Latest News

THE BLACK RIBBONS

NOVEMBER 4, 2016

Presented by the Human Development Forum Foundation

 

 

The past three weeks have seen Thailand, a bright and vibrant country; quickly shift to one of black and white. From the grief and mourning there has been a constant sense of community, as Bangkok fills with those coming to pay their respects. In this time there has been an overwhelming outpouring of kindness and generosity as individuals and organizations alike take time out of their busy days to do what each can.

At HDFF the past few weeks have seen the office working on a black ribbon project, cutting and sewing ribbons that can then be distributed to the public to show respect and mourning during this time. Walking the streets of Thailand, bags of carefully crafted ribbons in hand, the team endeavored to hand out as many ribbons as possible.

Each ribbon exchanged was met with a smiling and appreciative face. Handing over the ribbon, the HDFF team was able to share a small moment with people visiting Thailand and locals alike. From the streets of Mo-chit and Sphan Kwai, the black ribbons may be small tokens, but their significance is much larger, expressing a sense of community, togetherness, and the strength of a country in the face of adversity. Over 500 black ribbons were handed over and HDFF was happy to be part of this memorable event where locals and expats share the same compassion.

To watch the video please click “Here.”

Chairman Circle Strategic Forum: ASEAN and Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong institutions

04 October 2016, The Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

Presented by HDFF and The Asia Foundation

 

Overview:

 On October 4th2016 more than 30 diplomatic, government, civil society and academic representatives as well as interested public came together for the HDFF organized and The Asia Foundation’s sponsored Chairman’s Circle to discuss the theme of ASEAN and SDG ’16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Mr. KaviChangkittavorn, senior fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, gave the key note address, specifically examining the case of the South China Sea and relations between China and ASEAN. Mrs. Tokuda Poon YorChing, Global Peace Foundation country representative for Indonesia, also spoke on the situation and her work in this archipelagic country. Mr. Delsy Ronnie from the Nonviolent Peace-force in the Philippines closed the panel discussions discussing the current situation in Mindanao. The aim of thisevent was to use case studies in ASEAN to look at the relationship between security, development, and the SDG framework.

More than 30 interested participants from embassies, nonprofits, NGOs, Universities, and the UN both based in Bangkok and abroad joined the discussions around ASEAN. Mr. Kim McQuay, Country Representative from the Asia Foundation, gave the opening remarks for the day and Dr. Christopher Ankersen from the United Nations Department for Safety and Security moderated the panel discussion.

 

Key Note: “South China Sea Conflict

The Chairman Circle started after the opening remarks with Mr. Kavi Chongkittavorn who focused on the ASEAN strategy after the Arbitral Tribunal Ruling on the South China Sea.

At first Mr. Kavi drew the line from the SDG 16 to the ASEAN’s vision 2025 of a Political and Security Community:

– Rule‐based, people‐oriented, people‐centered community

– Peaceful, secure and stabile region

– ASEAN Centrality in a dynamic and outward looking region

– Strengthened ASEAN institutional capacity and presence which showed the parallel ideas and aims of the ASEAN Vision 2025 and SDG 16.

He then elaborated some key elements of the court ruling in The Hague as follows:

– China’s claim “nine‐dash line” is not consistent under the UNCLOS (Law of the Seas).

– South China Sea is only 12 nautical mile territorial zones—sono200mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) or continental shelves as claimed.

– China is not an archipelagic state so it has no right to draw straight archipelagic baselines around the Sprat leys.

– By not permitting the Filipino fishermen to fishing Scarborough Shoal China violated the concept of the traditional fishing rights.

– Under UNCLOS, China failed to preserve and protect the marine environment, causing massive environmental damage through its reclamation activities.

Mr. Kavi elaborated then that ASEAN countries gave a variety of comments on this ruling, but did not come out with a joint statement until the summit in Laos. He also put in context that the key issue to solve the problem is the ASEAN – China relations which may change after Philippine’s President Duterte’s visit to Beijing. Besides the Philippines the main ASEAN actors in this context are Thailand and Malaysia. Furthermore, Mr. Kavi advocated for a renewed approach for the 26 years long ASEAN –China relations which includes the necessity that China agrees to stop infringing on the international law and still allows ASEAN countries to act on traditional fishing rights. With that approach sustainable development and also peace can be achieved in such an environment.

In addition Mr. Kavi noted that Thailand is well respected and trusted by China since it works as a mediator between China and ASEAN over the South China Sea dispute. Nevertheless, the ASEAN Community looks forward to complete Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, community building, and to admit the EU as a strategic partner in 2017.

