Southeast Asia

In Thailand the early parliamentary elections in June 2011 were won by the party of former (now exiled) Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawartra. New head of government became his sister Yingluck Shinawartra, Thailand’s first female Prime Minister. The domestic political situation is still dominated by the antagonism between two groups, the so called “Red Shirts” (followers of Thaksin Shinawartra from the poorer rural areas in the North-East) and so called “Yellow Shirts” (predominantly middle and upper class in Bangkok and central Thailand). The latter boycotted the snap election in February 2014 and demanded the instalment of an appointed “expert government” with the task of effecting fundamental reforms. A national reconciliation with separatists in the South is still outstanding as well. 

In the constitutional monarchy Cambodia the first free elections took place in 1993 after the Khmer Rouge Regime and the civil war. The Khmer Rouge finally lay down their weapons in 1998. A Tribunal by the United Nations and Cambodia investigates crimes committed. It is supported financially by Austria as well as through the placement of a reserve judge. The rehabilitation and coping process concerning the past are especially difficult. Internal political tensions exist between the opposition and long-term Prime Minister Hun Sen over election fraud accusations.

The conflict between Cambodia and Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple was ruled on by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in November 2013. Cambodia was granted the territory adjacent to the temple, but not the also claimed Phnom Trap hill. The temple is part of the UNESCO world cultural heritage. 

The landlocked Lao People's Democratic Republic, informally Laos, seeks good relations with neighbouring countries, especially Thailand with whom it shares ethnic and historical ties. Laos is one of the least developed countries, but has great potential thanks to abundant natural resources.

Myanmar has seen a number of positive developments since the elections of November 2010 under the government of President Thein Sein, among them: The lifting of the house arrest for opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her involvement in political life, the release of political prisoners, progress in the reconciliation with ethnic minorities, freedom of the press, prohibition of forced labour and economic reforms. Thereupon, the EU was able to let its sanctions run out, with the exception of an arms embargo. 

Vietnam accomplished important economic and social goals, foremost higher growth rates and a reduction in poverty within the Doi Moi Reform policy (renewal) started in 1986 by the communist leadership. By now the World Bank considers Vietnam a Middle Income Country.

The constitutional elective monarchy Malaysia was founded in 1963 as a federation. Initially it included the former British colony of Singapore, which left in 1965, and northern Borneo. The economically successful nation is strongly engaged in South-South cooperation and has set the goal to become a developed country by 2020.

Singapore is among the most successful economies in the world. Its foreign policy is guided by economic considerations and attaches importance to free trade, regional cooperation (ASEAN) and good bilateral relations to all nations, especially neighbouring countries. Singapore plays an important role as a global financial centre (behind New York, London and Hong Kong).

The sultanate Brunei Darussalam is independent since 1984. The country is one of the richest worldwide, due to an abundance of natural resources. Its foreign policy focus is inter alia guided by the regional forum ASEAN. 

The Philippines are frequently faced with crisis, including armed insurgency in the Islamic South of the country and annual natural disasters. Besides crisis management the government’s priorities are poverty reduction and mitigation of corruption. Negotiations have progressed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over the creation of a new local authority on Mindanao (Bangsamoro). The peace process with communist insurgents has not succeeded. 

Since the end of the authoritarian regime of long-term President Suharto in 1998 democracy in the 280 million strong country of Indonesia managed to consolidate also with regard to freedom of the press. The conflict in the province of Aceh was peacefully resolved in 2005 and the province received additional autonomy rights. The civil observation mission ended in 2006. Indonesia is the largest economy in the region (G 20 member) and experienced high growth rates since the end of the Asian financial crisis of 1998. 

Timor-Leste is independent since 2002 and has seen further consolidation thanks to the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and to the Australian-New Zealand international peace keeping force. The presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012 were largely peaceful and fair. Therefore, the UNMIT mission could be successfully concluded on December 31st, 2012. Timor-Leste has observer status in ASEAN and had applied for full membership in 2011.