ISEAS Perspective 2023

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.


2023/37 “Is the US a Serious Competitor to China in the Lower Mekong?” by Hoang Thi Ha


2023 No. 37

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY After decades of benign neglect, the US has increased its engagement in the Lower Mekong in the last decade, partly driven by the US-China competition. The US’ strategic intent is to enhance the Lower Mekong states’ resilience to Chinese influence by supporting their “autonomy, economic independence, good governance and sustainable growth”. Whereas China […]



2023/36 “Why Malaysia’s Unity Government Will (Probably) Survive” by Kai Ostwald


2023 No. 36

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Malaysia’s 15th general election (GE15) resulted in a grand-coalition government comprised of former arch rivals. Can the new government survive in the face of the opposition’s attempts to topple it? This Perspective argues that several stabilizing factors give the new government a strong chance of remaining in power for the foreseeable future. An […]



2023/35 “Myanmar’s “Sham” Election Threatens the 2025 Goals of the Arakan Rebels” by Kyaw Hsan Hlaing


2023 No. 35

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY After fighting the Myanmar military fiercely for two years, the Arakan Army had, by the end of 2020, established a parallel administration and military bases in Rakhine State. It seemed that “Arakan Dream 2020” was thus accomplished. While the relationship between the Rakhine political parties and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) […]



2023/34 “Diversity in Malaysia’s Civil Service: From Venting Old Grouses to Seeking New Grounds” by Lee Hwok Aun


2023 No. 34

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A call for increased minority representation in Malaysia’s civil service recently sparked another fierce public debate. Ethnic Malays, comprising 57 per cent of Malaysian citizens, account for 78 per cent of federal government staff — and 80 per cent of top decision-making positions. The lack of diversity, and minority groups’ sense of exclusion, […]



2023/33 “Forgiving Without Forgetting: Vietnam’s Peace Diplomacy over South Korean Atrocities in the Vietnam War” by Phan Xuan Dung


2023 No. 33

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY South Korea’s participation in the Vietnam War was marked by various atrocities, including massacres and sexual violence against thousands of Vietnamese civilians. Despite South Korea’s refusal to acknowledge these atrocities, Vietnam’s peace diplomacy — which involves shelving historical issues to promote cooperative and peaceful interactions with former foes — allowed for bilateral relations […]



2023/32 “Expressions of Religiosity on Social Media among Muslim Youths in Brunei” by Siti Mazidah Mohamad


2023 No. 32

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Digital platforms, new media, and popular culture have diversified Muslims’ production and consumption of religious content, their forms of religious expression, and even their religiosity. Tech-savvy and proactive young Muslims who seek and reproduce religious knowledge outside traditional and institutional structures are at the core of this socio-religious transformation. This article examines young […]



2023/31 “Keeping Southeast Asia Afloat: Restorative Aquaculture Key to its Food Resilience” by Elyssa Kaur Ludher


2023 No. 31

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Aquaculture is key to Southeast Asia’s food security as the region contributes nearly one quarter of global seafood production. However, commercial aquaculture has often resulted in aquatic ecosystem degradation. Restorative aquaculture, particularly by growing seaweed and shellfish, promotes aquatic farming while having a rehabilitative impact on marine and estuarine ecosystems. There are opportunities […]



2023/30 “Not Yet the End of the World: Tackling Malaysian Muslim Millenarianism in the Age of Social Media” by Amirul Adli Rosli and Nur Syafiqah


2023 No. 30

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Since 2021, Malaysia has been seeing the emergence of millenarian movements promoting apocalyptic narratives, such as Gerakan Akhir Zaman (GAZA) and Perjalanan Mimpi Yang Terakhir (PMYT). Although millenarian movements are not new in Malaysia, their recent public presence is marked by savvy and creative social media strategies. Their content is easily accessible and […]



2023/29 “Agrivoltaic Systems and Just Energy-Agriculture Transition in Southeast Asia” by Prapimphan Chiengkul


2023 No. 29

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY To tackle climate change and promote just energy transition, Southeast Asian policymakers should look for ways to promote the use of renewable energy in agriculture. This is because the sector consumes a significant amount of fossil fuels annually. Since the expansion of renewable energy increases land-use competition with agrifood production, policymakers should support […]



2023/28 “Japan’s Role in Regional Security: Recalibration and Regional Reactions” by Joseph Chinyong Liow and William Choong


2023 No. 28

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY While anti-militarist sentiments have been pervasive among ordinary Japanese since World War Two, the country has not been stuck in the pacifist mould. In the ensuing decades after the war, Tokyo has been cognisant of new realities in its strategic environment. Japan’s historic reinterpretation of the Constitution in 2015 to allow the Japan […]