 

Panelists 1:    “Peace Effort and Conflict Resolution in Indonesia”

Mrs. Tokuda Poon YorChing‘s presentation on Peace Efforts and Conflict Resolution in Indonesia , country representative from the Global Peace Foundation, discussed the current situation in Indonesia as well as the mission and work of her organization. As a diverse country, with six official religions and 12.7% of the world’s Muslim population Mrs. Tokuda examined the foundational difference that has kept Indonesia in relative peace compared to the recent uprisings in many of the predominantly Muslim countries, despite being 88% Muslim by population. She explained Pancasila a key Indonesian philosophy, and a foundation of all policies. The word Pancasila comes from two Javanese words which translate as “five” and “principles” indicating the five principles behind Pancasila: a belief in one supreme God, just and civilized humanity, unity in Indonesia, democracy guided by the inner wisdom stemming unanimous agreement after careful deliberation, and social justice for all people. This idea of unity and respect for all peoples is also reflected in the national motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”or “Unity in Diversity”. She explained Indonesia has repeatedly voted against having a single national religion instead choosing to respect the multitude of differences in the country, using Pancasila as a guiding principle.

Mrs. Tokuda then went on to detail the work and mission of the Global Peace Foundation, an organization whose motto: “One Family under God” encompasses their mission to build interfaith partnerships, collaborating across sectors, strengthen families, and promote a “culture of heart” through service. As the country representative for Indonesia much of her work comes as  a response to rising tensions among different religious believers in Indonesia and facilitating communication and understanding between all is an integral part of the Foundation’s mission. Mrs. Tokuda also touched on a few specific projects the Foundation puts including the Global Peace Youth Interfaith Assembly, PEACE Project, and Global Peace Volunteers Camp, all with a strong emphasis on youth development and building strong inter-faith and intercultural connections.

 

Panelist 2: “The Mindanao Conflict”

The panel discussions wrapped up with Mr. Delsy Ronnie from the Nonviolent Peace Force and his presentation on the conflict of Mindanao and its significance for the neighboring states of ASEAN. The presentation began with a comprehensive overview of Mindanao giving the audience the basis to grasp the complexity of the situation. Mindanao has a structural situation that lends itself to conflict including poverty, wealth and power disparity, lack of law enforcement, and recent years have seen huge numbers of illegal firearms in the region.

As he introduced the regional actors involved, Mr. Delsy Ronnie pointed to the many groups fighting asking, “When we talk about peace, between which actors?” He continued explaining there are at least 4 distinct groupings: the insurgent groups, extremist groups, lawless groups, and other stakeholders including private armed groups and powerful clans and politicians. Because of the many stakeholders reaching a lasting peace takes more than peace-talks between just two groups. In the past failed settlements and peace agreements have helped transform separatist insurgency groups into extremist groups as distrust between religious groups has undermined the work of agreements.

Mr. Delsey Ronnie also stressed the implications of the Mindanao conflict and how it may affect the greater ASEAN region. By looking at current trends with the region and as the world as a whole becomes increasingly interconnected one can see how the illegal arms trade, kidnappings, and terrorist activities around the Sulu Sea will continue increasing if the Mindanao conflict escalates. Due to the chaos around Mindanao it may be used as an escape route or haven for those fleeing prosecution in neighboring areas. The emergence of Mindanao as a “jihad battleground” has the potential to attract more extremists in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Uyghur. The conflict has far reaching effects beyond the Philippine borders and therefore it will take international cooperation to combat the violence and mitigate threats.

 

Questions  and Answer Forum:

  • Question: Given an opportunity of United States presidential change, would the American participation in ASEAN change or not?

 

  • Answer: ASEAN is not influenced by politics of other countries; hence the change of government structures will not affect the ASEAN ideologies because the (ASEAN) is not determined or does not intervene in other nation’s politics.

 

  • Question: For Mr. Delsey Ronnie, given the recent publicity regarding the war on drugs in the Philippines I was wondering what your impressions are of the general populations views on the Presidents tactics? As well as your personal views on the situation?

 

  • Answer: From what I’ve seen, talking to people in markets, and talking to bus drivers they feel safer.

 

  • Question: How does SDG ’16 either help or hinder your organization’s (Global Peace Foundation) work?

