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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. 

 

Chairman’s Circle Strategic Forum: ASEAN 2015 and Energy Security in the Region

28 October 2015, The Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

Presented by HDFF and The Asia Foundation

PTT Presentation

Energy Security and Current Situations: ASEAN 2015 and the Future of Energy Security in the Region

The purpose of this presentation was to explain ASEAN’s current energy security situation and to contrast it with Thailand and the work PTT is doing in the region. Dr. Santipat Arunthari began by explaining how ASEAN has experienced an enormous growth in population as well as in GDP, 300% from 2001 to 2013. He explained how even though the region has the potential for a variety of energy sources, in general there is a deficit in the region since it consumes more energy than it produces. For example, Thailand has a high potential for natural gas but has a small reserve of it. Overall, as the demand for energy has increased in ASEAN along with its dependence on fossil fuels.

In response to this energy challenge in Thailand, PTT has developed a plan that seeks to address the issue. This plan is based on the idea of providing clients energy at an adequate, extensive, fair, and sustainable rate. Dr. Santipat argues that PTT has focused on the exploration and development of new methods to maintain a long-term supply to meet the country’s energy demand, by developing gas transmission pipelines to servic more stations, using a market-based pricing strategy, as well as building domestic and international networks to ensure a long-term supply of energy.

Furthermore, he suggests that thanks to the work PTT is doing in Thailand, although 20% of ASEAN’s population may lack electricity, in Thailand this only represents 1% of the population.

Comment: We need to address the grid system. Experimenting with renewable sources will do nothing in the long run unless there is a change to the grid system. We need a battery that can store solar energy.
Question: how far are you involved with coal? and what is PTT’s stance in regards to renewable energy?

Question: Is there a problem with updating the grid in order to increase the effectiveness of the transfer of energy from the surf station to user?
Answer: In 3 to 4 years the grid is supposed to be updated for better connection.
Question: What is the PTT vision of renewable/alternative energy?

A: There is no clear vision, but the company is keen on working on renewable projects. For the last 2-3 years it has not been the focus of the company but in the next 5 years renewable energy will be more important for the company because it needs to adapt to the changing world.

Thitisak Boonpramote, Ph. D.

Energy Security and Sustainability in ASEAN

Dr. Thitisak begins by asking what is the importance of energy security? He answered that we rely heavily on fossil fuel and that it impacts our daily lives. He then explains that to speak of energy security along a supply chain we must take into consideration the time and products that allow energy to be delivered to a customer. A distinction is made between primary energy resources, such as crude oil, natural gas, uranium, etc. and end-energy carriers such as gasoline and electricity. Thus, a secure source of end-energy is for the benefits both the public and the private interest.

For him the energy security challenge rests at three levels: the primary energy resources, the carriers, and the effectiveness of the delivery of end-energy. This security challenge must be balanced between the four poles: availability, accessibility, affordability, and acceptability, in order to find a situation that is most appropriate for a given country. He also hinted at some of the insecurities of ASEAN, mainly that 96% of its energy comes from fossil fuel and that 8/10 member countries are net oil importers. Thus, he suggested that given all these challenges, perhaps the cost accrued to society in terms of switching to a more renewable source of energy may not be so easy, since consumers might prefer to continue to use fossil fuels given that they are more reliable and cheaper as they utilize a more advanced method of production.

Q: Demand Side Management. Energy efficiency is good, but is this what everybody wants?

A: Demand side is hard to control.

Q: What percentage of energy is used for transportation vs. household use?
A: Most refinery oil is used for transportation.
Comment: if you can change the transport system you can decrease the energy waste.

Q: What is energy security in terms of the national plan?
A: Politics are not stable. Many times the people that are in a position to make a decision do not understand the complexity of the problem, while the people that understand the problem, many times cannot make a decision. Furthermore, the national plan has already established that it will use more renewable energy in the future.
Comment: There is something to be learned from China. It is the leader in nuclear energy. It has a 100% fail-safe power plant that is now operating under the credibility of the UK.

