Trends in Southeast Asia 2024

The Trends in Southeast Asia series serves as in-depth analysis of contemporary geopolitical and socio-economic forces in the region. The series is written for policymakers, diplomats, scholars and students of the region with emphasis on empirical and observable trends, and less on theory-building or historical accounts of events.

The aim of Trends is to offer concrete accounts of the dynamism in the region as transnational processes impact local communities, national governments as well as bilateral and foreign relations. Subjects that are of interest to the series are national elections; economic patterns and growth; demographic changes and their social implications; migratory patterns; religious and ethnic trends; bilateral relations and geopolitics in the region in relation to the larger powers of Japan, China and the US. This series undergoes a peer-review process.


“From Paper to Practice: Utilizing the ASEAN Guide on Artificial Intelligence (AI) Governance and Ethics” by Kristina Fong


The rapid development of AI technologies has been nothing less of awe-inspiring. Policymakers are put in a bind as debates over how the deployment of these AI systems is to be managed — with good governance and ethical considerations in mind, and without stifling innovation.


“Who’s Doing What? A Closer Look at Methane Climate Impact and Commitments in Southeast Asia’s Energy Sector” by Qiu Jiahui


This article draws from a database of asset-level emissions to identify key methane-emitting coal, oil and gas facilities in Southeast Asia while taking stock of the methane commitments of their owners.


“Understanding Vietnam’s Foreign Policy Choices Amid Sino-US Rivalry” by Hoang Thi Ha


Vietnam’s foreign policy towards China and the United States (US) involves a delicate process of reconciling and balancing competing perceptions, goals and interests within the country. This leads to foreign policy decisions that may respectively lean towards either China or the US, depending on specific circumstances and issues, while trying to maintain an overall equilibrium between the two powers.


“Party of Hardship: The Evolution of Malaysia’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat” by James Chai


The People’s Justice Party (PKR) may in many ways be synonymous with its larger-than-life leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who, although only president for six of the party’s twenty-five years, has always been its de facto leader and adviser. However, PKR is much more than only about Anwar, and this paper traces the evolution of the party independently of Anwar as a person.


“Delivering Development, Enforcing Shariah: PAS’s Dilemma in Terengganu“ by Azmil Tayeb


This article argues that the politics of development play a more central role in determining the durability of the PAS state government in Terengganu than it does in neighbouring Kelantan. In other words, PAS cannot simply carry out its Islamic agenda without being complemented by tangible economic progress if it aspires to govern beyond a single term; PAS’s loss in the 2004 election after being in power for one term is a prime example of this dynamic.


“Malaysia’s Responses to Issues Pertaining to Palestine” by Mohd Faizal Musa


This paper discusses the Malaysian government’s responses to issues pertaining to Palestine over the years. It illustrates that while Islam has been a crucial rallying point in supporting the rights and independence of the Palestinians, it is also arguable that Malaysia’s foreign policy outlook is also influenced by domestic politics and the need for the government of the day to maintain its support from the Muslim voter base.


“Why Young Malay Voters in Malaysia Are “Turning Green”” By Syaza Shukri


There is an increasing trend among young Malay voters in Malaysia to support the Perikatan Nasional coalition, with a particular emphasis on the Islamist party PAS. Despite recognition of the weak economy as a significant national concern, young Malay voters continue to place a higher emphasis on Muslim leaders who assert their commitment to safeguarding the rights of Islam in Malaysia.


“Myanmar’s Resistance and the Future of Border Trade: Challenges and Opportunities” by Jared Bissinger


Since the start of Operation 1027, Myanmar’s resistance groups have gained control over large parts of key overland trade routes and a number of important border crossings, fundamentally changing the realities in the control of border trade. Despite these losses, the State Administration Council (SAC) retains control-of-trade-related institutions that are vital for accessing an international trading system characterized by state-to-state interactions.


“Beyond Slacktivism: The Dynamic Relationship between Online and Offline Activism among Southeast Asian Youths” by Iim Halimatusa’diyah


Despite a surge in youth activism across Southeast Asian countries, comparative analysis in this region remains scarce. Using data from the World Values Survey of several studies, and case studies on Indonesia, this article examines the extent to which online political activism serves as a catalyst for mobilization, awareness and community building among young people in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.


“Shifting to a Higher Gear: The Saga of Malaysia’s National Carmaker Proton” by Pritish Bhattacharya and Francis E. Hutchinson


Proton has been a vital part of Malaysia’s industrialization journey and a key pillar of its modernization drive.