The sweeping consequences of Covid-19 have carried a devastating cost right across the world, but especially for less-developed countries that began the crisis at a disadvantage. This is the case for much of Southeast Asia, where the recovery process has also proved stubbornly slow. Most members of
Australia’s new Labor government has committed to refocusing attention on Southeast Asia, in response to what it argues was a record of neglect under the Coalition government. While the first weeks were dominated by the Pacific, China and the Quad, this week Foreign Minister Penny Wong travels to
In April, the International Chamber of Commerce published a new report on piracy and armed robbery against ships. Among 37 incidents recorded worldwide in the first three months of 2022, 41 per cent of them occurred in Southeast Asian waters. Despite the fact that the majority of media coverage
Over the past two years, the global pandemic has had staggering economic and social impacts in Southeast Asia, pushing millions into extreme poverty. As economies slowly emerge from the crisis, an uneven recovery raises concerns of deepening divides in the region. International development
Maritime disputes in Southeast Asia should be viewed less as a single big basket of problems, and more as smaller individual problems with their own corresponding solutions. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. And three inter-related policy contexts can help explain why some troubles persist
The Southeast Asian maritime domain continues to be fraught. The Covid-19 pandemic brought about an observable increase in transnational crimes such as smuggling – at first, pandemic-related medical material, then later food – as well as illegal drug trading and human trafficking. Piracy and
The Indo-Pacific maritime security order consists of international treaties, multilateral diplomatic forums and, increasingly, minilateral security initiatives. The first two are under stress due to China’s assertive behaviour in the maritime domain and have led to the formation of the latter.
For the last couple of years, virtually every news feed or broadcast has included images of mask-clad people or health workers suited up as protection from Covid-19. While the images might be ephemeral, those masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), along with used test kits and discarded
Written evidence by Ben Bland, Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Lowy Institute, was submitted to the United Kingdom Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2021 and has recently been published
Two reports released last month by The Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental organisation that works with the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to jointly manage the river’s resources, serve as a crucial health check on the state of Southeast Asia’s longest
Last week, Singapore’s Education Minister Chan Chun Sing addressed the Fullerton lecture series on US-China relations and his own country’s foreign policy. Chan, a leading member of the so-called “4G” or fourth-generation of Singaporean politicians, echoed some familiar refrains about the
Blueprints abound for engagement with Southeast Asia. The region is at the heart of South Korea’s ambitious scheme to deepen strategic relationships under the New Southern Policy Plus. India has fresh impetus to boost its image, national reputation, and international standing via its Act East
The dust has settled following US Vice President Kamala Harris’ whirlwind tour to Singapore and Vietnam last month, but questions linger about American engagement in Southeast Asia.
Harris’ visit followed soon after a trip by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first by a Biden cabinet member
An interesting discussion about how Australia should respond to US President Joe Biden’s call for closer alignment and cooperation among democratic states has featured in a recent series of articles on The Interpreter. Between them, Susannah Patton and Ashley Townshend, Michael Green, Ben
The current Covid-19 pandemic has had an alarming impact on press freedom. Over the past 18 months, governments across the Asia–Pacific have – knowingly or not – used the health crisis to restrict the flow of information, stifling the press freedom that underpins societies and the rights of
Southeast Asian governments are aware of the intersecting challenges of water security and disaster governance. The importance member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations place on this dual imperative is reflected in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead
Recent developments suggest that both China and the United States are taking steps towards unravelling or “decoupling” their technology ecosystems. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the semiconductor industry, which manufactures the chips allowing everything from smartphones to cars to
The deteriorating situation in Myanmar has led some observers to issue warnings of a “new Syria”. The two scenarios are not without broad similarities. In mid-April, civilians in Myanmar were being killed at a higher rate than in 2011 Syria, when a crackdown on protests sparked a brutal civil
There is a consensus among Southeast Asian governments on the need for multi-hazard disaster governance approaches. It is reflected in ASEAN member states’ efforts to strengthen their collective capacity to tackle the growing interconnection of risks and the cascading impacts and transboundary
For much of his presidency, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo has taken a mercantilist view of foreign policy, pushing the country’s diplomats to promote trade and investment while keeping their heads below the parapet on most thorny international issues. Indonesia’s inward-looking approach compounded
The most notable takeaway from the first-ever “Quad” leaders meeting involving the US, India, Japan and Australia at the weekend was the agreement on expanding the global vaccine supply. The vaccination capacity of India will be increased to produce 1 billion doses by 2022, the leaders announced
Donald Trump has now become the first US president in history to be impeached twice, this time for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s violence in Washington. Yet as the US reels from the storming of the US Capitol building – civil strife which some analysts had warned
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s vision to make the country a destination for foreign company investments neglects the growing demand for clean energy.
