Lessons for Burma from Thailand Crisis

By PAVIN CHACHAVALPONGPUN Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What does Thailand’s protracted political crisis tell its neighboring countries? What are the lessons to be learned from the Thai experiences? And what is the most vital message for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), of which Thailand is a member, as the organisation moves toward a greater regional integration?

The current political stalemate in Thailand is the work of two competing networks; one that supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the other the old establishment.

Thaksin is represented by the red-shirt movement which comprises the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the poor in far-flung regions and underprivileged Thais. The old establishment is supported by Bangkok elite, part of the military and big business. Its notable agent is the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), whose members choose to wear yellow shirts that symbolise the king’s color.

The battle between the two political networks has been ferocious. The Pattaya incident and the Bangkok inferno signalled that at least one side of the network was willing to engage in a warlike fight to undermine its opponent. In the process, leaders of both networks claimed to act for democracy. But their brands of democracy have so far failed to untie the political deadlock.

The deep turmoil in Thailand reveals certain realities which have long existed in the region. Yet, leaders in the region have pretended not to see them. This time, as Thailand found itself on the brink of becoming a failed state, a few lessons could be learned by its neighboring countries.

First, continued crisis and escalating violence imply that democracy has remained a fragile commodity. A decade ago, Thailand was praised for its rapid economic development and progressive democratisation. Today, its political domain is transformed into a battlefield between two powerful forces possessing two different ideologies.

The Thai case shows that an elected government with excessive power, living on corruption and lack of respect for human rights, can be vulnerable; that traditional power-holders must face up to modern-day reality whereby the voice of the majority is the true voice of democracy; that the military has to be depoliticised for the sake of democracy; and that violent means employed to serve political purposes only further alienate democracy.

The rise of the red-shirt movement has the potential to lead a new opinion in certain Southeast Asian states where democratic rights have been taken away from the people. Not every member of the red shirts supports Thaksin. Some have participated in the rallies genuinely for the return of real democracy to the majority of Thais.

Second, although the power struggle is a part of Thailand’s democratic evolution and this proves that the country has come a long way since the political transition in 1932, its political drama does not necessarily encourage positive changes in certain parts of the region. It could send out the wrong message.

The message, for example, that anti-government activities must not be tolerated. The message that stability is more precious than changes, or even more than democratic rights, and that challenge in all forms to the ruling regime must not be allowed. And that Western democracy is not really compatible with Asian societies, as defended by Asian leaders for generations.

In other words, the Thai conflict could have compelled illegitimate regimes elsewhere, including Burma, to tighten their grip of power for fear of public disobedience and uncontrollable situations.

Third, Asean has been led to believe that the sole major obstacle to regional integration stems from the widening gap between the more and the less economically developed members. Unless Asean closes this economic gap, regional integration will remain largely elusive.

Yet, Asean leaders have overlooked the fact that a widening political gap, in terms of different levels of democratic development, has also affected the process of regionalism. The Thai political unrest has already delayed Asean gatherings. The political storm has held back the Thai leadership in Asean. The organisation has been operating on autopilot since last year. The slow response to the global financial crisis proved this point.

However, this is not Thailand’s problem alone. The gap in the levels of democratisation in the region has so far tarnished the good works Asean has achieved in other areas.

This existing political gap has produced different mentalities and attitudes among Asean leaders as they look ahead into the future. Some are enthusiastic about Asean’s newborn regionalism. Some are using Asean as merely a symbol of their pretentious embrace of international norms and practices.

Both Thailand and Asean have a long way to go until they meet their needed objectives.

Crisis in Thailand can be used to remind its neighbours that true democratisation is an extremely arduous process. But its postponement would only make this exercise even more excruciating and troublesome.

The author is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. This commentary is his personal view.


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ASEAN presence a prerequisite in any future Asia Pacific community

Lilian Budianto, The Jakarta Post | Sat, 05/01/2010 10:45 AM | Discourse

Jakarta has recently welcomed Russia and the US to join in the East Asia Summit (EAS) after years of veering away from admitting new members into the 16-strong-grouping. The proposal is aimed at bringing together the two Cold War rivals with the 10 ASEAN member-states plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa talked to The Jakarta Post’s Lilian Budianto on the reasons behind this shift in foreign policy.

