Loading
You are here Spotlight 
Other Spotlight

Party Rifts Could Stand in the Way of a Jokowi Victory
TODAY, 12 Apr 2014

Rifts within the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) following its poorer than expected election results in Wednesday’s parliamentary election could weaken the party’s hand in seeking allies and also hurt Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s bid to win the July 9 presidential election.

Although PDI-P was the top performer in the election, its 19 per cent share of the popular vote, according to early vote counts, was well below the 27 to 30 per cent it had hoped to win.

More importantly, the failure to get past the threshold of 25 per cent of the national vote would mean it cannot nominate its own candidates for President or Vice-President without forming a coalition with another party. It could still nominate Mr Widodo without the help of another party if it manages to win at least 20 per cent of the 560 parliamentary seats when official results are announced in early May.

… PDI-P could also need to name a vice-presidential candidate also acceptable to Muslim parties, some of which “have had a historical dislike for the PDI-P that is viewed as secular and pro-Christian”, said Dr Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, Assistant Professor at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Rights Activist Among 65 Held in Sri Lanka
New Indian Express, 12 Apr 2014

LTTE operative Selvanayagam Kajeepan alias Gopi who was killed on Friday by Sri Lankan government troops, was part of a plot to assassinate a highprofile political leader in Colombo, Dr Rohan Gunaratna, Head of the Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang University in Singapore, told Express. Gopi was gunned down with fellow cadre Sundaralingam Kajeepan alias Theivihan and Navaratnam Navaneethan alias Appan in a confrontation with the forces at Padaviya in Northeast Lanka.

5 Years Since Eelam War, Lanka Guns Down LTTE Trio
New Indian Express, 12 Apr 2014

In the first ever clash between Sri Lankan security forces and remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after the end of Eelam War IV in May 2009, Lankan troops on Friday killed three wanted LTTE operatives — Selvanayagam Kajeepan alias Gopi, Sundaralingam Kajeepan alias Theivihan and Navaratnam Navaneethan alias Appan — in a confrontation at Padaviya in Northeast Lanka.

… Dr Rohan Gunaratna, Head of the Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang University in Singapore, told Express that once in Sri Lanka, Gopi teamed up with Appan, Theivihan and other former cadre of the front along with some human rights activists with LTTE connections like Jayakumari Balendran.

Creative Strategies Needed to Deal with New Terror Threats
AsiaOne, 12 Apr 2014

An ancient Chinese proverb describes the challenge facing the authorities dealing with terrorists: dao gao yi chi, mo gao yi zhang.

It means: as virtue rises one foot, vice rises 10; while the priest climbs a foot, the devil climbs 10.

The same could be said for terrorism. In this lethal cat and mouse game, the security authorities need a mindset change, fresh strategies and new partners to anticipate the unknown and prepare to cushion the blows that will be felt when a terrorist strike occurs.

For tiny Singapore, the challenge of keeping the nation secure in the face of terrorist threats remains critical. Experts say our security authorities can build on a strong record of achievements - but it remains an uphill task, as terrorists are constantly evolving and strike when they spot gaps in security measures.

… While ISD officers used the intelligence gathered to smash JI operations here, analysts at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies identified trends in terrorism and highlighted early warning signs of a potential attack.

To tackle deviant Islamic teachings, Muslim clerics spent hours with detainees at ISD's Whitley Road Detention Centre, counselling prisoners on the correct interpretation of Islam.

… Security expert Kumar Ramakrishna says some military strategists fear a new kind of warfare in which "super-empowered" lone wolves may in the coming decade exploit digital technology to mount crippling cyber attacks on national infrastructure.

If cyber terrorists succeed in attacking linked computer networks for waste water and drinking water, they could pump waste water into reservoirs. They could kill if they crack computer codes that connect wireless devices in a hospital's digital system, such as pacemakers and insulin pumps.

China Moots Framework for Non-traditional Security
Asia News Network, 11 Apr 2014

Seeking to expand its influence in Asia beyond economic ties, China has proposed setting up a regional security cooperation framework to tackle non-traditional security challenges.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the call yesterday in his keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, urging Asian countries to "jointly fulfil their due responsibilities to achieve peace and stability" essential to regional prosperity and development.

"We should promote security dialogue and consultation, strengthen cooperation on non-traditional security issues, including disaster management, maritime search and rescue, counter-terrorism and combating transnational crimes," said Li.

… Singapore-based analyst Li Mingjiang said Premier Li's call for a regional security framework marks a clear shift in China's position, after years of overtures for closer military cooperation with Asian states gained little traction.