 

  • Answer: (Mrs. Tokuda): I don’t see it as a hindrance at all. To create a peaceful inclusive society UN help is needed at the grassroots level. NGOs provide an important role in encouraging people and giving them hope that “peace is possible.”

 

  • Question: Again about the Philippines, I was wondering about the situation in Davao, often stated as a success story? And how you view the situation there in light of the violence you’ve discussed in the rest of Mindanao?

 

  • Answer: Davao is the safest area for the past 10 or 15 years. However, this doesn’t reflect the situation in Mindanao. For example in Davao no one can smoke, visitors, even people who live there cannot smoke cigarettes. I cannot say if this is good or bad, but Davao is not like the rest of the country. So far, there has been no true success against the extremist groups. ASEAN needs to sit together, there is a lot of communication between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippines around kidnapping cases, but sometimes we need agreement regarding how to anticipate the violence and how to combat it is an ASEAN force. There have been special task forces set up to talk to the young people.

 

Policy Recommendations

The forum explored the challenges of achieving Sustainable Development Goal No 16 in the ASEAN context. As a result of the presentations and subsequent discussions, the following recommendations have been generated:

–  Join major parts of the ASEAN Vision 2025 together with SDG 16 and establish peaceful community with strong institutions, especially arbitration systems.

– Advocate that ASEAN governments increase their multilateral and parallel bilateral talks for reducing tensions, especially with China in the South China Sea.

–  Promote internal dialogue in countries with domestic problems or conflicts to create a peaceful environment within the region and the communities.

Chairman’s Circle Strategic Forum: ASEAN and Foreign Relations

22 March 2016, The Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

Presented by HDFF and The Asia Foundation

H.E. Dr. Kirill Barsky, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Thailand

ASEAN and Russia Relations

In his keynote speech, His Excellency introduced ASEAN as an important regional organization in the Asia-Pacific, as well as an ally to Russia. He stated that history has shown Russia‘s long-lasting friendship with the majority of the ASEAN countries, and the absence of conflicts between the two regions. Russia and ASEAN have had a dialogue partnership since 1996 and still host a Summit every five years. Russia also continues cooperate with ASEAN countries in developing security, agriculture, technology and disaster management. His Excellency mentioned that Russia is the part of Asia-Pacific Region, and thus should play part in facilitating growth of ASEAN.

In terms of economic, he emphasized that Russia‘s current economic policy moves toward the East, for which ASEAN is the main focus. On January 1, 2015, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin proposed the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, to strengthen the economic arena within the region. Russia aims to build an economic partnership with ASEAN and Shanghai Cooperation Organization by using EAEU as a platform. It has signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Vietnam and Singapore, and is now approaching Thailand with the same proposal. Russia and ASEAN have also collaborated in fostering cultural exchange and education. The two regions will hold the commemorative summit in Sochi, 19-20 May, 2016.

Dr. Rizal Abdul Kadir

The South China Sea and ASEAN-CHINA relations: Opportunities and Challenges

The focal point of Dr. Kadir’s presentation concerned ASEAN – China relations. He suggested that ASEAN and China should gain more mutual trust to create regional peace and stability. Dr. Kadir also showed how China and ASEAN had worked together on the South China Sea issue from August 2015 to February 2016. On his final point regarding the South China Sea issue, he discussed the opportunities to reduce and negate the tension between ASEAN and China. He quoted the speech of Premier Li Keqiang at East Asia Summit 2015 to substantiate that China will continue to resolve the problem of South China Sea by diplomatic and peaceful means.

Lastly, Dr. Kadir proposed some of the integral steps for a way forward. The first step revolves around ASEAN Centrality, how it should build a strong, sustained and effective leadership on the issues that affect its relationships. The second step is to revive and intensify the 1992 ASEAN declaration on South China Sea. The third step is to translate the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia into concrete measure.

Dr. Vijay Sakhuja

 ASEAN and India Relations

Dr. Sakhuja started his presentation by pointing out the geographic advantage that India and ASEAN share. He explained that as India and Myanmar have a common border, it is obvious India and ASEAN have long since had a close relationship. History, he said, shows that the two regions have been in connection with each other.

In 21st century, there have been broad changes in political, economic, and security structures in Asia, and India and ASEAN are now participating in the regional and global security architecture.

