“Mayor (President) Duterte”, a Commentary by Malcolm Cook


2016/79, 8 December 2016 

On Sunday December 5, President Duterte, via an SMS message from his Secretary to the Cabinet ‘Jun’ Evasco, ordered Vice-President Robredo “to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings” (click here). Tellingly, Secretary Evasco did not say that President Duterte had asked him to send this message, but that ‘Mayor Duterte’ had instructed him to do so.  Not ironically in the Philippines, President Duterte’s daughter is the current mayor of Davao City.


“Taking Over the ‘Hudud’ Issue: UMNO’s Stroke of Genius”, a Commentary by Nicholas Chan


2016/78, 30 November 2016

Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) President Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to allegedly clear the way for Hudud has been lingering in parliament.


“Thailand’s New King”, a Commentary by Terence Chong


2016/77, 30 November 2016

Thailand will soon have a new king. The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) held a special session on 29 November to formally acknowledge and invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to ascend to the throne of Thailand. The Crown Prince, however, is in Munich where he has been staying for the past month. He is scheduled to return to Bangkok on 1 December. Following this, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, president of the NLA, will seek an audience with Vajiralongkorn and to invite him to become King Rama X. According to protocol, Vajiralongkorn will need to accept the NLA’s invitation in order to be proclaimed king. However, the prince, who will be the 10th king of the 234 year old Chakri dynasty, will only be crowned after his father’s cremation, probably in September next year.


“Bilateral Trade Deals will Gain Prominence instead of Plurilateral Ones”, a Commentary by Sanchita Basu Das


2016/76, 29 November 2016

As Peru concludes its 2016 APEC Chairmanship, one key message of the Leaders’ Declaration is ‘to support free and open trade and investment, sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region’ (Source: APEC). The annual Opinion Leaders survey conducted by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council shows that despite the generalized perception that protectionism is on the rise, the private sector continue to demand trade arrangements and support APEC’s work on trade policies (


“The FTAAP Dilemma”, a Commentary by Malcolm Cook


2016/75, 24 November 2016

Donald Trump’s victory has made APEC’s Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) aspiration more important and more difficult. Trump’s promise to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement immediately raises interest in alternatives like the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) process and FTAAP. China’s decision to make the FTAAP aspiration the focus of its APEC year in 2014 bolsters FTAAP’s credibility. The Lima Declaration on FTAAP released at the end of this year’s summit predicts that “efforts in support of the realization of the FTAAP will serve as a driving force to further advance regional economic integration.”


“Strong Malay Support for Bersih”, a Commentary by Ooi Kee Beng


2016/74, 23 November 2016

The Malay turnout at the Bersih demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on November 19 calling for good governance and clean elections was visible and proportionate enough in relation to Malaysia’s ethnic demographics for accusations that the movement is a conspiracy run by Malaysian Chinese to be dismissed for good.


“Trump, Singapore and the Anxious Middle Class”, a Commentary by Terence Chong


2016/73, 21 November 2016

Donald Trump rode on nostalgia and middle class anxiety to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. By skilfully mixing longing for a bygone America with the insecurities wrought by globalisation, president-elect Trump was able to exploit unhappiness over immigration, structural unemployment and stagnant wages, all of which are not alien to Singapore.

One of the abiding narratives during the campaign was that the brash billionaire was tapping into the frustrations of the white working class. Non-college educated white men, sick and tired of seeing their jobs flee to China and Mexico, were ready to, in a highly counter-intuitive manner, throw their lot with a real estate tycoon who had built a business that rode the very crest of globalisation.


“Fate of TPP and Other Possible Configurations”, a Commentary by Sanchita Basu Das


2016/72, 17 November 2016

As Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, attention has now shifted to the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The President-elect has repeatedly mentioned during his campaign that the deal is a ‘disaster’ for the US economy. It is now clear that the Republican leadership will not bring the trade pact to a congressional vote in the lame-duck session. So the death of TPP seems almost certain.


“Vietnam’s Nuclear Power Ambition Faces Headwinds”, a Commentary by Le Hong Hiep


2016/71, 16 November 2016

On 14 November 2016, Vietnam’s National Assembly held a closed-door session to discuss the government’s decision to postpone the construction of two nuclear power plants until a later date. The decision highlights significant challenges that the Vietnamese government is facing in realizing its ambition to develop nuclear energy to power the country’s future economic development.


“Dangerous Dichotomy”, a Commentary by Malcolm Cook


2016/70, 3 November 2016

The Cold War is revived, in the minds of a growing number of analysts (and political leaders) opining on current events in East Asia. We are told that Malaysia’s decision to buy a small number of vessels from China is a nail in the coffin of the US rebalance policy (Click here to view article). The relaxation of Chinese blockading of Philippine fishing vessels around Scarborough Shoal is deemed a US failure (Click here to view article). Any improvement of relations between China and a regional country, no matter how small the improvement or the country, is immediately presented as a major loss for the US.