Question: What led to the decision to welcome Russia and the US into the EAS?
Answer: It is an undoubted fact that the geopolitical trend today and for the immediate future rests on the increasing prominence of Asia, East Asia, and Asia Pacific in general. Whatever we do in our region, in terms of its regional architecture, geopolitical underpinning and structure, will have not only regional but also global implications.

To put things in the global context, our national perspective is to ensure what we call dynamic equilibrium in the Asia Pacific region. Dynamic equilibrium marked by the absence of domination of any single power; dynamic equilibrium where countries can engage with one another in a mutually beneficial and peaceful way. Given this kind of background and geopolitical concerns, we have become recently aware of ideas such as the Asia Pacific Community and the East Asia Community as suggested by some countries. We are looking at where we are now and how we should proceed. Inaction is not an option.

We are aware that we have to think this through. In the first months of my tenure I am very much in the listening mode. I want to know what are the latest ideas and thoughts. Having listened to the Australian and Japanese ideas, we come to several conclusions. One, we must continue with the ASEAN community building track. We must not be diverted away from the ASEAN community track because any future Asia Pacific community must have as a constituent element the ASEAN community. It’s a prerequisite. So, first and foremost we must continue to integrate ourselves into ASEAN community building efforts by 2015.

However, you can walk and whistle at the same time. So, when I said we must concentrate and put emphasis on ASEAN community building, it does not mean that everything else must be put on hold.

Where there are gaps, where there is room for improvement, then we must have the courage to improve and to undertake that. This is where the East Asia Summit comes in, especially vis a vis how best to engage or find the right modalities for the deepening of US and Russia engagement in the region. This is still the ongoing discussion. We have yet to find the right modality, whether via the East Asia Summit or other.

Does ASEAN look to have both Russia and the US joining at one time or it can come in sequence?

Russia has been knocking on the door for some time. They are there and want to join the EAS. We have formally stated that we welcome Russia’s participation in the summit, which is an evolution in our position. At the same time we would also welcome, the US in the EAS, if they wish to join. But we have yet to hear formally from them. Now in terms of the sequence, as to which comes before, that is something we can think through further. Ideally, it would be nice to think that they can do things in tandem or in concert in terms of procedures.

Why not just do it in one go. But there is also the geopolitical context as well, that it would be ideal if both these relatively large countries proceeded in concert.

But these are all still possibilities. It is not Indonesia’s business to suggest anything to these countries because we are yet to fully ascertain what is the preferred modality.

Do all ASEAN member states already agree in principle to include Russia and the US?

This is still being discussed. The leaders in their summit in Hanoi have tasked foreign ministers to consider fully.

the whole subject of regional architecture. I think, to be honest, this will be forever a work-in-progress. There won’t be one day when we can say that it is all done. This is something fluid and dynamic, constantly evolving. There won’t be a moment in time when we say we are not perfect right now and after the two countries join us, this is it. No, we are constantly evolving in a dynamic and fluid situation. Indonesia revels in this kind of dynamic. We are not worried.

We find this dynamic equilibrium is the type of diplomacy that will make progress. We need to be alert to the evolving situation.

Do you have any timeline to complete the discussion on the expansion?

I don’t want to reduce it to the whole issue of expansion per se. It is more than simply an expansion. The fact is we have the ministerial meeting in Hanoi this July and then we have the summit this October and so there will be at least those opportunities to see whether progress can be made.

Indonesia will be chairing ASEAN in 2011 and this is a good opportunity along the line for us to be part of the effort to help shape our regional architecture. For us, sooner is better than later. No need to postpone things that can be done. But at the same time, we are very much aware that this is about comfort levels, we must proceed as they said in ASEAN language: at the best comfortable rate for all.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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The role of Indonesia in the region and the world

Juwono Sudarsono, Canberra Mon, 05/03/2010 9:37 AM Opinion

Indonesia’s strategic vision is defined by its strategic geopolitical and geoeconomic location which defines its perennial interest in keeping track of security trends in the linkages of regional clusters encompassing: Northeast Asia (Japan, China, South Korea) including Taiwan; Southeast Asia (the 10 member states of ASEAN), including Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste; Southwest Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific).

