“The Political Resilience of Prime Minister Najib Razak”, a Commentary by Mustafa Izzuddin


Commentary 2016/49, 22 August 2016

On 5 August 2016, Metro TV (Indonesia) aired its interview with Malaysian Prime Minister (PM) Najib Razak. The interview reaffirmed Najib’s resilience in Malaysian politics. Contrary to the wishes of his critics, not least former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Najib is likely to remain PM of Malaysia, and as UMNO President, steer the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition into the next General Election (GE), due in 2018. Najib’s political resilience, especially his confidence is indicated by a number of factors.


“Daw Suu’s China Visit: What Are the Talking Points?”, a Commentary by Moe Thuzar


Commentary 2016/48, 19 August 2016

Every move by Myanmar’s de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a topic of interest. Her current Beijing visit is no exception, and merits consideration along two main foci.


“Mahathir’s Bersatu is Best Understood as an NGO”, a Commentary by Ooi Kee Beng


Commentary 2016/47, 19 August 2016

The recent decision by the 91-year-old former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed and his closest supporters to form a new political party understandably raised many eyebrows. This incomprehension turned into indignation when it was announced that the party – Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) – will be a Malay-based one and non-Malays can only be associate members.


“Bombings in South Thailand”, a Commentary by Puangthong R. Pawakapan


Commentary 2016/45, 15 August 2016

The string of bomb blasts in several provinces in the upper south of Thailand on 11-12 August has spoilt the Thai government’s celebratory mood over its referendum victory on 7 August. While it is still too early to tell who were behind the attacks and their motives, the government and right-wing politicians have been quick to point their fingers at local actors, hinting at ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his followers. Such finger-pointing is not unusual and was last seen in the aftermath of the shrine bombing in Bangkok last year.


“Understanding Vietnam’s Rocket Launcher Deployment in the Spratlys”, a Commentary by Le Hong Hiep


Commentary 2016/46, 15 August 2016

On 10 August 2016, it was widely reported in the media that Vietnam had quietly deployed an unknown number of EXTRA rocket launchers on five features in the Spratlys. These state-of-the-art mobile rocket artillery systems are reportedly capable of striking runways and military installations on nearby artificial islands recently built by China.


“The Tanjungbalai Riot and Sectarian Violence in Contemporary Indonesia”, a Commentary by Deasy Simandjuntak


Commentary 2016/44, 12 August 2016

The city of Tanjungbalai, 200 km from Medan, North Sumatra, suffered another episode of sectarian violence on the evening of Friday, 29 July 2016, when a group of people burned and ransacked several Buddhist temples.


“Thailand’s Referendum Results: A Vote for (Fragile) Stability”, a Commentary by Prajak Kongkirati


Commentary 2016/43, 10 August 2016

On 7 August, the draft of Thailand’s 20th constitution was approved in a contentious but peaceful referendum. According to the Election Commission of Thailand 15.56 million people voted in favour of the draft while 9.78 million rejected it. The turnout was relatively low with only 55 per cent of eligible voters casting their ballots, compared to 57.6 per cent in the 2007 referendum and 75 per cent in the 2011 General Elections.


“Closure of Disk Drive Firms could Bode Ill for Malaysia”, a Commentary by Francis E. Hutchinson


Commentary 2016/42, 10 August 2016

Last month Western Digital and Seagate, two leading American disk drive manufacturers, stated that they were closing their facilities in Penang and relocating some production aspects to Thailand. All up, this could result in the loss of more than 4,000 formal sector jobs in the northern Malaysian state. These are not closures of footloose concerns, but rather firms that have relationships with Malaysia that span decades. And, far from labour-intensive operations, they include Seagate’s technology centre for slider manufacturing and Western Digital’s R&D centre. Facilities like these have been touted as indicators of Malaysia’s ability to take on more than simple assembly-line operations.


“The Challenges Underlying Malaysia’s Proposed New Party”, a Commentary by Norshahril Saat


Commentary 2016/41, 4 August 2016

Reports are just in that a new opposition party will be formed, and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, former deputy Prime Minister, will be leading it. The proposed party, which has yet to be named, will require approval from the Registrar of Societies (ROS). Muhyiddin intends to submit an application to the body on the 5 August. He will act as the party’s president. Analysts are divided whether this new party will strengthen or weaken the opposition. Some argue that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who has said that he will be the first among equals of the new party, will foster opposition unity, which disintegrated after the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim in 2015. Yet, there are sceptics who contend that Mahathir’s history with UMNO in the past will complicate the new party’s standing in the opposition. Mahathir was after all, the UMNO President for 22 years. The ruling coalition BN (National Front) will only have to apply the same arguments that Mahathir levelled at his opponents in the past: that the opposition is ideologically fragmented; with PAS (Islamic Party of Malaysia) desiring an Islamic state, and DAP (Democratic Action Party) calling for a secular/multiracial state. How the new party positions itself between the forces calling for Malay dominance, Islamic state, and secular/multiracial state is crucial.


“Perspectives of Malaysia’s National Security Council Act 2016”, by Mustafa Izzuddin


Commentary 2016/40, 3 August 2016

On 1 August 2016, the National Security Council (NSC) Act came into effect after the bill was tabled and passed quickly in December 2015. The Act allows the NSC – chaired by a Malaysian Prime Minister (PM) – to take command of the country’s security forces and police locations designated as security areas. Individuals within these security areas can be searched or detained without warrant if necessary. This ‘security area’ status is valid for six months, but can be indefinitely renewed six months at a time by the sitting PM upon advice from the NSC.