"It has realised it is powerless to bring that about, as many are militarily and strategically close to the United States and still see China as a threat," the analyst said. "It is turning to non-traditional security in hope of a breakthrough in closer cooperation, and as an area where Chinese leadership could be effective."

Islamabad-Pakistan Taliban Peace Talks: Shifting Focus to Afghanistan – Analysis
Halimullah Kousary
Eurasia Review, 10 Apr 2014

Islamabad has been in peace talks with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) over last couple of months while the Afghan peace process remains derailed for years. A campaign is underway for a concerted insurgency in Afghanistan.

THE HOLDING of a largely peaceful presidential election in Afghanistan on 5 April 2014 and the taking over of security responsibility by Afghan forces from NATO in 2013, are acclaimed as significant milestones in Afghanistan’s security and political progress. However, the Taliban militancy remains a serious challenge for Afghanistan to tackle in seeking to shape the country’s long-term stability.

The US-NATO drawdown did not convince the Taliban to forego violence and enter into negotiation with the government. Just last month, they launched a bloody armed campaign targeting election rallies in a bid to disrupt the election and vowed to continue fighting the new government. Meanwhile the same Taliban pushed the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organisation of the anti-Pakistan militant groups, to negotiate peace with Islamabad. This indicates that a joint campaign is underway for waging a concerted insurgency in Afghanistan in the coming years.

… Halimullah Kousary is an Associate Research Fellow with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He was previously with the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) based in Kabul.

Tourist Security Natural Extension of China’s National Interests
Oh Ei Sun
Global Times (China), 11 Apr 2014

It all happened in just five minutes. A female Chinese tourist was kidnapped by armed Filipino men from an island resort off the eastern coast of the Malaysian state of Sabah late on April 2. This took place less than half a year after another female Chinese tourist from Taiwan was kidnapped, and later released, under very similar circumstances from a nearby resort.

As China's economy takes off, many of its wealthier citizens venture overseas for their vacations. From a positive point of view, this helps in linking China with the rest of the world.

The number of Chinese tourists to Sabah, for example, grew by 87 percent in 2013, and was on par with those visiting the famous Indonesian island of Bali. Sabah's tourism industry has blossomed as a result, and the traditional friendship between the Chinese and Malaysian people has also deepened.

Nevertheless, the safety of Chinese tourists overseas has also become an exigent issue. In the past, tourists from richer nations such as the US and Japan were often prominent targets for petty and sometimes even violent crimes. Now Chinese tourists too are becoming victims.

It is high time for the proper protection of Chinese tourists overseas to be considered an extension of China's crucial national interest.

… The author is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and president of Sabah Ma Zhong Friendship Association.

Boao Forum; China Moots Framework for Non-traditional Security
The Straits Times, 11 Apr 2014

SEEKING to expand its influence in Asia beyond economic ties, China has proposed setting up a regional security cooperation framework to tackle non-traditional security challenges.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the call yesterday in his keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, urging Asian countries to "jointly fulfil their due responsibilities to achieve peace and stability" essential to regional prosperity and development.
"We should promote security dialogue and consultation, strengthen cooperation on non-traditional security issues, including disaster management, maritime search and rescue, counter-terrorism and combating transnational crimes," said Mr Li.

For China's part, he said, it will stay committed to peaceful means to resolve territorial disputes with other Asian states.

… Singapore-based analyst Li Mingjiang said Premier Li's call for a regional security framework marks a clear shift in China's position, after years of overtures for closer military cooperation with Asian states gained little traction.

"It has realised it is powerless to bring that about, as many are militarily and strategically close to the United States and still see China as a threat," the analyst said. "It is turning to non-traditional security in hope of a breakthrough in closer cooperation, and as an area where Chinese leadership could be effective."

China Faces Pushback as it Uses Financial Clout Abroad
Friedrich Wu and Koh De Wei
The Business Times, 11 Apr 2014

OVER the past few decades, China has accumulated more than US$3.8 trillion of official foreign exchange reserves as it rises to become a global power. Do China's gargantuan financial assets boost its financial power overseas?

With the globalisation and rising influence of Chinese state-owned enterprises, state-owned banks and sovereign wealth funds, as well as China's growing clout in several regional groupings, it is clear that Beijing does possess the necessary mechanisms to assert its financial power - by investing in developing countries' government bonds and fixed assets, providing generous economic assistance packages and concessional loans with virtually no conditions attached and forgiving large amount of a target country's debts.

