- wrote in January in an article titled “Looking able to sell their products to one unified markettion, because we know that this will produce East—UK-Asean relations for the 21st Cen- and to do manufacturing with a supply chain inhuge benefits not only in terms of increased tury,” that geopolitical considerations make the several different Asean nations.”20 The Cambodia daily
  21. 21. Reuters Reuters In the EU, Asean has a partner that is outside of the power struggle being played out between the US and China. It also has a body that Asean itself is trying to emulate in its approach to matters such as Siv Channa trade and freedom of movement. Clockwise from top left: French Minister of State for foreign affairs and human rights and EU representative Rama Yade, left, delivers her address before a meeting with Asean and EU ministers in Singapore in July 2008. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, top left, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino attend the Asean-China Commemorative Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali in November 2011. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sits center stage at the opening of the EU-Asean Business Summit in Phnom Penh on Sunday. Historical ties also play a role in the EU’s re- says that there is little consensus among Ase- sympathizers in the 1960s and as recently aslationship with Asean. And despite an increas- an countries on how to engage with China and the 1990s Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese were be-ingly close relationship with China, Cambodia the West. While none can deny China’s grow- ing subjected to racial violence.still lends its ear to France, and Britain still has ing influence in the region—as of August 2011, Such differences have meant Asean has beenclose ties through the Commonwealth to Ma- investment by Chinese companies in Asean unable to express a unified voice on a numberlaysia and Singapore. countries totaled $22.3 billion, according to of matters, but none more emotive than terri- Coming to a consensus on how to engage Commerce Ministry data—not everyone torial disputes with China in the South Chinawith China and the West will be no easy task thinks China should come first. Sea. Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, andfor Asean, said John Ciorciari, an assistant pro- Countries such as Cambodia have made it Brunei are standing firm behind their claims tofessor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public very clear that close ties with China are para- territory in the Sea. Cambodia, as Asean chair,Policy at the University of Michigan. mount to their future. Though other countries has said the issue will not be discussed at the “As China rises, Asean has encouraged the in the region, such as Indonesia, have so far Asean Summit in Phnom Penh.US and EU to stay engaged in Southeast Asia, taken a more distanced approach towards ever In such circumstances, said Mr. Ciorciaribut has avoided playing up the need to balance closer integration with China. from the University of Michigan, Asean shouldagainst China, fearing that a containment strat- “There are differences between Asean seek a “balance of influence” in order to avoidegy could turn China from a potential enemy member states. Southern members like Malay- “dominance by any single great power,”into an actual one,” Mr. Ciorciari said. sia, the Philippines and Indonesia take a more Speaking to investors and officials form Ase- But, history “suggests that when Southeast cautious position toward China’s rise, while an and the EU on Sunday, Mr. de Gucht madeAsian states have a meaningful choice, they continental countries are taking a much more an effort to convince the audience that Europewill usually try to protect their autonomy and positive stance on China,” said Mr. Gang. was far from idle, despite a debt crisis that hasavoid Chinese domination,” he added. In Indonesia, companies from China have dragged on for two years. “China’s rising military power and assertive- struggled to gain a foothold compared to inves- “I feel I must point out that even today weness are clearly factors as well, as is the steady tors from India and South Korea. are in pretty good health despite initial ap-rise of Asia’s role in the world economy.” There are also cultural and historical factors pearances,” he said. “Rest assured that Eu- Chen Gang, a research fellow at the East that makes a growing China a difficult fit for rope remains strong and dare I say it a vitalAsia Institute in the University of Singapore, some: Indonesia bloodily purged communist partner for Southeast Asia.” April 3, 2012 21
  22. 22. COUNTRY PROFILE Singapore Demonym: Singaporean Motto: “Onward, Singapore” Capital: Singapore Official languages: English, Malay, Chinese, Tamil leaders: President Tony Tan Keng Yam Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Government: Unitary parliamentary republic History: Founding 6 February 1819 Self-government 3 June 1959 Independence from the UK Aug. 31 1963 Area: Total 710 km2 population: 5,183,700 GDp: $291.9 billion per capita GDp: $59,936History in Brief Modern Singapore was founded as a tradingpost of the East India Company in 1819. TheBritish obtained full sovereignty over the islandin 1824 and Singapore became one of the Brit-ish Straits Settlements in 1826. Singapore wasoccupied by the Japanese during World War IIand reverted to British rule after the war. It be-came self-governing in 1959. The People’s Ac-tion Party has won every election since. Singapore united with other former Britishterritories to form Malaysia in 1963, but sepa-rated from Malaysia two years later to becomefully independent. Singapore