Asia in Review Archive 2021


Date of AiR edition

News summary

12 January 2021

Cambodia: Opposition defendant will not be issued travel documents

(nd) According to a government spokesperson, opposition officials in self-imposed exile will not be issued passports or visa and will have to find “their own way” to enter Cambodia to face charges of incitement and treason, because they organized a coup d’état to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen. 

The comments suggest a presumption of guilt of the CNRP exiles, which is why the international community already called on the government it has to grant the right to fair trial to the defendants. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right to a fair trial combines many fundamental rights, including the right to a court, the right to a public trial, the right to equality, the right to an independent and impartial trial, the right to an expedited trial, and the right to presumption of innocence.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court in November summoned at least 113 individuals with connections to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) facing charges of conspiracy and incitement. In September 2017, the arrest of CNRP President Kem Sokha for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government, was followed by the party’s dissolution by the Supreme Court and a wider crackdown on the opposition, NGOs, and the independent media, which enabled the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in the July 2018 general election. [Radio Free Asia]

5 January 2021

Cambodia: Civil groups demand transparent oil production

(nd) Following the announcement of Prime Minister Hun Sen that Cambodia extracted its first drop of crude oil from fields in the Gulf of Thailand [See also AiR No. 52, December/2020, 5], anti-corruption groups and senior officials from the opposition and banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) applauded the success but simultaneously demanded transparent and efficient revenue management. They demanded that revenues must be invested in education, health, the expansion of infrastructure and access to water, while pointing to the country’s bad reputation with regards to corruption. In Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, Cambodia was ranked 162nd out of 198 countries. [Radio Free Asia]

5 January 2021

ASEAN countries, US to seek last minute deals

(nd) Only weeks before the official end of the Trump administration, countries across Southeast Asia seem to pursue last minute security and economic agreements with the US in light of president Donald Trump’s transactional approach to diplomacy. During the Trump presidency, trade with the US increased despite of his relative lack of interest in the region, while the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden is widely associated with a stricter emphasis on human rights and democratic values. In early December, the Philippines received $29 million in military equipment during a visit, with an announcement of additional $18 million worth of military equipment and training.

For Indonesia’s planned sovereign wealth fund, the US International Development Finance Corp. signed a letter of interest for a $2 billion as one of the first countries to sign up, with an aimed estimated total of about $15 billion from around the world. The US also extend tariff exemptions for Indonesia, possibly with an eye on cooperation against Chinese maritime actions in the South China Sea. Due to its geographic position, the region will play a pivotal role in geopolitics in the coming years, to stand strong against Chinese aggression and growing influence, but still, in the region, democratic governance is deteriorating, and left unaddressed.

Economically, the region has benefitted from the Trump administration, with ASEAN having received about $24.5 billion in direct investment from the US in 2019, with exports from Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia on the rise since 2017. Additionally, US-based power company AES announced to join a development project for a liquefied natural gas terminal in Vietnam, which also agreed to import up to $500 million in American pork over the next three years. This was seen as a reaction to mitigate the trade imbalance, still US accused Vietnam of currency manipulation after. [Nikkei Asia]