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.


2021/130 “‘Global Britain’ and Southeast Asia: Progress and Prospects” by Ian Storey and Hoang Thi Ha


2021 No. 130

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Southeast Asia is crucial to the United Kingdom’s (UK) ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific. By mid-2021 it had achieved notable progress in strengthening its diplomatic, economic and security engagement with the region. Becoming an ASEAN Dialogue Partner provides an anchor for the UK to deepen its engagement with the region, but does not automatically […]


2021/129 “Who is the Winner? Comprehending Thailand’s 1 October 2021 Military Reshuffle” by Paul Chambers


2021 No. 129

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Thailand’s recent annual military reshuffle was heavily influenced by military-academy class ties and other forms of factionalism. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan appointed most of their favourites to senior posts in the Army. The crown appointed its own favourites to command the Air Force and Navy while ensuring […]


2021/128 “Malaysia’s Regulatory Framework: A Catalyst for FinTech Adoption” by Nafis Alam


2021 No. 128

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Measures to fight the Covid19 pandemic have accelerated Financial Technology (FinTech) adoption in Malaysia. More than 75% of Malaysia-based businesses are now using at least one FinTech-related product or service since the past year. Bank Negara Malaysia’s regulatory sandbox, the Financial Technology Enabler Group  (FTEG)  and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) FinTech Booster […]


2021/127 “Thai PM Remains Vulnerable Without a Party of His Own” by Termsak Chalermpalanupap


2021 No. 127

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha has narrowly escaped “political assassination” in the House of Representatives. A formidable faction in the Phalang Pracharat Party (PPP), the largest in the 17-party ruling coalition, was scheming to join the opposition to vote out the prime minister at the conclusion of a four-day censure debate held […]


2021/126 “The Philippines and the South China Sea Arbitration Award: External Appeasement and Internal Dissension” by Jay L. Batongbacal


2021 No. 126

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Since taking office in 2016, Philippine President Duterte has downplayed the South China Sea Arbitration Award in the hope of gaining China’s infrastructure and financial offerings. This hope has so far remained unfulfilled. Despite this attitude on the part of the president, various departments in the Philippine government have nevertheless been using the […]


2021/125 “The Quad and the Indo-Pacific: Going Slow to Go Further” by William Choong


2021 No. 125

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In recent years, the Quadrilateral Security Grouping (Quad), and the ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific concept that underpins it, have enjoyed forward momentum in response to growing Chinese assertiveness. The Quad has sought to gain traction in the Indo-Pacific, in particular among Southeast Asian countries, by stressing functional issues and tangibles, such as delivery […]


2021/124 “Wang Yi’s Visit to Vietnam: Reasserting Influence, Regaining Balance” by Hoang Thi Ha and Le Hong Hiep


2021 No. 124

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid an official visit to Vietnam on 10-12 September as part of Beijing’s efforts to reassert its influence on Vietnam and pull Hanoi back from its perceived ‘tilt’ towards Washington. Wang Yi emphasised the ideological affinity between the two countries, stepped up China’s vaccine diplomacy, and warned Vietnam […]


2021/123 “The Second Amendment to Papua’s Special Autonomy Law and the Recentralization of Power to Jakarta” by Made Supriatma


2021 No. 123

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A second amendment comprising 20 revisions to Papua’s Special Autonomy Law was passed by the Indonesian Parliament on 15 July 2021, and signed by President Jokowi into law a week later. This was done without consultation with representatives of the Papuan people, contrary to the requirement under that same law. The People’s Representative […]


2021/122 “The Ambivalence of Heavy-Handed Debt Collection in Vietnam” by Nicolas Lainez, Bui Thi Thu Doai, Trinh Phan Khanh, Le To Linh, To Thu Phuong and Emmanuel Pannier


2021 No. 122

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Consumer finance is a thriving sector that has been growing at an annual pace of 20 percent in Vietnam. Policy-makers and financial players promote consumer finance as an antidote to black credit gangs or usurious practices. However, banks and financial companies use controversial collection practices, including threatening borrowers’ relatives, friends and employers who […]


2021/121 “China’s Vaccine Diplomacy in Malaysia: Problems and Prospects” by Peter T. C. Chang


2021 No. 121

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY China-manufactured vaccines are part of a diverse portfolio that Malaysia relies on to inoculate its population out of a devastating Covid-19 wave. But concerns over its relative effectiveness have led to China’s Sinovac being relegated to a secondary supporting role in Malaysia’s national immunization programme The downgrading notwithstanding, China’s vaccine diplomacy remains crucial […]