Together with the United States, Canada, Chile and Brazil, the Trans Pacific Partnership constitutes roughly 76 percent of the world’s GDP.

Indonesia is one of the world’s geopolitical “regional pivotal states” along with Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Australia, the latter seven being co-members of the G20.

In diplomatic forums Indonesia participates in the UN system, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), ASEAN, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the East Asia Summit (EAS), and since 2008, in the G20.

Within the ASEAN Security Community (ASC), Indonesia strives to cooperate and maintain intra ASEAN stability with its nine fellow member states in mainland and maritime Southeast Asia.

The three pillars of the ASC (Political-Security, Economic and Social-Cultural) reinforce constructive engagement and maintain a balanced “strategic space” by accommodating the interests of extra regional powers (the US, Japan, China, India and Russia).

Australia and New Zealand both play critical security assurance roles in sustaining this constant “rebalancing engagement” in Southeast Asia.

As the largest ASEAN member state in terms of geographical size, population, and economy, Indonesia’s role is to emphasize collaborative rather than assertive leadership. Indonesia believes that effective and credible leadership within the ASC rest on our improved domestic political cohesion, economic development and national security through provision of good governance, equitable economic development and social justice at home.

A secure ASEAN environment is in our strategic interest just as a stable Indonesia is in the interests of all our ASEAN partners.

As the world’s largest economy, the United States’ military presence in Asia and the Pacific has long defined Asia Pacific security. Throughout the Cold War (1947-1990) and beyond (1990-present), the United States Pacific Command (PACOM) held its role as the “main security provider”.

That preponderance provided its treaty allies (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) to secure 80 percent of energy supplies from the Middle East within a stable Northeast Asia-Southeast Asia-Indian Ocean environment.
It also enabled Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan and eventually China to accumulate today’s combined GDP of almost US$12 trillion, whilst at the same time underwriting America’s trade and fiscal deficits.

American military preponderance secured both the intra-regional and trans-regional strategic balance. Japan, South Korea and (since 1978) China provided economic, trade and investment commitments, leading ASEAN to become today a community of 10 nations with a combined GDP of $1.3 trillion.

The security, trade and investment complementarities linking Northeast and Southeast Asia were facilitated by America’s critical role as “regional balancer” underpinning trans-regional security.

The political prominence and economic rise of Japan (GDP $5 trillion), China ($4.8 trillion) and India ($2.4 trillion) lead to graduated desire to increase their political and security presence within each countries “core area of interest” as well as beyond.

In the next 10-15 years ASEAN needs to re-calibrate the strength and quality of its combined conventional forces presence in ways that accommodate the imperative to “co-determine” the terms and conditions of western Asia Pacific security without upsetting the rebalancing process among the major powers, including Russia.

Indonesia’s vision within the ASC is to provide “strategic space” and as well as maintain “technological parity” among all residents as well as among extra-regional powers in order that multilateral cooperation, regional security and economic prosperity reinforce one another.

This new regional security architecture need to secure 38 percent of the world’s 90 percent seaborne trade passing through the straits of Southeast Asia, including the three sea lines of communications traversing the Indonesian archipelago.

The real challenge is to coordinate and synchronize public and private business leaders to harness a concerted vision based on each country’s distinct geopolitical location relative to its geoeconomic competitive strength.
Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore exemplify success in utilizing “brainpower” in order “to live off” the rest of the world precisely because they do not possess natural resources.

What combination of “hard”, “soft” and “smart” powers must leadership groups in government, in the military and in private business command in order to be able to connect, cooperate and, at the same time, compete with one another as well as with the rest of the world? Of the annual US$190 trillion global financial market transactions, more than 60 percent connect financial hubs in the Asia Pacific region.

What will be the role of traditional “military power” compared to the growing importance of “non-military warfare” such as the “battle” over brain-ware, creativity, ideas and innovation? What is the optimum mix matching the ability to “deter and destruct” physical targets with the ability to “capture and secure” market share, financial assets and intellectual property? Countries with sizeable populations and large territories must adopt a comprehensive policy vision simultaneously linking the global, the regional, the national, the provincial and the local, so that claims over strategic resources in disputed areas can be resolved through rules-based mediation and peaceful negotiation.

