ISEAS Perspective 2022

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.


2022/100 “Can an International State University of Confucianism be Established in Indonesia? ” by Leo Suryadinata


2022 No. 100

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Joko Widodo administration recently announced plans to establish the International State University of Confucianism in Bangka Belitung province. This plan has however been strongly opposed by the local Aliansi Ulama Islam (Islamic Ulama Alliance, or AUI). Confucianism (agama Khonghucu) is one of the six officially recognised religions in Indonesia today. Suharto’s New […]


2022/99 “How Recipient Countries in Southeast Asia Manage ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ Projects” by Chanrith Ngin


2022 No. 99

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The agency exercised by BRI-recipient countries can affect the outcomes of BRI infrastructure projects. Host countries do exercise their bargaining powers to shape projects to meet their local economic and political needs better. How they do this hinges on the internal dynamics of their political institutions and the presence of political opportunities. A […]


2022/98 “The U.S. Coast Guard in the South China Sea: A Vietnamese Perspective” by Nguyen The Phuong


2022 No. 98

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The future of Vietnam-U.S. defense and security cooperation relies on meaningful policies that can meet both sides’ needs in the South China Sea and beyond. A deeper engagement of the U.S. Coast Guard in Southeast Asia can be a promising avenue toward that end, especially given China’s “grey zone” tactics to gain de […]


2022/97 “Thailand Has No Shortage of Aspirants to Succeed Prime Minister Prayut” by Termsak Chalermpalanupap


2020 No. 97

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY On 24 August 2022, the Constitutional Court suspended Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha from the premiership after it accepted for deliberation opposition parties’ questions on whether General Prayut had reached the 8-year constitutional limit of his premiership. The unexpected suspension constituted a serious setback to General Prayut, eroding his political stature as […]


2022/96 “Islamisation in Malaysia Beyond UMNO and PAS” by Norshahril Saat and Afra Alatas


2022 No. 96

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In the 1980s and 1990s, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) engaged in a fierce battle to portray themselves as the foremost champion of Islam in the country. This also resulted in the party leaders labelling each other deviant (kafir-mengkafir). The competition to out-Islamize one another seems […]


2022/95 “Dissecting Thailand’s 2022 Military and Police Reshuffles: Palace Proactivity?” by Paul Chambers


2022 No. 95

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Thailand’s annual military and police reshuffles, due to take effect on 1 October 2022, have been, as usual, greatly influenced by political considerations — including ties with the palace, pre-cadet class membership and factionalism. Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan have appointed their favourites to senior […]


2022/94 “Xin Yimin in Malaysia: Trends and Implications” by Ngeow Chow Bing


2022 No. 94

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The current size of the xin yimin (new Chinese migrants) in Malaysia is estimated to be 82,000. These xin yimin are also generally mobile, circulatory, and transitory in nature. Students, holders of MM2H scheme, expatriates/workers and spouses constitute the major categories of the xin yimin in Malaysia. In recent years, the number of […]


2022/93 “Climate Emergency and Food-Energy Conflicts in Southeast Asia” by Prapimphan Chiengkul


2022 No. 93

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Climate change influences food, water and energy security in multiple ways. The current agri-food system significantly contributes to climate change, and the adverse effects of climate change will likely lead to higher food prices in the future. Additionally, transitions to renewable energy increase competition for land and water usage, which potentially undermine agri-food […]


2022/92 “Business Throws its Support Behind Indonesia’s Opposition-Free Liberal Democracy” by Max Lane


2022 No. 92

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Some writers have described political life in Indonesia as regressing into illiberal democracy due to the absence of an opposition that can offer itself as a viable alternative to the current government. However, it may be more useful to characterise contemporary Indonesian politics as going through a phase of liberal democracy where the […]


2022/91 “From Liberalism to Sufism: Ulil Abshar Abdalla Gains Renewed Relevance Online Through Ngaji Ihya” by Wahyudi Akmaliah and Norshahril Saat


2022 No. 91

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Ulil Abshar Abdalla, founder of the Islamic Liberal Network (Jaringan Islam Liberal or JIL), is a highly controversial Islamic scholar and activist in Indonesia. His publications and activism have constantly challenged and angered the orthodox Islamic ulama (religious elites). His liberal viewpoints, notably his support for religious minorities in Indonesia often triggered criticisms […]