India now places ASEAN at the core act of the “Look East Policy”, as the Indian Prime Minister has given renewed focus on the country’s engagement with ASEAN. 2017 will mark the the 25th year of ASEAN – India dialogue relations. India is now involved in all FTAs such as, AEC, RCEP and TPP with the ASEAN + 6 countries. As for the security dynamic between India and ASEAN, there is now an India – ASEAN Defense Cooperation. In terms of the regional security cooperation, Dr. Sakhuja emphasized that the South China Sea is also important to India. The challenge, he said, is that since ASEAN now acknowledges the rising profile of China and India, it has to make the decision to choose both or either.

 ASEAN is an international player, said Mr. Ebadi. He explained that now is the most suitable time to connect with Iran, because the country is opening its doors to foreign investors after the nuclear deal agreement has been established. Mr. Ebadi drew on the example of Iran’s improved relationships with the P5+1 countries, which arose as a result of the termination of the nuclear sanction. He said that due to Iran’s geographic position, it would be a gateway to fostering a prosperous trade route between ASEAN and Central Asia.

Mr. Ebad Ebadi

ASEAN and Iran Relations

Mr. Ebadi spoke on the subject of how ASEAN may benefit from fostering an economic tie with Iran. He suggested that both should take advantage of the post nuclear-sanction era to improve their dealings. He proposed that ASEAN will benefit from this endeavor in two major ways, namely: security and economic.

ASEAN is an international player, said Mr. Ebadi. He explained that now is the most suitable time to connect with Iran, because the country is opening its doors to foreign investors after the nuclear deal agreement has been established. Mr. Ebadi drew on the example of Iran’s improved relationships with the P5+1 countries, which arose as a result of the termination of the nuclear sanction. He said that due to Iran’s geographic position, it would be a gateway to fostering a prosperous trade route between ASEAN and Central Asia.

Currently, ASEAN’s import and export rates to Iran are comparatively low. Mr. Ebadi urged that this ought to be changed, as Iran is the most populous country around the Persian Gulf, and it also has other economic advantages, such as having a young and educated workforce. He advised that an example of ASEAN’s regional trade relation with Iran could be for Thailand to invest in building hotels and establishing a market for tourism in Iran.

However, some challenges stand in the way of ASEAN-Iran union. The suppression of Muslims in some ASEAN countries such as Myanmar would prove to be a hurdle in the attempt to foster a civil trade relation between the countries, as would the laws for and regulations for mutual investment. What might also hinder the success of the tourism industry, is the visa restrictions for Iranians.

In order for ASEAN to take part in strengthening the security union in the Middle East and around the Persian Gulf, Mr. Ebadi reasoned that an easy solution would be for the two regions to become trading partners. He stated that, by trading, the ASEAN and Iran would garner trust for each other, and thereby bond through compromising, which would lead to a lower risk in conflicts and ensure better security.

 Questions & Answers

Q: Could you please explain more about the outcome of ASEAN-Russia Summit at Sochi?

A: It remains in the process. We still negotiate with ASEAN partners. We are not planning to do anything extraordinary. We already know our potential to fulfill our interest. We didn’t see the relationship with ASEAN as Donor – Recipient. We see it as equal relation. We can rely on economic trade with Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Q: How does Moscow look at the development in South China Sea?

A: I will give the example of the case of South China Sea. Actually, Russia is not part of the conflict but we believed that all problems should be resolve in peaceful and diplomatic means. This conflict should not be internationalized. We urge all part of this conflict to response to this conflict and urge them to work hard to find the solution. China and Russia had a border dispute. China and Russia lack of mutual trust for several decades but after we can gain trust, we launched negotiation at border issue. Now the border between China and Russia has become the most peaceful and secure border in this world. Nothing is impossible in this world. Let’s try and see. I believe that we can solve this conflict by peaceful means.”

Q: Does Iran have any incentive programs to attract investment in the private sectors?

A: In Iran, foreign investors pay more attention to the private sectors than public ones. The government tries to attract these investors, but they fall short of garnering their trust. This means that it needs to move away from a centralized economy. However, this is not to say that Iran lacks international incentive programs; for example, it has an established cement trade with Africa.

Policy Recommendations

This strategic forum explored the relationships between ASEAN and its foreign relations as presented by events’ panelists. Based on their opinions and the audience’s input to the discussion, the following recommendations can be made:

– Establish a free trade agreement between ASEAN and Iran

– Modify visa regulations between ASEAN countries and Iran to facilitate trade.

– ASEAN should gain mutual trust and support with China to solve the problem of South China Sea dispute in a diplomatic and peaceful way.

– ASEAN should pay more attention to the new rising power e.g. Russia, India, and Iran to cooperate in the security, economic and socio-cultural aspects.