In the economic domain, China has consistently used foreign oil contracts and acquisitions to secure direct oil flow from developing nations. However, some recent cases show that, while China is able to successfully harness its financial power in its pursuit for oil, it needs to fulfil its promises to the satisfaction of the recipient countries in order to maintain the value of its offers.

… Friedrich Wu is an adjunct associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. Koh De Wei graduated with MSc in international political economy at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in 2013 after receiving BSc and MSc in computer science from Stanford University in 2012. This op-ed is excerpted from the authors' longer and scholarly article 'From Financial Assets to Financial Statecraft: The Case of China and Emerging Economies of Africa and Latin America' in the 'Journal of Contemporary China (USA)', March 2014, online version

Jihadists in Syria: Indonesian Extremists Giving Support? – Analysis
Navhat Nuraniyah
Eurasia Review, 10 Apr 2014

The emergence of overt supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) in Indonesia has raised concerns regarding links between local and global jihadi groups. This overt support does not necessarily mean ISIS may take root in Indonesia.

ON 16 MARCH 2014 hundreds of Islamist extremists carrying the flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) rallied in the heart of Jakarta. Campaigns in support of ISIS, a designated terrorist group operating in Syria, also took place in other parts of Indonesia.

The emergence of overt supporters of ISIS in Indonesia has raised concerns regarding the revival of links between local and global jihadi groups. There is also a concern that ISIS supporters might want to establish its affiliate group in Indonesia. While it might not pose any immediate threat, the development might indicate an increasingly blurred distinction between extremism and terrorism in Indonesia.

… Navhat Nuraniyah is an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Search for MH370 the Most Expensive in History
TODAY, 10 Apr 2014

KUALA LUMPUR — As the intensive hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 enters its second month, the only certainty is that it would become the most expensive search and recovery effort in aviation history, with an international fleet of ships and planes scouring the Indian Ocean at a cost of millions of dollars a day.
For the most part, the dozens of countries that have contributed personnel, equipment and expertise to the search have borne the costs while declining to disclose them, with officials offering a united front in saying that it would be callous to talk about money while a commercial airliner and the 239 people aboard remained unaccounted for.

Still, many of the governments involved may soon face a tough decision about whether to keep bearing the extraordinary costs of the search, analysts said.

… “I don’t think a lot of these countries are big on heaping the bill on Malaysia,” said Mr Oh Ei Sun, a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “It’s just not the right thing to do.”

Known Unknowns in Indonesia Polls: What They Mean for the Region
Yang Razali Kassim
The Nation (Thailand), 9 Apr 2014

When Indonesians elect their MPs today, followed three months later by a new president on July 9, their decisions will have a strong impact on the wider region. Given Indonesia's pivotal position as Southeast Asia's biggest economy, this is to be expected.

But understanding the full implications of their electoral choices will not be easy as there are two "known unknowns" in the country's latest power transition. The first concerns the new parliament. The second, the new president. Unless the picture becomes clearer towards the end of the year, a new government clouded by these twin ambiguities could mean quite a testy time ahead for the region.

… Yang Razali Kassim is a senior fellow with Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Terror Threats: Private Sector, Public ‘Must Play Their Part’
The Straits Times, 8 Apr 2014

WHEN dealing with the threats of today - such as terrorism, cyber warfare and epidemics - government efforts alone are not enough, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said yesterday.

The private sector and general public must play their part, he added, while governments also need to talk to one another.

Speaking at the opening of the eighth annual Asia-Pacific Programme for Senior National Security Officers yesterday, Mr Iswaran said today's threats have three things in common - they cross borders, can develop quickly, and are difficult to resolve.

… Mr Barry Desker, dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies which is organising the five-day event, called for "a mindset shift" and an acknowledgment by stakeholders that today's complicated threats cannot be eliminated totally, but "managed and maintained at acceptable levels".

… The Singapore Government also realised that in order to fight extremism, it needed the help of the wider community, such as progressive and independent Islamic scholars, said terrorism expert Kumar Ramakrishna, who heads the Centre of Excellence for National Security here.

Defence Expert: China to Face Energy Insecurity, if…
The Philippine Star, 8 Apr 2014

MANILA, Philippines - China would face “enduring energy insecurity” if it continues to be assertive in the South China Sea, a defense expert said.

Koh Swee Lean Collin, an associate research fellow at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said China is facing the risk of being denied access to sea routes by possible adversaries.

“If Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea continues at this rate, Beijing may have to face enduring energy insecurity,” Collin said in a commentary published last week by India-based think tank Observer Research Foundation.

