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Event Summary: International Seminar “The Code of Conduct on the South China Sea: Military and Marine Resources in 2019”


International Seminar
“The Code of Conduct on the South China Sea: Military and Marine Resources in 2019”

20 JUNE 2019
Summarised by Kim Frank-Koczwara, Research Fellow at Human Development Forum Foundation

A set of informative presentations were displayed today with Dr. Ma. Carmen Alban-Lagman from Centre for Natural Science and Research (CENSER), De La Salle University, Philippines standing out with a clear presentation concerning the Marine Biological resources: Environmental degradation in the South China Sea and its consequences for the region. There were positions from opposite sides of the spectrum on the importance the South China Sea (SCS) has in the region, one being that the SCS holds a vast amount of petroleum and natural gas, and the other that it is one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet. With much of the worlds focus on the SCS being namely of political and maritime interest, environmental degradation is rarely, if at all, mentioned in discussions regarding the management and use of the SCA today, hence the need for such a presentation today.

Dr. Ma. Carmen Alban-Lagman highlighted the importance of the South China Sea’s marine environment and the affects current methods of management are having. As mentioned, Asia heavily relies on fish as their protein intake where high rates of fish consumption in the region, specifically Malaysia as number one global consumer, have environmental repercussions. In a proposal to address this, new laws have been implemented however they favour large scale fisheries (often commercial) over small scale fisheries (often independent). Moreover, with China and the Philippines controlling the seas Dr. Alban-Lagman calls for protection of fisheries and regions, not just individual countries, in a bid for management of the SCS; an interesting point of focus as ocean borders are often ambiguous and those with more power favoured, whether it be larger fisheries or larger countries.

Dr. Alban-Lagman states that Environmental Scientists in the seventies declared that the SCS had reached capacity and was under threat yet fisheries did not stop and to this day are causing major habitat destruction in the region. Moreover, the consequences for exploitation are many, one being that the preferred food sources become more scares, as does the quality of the fish themselves where the initially high quality fish such as tuna become lower in the food chain affecting not only the taste and quality for human consumption but  the whole ecosystem. She highlights that often countries disagree on what kind of fish can go where resulting in many issues on ocean border fishing. Unclear rules on who can go where are often disputed and should be agreed upon and handled before it’s too late, that is, out at sea.

Additionally, as indicated by Dr. Alban-Lagman various challenges are involved with the monitoring and evaluating of the SCS such as illegal trade on endangered species like the giant clam make particular fishing practices difficult to curb, along with climate change causing fish to travel in unforeseen ways – complicating territorial ownership. Moreover, she claims that rights and responsibilities for oil and gas exploration are limited if any, preferring to place restrictions on fisheries. With that, Dr. Alban-Lagman to state that regional fisheries management is need now, with the example of Indonesia recently joining the discussion resulting in no arguments occurring at sea as there are prior agreements in place. She hopes that from China signing the declaration of South China Sea entailing agreements to follow rules with fisheries included, that China will improve.

Moreover, the push for management structure it seems can only occur when rules are agreed on together and a common position amongst ASEAN is needed to move forward. Although Dr. Li Nan elaborated on sovereignty rights, and of jurisdiction rights, stating that analysts differentiate between the two, within the discussion it was argued that these are one and the same. The current literature on Chinese naval development, China’s inability to follow arms, and its priority for economic development above all else came under scrutiny. Furthermore, an emphasis on the need for military and marine to come together as one and not separate in necessary for the region to resolve the issue on the South China Sea and no longer take a single approach. Dr. Alban-Lagman reiterates that when climate change happens, all that we know about harvesting will change and that economists and biologists are needed in the debate.

Slides presented during Dr. Alban-Lagman’s dialogue showed the use of concrete in the reef as a strategy to accelerate coral restoration as she exclaimed corals can recover. She gives examples of ways to alleviate environmental degradation in the SCS that are already being seen in Taiwan and China through their advanced Aqua agriculture which is showing to have less of an impact on marine life. However, as mentioned these strategies have been put in place after these countries have already seen the devastating effects of their actions and not as a means of prevention, similar to Thailand today with their need for aquaculture due to decreasing marine life. HoweBy pointing out faults in the current management of the region, Dr. Alban-Lagman mentions that people who are not in the region, such as The US, somehow are always getting involved; officials think different things, and something other than maritime use as a means of protection for the region. She emphasised the necessity for conflict resolution and security to be at ease in the region so to come together for environmental concentration and a focus on what may potentially have irreversible affects because as Dr. Alban-Lagman questions, if there is no earth, what are we fighting over?


Event Summary: Nite for Rights – Disinformation and Human Rights Abuse in Conflict Situations


Hosted by Asia Center                                                                           

21 JUNE 2019
Summarised by Kim Frank-Koczwara, Research Fellow at Human Development Forum Foundation

The focus tonight was on human rights advocacy and activism in the ASEAN region, including issues impacting and strategies for effective engagement. This was discussed by Margaret Mcmillion, former US ambassador of Rwanda, Tanathorn Tamanont, an attorney at TM legal, and Zhongxuan Wu, a researcher.

