Reforming North Korea’s economy: What role for ASEAN?

Shah Suraj Bharat/Jakarta

Photo by Uri Tours (Wikipedia)

The peace process between the two Koreas is exactly– a peace process – something that has eluded the peninsula after 70 years of hostility. Investors, policymakers and the international community will have to be patient on the potential for market reform in North Korea. Yet, there is reason for quiet optimism, judging by the actions and statements of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

After becoming leader in 2012, Kim signaled a change in economic strategy to a focus on development, saying North Koreans would no longer have to “tighten their belts twice”, a subtle acknowledgment of the shortcomings of the command economy. In March 2013, Kim called for byungjin (parallel advance) on developing nuclear capabilities while building the economy. This contrasted to his father Kim Jong-il’s focus on defense, implicitly survival, as the paramount concern of the state. read more

The Indo-Pacific Affairs: Between India’s Ambitions and ASEAN’s Position

Habibah H. Hermanadi – Research Associate to Institute of International Studies and Post-graduate candidate from University of Delhi

India imagined a larger role beyond its current dominance in South Asia, the Act East Policy had become a known concept subject to the discussion under foreign policy context. When India reaches Southeast Asia, it becomes clear ASEAN became one of the defining actors which shall complete the pieces of Indian Act East puzzle. Thus, in this article, writer will try to capture the demands and perceptions of India out of ASEAN, focusing on the great interception of Indo-pacific concept which was recently brought up in the 34th ASEAN summit in Bangkok, as India on their own had developed its own model of what New Delhi ought to be the groundwork of their foreign policy in comparison to ASEAN’s outlook on what they define as Indo-Pacific. read more

The Tightening Belt Around ASEAN’s Narrowing Road to Success

By Matthew LoCastro, illustration by Lommes (Wikipedia)

The Belt and Road Initiative within ASEAN

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), is one of the most prominent and one of the most shrouded global development initiatives in modern history. With estimated investments of about US$150 billion over the next decade with a total price tag ranging from US$1trillion to US$4 trillion, BRI still remains only a singular part of China’s larger desire to invest, connect, and craft a sphere of influence, or as President Xi describes it, “a community of common destiny,” across Asia. read more

Decoding the Indo-Pacific outlook

See original post in Bangkok Post

The 34th Asean Summit wrapped up last week in Bangkok, with the adoption of a crucial document known as the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). Prime Minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, regarded the AOIP as a milestone as the bloc now has a unified perspective on how to deal with external partners in the region.

In terms of the text, the AOIP has changed from the first draft distributed by Indonesia in August 2018 during the 51st Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Singapore. The first draft was still very Indonesia-centric in a sense, as it weighs on connecting the Indo-Pacific vision with Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum strategy. In that draft, Asean’s role is projected to become the fulcrum of connectivity and inclusive norm-setter. read more

Indonesia’s Journey to Reduce 70% of Marine Waste by 2025

by Carter Anne Jones*
Pictures: Forest and Kim Starr

Indonesia produces 3.2 million tons of mismanaged trash ever year with nearly 1.3 million tons ending up in the sea. This makes Indonesia the second-largest plastic polluter after China. Last year, Bali declared a trash emergency and used 700 cleaners to collect nearly 100 tons of trash on their beaches. Although, plastic waste does not only effect Indonesia’s marine life, but it can also be found in rivers throughout Indonesia. The Citarum River was declared the world’s most polluted river, yet it’s believed that over 28 million people depend on the river every day for water. Plastic pollution threatens Indonesia’s tourism industry which supplies the country with US$4.6 billion of foreign exchange income annually and employs 13 million Indonesians. It also impacts Indonesia’s overall public health as plastic has been found in 114 different aquatic species with half of those species ending up on our dinner plates. Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs, announced during the 2017 World Oceans Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali that Indonesia pledged to contribute up to US$1 billion annually to reduce plastic waste. He proposed developing new industries using biodegradable materials such as seaweed and cassava to create plastic alternatives. Indonesia has also talked about a plastic bag tax and has already banned single use plastic in Denpasar. The ultimate goal is to reduce 70% of marine waste by 2025. Indonesia is located at the center of the Coral Triangle, which contains one of the world’s richest coral reef ecosystems. The Coral Triangle is vital for both food security and tourism within Indonesia. It is predicted that if we continue polluting at this rate we will have more plastic than biomass in the world’s oceans by 2050. Poor waste management infrastructure, lower socioeconomic communities, and lack of public understanding are a few of the problems Indonesia will face in its efforts to combat marine waste and reach the goal of reducing marine waste by 2025.   read more