Known Unknowns in Indonesia’s Elections
Yang Razali Kassim
TODAY, 7 Apr 2014

When Indonesians elect their Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday and a new President three months later on July 9, their decisions will have an impact on the wider region. Given Indonesia’s pivotal position in South-east Asia, this is to be expected.

However, understanding the full implications of their electoral choices will not be easy, as there are two “known unknowns” in the country’s latest power transition. The first concerns the new Parliament. The second is about the new President. Until and unless the picture becomes clearer towards the end of the year, a new government clouded by these twin ambiguities could mean quite a testy time ahead for the region.

… Yang Razali Kassim is a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Forum Spotlight on Future of Multilateral Trading System
Gulf Daily News (Bahrain), 7 Apr 2014

The future of multilateral trading system and the challenges posed by regional trading blocs will be discussed at a high-level conference in Manama.

The two-day event, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), opens today, and will discuss 'Trade and Flag: The Changing Balance of Power in the Multilateral Trading System.'

It will be held at the IISS-Middle East (IISS-ME) headquarters at Bahrain Financial Harbour.

Leading trade policy experts, academics and decision-makers including Transportation Minister Kamal Ahmed, former directors-general of World Trade Organisation Pascal Lamy and Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, South Korea's former trade minister Dr Taeho Bark, Geneva-based Graduate Institute International Economics professor Richard Baldwin, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs Indian Political Economy professors Arvind Panagariya and Jagdish Bhagwati, and Singapore Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade and Negotiations head Dr Deborah Elms will discuss recent trends and challenges in the world trade and economic landscape.

Countries Need Greater Resilience to Combat Threats: Iswaran
Channel NewsAsia, 7 Apr 2014

Countries need to build greater resilience as they grapple with evolving security risks -- Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran shared this as he opened a security summit in Singapore.

The Asia-Pacific Programme for Senior National Security Officers (APPSNO VIII), in its eighth edition, explored the issue of resilience.

The summit is organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), with the support of the National Security Coordination Secretariat (NSCS) in the Prime Minister's Office.

New Avenues for Regional Cooperation: Tackling Human Trafficking in Asia – Analysis
Alistair D. B. Cook and Caitriona H. Heinl
Eurasia Review, 5 Apr 2014

In Southeast Asia, rising population and technological advances mean that unfortunately human traffickers have a growing target base online and are making greater use of technology. Nevertheless, creatively employing online tools provides an opportunity to counter cross-border trafficking.

WITH THE current debate over domestic anti-human trafficking measures in Singapore, innovative responses from elsewhere can offer constructive policy options and inform dialogue at the regional level.

The ASEAN region has a population of over 600 million and growing, Internet users have doubled and the numbers accessing information and communications technologies (ICT) are expected to increase. United Nations reports note that ICT and increasing use of the Internet create new opportunities for offenders and facilitate crime. For instance, online social media allows for new ways to facilitate people trafficking, distribution of child abuse material, and new avenues for recruiting victims.

… Alistair D. B. Cook & Caitríona H. Heinl are Research Fellows with the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies and Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

2 Women are Kidnapped from a Resort in Malaysia
International New York Times, 3 Apr 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Gunmen kidnapped a Chinese tourist and a Filipino hotel worker, both women, from a beach resort on an island off the coast of Malaysian Borneo, the Chinese and Malaysian authorities said Thursday, spurring an international manhunt.

The abductions, which occurred late Wednesday, appeared to be the work of insurgents from the nearby islands of the southern Philippines who have been fighting the Philippine government for years, security experts said. The kidnapping risked complicating ties between China and Malaysia, already strained over the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The women were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort, a diving and snorkeling retreat built on stilts on Singamata Island off the coast of Sabah, a state on Borneo, in eastern Malaysia.

… But Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that he had spoken with a Chinese consular official in Malaysia on Thursday, and that “apparently both the Malaysian and Chinese sides are trying to downplay this event while showing their concerns.”

India’s Diplomatic Dilemma over Crimea – Analysis
Harshit Kohli
Eurasia Review, 3 Apr 2014

New Delhi’s acknowledgement of Russia’s “legitimate interests” in Crimea and the decision not to back US and EU sanctions against Moscow could have a ripple effect on the evolving Indo-US partnership and India’s own stance over the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan.

RUSSIA’S ANNEXATION of the Crimea on 18 March 2014 has caught India on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, New Delhi’s decision not to back the sanctions levied by the United States and the European Union against Russia is in line with its policy of only supporting sanctions approved by the United Nations. This stance, however, could have adverse effects on India’s relations with the US and EU.