There is need for more skilled and educationally trained military officers who are able to interface the planning of “military battles” over physical space with areas where “non-military battles” of ideas, of technological knowhow and management skills become increasingly prominent in determining a nation’s ability to survive in a “24/7” competitive world. In all Asia Pacific countries the “war-room”, the “board-room” and the “class-room” must interface continuously.

Only in this way can Indonesia’s future generation of military leaders and defense managers ensure that the shared responsibility within ASEAN to sustain multilateral cooperation, regional security and economic development will justly reward our shared vision of planning ahead in safeguarding peace and prosperity throughout the Asia Pacific region.

The writer is a former defense minister. The article is a summary of a presentation by the writer at the Centre for Defense and Strategic Studies, Canberra, Australia, on May 3, 2010.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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Cybersecurity meet ends with calls for global cooperation

Government and business leaders wrapped up a cybersecurity conference here Wednesday agreeing that only global cooperation can protect a vulnerable Internet and interconnected world.

"When it comes to our readiness to protect ourselves from cyberattacks we are not prepared, we are not even close to ready," said Tom Ridge, who headed the Department of Homeland Security under former US president George W. Bush.

Cyberspace has emerged in the 21st century as a new domain along with land, air, sea and space, Ridge told the 400 participants from 40 countries attending the first Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit hosted by the EastWest Institute.

"It's time, one might argue past time, to build the trust and establish the laws, treaties and agreements for the cyberspace domain in this 21st century," he said. "Collective action is and must be our goal."

During three days of talks here, government officials, business leaders and cybersecurity experts discussed how to cope with the myriad threats to computer networks -- from criminal hackers out for financial gain to cyber terrorists seeking to wreak havoc, to nations with cyber warfare capabilities.

While the dangers to power grids, financial markets, transportation systems and other critical infrastructure can never be eliminated entirely, they agreed on a number of steps needed to protect the world's digital architecture.

"We need to exchange -- and there are certain conditions of course -- information about vulnerabilities, threats, attacks," said Patrick Pailloux, director general of France's Network and Information Security Agency.

"We should conduct joint cyber defense exercises," he said.

Besides international cooperation, the participants, who included officials from cyber powers such as Britain, China and Russia in addition to the United States and France, repeatedly stressed the need for the public and the private sectors to work closely on cybersecurity.

"Each government has to enlist the support of its private sector for cybersecurity," said Kamlesh Bajaj, chief executive of the Data Security Council of India.

"Real cybersecurity will only happen if there's cooperation," Bajaj said. "No government can fight cybercrime in isolation."

White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt said governments and the private sector needed to be more transparent about cyberattacks.

"How can you do partnerships with private industry, how can you do it with other governments when everything's behind a veil of secrecy?" he asked.

India's Bajaj warned that while much can be done to protect the world's digital infrastructure from electronic attacks, "vulnerabilities will continue to exist.

"Cybersecurity is not a technology problem that can be solved," he said. "It is a risk to be managed."

Protecting user privacy and educating policy-makers and the public to the seriousness of the threats in cyberspace were cited by participants as other major challenges.

"When you mention cybersecurity to most members of Congress their eyes just glaze over," said Michael McCaul, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Texas. "Yet it's one of the most serious issues that we face in this century."

Speaking of cyber espionage, McCaul said "if we caught agents of a foreign power breaking into the Pentagon, stealing physical files, file cabinets, you can imagine the response from the media.

"And yet that's happening in the virtual world every day," he said.

"One of things that we lack when we talk about the cyber threat is imagery," added William Baker, Canada's deputy minister for public safety.

"In the case of cyber crime... what does cyber blood look like?" he asked.

Retired US Air Force Lieutenant General Harry Raduege, former director of the US Defense Information Systems Agency, pointedly reminded participants that reaching a broad consensus on cybersecurity issues will not be easy.

"When I think of the rules of the road, some people drive on the left side of the street and some people on the right so that can cause some healthy collisions," Raduege said.

Source: HERE

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Explainer: Thailand's ongoing political crisis

(CNN) -- The declaration of a state of emergency in Thailand following violent clashes between anti-government and security forces marks the latest escalation in a long-running political crisis which has plunged the southeast Asian country into frequent bouts of disorder and instability.
The scene from the streets of Bangkok on Monday showed widespread protests against the government.

