ISEAS Perspective 2021

ISEAS Perspective provides analysis of specific current events and their significance for the Southeast Asian region. This will be published occasionally, and is aimed at keeping decision-makers in both the public and private sectors informed; as well as scholars, laymen and the interested public. This series undergoes a peer-review process.


2021/170 “Stuck in Second Gear: Indonesia’s Strategic Dilemma in the Indo-Pacific” by Evan A. Laksmana


2021 No. 170

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Indonesia has important interests to defend in the Indo-Pacific, from navigating great power politics, and securing its maritime domain and resources, to reviving ASEAN centrality. The Indonesian foreign policy establishment has focused its diplomatic resources on implementing the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Jakarta’s strategic resources and political leadership are heavily directed inwards, leaving little […]



2021/169 “Calculating the Carbon Footprint and Minimum Greenhouse Gas Production of SMEs in Southeast Asia” by Michael T Schaper and Ryan Wong Yee Yang


2021 No. 169

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Few attempts have been made to gauge the overall level of greenhouse gas emissions produced by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), even though they account for more than 90% of all firms globally and in ASEAN. There are currently estimated to be more than 71 million SMEs in Southeast Asia today, employing almost […]



2021/168 “The Nature of Recent Chinese Migration to Thailand” by Aranya Siriphon and Fanzura Banu


2021 No. 168

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Xin yimin (lit: new migrants) refers to the new wave of skilled and urban migrants from China. Since the 2000s, many have been moving into Southeast Asia. In Thailand, their number has doubled in the last two decades. Unlike previous overseas Chinese migrants who largely aimed to settle permanently in a destination, the […]



2021/167 “The Profound Impact of the BERSIH Movement since 2007” by Khoo Boo Teik


2021 No. 167

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, best known by its Malay acronym, BERSIH, organized five massive rallies in Kuala Lumpur between November 2007 and November 2016. While BERSIH failed to achieve its original goal to reform the electoral system, the movement made a significant impact on the Malaysian political milieu.  BERSIH’s deeper […]



2021/166 ““Adapting to Nature”: A Preliminary Assessment of Vietnam’s Mekong Water Diplomacy since 2017” by Truong-Minh Vu and Tram Nguyen


2021 No. 166

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Adopted in November 2017, the Vietnamese Government’s Resolution 120 on “Climate Resilience and Sustainable Development of the Mekong Delta Region” has provided a long-term strategic vision and outlined the direction for Vietnam’s water diplomacy to address problems threatening its Mekong Delta. After four years of implementing the Resolution, Vietnam has achieved some positive […]



2021/165 “What Awaits Sarawak in the State Election?” by Lee Poh Onn and Kevin Zhang


2021 No. 165

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Sarawak is heading to state elections on 18 December 2021. The incumbent ruling coalition, the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), should retain control of the state, and probably with more than a two-thirds majority. GPS was formerly Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN), but it departed from the federal Barisan Nasional coalition after the latter’s defeat […]



2021/164 “The EU in the Indo-Pacific: A New Strategy with Implications for ASEAN” by Joanne Lin


2021 No. 164

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The European Council reached agreement on an EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in April 2021, and in September, it presented a Joint Communication providing further rationale for its strategy. This paves the way for the EU to join the other long-standing advocates of the Indo-Pacific strategy. This paper looks into the […]



2021/163 “Digital Commitments in ASEAN’s Free Trade Agreements” by Tham Siew Yean


2021 No. 163

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY             Digital commitments in trade agreements have evolved over time to include market access, and rules and regulations that seek to govern the movement of digital goods and services across borders as well as to facilitate trade. ASEAN’s commitments in terms of the number of provisions in e-commerce have increased over time, but […]



2021/162 “Mind the Gaps, Fill the Needs: A Strategic Outlook for the Philippine-US Alliance” by Julio S. Amador III


2021 No. 162

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Based on a 2020 survey, the United States remains a trustworthy ally to the Philippine national security establishment. The Philippines begrudgingly notes the disparity of treatment across US alliances in Asia as well as Washington’s shift to enhancing engagements with non-treaty partners while failing to upkeep its alliances in Southeast Asia. Alliance management […]



2021/161 “Thailand’s Main Opposition Party Hopes for a Landslide Election Victory: A Realistic Goal or Just a Dream?” by Termsak Chalermpalanupap


2021 No. 161

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Phuea Thai (PT), Thailand’s main opposition party, is aiming at scoring a landslide victory in the country’s next general election, which is expected to take place in the third quarter of 2022. PT success may help allow the party’s chief patron, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to end his self-imposed exile overseas, now […]