ASEAN EE Industry: What Now?

Picture: Electronics factory workers in Cikarang Indonesia (© ILO/Asrian Mirza

The heart of ASEAN’s regional economic connectivity, both in intra-regional and extra-regional trade, is the electronic and electrical (EE) industry an industry that has provided millions of jobs and holds ASEAN’s importance in the global economy for decades. The last statistics published by ASEAN in 2015 stated that “electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles” the intra-regional total trade in ASEAN is USD 543,751 million and the extra-regional trade nearly tripled with the total amount of USD 1,726,558the highest of all 99 forms of commodities. read more


By Jonathan Evert Rayon

Based on the World Drug Report in 2018, 31 million people worldwide suffered from drug use disorders resulting in millions enduring health risks such as hepatitis C and HIV. Drug trafficking is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as illicit trade which involves the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances subject to drug prohibition laws, and is a prevalent issue in Southeast Asia. As discussed at the 7th ASEAN Drug Monitoring Network (ADMN) during 5th-7th March 2019, drug cases in 2018 experienced an increase, with most drug cases taking place in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The fact that over 90 percent of drug offences were conducted by ASEAN nationals despite serious measures taken by member countries, such as the Philippines’ war on drugs or Indonesia’s potential death penalty, emphasises the realisation of a Drug-Free ASEAN remains a challenge. read more


By Truston Jianheng YU 

Image: Merdeka Palace Changing Guard by Gunawan Kartapranata

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recently announced plans to relocate Indonesia’s capital city to outside Java. Following Myanmar’s move from Yangon to Naypyidaw, Indonesia will be the second country in modern Southeast Asia to relocate its capital city. There are good reasons for such a decision, but there are also many implications which are worth noting.

Since the Dutch East Indies colonial period, the settlement of Batavia has been the de facto capital city. Over the generations, it has gradually evolved into the modern Jakarta as we know it. With the number of inhabitants equivalent to the next three largest cities combined, Jakarta is the primate city of Indonesia. Together with the neighboring towns and regencies including Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, the Greater Jakarta megalopolis, known as “Jabodetabek,” boasts a population of some 28 million, comprising ten percent of Indonesia’s total population. read more

ASEAN, EU collaboration needed to resolve palm oil dispute

Image: Palm oil mill in Sabah, Malaysia © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

The failure  to upgrade ties between the EU and ASEAN to a new strategic dialogue partnership at the 22nd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting was another blemish on relations between the most institutionalized regional groupings of the developed and developing world.

The outcome of the talks, however, do not come as a surprise and reflect that the EU is more concerned with upgrading relations than ASEAN. ASEAN member states, meanwhile, are using the interregional negotiations to leverage national agendas. read more

Indonesia Refugee Policy is on Right Track

Refugees from Afghanistan stage a rally in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) office in Medan, North Sumatra, on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (JP/Apriadi Gunawan)

January 2019 marks two years of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s 2016 presidential decree on handling foreign refugees. The Presidential Decree no. 125/2016 on the Treatment of Refugees from Overseas, signed on Dec. 31, 2016, provides legal certainty and standard procedures on coordination and effective collaboration among the mandated government agencies.

Before this decree, the Directorate General of Immigration under the Law and Human Rights Ministry was the highest authority to exercise policy response towards asylum-seekers and refugees in Indonesia – mainly with security measures. Human rights of refugees were largely neglected, especially as they were considered largely illegal immigrants. read more