This weekend's protests, which included forcing the postponement of a summit of Asian leaders in the southern coastal city of Pattaya and demonstrations on the streets of Bangkok, were orchestrated by red-shirted supporters of the controversial and corruption-tainted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin -- a multibillionaire media tycoon elected in 2001 on a populist platform that promised universal healthcare and cash handouts to poor villagers -- was ousted from power in a bloodless army coup in 2006 and has been in exile abroad since being sentenced last October to two years in prison after being convicted of a corruption charge by Thailand's Supreme Court.

But Thaksin remains a polarizing figure in Thailand, commanding substantial support in the countryside.

Until last year, Thaksin's allies had remained in power with the government headed by the exiled prime minister's brother-in law, Somchai Wongsawat, despite disruptive protests by the opposition People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), whose supporters dressed in yellow and represented Thailand's traditional ruling class, suspicious of Thaksin's populist model of democracy.
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But the PAD achieved its goal of ousting Somchai in December after a week-long occupation of the prime ministerial Government House offices and blockading Bangkok's main airports, stranding thousands of tourists.

Thailand's Constitutional Court subsequently disbanded Somchai's People Power Party for electoral fraud and barred Somchai from office for five years, paving the way for Thai lawmakers to elect opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as prime minister. iReport.com: "Red shirts" take to streets

But Thaksin's supporters insist that Abhisit was not democratically elected and have vowed to protest until fresh elections are held.

Conservative economics and values and a strong military

On Sunday, Thaksin told protesters via a video link from an unknown location that he would return home to lead them in a march on the capital if necessary.

"Now that they have tanks on the street and the soldiers are coming out, so it is time for the people to come out for a revolution," Thaksin said.

Writing in a blog, CNN's Bangkok Correspondent Dan Rivers said he saw five possible scenarios emerging from the current crisis.

Firstly, Abhisit could call a snap election, which he would be unlikely to win because Thaksin's allies continue to lead polls.

Secondly, he could resign, resulting in the creation of another coalition which would struggle to unify the rival factions, leaving open the likelihood of further protests from one side or the other.

Thirdly, Thaksin could return from exile to lead a red-shirted uprising; a scenario which Rivers describes as "messy and bloody."

Fourthly, the army could again intervene, as it has done in the past, although Rivers says that would do little to heal the deep divisions between both sides.

Finally, Rivers said, Abhisit could choose to ride out the protests or "get tough." But both strategies would likely damage his standing.

"Trying to ignore the protests will leave him looking even weaker; ordering a violent crack-down may simply harden the resolve of the red shirts and provide fodder to their questionable claims that Abhisit has dictatorial tendencies," Rivers said.

Source: CNN

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The fall-out of the Thai political crisis on Asean

By Kavi Chongkittavorn
The Nation
Published on April 19, 2010

The ongoing political conflict on Bangkok's streets and the bloody clashes on April 10 have already rattled the nerves of Asean leaders as they ponder their grouping's future political landscape.

Last week, Vietnam was quick in wanting to issue a statement on behalf of Asean on the violence. On the same day, Cambodia immediately stepped in, calling for a special Asean summit to discuss the crisis in its eastern neighbour - unprecedented moves. Both plans were aborted.

Naturally, Thailand blocked the chair's statement. Bangkok felt it was not necessary as the Abhisit government is still in power and continues to handle the crisis in a transparent manner.

Most importantly, Thailand is an open society and the local and foreign media are free to report on the unfolding events on a daily basis. In responding to numerous enquiries, the government reiterated the non-use of forces during the confrontation.

Finally, Vietnam, on it own issued a short statement saying: "As a neighbouring country of Thailand, a member of Asean and concurrently the chair of Asean, Vietnam follows with great attention the current complicated developments in Thailand. Vietnam wants to see the parties concerned exercise restraint, refrain from violence, and peacefully settle issues through dialogue so as to bring about early stability for Thailand." That much was clear.

Within hours, Vietnam also responded to Phnom Penh's request with a short and crispy message: it is not practical to have such a summit. Putting the two diplomatic moves together, one wonders the reasons why Vietnam and Cambodia were so eager to highlight the Thai political uncertainty.

Throughout the political quagmire in Burma, since its admission in 1997, the two members have yet to play any pro-active role at all.