Dr. Nob Satyasai (Thai Energy Reform)

Future of Sustainable Energy: Balance of Benefits to All Sectors

As Thailand is the 2nd largest consumer of energy among ASEAN nations, leaders must come together and enact movements to limit the amount of energy being consumed. Government leaders and company officials must figure out ways to match the worldwide trend of limiting coal usage and replacing it with non-fossil fuel energy. The topic presented by our third speaker opens up conversation to potential and feasible sources of energy. One specific type that was stressed by the speaker was biomass and its benefit to nations with high demands for energy consumption. Biomass is known for being highly sustainable, as it does not create emissions that harm the planet, and it is fast growing as it is economically feasible and provides food and energy for consumption. In addition to being classified as an energy crop, it enriches oil, prevents erosion, retains water, and creates food and animal feed. It serves as a multipurpose crop that is environmentally sustainable, which is why people are pushing for a wider usage of this plant.

Security Report April-May, 2015

Summary

In the reporting period April-May 2015, there were 44 incidents with casualties. The total number of victims was 127 (injured 93 and killed 34). For the next two months, the number of incidents may decrease due to an upcoming peace talk and a Ramadan ceasefire.

 

Spate of Bomb Attacks in Yala

On Thursday, 14 May at around 7:30 P.M., explosions occurred in fourteen locations around Muang district, Yala province. These surprise attacks did not result in any deaths, but left 18 injured. All the bombing spots were random and it appeared that some of them did not intend to attack people directly. The bomb attacks continued on the morning of the next day and were ongoing in Muang district until Saturday, 16 May; however, further injuries were reported in only three other incidents, which resulted in a total of three injured, one from each location. The first of the three locations was a tea room around the entrance of Supranee road near Trimitr Temple in Muang district. The tea shop was attacked by a bomb thrown from two insurgents on a motorcycle at approximately 6:00 A.M. on Friday. Another bomb was detonated from inside a refrigerator in a grocery shop on Soi 12 Pangmuang 4 road at about 7:09 A.M. while the third bomb detonated at 7:33 A.M. near a T-junction in tambon Sateng-nok health promotion hospital. The series of bomb attacks ended with a total of twenty one injured, but no fatalities.

[Photo No Longer Available, Please Refer to Map on hdff.org]

*Locations for which sufficient data does not exist to pinpoint an exact location are marked with a star, indicating general vicinity in which the incident occurred.

 

Firearm Attacks Responsible for Most Fatalities

From April until May 2015, the highest death rate came from gun attacks, while bomb explosions had a more destructive effect, causing higher injury numbers. Most of the targets in bombings appeared to favour structures such as buildings and utility poles. The application of firearm attacks was varied; and included ambushing, following targets’ vehicles on a motorcycle for clear shots, or spraying bullets on targets.

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Burned After Shooting Incidents

One incident in April and another incident in May showed irregular violence occurred to victims. At about 6:00 P.M. on Sunday 12 April, insurgents raided a house in Norm Klao village in Sukhirin district, Narathiwat province. A man and his wife were shot dead in their house and their bodies were burnt after that. On Wednesday 6 May, another incident occurred at approximately 4:30 P.M. Militants sprayed bullets at a car, killing a couple and then burning them in Tan Yong village Tambon Ba Cho Bannangsata district of Yala province. No significant evidence was found in those fires and both incidents are assumed to frighten civilians in the area.

 

Males and Security Officers are Main Victims

Statistics from April – May 2015 showed that victims from all incidents within these two months were overwhelmingly male. In comparison to female victims, males were approximately four times more likely to be victims. The largest number of casualties was found to be security officers. Security officers in this report consist of several security groups namely, military, police, and defence volunteers due to a combined security system in the three Southern Border Provinces (SBP). Most of the security officers based in the SBP’s were male and this fact may affect the casualty rate since security officers were the largest proportion of victims.

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For further information on the insurgency-related attacks, please consult the incident map on the HDFF website. http://hdff.org/ or info@hdff.org
To request the original report complete with pictures, please e-mail us at info@hdff.org.