Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

How is Indonesia’s human rights record stacking up?

Members of Indonesian labor organisations and university students march at the main road during a protest in Jakarta, 28 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Willy Kurniawan).

Authors: Fadhilah F Primandari, University of Indonesia and Anisha Maulida, University of Brawijaya

The administration of Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo accomplished little in the human rights realm last year in Indonesia. Jokowi’s 2019 election campaign promised to protect democracy and deliver justice to the victims of human rights violations. Read more…

India’s Northeast is the gateway to greater Indo-Pacific engagement

Labourers work at a construction site of a metro rail station in India, 2 July 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri).

Author: Titli Basu, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

India’s Northeastern states — a strategic plank situated between Delhi and Southeast Asia over the Bay of Bengal — anchor the convergence of Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) vision and India’s Act East policy. Bordering China and Bhutan to the north and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the west and east, Northeast is a key frontier in India’s Indo-Pacific engagement.

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Whither Singapore’s Joint Multi Mission Ship?

A helicopter takes off from Singapore Navy's RSS Persistence in the waters outside Pulau Semakau landfill, Singapore, 8 June 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Ben Ho, RSIS

One of the most interesting weapons systems that Singapore’s military will acquire in the coming years is the Joint Multi Mission Ship (JMMS), which will purportedly better enable the Singapore Armed Forces to carry out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. Read more…

Indonesia’s democracy under challenge 

Indonesian incumbent President Joko Widodo delivers a speech as his running mate Ma'ruf Amin listens at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, 27 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Antara Foto).

Author: Deasy Simandjuntak, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and Academia Sinica

At a time when electoral democracy has retreated in the region, Indonesia successfully held one of the world’s largest and generally considered free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections. President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s victory in the 2019 election was initially received with enthusiasm by supporters of religious tolerance. Jokowi ran on a more pluralist platform compared to his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto. But democracy does not simply end with the act of voting. Read more…

Will Vietnam’s anti-corruption campaign endure beyond Trong?

Danang City's former chairmen Van Huu Chien and Tran Van Minh are seen during the verdict session of their trial at a court in Hanoi, Vietnam, 13 January 2020 (Photo: Reuters/VNA/Doan Tan).

Author: Le Hong Hiep, ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

A key current feature of Vietnamese politics is the high-profile anti-corruption campaign led by Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. The campaign enters its fifth year, with Trong recently announcing that 10 more grand corruption cases would be put to trial in 2020. Read more…

Bangladesh economy grapples with growing pains

A worker works in a factory of Ananta Garments Ltd in Savar 10 June, 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Biraj).

Author: Fahmida Khatun, Centre for Policy Dialogue

Bangladesh began 2019 with a renewed hope that its newly elected government would bring in political and economic changes as promised in its election manifesto. Although the economy has maintained high GDP growth, electoral promises remain unfulfilled in several critical areas. Many old woes continue to hamper the economy: a weak fiscal balance, a fragile banking sector and a shaky external sector.

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The weakening of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission

University students and members of Indonesian labour organisations take part in a protest over human rights, corruption and social and environmental issues. Jakarta, Indonesia, 28 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Willy Kurniawan).

Authors: Jeremy Mulholland, La Trobe University and Arbi Sanit, University of Indonesia

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is an anomaly in Indonesia’s corrupt institutional environment. As the KPK Law 30/2002 produced one of the world’s most effective anti-corruption agencies, critics and state powerholders had duplicitously argued for the KPK to be reinvented to function as a government-friendly ‘watchdog’ focusing on corruption prevention. Read more…

Regional cooperation to bring clean air to South Korea

Cho Eun-hye takes a rest while walking her Korean Jindo dog, both wearing masks, on a poor air quality day in Incheon, South Korea, 15 March 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Hyun Young Yi).

Author: Tae Yong Jung, Yonsei

South Korea’s air quality has improved remarkably over the past 20 years. The annual average concentrations of particulate matter (PM) of 10 micrometres or less in diameter (PM10) nationwide and of PM2.5 in Seoul have decreased. The concentration of fine dust has also gradually decreased but still remains twice as high as other developed countries and the number of days with high concentrations of fine dust has been increasing.

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Thailand takes action on plastic

Tourists hold up their plastic bags as they stand next to the art installation ‘A Bangkok Minute’ made of plastic bags during an event organised by the United Nations Environment Programme at a department store in central Bangkok, Thailand, 5 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Authors: Sujitra Vassanadumrongdee, Chulalongkorn University and Danny Marks, City University of Hong Kong

Thais started 2020 with a major lifestyle change. After many retail stores banned plastic bags throughout the country, Thais are now bringing reusable bags when they shop. This ban is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia and is a significant step forward in a country that consumes a large amount of plastic and ranks as one of the world’s top 10 marine plastic polluters. Read more…

Squandered opportunities on the Korean Peninsula

A soldier eats ice cream in Pyongyang, North Korea, 12 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Since US President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, relations with North Korea have undergone a number of rapid shifts — from the brink of nuclear war, to Olympic rapprochement, a flurry of summits and a breakdown of negotiations.

What lessons are to be learned from the squandered opportunity for peace? Can denuclearisation and peace treaty negotiations be rekindled?

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Kim’s ‘new path’ and the failure of Trump’s North Korea policy

DMZ on the lunar new year's day, 25 Jan 2020: Woo Je-Il (86) looks north after a memorial service for ancestors at Imjingak pavilion in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea (Photo: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won/AFLO).

Author: Evans JR Revere, Brookings

US President Donald Trump’s attempt to denuclearise North Korea has failed. No less an authority on denuclearisation than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has proclaimed its demise. In a speech to his ruling Workers’ Party delivered on 31 December 2019, Kim announced a ‘new path’ that promises more advanced ‘strategic weapons’, nuclear and long-range missile tests, the end of denuclearisation and a ‘long confrontation’ with the United States. 2020 promises to be a year of great consequence and danger for US–North Korea relations.

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Japan’s North Korea challenge in 2020

A projectile is fired during North Korea's missile tests in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on 28 November 2019 (Photo: KCNA via Reuters).

Author: Naoko Aoki, RAND

North Korea began 2020 by announcing a shift toward a more hardline foreign policy approach, declaring that it was no longer bound by the moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests it has maintained for two years. While it is bad news for all countries in the region, it is particularly unwelcome for Japan, as it faces possible North Korean missile launches in its vicinity as it prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Read more…

Korean Peninsula peace prospects unravelling in 2020

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the Third Enlarged Meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in this undated photo released on 21 December 2019 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Charles K Armstrong, Columbia University

After US President Donald Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ threats of late 2017 gave way to summit diplomacy in early 2018, the prospects for peace on the Korean Peninsula looked bright. But by the end of 2019 these hopes had dimmed, and as 2020 dawns, peace prospects appear to be unravelling altogether.

Read more…

Greater US efforts in supporting Vietnamese Agent Orange victims

Author: Xuan Dung Phan, Tokyo International University

The lack of formal acknowledgment by the United States of the plight of Agent Orange victims is a hurdle to post-war US–Vietnam reconciliation. But a recent victim-centred approach introduced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) offers some hope for change. Read more…

ASEAN’s RCEP and sustainability challenges and achievements

Author: Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, RSIS

As the end of 2019 drew near, Thailand hosted two ASEAN summits under the theme ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’. Looking at how the meetings unfolded, one may ask: what were ASEAN’s major economic achievements in 2019? And what key challenges remain for 2020? Read more…