was a foundingmember of Asean in 1967, and was an originalEast Asian Tiger economy through the suc-cess of its industry and financial services sec-tor. One of the easiest places in the world todo business, Singapore is the busiest sea trans-shipment port in the world and one of the lead-ing oil refinery centers. Singapore’s elder statesman and formerPrime Minister Goh Chok Tong proposed theformation of an ASEAN Economic Community,which was agreed to in 2007 for implementa-tion by 2015, and aims for a single market andproduction base, which is fully integrated intothe global market. Nathan Hayag/Creative Commons Though regional ties are strong, relationswith Malaysia and Indonesia have been attimes strained. Singapore and the US have along-standing and strong relationship, thoughits top trading partner is China, ahead of theEU and the US. Critics accuse the city-stateof being too authoritarian and of curtailing in-dividual freedoms. Reuters Robertus Herdiyanto/Creative CommonsClockwise from bottom left: Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the world Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Traditional Chinese building in downtown Singaporeseen at night. The Merlion fountain.22 The Cambodia daily
  23. 23. COUNTRY PROFILE Laos Demonym: Lao Motto: ”Peace, independence, democracy, unity and prosperity” Capital: Vientiane Official language: Lao Government: Unitary communist and single-party state leaders: President Choummaly Sayasone Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong History: Independence from France Autonomy 19 July 1949 Declared 22 Oct 1953 Area: 236,800 km squared population: 6,500,000 GDp: $15.693 billion - per capita GDp: $2,435 Office of the Prime Minister of Thailand / Creative Commons Currency: Kip Killy Ridols / Creative Commons President Choummaly Sayasone meets with former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in 2010. A monk, shading himself with an umbrella, walking toward a gate in Vientiane, Laos.History in Brief country, the Pathet Lao government renamed 1991 and amended in 2003 include key safe- Laos became a French protectorate in 1893, the country the Lao People’s Democratic Re- guards against such human rights abuses. Laosbriefly gained independence after Japanese public. Conflict between the government and became an Asean member in 1997 along withoccupation ended in 1945 and returned to ethnic minority Hmong, who fought with the Burma, and is also a member of LaFrancoph-French rule until it gained autonomy in 1949. CIA-backed royalist forces in the civil war, con- onie, an international organization of French-Laos became officially independent in 1953 tinued in some areas after1975, while as many speaking a constitutional monarchy under King Si- as 200,000 Hmong fled to Thailand with many It is a rising power in providing electricity tosavang Vong. Soon afterward, a long civil war ending up in the US. Reports of the Hmong its neighboring countries through dams plannedbroke out, ending the monarchy and leading and other ethnic and religious minorities being on the Mekong River and its tributaries, whileto the communist Pathet Lao movement tak- persecuted by the government have persisted demands for metals has driven expansion ining power in 1975. After taking control of the in Laos, though a Constitution promulgated in Laos’ mining sector and the wider economy. COUNTRY PROFILE Brunei Demonym: Bruneian Motto: “Always in service with God’s guidance” Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan Official language: Bahasa Melayu (Malay) Government: Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy leader: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah History: Sultanate 14th century British protectorate 1888 Independence 1 January 1984 Area: 5,765 km squared population: 401,890* GDp: $21.237 billion US Department of Defense / Creative Commons per capita GDp: $49,719 Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah speaks to a US Army Currency: Brunei Dollar pilot in Fort Campbell, Kentucky during his visit to the US Army Special Operations Command in Dec. 2001.History in Brief salam was an original member of the World by Brunei since the area was first annexed in With historic ties to the United Kingdom, Trade Organization since its inception in Jan- 1890. The issue was reportedly settled in 2009,Brunei became the 49th member of the Brit- uary 1995. with Brunei agreeing to accept the border inish Commonwealth on the day of its indepen- Brunei shares a close relationship particu- exchange for Malaysia giving up claims to oildence in January 1984. Brunei joined ASEAN larly with the Philippines and Singapore. In fields in Bruneian waters. The government,on 7 January 7 of that year to become its April 2009, Brunei and the Philippines signed however, denies this and says that their claimsixth member. Brunei became full member a Memorandum of Understanding that seeks on Limbang was never dropped.of the UN in September 1984 as a means to to strengthen the bilateral cooperation of the Media in Brunei are extremely pro-govern-achieve recognition of its sovereignty and full two countries in agriculture trade and invest- ment. The country has been given “Not Free”independence from the world community. As ments. status by Freedom House. The Borneo Bulle-it is an Islamic country, Brunei became a full Brunei is one of many nations to lay claim to tin and the The Brunei Times are the two lead-member of the the Organisation of Islamic some of the disputed Spratly Islands. The sta- ing English-language independent newspapersCooperation in January 1984. Brunei Darus- tus of Limbang as part of Sarawak was disputed published in Brunei. April 3, 2012 23