RE100, a group of global companies committed to using 100% renewable energy, reached an annual total electricity consumption in
The Mekong, Southeast Asia’s most important river, has for millennia supported the rise and fall of empires and is responsible for the livelihood of over 65 million people who live directly on its riverbanks, relying on the river for food, accommodation and employment. The river
Speaking last month at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that while the late president did what he thought best for the American people in his historic rapprochement with China in 1972, a line has to be drawn in the sand between “freedom and tyranny
The latest reports from the Lower Mekong Basin are cause for growing concern that another period of drought will succeed that of 2019, affecting Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Expected rainfall from late May through June and July has not arrived, and the level of water flowing in the river is
In this report published by the Brookings Institution, Ben Bland explains why Western nations need to engage with Indonesia in its own right, not as a part of plan to counterbalance China. To do so successfully, they need to develop a much better understanding of the long-running (and ongoing)
After almost seven months, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to challenge the world, but some places seem to have managed surprisingly well. Thailand has not reported any local transmission for over 60 days. The countries of the Mekong region have reported so few cases that many people are asking
The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting democracies in the Asia-Pacific region in ways that demand Australian attention.
The ability to weather a crisis of this magnitude depends upon partnerships and collaboration – economic, social and political – with key countries in the region. These
The coronavirus pandemic has provided just the latest cover for a variety of authoritarian moves criminalising journalism across Southeast Asia.
In the Philippines, a full frontal attack on the free media has been long underway with the Duterte government’s cancellation of the broadcasting
For years at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the pre-eminent meeting of defence ministers held in Singapore, successive secretaries of defence from the United States have repeated ad nauseam that Washington is a “resident power” in the region.It is becoming increasingly evident that the Covid-19
People collapsing in the street with respiratory problems. Doctors forced to use raincoats in place of proper protective equipment. And one of the world’s highest reported death rates from COVID-19. Indonesia is facing a looming crisis as the government’s tardy and piecemeal response to the
After more than a year of tit-for-tat tariffs in the US-China trade war and generalised anxiety about the cost to the world economy, it is remarkable that foreign direct investment into Southeast Asia continued to grow strongly last year, even as global levels flatlined.
India’s decision in the final months of last year to withdraw from negotiations for the mega-regional trade agreement known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) disappointed the countries of Southeast Asia, which are also members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (
Over the last two years, US President Donald Trump has made two trips to Southeast Asia and none to Australia. Despite this, according to White House media notifications, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, each engaged more with Trump than the ten leaders of
Yun-Chan Liao remembers it was about ten years ago when she first heard Southeast Asians in Taiwan saying that Taiwanese people treat cats and dogs well, but they weren’t so nice to migrant workers.
Her husband Chang Cheng agrees. “You know, we’re journalists. We think this issue is about
In Malaysia, a sex-tape scandal engulfing the country in recent months has threatened to destabilise the governing coalition. While the tape has been determined by the police to be authentic, and not a forgery, it is still questioned in some quarters. The truth of the video itself is a point of
If scientists are right, 85% of what comprises the universe is unseen, so-called “dark matter” material that neither reflects nor emits light. In recent times, “south-south” interactions have been somewhat analogous to “dark matter” for the West – that is, largely invisible. Studying
It has been an unusually intense time for elections across Southeast Asia in the past year with both a stunning upset and more predictable returns of incumbents.
But the striking thing from a quick tour of some of the main battlefields is how the general absence of clear policy reform debate in
China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) continues to attract much comment. To some, it is a threat – proof that China’s aim is to extend Chinese global influence. To others, it is a useful contribution to global capital flows. Where does the balance lie between these two views?
Recent reports of a rapid diminishment in the size of the glaciers that feed the great rivers of Asia, including the Mekong, have received wide coverage, not least because they are accompanied by striking visuals.
What is happening at the other end of the river in the Mekong Delta has garnered
Racism and hate speech have certainly been much discussed in Australia and the area seems to have become a grey area for many politicians who see it as too prominent and entrenched to openly oppose. These trendlines bump against real issues of free speech at one end, and the bizarrely invoked “
The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – with its unwieldy number of member states (27) and preoccupation with dialogue (a “talk shop”) – has been declared a failure time and again. Some criticism is justified. But it can also be argued that the earliest expectations regarding this regional
Middle aged spread
Southeast Asian countries are about to become the primary focus of Australia’s public diplomacy this year as the “Australia now” program stretches its budget from the usual single country approach to all ten countries of the ASEAN group.