On the other hand, taking an active stance against Russia could damage relations with a longstanding ally that has been a source of diplomatic support for India in the international arena, the major arms supplier for the Indian military and a source of technology transfers for decades.

… Harshita Kohli is an Associate Research Fellow with the US Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. She was previously a journalist based in Mumbai, India.

Missing Flight 370: Malaysia Frets over China’s Pressure
The Wall Street Journal, 3 Apr 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Senior Malaysian officials are growing increasingly frustrated and privately incensed at what they see as excessive pressure from China to find the missing Flight 370.

The search for the jet, which vanished in early March, is testing ties between the two countries in a year that their governments had earlier declared "China-Malaysia Friendship Year" to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations.

Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard the flight were Chinese, and some of their family members have led a wave of criticism of Malaysia--with the Chinese government's tacit support--putting Kuala Lumpur on the defensive.

Many of the passengers' relatives do not believe the official account that the plane was lost at sea and accuse Malaysia of hiding what really happened. Some of the Chinese residents have taken part in protests in that would have been impossible if directed at their own government, including marching in the streets of Beijing carrying signs with slogans such as: " Malaysia Airlines, You Owe Us Answers!"

… Ei Sun Oh, a Malaysian and senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said that if the majority of passengers had been U.S. citizens, Americans "would voice dissatisfaction, but they would go to court and sue Malaysia left and right." Beijing appears to be eager to distract attention from its own limited capacity to find the airplane by allowing protests to take place, he said. "What the Chinese government fears the most is its own population turning its anger against them."

Moderate Religiosity Can’t Survive the Rule of the Gun
Farish A. Noor
The Straits Times, 2 Apr 2014

Asian governments should work to create a climate where a rational, objective and civil dialogue about religiosity can take place.

AS INDONESIA heads to the elections - both legislative and presidential - this year, analysts and scholars have begun to ask if the country's image as a moderate Muslim state will remain unchallenged in the years to come. While it is true that Indonesian Islam has, to some extent, been shaped and defined by the country's two biggest Muslim organisations - the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and the Muhammadiyah - for decades, the fact remains that the NU and Muhammadiyah account for at most 70 million followers in a country with more than 200 million Muslims, which in real terms makes them minority voices.

… The writer is associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

Singapore: Small State, Big Weapons Buyer Defence Review Asia (Australia)
Asia News Network, 1 Apr 2014

Tensions escalated on the divided Korean peninsula yesterday as both sides traded live fire into the sea across their disputed maritime border, after a North Korean military exercise dropped shells into South Korean waters.

North Korea fired about 500 rounds of artillery into the waters north of the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, in a three-hour drill that started at around noon.

About 100 of the shells landed in South Korean waters, prompting the South to fire more than 300 shots in return, its Defence Ministry said.

Neither side seemed to be firing at a fixed target, but as a precaution, residents on South Korean border islands were evacuated to shelters, and the military dispatched fighter jets to survey the sea border.

… Associate research fellow Sarah Teo from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, who specialises in Korea peninsula affairs, said North Korea's action was just a "show of force" in response to recent events, including the United Nations Security Council's condemnation of its latest ballistic missile tests.

It is unlikely to lead to war, she added.

North, South Korea Trade Fire Across Disputed Sea Border
Asia News Network, 1 Apr 2014

Tensions escalated on the divided Korean peninsula yesterday as both sides traded live fire into the sea across their disputed maritime border, after a North Korean military exercise dropped shells into South Korean waters.

North Korea fired about 500 rounds of artillery into the waters north of the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, in a three-hour drill that started at around noon.

About 100 of the shells landed in South Korean waters, prompting the South to fire more than 300 shots in return, its Defence Ministry said.

Neither side seemed to be firing at a fixed target, but as a precaution, residents on South Korean border islands were evacuated to shelters, and the military dispatched fighter jets to survey the sea border.

… Associate research fellow Sarah Teo from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, who specialises in Korea peninsula affairs, said North Korea's action was just a "show of force" in response to recent events, including the United Nations Security Council's condemnation of its latest ballistic missile tests.

It is unlikely to lead to war, she added.

Cybered Conflict, Not Cyber War – Analysis
Peter Dombrowski
Eurasia Review, 1 Apr 2014

We have entered a period of cybered conflict. For militaries, governments and private firms mastering the demands of cybered conflict, it will be a long and painful process requiring strong cyber defences and organisational resilience.

