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News and Views: Updates on Regional Issues

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The nature of many of the issues that Stimson’s Southeast Asia program researches go beyond our long-term projects on hydropower in the Mekong Basin or the South China Sea and are often subject to rapid change. Due to the combination of transboundary effects, the need for development, and divergent viewpoints, the course of many events can often turn in unexpected directions. Our analysis of regional issues ranging from climate change to domestic politics can be seen here, as well as on our blog at If you have any questions or comments for any of these commentaries, please direct them to [email protected]


Indonesia’s Weather Forecast: Hazy, with a Chance of Clear Skies

By Di-Hoa Le and Courtney Weatherby | September 18, 2014

Hazardous levels of haze from Indonesian forest fires have become an annual occurrence for neighboring Southeast Asian countries. El Nino weather patterns like the one currently prevailing in Southeast Asia greatly exacerbate the problem by sweeping the haze into neighboring countries, especially Malaysia and Singapore. The Indonesian parliament’s passage of the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution… Read more>>


Climate Change in Southeast Asia: ASEAN Needs to Act Now to Forge a Common Approach

By Courtney Weatherby | June 30, 2014

June was unexpectedly active for climate change, with announcements from the U.S. and China that could influence ASEAN’s future development. On June 2, 2014, the Environmental Protection Authority proposed to reduce U.S. power plant carbon emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. Only one day later, Chinese authorities hinted at the likelihood of continuing to strengthen legal limits on carbon intensity and adopting an absolute cap on carbon emissions in its next five-year plan. These recent announcements follow indications from the Sunnylands and G-20 summits that China and the United States are seeking to coordinate on greenhouse gas emission controls, which is noteworthy for ASEAN because it could herald international movement on addressing climate change… Read more>>


Stimson Senior Associate Richard Cronin Discusses Thailand Coup

Richard Cronin | May 23, 2014

The Stimson Center’s Senior Associate on Southeast Asia, Richard Cronin, discusses the recent Thai coup and the impact on the region.  Cronin also touches on the common forces present in Thailand and other parts of the Southeast Asia region. The declaration of martial law by Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha on May 20, which some called a “75 percent coup” became a full coup on May 22, including the suspension of the law, the arrest of some leading political figures, and media censorship. General Prayuth created and assumed command of a Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC).  He suspended the constitution except those parts concerning the Monarchy… Read more>>


The MH370 Tragedy and Issues of Capacity and Governanace in Emerging Middle Powers

By Richard Cronin | March 28, 2014

The government of Malaysia continues to face a storm of criticism over its handling of the tragic and still mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Stunned by the lack of any solid explanation for how an aircraft equipped with state-of-the art technology could vanish without a trace, Malaysian government officials reacted defensively and several times released erroneous or unverified information. The image of the government and ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak has also been tarnished by a campaign of insinuation involving ruling party supporters and indirectly the state-controlled media connecting aircraft’s disappearance with the fact that the pilot was an active member of the main opposition party… Read more>>


Obama Faces Serious Challenges in ‘Pivot’ to Asia

By Richard Cronin | November 4, 2013

One of the many foreign policy challenges that U.S. President Barack Obama now faces is the need to show nations in Asia that his much-heralded “pivot” to focus greater U.S. attention on them is a real policy and not just rhetoric. Obama suffered a setback in efforts to build stronger ties with Asian nationals after he was forced to cancel an important trip to the region in October to focus on ending the partial government shutdown and averting default on the national debt… Read more>>


China’s Social Risk Assessment Mandate

By Courtney Weatherby | April 8, 2013

While the Chinese media focused on the outcome of the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th Party Congress last November, an announcement by Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian mandating strict environmental and social impact assessments went largely unnoticed. But if implemented widely, the change will have far-reaching domestic and international implications. The year leading up to the power transition was characterized by high-level political scandals and major protests. While much of the recent tension can be attributed to uncertainty over the leadership transition, China has seen a steep jump in environmental protests in the past decade… Read more>>


Xayaburi Reaching a Critical Point

By Nhina Le | August 9, 2012

The World Bank has blacklisted the Pöyry Group, which has faced criticism on its research into the Xayaburi hydro dam project. According to the Bank’s website, they have stated that they will not conduct any business with Pöyry for three years. The penalty is for allegedly “submitting false invoices and providing improper benefits.” Laos commissioned Pöyry Energy AG in 2011 to investigate whether or not the proposed 1,260 megawatt Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River would comply with the Mekong River Commission (MRC)’s requirements. Though the boycott has not been directly linked to Pöyry’s work on the Xayaburi project, some critics say it is indicative of the questionable nature of the companies that Laos has chosen to work with…Read More>>


A Primer on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Sheryl Tibung | October 9, 2012

What is the TPP? The Trans-Pacific Partnership, otherwise known as the TPP, is envisioned to be a multilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that would liberalize trade among the economies of Asia-Pacific countries, including the United States.  The agreement is currently being negotiated among the following countries: Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, with Mexico and Canada expected to join negotiations by the end of 2012. The addition of Mexico and Canada could give rise to a free trade area covering 658 million people and US$20.5 trillion in economic activity…Read More>>

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