A PROFESSOR AT CHULALONGKORN UNIVERSITY
A professor and director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, he earned a PhD from the London School of Economics with a top dissertation prize in 2002. Recognised for excellence in opinion writing from Society of Publishers in Asia, his views and articles have been published widely by local and international media.
As geopolitical tensions from Russian aggression in Ukraine and the ongoing United States-China rivalry intensify, Southeast Asia will be hard-pressed to maintain peace and security. Despite their relatively small size, Cambodia and Laos are two countries whose political trajectories will shape regional outcomes. While Cambodia has consolidated domestic political power with dynamic economic expansion, Laos is looking like a regional laggard facing a deep debt crisis. As Cambodia moves forward, Laos is at risk of being left behind.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival in Central Asia this week in his first overseas travel in nearly three years is perhaps the most consequential irony of the coronavirus pandemic. As the place where the deadly pandemic began in early 2020, China was the first to swiftly and successfully suppress and contain Covid-19 within weeks, while its counterparts in North America and Europe languished for months under mounting death tolls and hospitalisations.
While Russia's profound and transformational invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24 has fundamentally reshaped and reinforced contentious trends and contours in the geopolitics and geoeconomics of Asia, it did not set out a new direction in world politics. The international system had already been unravelling over the past decade, underpinned by the United States-China geostrategic rivalry and competition. Given deteriorating patterns and trends, the international environment is entering dangerous territory where what seemed unthinkable not long ago may soon appear to be very conceivable indeed.
Time is not on the side of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as various groups of people want to see the back of him. Now that he has survived the last of four no-confidence votes in parliament since the March 2019 election, many are pinning their hopes that the eight-year prime ministerial term limit will upend Gen Prayut's rule.
Even pro-democracy critics of China’s authoritarian ways would have to call United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan an undue provocation that ended up as a lose-lose outcome for all concerned, including the 82-year-old congresswoman. Everything about it was misguided and self-indulgent, designed for domestic consumption in the US rather than regional peace and security in Asia. The US, by way of Mrs Pelosi, has unnecessarily shot itself in the foot big time, leaving regional states and societies to deal with the consequences.
The worst thing one can do in Thai politics is to run for office and win by a landslide. When this happens, the knives will come out and the massive election winner will be overthrown before long -- one way or another -- because the real source of power in Thailand is unelected. Such was the fate of Thaksin Shinawatra when he spearheaded the Thai Rak Thai Party to win two landslide poll victories in January 2001 and February 2005, first a near majority and later a thumping 75% of the lower house of parliament.
The recent incursion by a Myanmar MiG-29 fighter jet into Thai airspace is par for the course in the intimate ties between the militaries of both countries. Myanmar's military, also known as the Tatmadaw, in fact wants to be more like its Thai counterpart. The Royal Thai Armed Forces, on the other hand, may end up later having to be more like the Tatmadaw to maintain its role and rule in politics. These two militaries together pose a litmus test for states and societies everywhere. If the popular will and public interest can be systematically stolen and subverted in this corner of the globe, it can happen anywhere.
In countries where integrity, competence and popular legitimacy in leadership are valued -- for example, in Scandinavia, Singapore or Taiwan -- Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt would be considered fairly average. He would merely be another good leader who exudes modesty, humility, capability and authenticity, always in touch with and answerable to his constituents.
Few signboards foretell the global issues of our time better than what is addressed at the annual meetings of the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore. After a pandemic-induced two-year hiatus, the most recent SLD covered the gamut on the main stage, from the United States-China geostrategic competition and military modernisation to security cooperation and climate change. The only anomalous single- and small-country focus in a special session was Myanmar.
The simmering geopolitical tensions between the United States and China and Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine have turned the tide of history back to its historical norm. It is easy to see the global stage today as full of tension, confrontation, and conflict in a recurrent fashion. But it is worth recalling that merely 30 years ago, the world was in a different phase where a lasting peace seemed viable.