CYBER WAR is not coming, but cybered conflict is. For decades we have been warned of the possibility of digital Pearl Harbours where network attacks lead to cascading failures of critical military, public and private systems. Recently, there has been a backlash; contrarians now argue that cyber war not only hasn’t occurred but is highly unlikely. They point to the absence of cyber “battle deaths” to date and the immense difficulty of using cyber weapons for political and military purposes.

Botnets and malware can disrupt service and lead to lost data, but these are expensive nuisances rather than acts of war. Truly dangerous attacks, targeting, for example, the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems of military facilities or public utilities, while potentially destructive, require exquisite intelligence and dedicated teams of hackers. These are capacities beyond the means of most nation-states, much less terrorists or common criminals.

… Peter Dombrowski, a professor in Strategic Research at the US Naval War College, was until recently a Visiting Research Fellow with the Military Transformations Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. This commentary draws from an earlier article he co-authored with Chris Demchak in the Naval War College Review.

North, South Korea Trade Fire Across Disputed Sea Border
The Straits Times, 1 Apr 2014

TENSIONS escalated on the divided Korean peninsula yesterday as both sides traded live fire into the sea across their disputed maritime border, after a North Korean military exercise dropped shells into South Korean waters.

North Korea fired about 500 rounds of artillery into the waters north of the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, in a three-hour drill that started at around noon.

About 100 of the shells landed in South Korean waters, prompting the South to fire more than 300 shots in return, its Defence Ministry said.

Neither side seemed to be firing at a fixed target, but as a precaution, residents on South Korean border islands were evacuated to shelters, and the military dispatched fighter jets to survey the sea border.

… Associate research fellow Sarah Teo from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, who specialises in Korea peninsula affairs, said North Korea's action was just a "show of force" in response to recent events, including the United Nations Security Council's condemnation of its latest ballistic missile tests.

It is unlikely to lead to war, she added.

… Ms Teo also cautioned: "The biggest concern is the risk of miscalculation. Both sides may think they have things under control, but a misstep could result in tensions escalating."

Security Agency ‘Can Move Quickly When Crises Hit’
South China Morning Post, 1 Apr 2014

The newly established National Security Commission is likely to play a significant role in the handling of major emergencies after two recent incidents tested the nation’s ability to deal with crises quickly and effectively, observers say.

The mainland put in place an emergency response system after the Sars outbreak in 2003, detailing actions to be taken to deal with natural disasters and public health and security incidents.

But the knife attack at Kunming station in Yunnan province on March 1 that left 33 people dead, including four assailants, and scores injured has triggered calls for improvements amid public concerns over whether the police response was hampered by government bureaucracy.

… Dr Rohan Gunaratna, of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said Beijing should create a specialist unit of highly trained officers to respond to violent attacks. “China should not believe that ordinary police can respond to such incidents,” he said. “It must groom a special unit that can respond rapidly.”

MH370: Limits of China’s Soft Power – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 31 Mar 2014

Much of China’s objective to be a great power would depend on how much soft power influence it wields on the global community. But as events following the disappearance of MH370 show, Beijing has still some way to go.

AS THE dust begins to settle on the ill-fated MH370 flight, political calculations among the countries involved would start to feature increasingly in the post-disaster work that is expected to take months, if not years, to complete.

With 153 Chinese nationals onboard out of the 239 people, China’s involvement and interest in the follow-up will be substantial. But given political sensitivities among regional countries over Chinese territorial ambitions, cooperation with Beijing is not likely to be straight-forward.

… Benjamin Ho is an Associate Research Fellow with the Multilateralism and Regionalism Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Earth Hour Raises Funds for Green Projects
The Philippine Star, 30 Mar 2014

In the Philippines, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) noted that the number of communities and establishments joining Earth Hour has been increasing.

The WWF said it partnered with Megaworld, a leading real estate developer, in the switch-off activity in its 17-hectare Eastwood City township in Quezon City.

Kevin Tan, Megaworld first vice president and commercial division head, said the event “signifies Megaworld’s commitment in building townships that espouse environmental sustainability.”

… Sofiah Jamil, adjunct research associate at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, who has been campaigning for environmental causes in Southeast Asia, welcomed the funding initiative.

“At the very basic level, such crowdfunding activities can potentially increase the visibility of Earth Hour and in turn awareness on environmental action,” Sofiah told AFP.

‘Exercise Komodo’ and the South China Sea
Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto
The Jakarta Post, 29 Mar 2014

Today, naval representatives and warships from 18 different nations are converging in the southern part of the South China Sea known as Natuna.

