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 Events Summary 2020

Facebook Live: Book launch and panel discussion: In the Dragon’s Shadow: Southeast Asia in an Age of Rising Chinese Power on Wednesday, 23rd September 2020 at 07.00-09.00 p.m. 

The 11 nations of Southeast Asia stand uniquely exposed to the rising power of the new China: three share borders with the world’s most populous nation, and five are directly impacted by its claims over the South China Sea. All dwell in the lengthening shadow of Chinese influence: economic, political, military, and cultural. 

Webinar via Zoom: Distinguishing Mainland from Maritime Southeast Asia: How Much Does It Matter? 

Analysts of Southeast Asia, struggling to find commonalities that its eleven diverse countries share, have long distinguished the region’s mainland from its maritime portions. Aspects of the contrast include the mainland’s greater proximity to China. A controversial hypothesis follows: that subcontinental Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and possibly Thailand (but arguably not Vietnam) are more likely to become peninsular parts of a sphere of influence overseen by China than are the region’s more insular or archipelagic countries—Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste. In support of the mainland versus maritime distinction, historical, cultural, and socioeconomic differences can also be cited. But how much do they really matter? Does the mainland-maritime contrast, for example, enhance or impede the ability of Southeast Asian countries to retain national independence and fashion a common front in defense of the autonomy of their region? Or is location irrelevant? And if other factors matter more, which ones, how, and why? The webinar will offer and explore answers to these and related questions. 

Facebook Live: Thailand's Youth Movement and Political Directions: In Search of A Common Future on Wednesday 26th August 2020 at 09.30 – 11.30 a.m. 

This forum is designed to broach and probe ways forward in Thailand’s longstanding effort to find a common future. We will hear from student activists, a former student leader from the 1970s activist era, and a former constitution drafter (please refer to accompanying flyer for details). 

Webinar: China, the United States, and the Rest: Tensions and Directions During COVID-19 on Wednesday 29th July 2020 at 09.00 a.m. – 10.30 a.m. (Bangkok) / 10.00 a.m. – 11.30 a.m. (Beijing) / 11.00 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. (Tokyo) 

This forum focuses on how China and the US see the fluid pandemic-driven global environment. Are China-US tensions leading to further escalation and confrontation? We already have seen conflicts in bilateral trade, tech, financial, immigration, and so on. Is armed conflict becoming less implausible? How might tensions de-escalate and what are future directions in view of domestic dynamics in both countries? And how should the rest of Asia and beyond handle this superpower faceoff? These are some of the issues and questions that will be addressed. In addition, we will field audience questions beforehand to include them in the discussion. I hope you will join us in what I think will be an informative forum with takeaway insights. 

Facebook Live: Southeast Asia After COVID-19: Pitfalls and Prospects on Wednesday 17th June 2020 at 08.00 p.m. – 09.15 p.m. (Bangkok) 

While states and societies in Southeast Asia grapple with the coronavirus and pressure to end lockdowns and restart economic activities, we invite you to listen to a panel of experts who will analyze the impact on politics, economics, conflict, security, and governance - and possible ways forward. I know there have been and will continue to be myriad virtual and online events about COVID-19 and Southeast Asia. By necessity, we need to engage this “COVID and Southeast Asia/ASEAN” subject like our peers and counterparts. 

Facebook Live: VThai Politics Beyond COVID-19: Underpinnings, Directions, Prospects” Friday, 15th May 2020 at 03.30 p.m. - 05.00 p.m. 

We now turn out attention to Thai politics in view of Covid-19. Will the student-led flash mobs prior to Covid-19 reappear after the virus subsides? What will be the political consequences of the ongoing economic doldrums and GDP contraction? How will the Thai people respond and react to the Covid handling and management under the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha? And the role of the military in Thai politics in the coming months? Tensions seem to be mounting as Thailand grapples with political problems and economic adversity over the past several years, now exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis. This webcast public forum will aim to address these questions and issues. 

Facebook Live: Virus Risks and Economic Imperatives: Balance and Priorities on Friday, 1st May 2020 at 09.30-11.00 a.m. 

This forum will focus on the shifting and moving balance between virus concerns and economic imperatives. The Thai government today has announced an extension of the emergency decree for another month until the end of May 2020. This extension is understandable due to the persistence of the deadly coronavirus and its potential new outbreaks, even if numbers of infections and fatalities appear to have stabilized. At the same time, bottom-up pressure for a partial re-opening of the Thai economy is mounting, as economic hardships have hit the people hard and fast. 

Facebook Live: Counting the Cost, Looking for Recovery: The Thai Economy After COVID-19 on Thursday, 23rd April 2020 at 09.30-11.00 a.m. 

We will shift gear and focus on Thailand in particular. Our next online public forum on Thursday 23rd April (930am-11am) is entitled “Counting the Cost, Looking for Recovery: The Thai Economy After COVID-19,” featuring two leading economists in Dr Supavud Saicheua and Dr Sutapa Amornwiwat. Their backgrounds are attached. Dr Supavud is a prominent economist in Thailand for more than the past three decades, known for his independent macroeconomic analyses. Dr Sutapa has worked in multiple capacities in the government sector, including with the Fiscal Policy Office, and now with a data analytics tech start-up under Siam Commercial Bank. This online forum will home in on challenges facing the Thai economy during and after the virus crisis. 