For instance, at the Hanoi summit, the Asean leaders discussed the situation inside Burma, especially the upcoming farcical election.

Quite a few countries, including Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore, wanted a strong statement from the chair to express "concern" about the current conditions there. But Vietnam as the Asean chair refused to do so. Therefore, the final statement by the chair contained the lowest denominator of Asean's positions on Burma in a decade.

The statement "underscored" the importance of national reconciliation in Burma and the holding of a general election in a free, fair and inclusive manner.

The previous Asean chair's statement on Burma included the call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners (2003). During the bloodshed in September 2007, Asean expressed revulsion at the violence in Burma and the use of weapons in the crackdown against monks and students. At the Hanoi summit, the leaders told the Burmese that Asean was ready to share its electoral experience to help Burma; they could also send observers. But there was no response from Burma. Deep down, Asean would like to see Burma carry out a decent election that is acceptable internationally as it would be a boon to the grouping's credibility as a whole. For the past 13 years, Asean has been suffocating from the family's rogue member, who is not willing to listen or consider opinions and requests of peers.

Last October, Vietnam and Cambodia (along with Laos and Brunei) did not back Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's initiative calling for the pardon and release of Aung San Suu Kyi. After months of lobbying, the planned joint Asean appeal finally fumbled. Obviously as the Asean chair, Hanoi can take an initiative to reflect on any issue as it sees fit. It must be noted that most of the past Asean joint statements made were mainly on common crisis such as food security, financial crisis and recovery, pandemics, among others.

Such is the dilemma of the 43-year-old rule-based organisation. Political division remains as stark as ever. Southeast Asia, now under a single Asean roof, remains the world's only region that comprises all forms of political systems.

They range from absolute to constitutional monarchies, one-party dictatorship to one-party cronyism including various shades of socialism-cum-capitalism.

Whenever a consensus is needed, Asean members take an extraordinary amount of time to decide, especially on sensitive issues.

Amid all these inconsistencies within Asean, there is one bright spot - Indonesia's democracy, and its further consolidation.

The New York-based Freedom House picked Indonesia as the only free country in the region. On the day Vietnam rejected Cambodia's request for a summit on the Thai crisis, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was speaking in front of an international gathering of the Sixth Assembly of World Movement for Democracy with over 600 participants from 110 countries in a downtown hotel. It was a vote of confidence for the 12-year-old democracy, the world's third largest.

In his keynote speech, Yudhoyono declared proudly that democracy in Indonesia is irreversible and a daily fact of life.

The home-grown democracy in his country, the president reiterated, showed that democracy and economic development can go hand in hand as it was no longer a zero-sum game. With the third highest economic growth among G-20 countries, after China and India, Indonesia is confident that its democratic development is on the right track.

He pointed out that the desire to get rid of corruption, collusion and nepotism came wholly from within.

Thailand's democracy, despite its long 78-year history, is still not taking root and the Philippines continues to struggle to find its own democratic formula. The Filipino public are hoping that the next election would enable a respectable leader offering good governance to emerge. Just imagine the implications on the Asean political landscape if Thailand and the Philippines overcome their political instability and attain a certain degree of democratic maturity. Together with Indonesia, they would represent nearly 70 per cent of the Asean population of 595 million. It could be a new benchmark.

It is extremely significant that Jakarta is taking up the Asean chair next year, changing places with Brunei. First of all, Indonesia's chair automatically pre-empts Burma from resuming its skipped chair in 2005. The earlier fear was that after the scheduled election and a new government in Burma this year, the regime might request Asean to return its chair. For 2012, Cambodia has already reaffirmed that it would surely stick to the original schedule as the general election is slated for 2013. Burma, under the name of Myanmar, will take up the chair in 2015 when Asean is supposed to become one community.

Finally, this would allow the grouping's biggest member to pursue its broad global agenda as the Asean chair. It remains to be seen how Indonesia can balance its global and regional roles.

Jakarta has told Asean that as a member of G-20 it would not be able to speak for Asean, but it can convey the Asean input. Yudhoyono's second five-year term would witness Indonesia's enthusiasm on issues pertaining to democracy, international peace-keeping and building, climate change, responsibility to protect and the anti-terrorism campaign. If Jakarta succeeds, the prestige of Asean will be further augmented worldwide.


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