Adopting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) as its main theme, Exercise Komodo highlights the growing role of the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) in international naval diplomacy. But held amid lingering tensions arising from territorial disputes in the South China Sea, what can we gauge from it?

Certainly, Exercise Komodo carries mixed messages. At first glance, the exercise attempts to display Indonesia’s growing role in naval diplomacy. Bringing in naval representatives from 18 countries is no easy task. Much less is the choice of timing and location in the South China Sea, where tensions remain high following incidents among the claimants.

… The writer is an associate research fellow with the Maritime Security Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Russia’s Crimea Annexation: What it Means for Asia
Euan Graham
The Nation (Thailand), 28 Mar 2014

Moscow's annexation of Crimea and continuing tensions over Ukraine are being felt primarily as a crisis in European and United States relations with Russia. Yet Russia's challenge to the international order has global ramifications that extend to Asia. Implications for the region can be understood in terms of three broad categories: demonstration, distraction and disruption.

Some of Moscow's Asian neighbours may be concerned about the direct threat that a revived, recidivist Russia could turn its focus towards them. The reality, however, is that Moscow is more concerned with maintaining its territory east of the Urals than expansionist adventures. Russia's Far Eastern demographic decline is especially pronounced, while its borders are largely fixed.

… Euan Graham is a Senior Fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Hishammuddin May Pay Price for Fallout Over MH370
TODAY, 28 Mar 2014

Malaysia’s handling of the search for the missing Flight MH370 has turned the official seen as being groomed to be the country’s next Prime Minister into a lightning rod for criticism, hurting his chances to lead the nation.

Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has led almost all the daily press conferences since the Malaysia Airlines plane went missing on March 8. The relative of three Prime Ministers and the grandson of the ruling party’s founder has stoked ire among passengers’ families and China with his self-contradictions and failure to provide definitive answers.

… “For Mr Hishammuddin, this is indeed another massive setback for his political career,” said Dr Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Malaysia programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “He failed to show leadership in this current issue. In a party where strong leadership is essential, this might spell the end of his political career.”

… “Everybody knows Hisham is the heir presumptive,” said Dr Oh Ei Sun, a former political secretary to Mr Najib during the time Mr Hishammuddin was Home Minister. “Whatever facade he puts up as a minister and as national leader, he is actually a person with quite a lot of feelings and empathy. He’s certainly not one of those who is aloof and shuts off people.”

Islamic Parties on Shaky Ground
The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2014

Indonesia's five Islamic parties are expected to be barely able to hold their ground in the April 9 general election, being beset by problems such as the graft scandal that hit the biggest Islamic party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), last year.

Weak performances by their Cabinet ministers and voter focus on bread-and-butter issues are also bad news for these parties.

After four post-Suharto general elections, the Islamic parties have failed to gain more support, but they should still find favour among a section of voters as religion is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of Indonesians.

Islamic leaders have been working hard to regain ground lost due to the PKS scandal.

… Apart from the scandals and poor performance, support for the Islamic parties dropped as they moved to the political centre, blurring their identity, noted Associate Professor Leonard Sebastian, of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"The reality is that they should go back to basics if they want to achieve better support," he said, referring to the strong Islamic platform of the now-defunct Masjumi Party in the 1950s. "Don't neglect the interests of the Muslim electorate, find better leaders, and have a better organised social programme," he advised.

Egypt’s Sisi Ditches Uniform, Quits as Defence Minister
Times of Oman (Off AFP), 27 March 2014

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al Sisi ditched his military fatigues on Thursday and resigned as Egypt's defence minister, a day after announcing he would stand for president.

Sisi turned up in civilian clothes at the weekly cabinet meeting to submit his resignation after quitting as army chief the previous night, state news agency MENA reported.

Meanwhile, General Sedki Sobhi was sworn in as the new defence minister and army chief, and Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazy replaced Sobhi as army chief of staff, the presidency said. Hegazy is the father-in-law of Sisi's son.

… "To turn the economy around, deep and painful restructuring is needed, something the military - backed government has avoided so far," said James Dorsey, Middle East Expert at Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"He will lead a deeply divided country in which a significant minority feels disenfranchised. He would need to build bridges to prevent further polarisation and violence."

Egypt Future..
James M. Dorsey
938live (XinMSN), 27 Mar 2014

The head of Egypt's armed forces, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi stepped down from his position on Wednesday in order to run for president.

It comes nine months after he helped to topple the previous president, Mohammed Morsi, who had made him commander-in-chief of the armed forces in the first place.