Facebook Live: COVID-19 in Thailand and Southeast Asia: Dynamics, Directions, Prospects on Friday, 17th April 2020 at 09.30-11.00 a.m. 

COVID-19 in Thailand and Southeast Asia: Dynamics, Directions, Prospects
Friday, 17th April 2020 at 09.30-11.00 a.m. 

Facebook Live: ASEAN and COVID-19: A Regional Response? Friday, 10th April 2020 at 09.30-11.00 a.m. 

ASEAN and COVID 19: A Regional Response?
Friday, 10th April 2020 at 09.30-11.00 a.m. 

A Public Forum On – Finding Balance and "Happiness": Individuals, States and the International System at 10.00 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Monday, 20th January 2020. 

Happiness is hard to come by and difficult to define. It derives from a complex and moving balance between work and living, between state and society, between faith and reason, encompassing much more than just what gross domestic product and national income stand for. While happiness can be subjective and tough to measure, it is generally considered to be associated with biological, behavioural, and public policy concerns. In a three-level framework of individuals, states, and the international system, this public forum shares experiences and expertise from the Nordic countries that have been ranked consistently among the top of all societies across the world for overall well-being and happiness.
We will start with a keynote talk by Mr Meik Wiking who is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and New York Times Bestselling Author. He will address issues such as how happiness should be measured, how to convert wealth into well-being, explaining why the Nordic model always top global happiness rankings. In addition, we will also listen to local experts who have worked on and practiced health and wellness in Thailand. 

A Public Lecture On - On China: Growth Prospects, Domestic Politics and Geostrategy in the 21st Century at 09.30 a.m. – 11.30 a.m. Wednesday, 29th January 2020. 

This public forum features a keynote lecture by Professor Dwight H. Perkins who has studied China and its development for nearly 70 years, since 1954 as a Cornell undergraduate student, including trips to China and meetings with former Chinese leader Deng Xaioping in the 1970s. Professor Perkins has authored numerous books and articles on China, as his profile on google and wikipedia attests. He has also been consultant and advisor to many committees dealing with China and United States-China relations. I can personally assure you that this is a rare opportunity to listen to one of the world’s most authoritative voices on China. Unlike other forums, we will focus mainly on Professor Perkins’s speech, with just one discussant to tease out local and regional implications. 

(September 18, 2020) Thai protesters must force reform, not a revolution 

The first 20 years of the new century have been anything but harmonious for Thailand, spawning prolonged violent confrontations between street protesters and the military, two military coups, and two new constitutions. 

(September 11, 2020) The global politics of virus vaccines 

It is clear now that Thailand's de facto strategy for handling the coronavirus pandemic is to minimise local infections and wait for a safe and effective vaccine. The recent discovery of just one Thai in a Bangkok suburb who tested positive sent the country into near-panic mode after 100 days of zero local transmissions, similar to the case of an Egyptian military official who visited Rayong province in July and tested positive thereafter. 

(September 4, 2020) Abe legacy is Japan as 'normal' nation 

Japan's outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be missed throughout much of Asia, including China. His health-induced political departure attributable to a recurrence of ulcerative colitis brings to an end Japan's longest-serving prime minister in a consecutive tenure. While much will be recorded about his rich legacy, Mr Abe should be seen as a natural mover and shaker who reshaped Japan into a more "normal" country able to pursue its national interest like others by all available means. 

(September 15, 2020) Asean issues "extraordinary" bulletin 

Asean has further consolidated and displayed its true self amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the most holistic of ways. The empirical evidence can be found in the 12,390-word Joint Communique. The 99-paragraph document requires a careful study as it is rather "extraordinary", as a senior Thai Asean official put it, in both substance and length. The communique this year encompasses elements and ingredients that will make Asean more cohesive and responsive in facing current and future challenges. Truth be told, Asean under Vietnam's chair took a painstakingly long time debating the wording, with lots of agreements and disagreements over the content. Since the communique was released late by one day, rumours ran amok that it might not come out at all, repeating the 2012 debacle. 

(September 8, 2020) Biden win a boon or bane for Thailand? 

There are only nine weeks to go before Nov 3 when American voters decide on their new president. If former vice president Joseph Biden wins, Thailand must prepare a new strategy to "renew" and "reinvent" engagement with the US that will take be tougher on issues related to China, human rights and democracy. The Biden administration's approach could be a boon or bane for Thailand, one of its five allies in the Indo-Pacific, depending on the country's diplomatic pathway and strategic preparedness. With a new administration under the Democrats, the US State Department would again shape overall policy towards its benign ally. 

(September 1, 2020) New dynamics of Asean's external ties 

Before Brexit, very few people in this part of the world would have imagined that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, then immediately want to become the 11th Asean dialogue partner. Asean senior officials have already discussed the UK's prospects. They have yet to reach any consensus as it is not just about adding a former EU member but involves a plethora of issues that would come with the lifting of a moratorium that has been in place for 24 years. Some members are saying that admitting the UK, a former colonial master of four of the grouping's members, would open Pandora's Box with unknown consequences.