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Audio Overview of East Asia Pacific Issues, MONDAY, 25 March 2019

Paul Quaglia – APAC Assistance Director

Major Issues In EAST ASIA PACIFIC

MONDAY, 25 March 2019

 

THAILAND

The Palang Pracharat Party wins most votes. In Thailand’s general election held yesterday, the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party appeared to have won the most votes, followed closely by the Pheu Thai Party as vote count reached 92% at 10:30 PM yesterday. The Election Commission said 66% or 33.7 million of voters cast their votes. According to data provided by the commission’s Rapid Report System, the Palang Pracharat Party won more than 7.5 million votes (22.2%) , the Pheu Thai Party won 7.1 million votes (21%), the Future Forward Party won 5.2 million votes (15%), the Democrat Party 3.2 million (9.5%) votes and the Bhumjaithai Party won 3.2 million votes. The Democrats did not win a seat in Bangkok. The parliamentary seats in the capital were divided between the Palang Pracharat Party, the Pheu Thai Party, and the Future Forward Party. Because of the Democrat Party’s poor showing, Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned as the party’s leader. However, Abhisit announced his party’s willingness to coalesce with other parties.

The vote results indicate that the Thais respect the army leadership more than the established parties. The Future Forward Party is expected to coalesce with the Pheu Thai Party and its other smaller allies, but their combined votes are unlikely to get the majority seats in the Lower House. The Palang Pracharat is expected to work to form a coalition, gathering smaller parties like the Democrat Party. It is uncertain though whether Palang Pracharat’s prospective coalition government will be able to gain a majority in the House of Representatives.

Foreign media has again shown a lack of understanding and impartiality. Channel News Asia gave a microscopic drill down on two Singapore Companies with exposure to Thailand including a bank and an F&B company and falsely attributed a two percent decrease to Thai domestic matter despite the STI, Nikkey, KOSPI, Shanghai, Shenzen, and Hang Send all being down 1.5 to 3%. In the same segment, they failed to mention important issues including the strong showing of the Palang Prcharat Party in yesterdays elections allowing increased and continued stability for Thailand and recent currency strength as well as the lack of volatility and conditions allowing for a continued strong account surplus.  A forecast of stability without volatility will indeed allow necessary structural changes and a rare chance in Thailand to have a government wanting to actually govern.

Immediately after this poorly constructed and misleading presentation, Channel News Asia contradicted themselves by having a foreign analyst from Pinebridge who made valid points that highlighted the incorrect nature of Channel News Asia’s attempts to link Singapore Share Price decreases to the Thai market.

 

INDONESIA 

Widodo inaugurates the first phase of MRT. The first phase of MRT Jakarta, Indonesia’s first subway, opened yesterday with President Joko Widodo officially inaugurating it at the Hotel Indonesia station. The first phase of the MRT line covers 13 stations along a 15.7-km route from Lebak Bulus station in South Jakarta to the Hotel Indonesia circle in Central Jakarta. Yesterday also marked the groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of MRT Jakarta, which will span 7.8 km, connecting the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to Kota station in West Jakarta. The project is expected to be completed by 2024. It is yet to be seen whether MRT Jakarta will significantly reduce traffic congestion in Greater Jakarta.

Widodo criticizes Subianto. President Joko Widodo was combative when he addressed thousands of supporters in his team’s first campaign rally in Yogyakarta on March 23. “I have been silent for four and a half years in the face of slander. But today in Yoga, I tell you, I will fight,”. He reportedly criticized his opponent openly, former military general Prabowo Subianto, something he had previously refrained from doing. Widodo said that Indonesia cannot be entrusted to someone with no governing experience. It appears that Widodo has been fired up by a recent survey by Kompas showing that Prabowo is gaining significant ground weeks ahead of the April 17 presidential election. Most other surveys indicate that Widodo has a comfortable lead reaching 20 points over the former general who ran against Widodo unsuccessfully in 2014. Widodo’s team is taking the result of the Kompas poll seriously.

 

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Opposition calls on the government to respect the referendum. The opposition leader MP Belden Namah said the government must respect the outcome of the Bougainville referendum in October. He was reacting to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s statement that the vote is not binding as the national parliament will decide the final outcome. In the event of Bougainville Island voting for full independence, it is uncertain whether the national parliament, which is now dominated by allies of the prime minister, will endorse the outcome.

 

 MYANMAR

Fighting continues in Rakhine. Fighting between the Myanmar military and the ethnic rebel Arakan Army continues in Rakhine State. The military reported yesterday that on March 22, the Arakan Army ambushed their troops in two separate incidents in Yaygaungchaung village and Setaung village in western Rakhine. The attacks reportedly left two government soldiers injured and three ethnic rebels dead. On March 22, seven other civilians were killed when the security forces reportedly opened fire on Si Taung Gyi village in Buthidaung township in northern Rakhine state. Eight other villagers were injured. Locals said the fatalities included six ethnic Rakhines and one Rohingya Muslim who was hiding in a bomb shelter when they were fired upon. The locals fled the village. The rebel Arakan Army claimed that there was no fighting between the group and the military and that the military just wanted to punish the villagers. The fighting in Rakhine is likely to intensify with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army threatening to join the war. Eight armed ethnic groups that have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, including the Arakan Army and the TNLA, were supposed to separately meet with the military’s representatives to discuss ending conflicts on March 22. However, the absence of reports may suggest that the dialogues did not proceed. Clients are advised to avoid Rakhine and its neighboring states as fighting between the military and ethnic rebels intensifies.

 

THE PHILIPPINES

Communist spokesperson arrested. The military arrested a spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Nagcarlan in southern Luzon yesterday. Frank Fernandez was the sixth NDFP official arrested since the government terminated its peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines in late 2017. More arrests of leaders of the communist movement are expected as attacks in the countryside by the New People’s Army are likely to continue. Clients in the Philippines are advised to employ high-risk security measures in known communist hotbeds, including the Cagayan region in Northern Luzon, the Bicol region in Southern Luzon and the entire Mindanao Island.

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