Margaret Mcmillion highlighted Rwanda’s disputed history and the various versions of the reported conflict situation by government and non government peoples which affected how events played out and continue to do so today.  She spoke of The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), who have been the ruling political party since 1994, who questioned figures and journalists and openly doubted that it was a genocide which occurred in 1994. Mcmillion mentioned Rwanda’s Gacaca courts, an attempt to seek truth and closer for those affected by the massacre, which she claims has successful and unsuccessful aspects to it including people finding out what happened to their relatives, but fast processing lacking attention to detail and overall an unsuccessful process for reconciliation within the country. Although Mcmillian mentions how the economy in Rwanda recovered since conflict and is strong to this day, she questions the overall credibility of the Rwandan government, it’s past and present voting system and how disinformation by the party has influenced the countries tensions within.

Followed by Margaret was Tanathorn Tamanont shedding light on Thailand’s unsavory history including violent enforcements of the Les Majesty law such as the Thammasat University Massacre in 1976 as well as the government’s tactics and attempts to silence those who fail to uphold a positive image of the Thai Monarchy. Tamanont detailed the use of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in Thailand which is essentially an oppressive technique used by the government to sue those who speak out, sighting numerous cases where people had been charged on sedition such as the anti-communist act and dictatorship era where 3094 people were arrested and only 18 people actually charged of communist rebel. Tamanont exclaimed how today the highest percentage of prosecution for opposing views of Les Majesty are by online users, especially the younger generation, who are being monitored and punished by authorities for posting their views on online platforms such as Facebook. An example of the Thai government’s abuse of power presented by Tamanont was smear campaigns on opposition leaders whom they fear, specifically that relating to Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit which is at present under criticism by government sectors and various skewed Thai news and media sources. Mr. Tamanont suggests amending the law, advocating on SLAPPs, and bringing in funds for investigations into cases as a way of improving the current Thai system.

Similarly, Zhongxuan Wu outlined China’s long history of totalitarian order forbidding and punishing those who do not agree with the reigning officials. Wu exemplified China’s methods of dominance whereby regimes appearing as human rights forward albiet “thought transforming camps” described by officials as “vocational”, albeit the conditions of XinJiang camps are that of a prison, as a BBC reporter stated from inside the camps where on top of poor conditions, the time of stay for many is indefinite. Wu highlighted China’s priority of self-interest and economic growth taking priority over human rights resulting in common noted abuses in this area. He questions China’s intentions as a practical or ideological move behind making friends in South East Asia and the support for authoritarianism abroad, stating that China agrees with all governments who are abusing human rights within the ASEAN region. With Rakhine as an example, Wu draws attention to China’s involvement not driven by human rights beliefs but rather a self interested agenda to prevent unwanted refugees from Myanmar crossing into China. Presented by Wu were potential steps to be taken to relieve current government domination by enforcing conflict resolution, human rights protection, and for China reassess their priorities.

Overall, Asia Center’s “Nite for Rights” was a well delivered discussion on competing sources of information that exist and the common techniques and trends government’s worldwide –with a specific focus on Rwanda, Thailand and China – implement in order to suppress those who oppose the current system. All speakers provided steps that can be taken to relieve the oppressive systems in view and educate others on the frequency and high possibility of disinformation so that the common people are empowered with independent thinking overruling government dishonesty.

2017 -08-18 Kracheng Event Summary



Event Summary:

As part of HDFF community activities, the Kracheng Community Based Flood Prevention Project was held on 18th of August 2017 in Kracheng, Ayuthaya. The training was prepared by Human Development Forum Foundation (HDFF), an organization based in Thailand and delivered by HDFF’s highly professional team and external experts as well as supported by the Royal Thai Armed Forces HQ Dep. J5 (Civil Military Affairs).

The training outlined the basic “useful knots” and illustrated how these knots can be used during disaster related circumstances, the 14 items which are useful/useless in flood caused evacuation, and sand sack filling for building a flood barrier and the demonstrations of correct filling procedure and sandbagging techniques.

The training was intended for representatives of the 3 villages of Kracheng (Ayuthaya Province) with a total number of participants 190 people of which, 70 were adults and approximately 120 kids who joined the activities and were provided with:

>basic useful knots;

>Useful/useless items during flood evacuation;

>a sandbag dam for flood protection

The training was well received with enthusiasm.


Host Service: HDFF and Royal Thai Armed Forces HQ Dep. J5(Civil Military Affairs)

Session date: Friday 18th August 2017

Location: Kracheng, Ayuthaya

Facilitator: HDFF team and external experts

Number of Attendees: 190