Abdul Fattah al- Sisi's candidacy is likely to be welcomed by the millions of Egyptians who are weary of more than three years of turmoil since the Arab Spring overthrow of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Does his candidacy come as a surprise?

That's the question 938LIVE's Shima Roy posed to James M. Dorsey , a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University.

Hunt for Flight MH370 to be Most Expensive in History, Say Chinese Scientists
South China Morning Post, 27 Mar 2014

The hunt for doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is likely to be the most expensive in aviation history, Chinese scientists warned yesterday, as Thailand said it had spotted hundreds of objects near the search area in the Indian Ocean.

The annual bill could run to 10 times that of the two-year hunt for an Air France plane five years ago and would cost hundreds of millions of US dollars, they said.

France and Brazil spent more than US$40 million over two years to recover the black boxes from Air France flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 en route to Rio de Janeiro from Paris. Officials halted the operation, which used underwater robots to scour the seabed, after search crews found 50 of the 228 bodies.

… No international protocol exists to assign or split accident investigation costs. Oh Ei Sun, of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that in theory, the lead investigating nation should pay.

MH370 Puts UN Search Agency’s Protocol to the Test
South China Morning Post, 27 Mar 2014

With 26 nations hovering over disputed waters and fragile security zones, the search for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean seems like a giant game of Risk.

A United Nation's agency is in charge of multi-national search and rescue operations.

But the latest drama has exposed its limits.

Some experts are urging that the rules be changed to ensure countries share accurate data and allow greater access to naval ships searching for wreckage in foreign waters.

… "The incident has exposed how fragile the current joint search and rescue mechanism is," said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. "The whole saga shows that countries still put national sovereignty and territorial concerns over humanitarian needs. The countries do not want to share data because they don't want others to know about their radar coverage."

Afghanistan’s 2014 Election: Need For Strong Mandate – Analysis
Halimullah Kousary
Eurasia Review, 27 Mar 2014

Afghanistan is on the cusp of its first ever non-violent transition of power in its modern history. On 5 April 2014, the third presidential election since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 will be held. What are the prospects for reconciliation with the Taliban?

AFGHANISTAN HAS come a long way politically since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. It held two presidential elections in 2004 and 2009, and is slated to hold the third on 5 April 2014, which will transfer power to a new president.

Hamid Karzai, after serving his two constitutional terms, is the first elected president to hand over leadership of the state to his successor without being ousted and/or pushed into exile. This shift signifies the growing liberalisation and maturity of the Afghan political elite.

… Halimullah Kousary is an Associate Research Fellow with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He was previously with the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) based in Kabul.

Interpol Urges Tighter Airport Checks Amid Lapse: Southeast Asia
Bloomberg, 27 Mar 2014

Interpol, the world’s largest police organization, is working with Southeast Asian countries to bolster border security amid lapses in immigration checks before Malaysian Air Flight 370 went missing.

The discovery that two passengers boarded the missing jet using stolen passports has raised concern about Malaysia’s immigration security practices as the hunt for the plane enters its 20th day with ships and aircraft scouring the Indian Ocean.

More than 40 million passports are listed as missing on a database created by Interpol in 2002, yet planes were boarded about a billion times last year without the travel documents being screened against the register. The two Iranian nationals were able to board the plane in Kuala Lumpur using passports that were reported stolen in Thailand.

“The lesson that we need to learn from these kinds of incidents that happen now is the importance of technology to be accessible to all law enforcement and mainly immigration officers in accessing and integrating all the available police data,” Julia Viedma, Interpol’s director of international partnerships and development, said in an interview in Singapore yesterday.

The agency is in discussions with partners such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to enhance border security at airports and other checkpoints in some of the countries with some funding from the European Commission, she said. Interpol’s goal is to make the data assessible regardless of the country’s economic status, she said.

… While there is no evidence that the two passengers had any connection to the March 8 disappearance of the Boeing Co. 777-200 en route to Beijing, the security breach should be a rallying call for governments to act, according to Rohan Gunaratna, head of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. He estimates that fewer than 30 countries screen all traffic through the Interpol data base.

Malaysia Plane Hurts Najib Heir-apparent as Criticism Mounts
Bloomberg, 26 Mar 2014

Malaysia’s handling of the search for missing Flight 370 has turned the official groomed to become the country’s next prime minister into a lightning rod for criticism, hurting his chances to lead the nation.

Hishammuddin Hussein, the defense and acting transport minister, has led almost all daily press conferences held since the Malaysian Air plane dropped off air-traffic controllers’ screens March 8. The relation of three prime ministers and the grandson of the ruling party’s founder has stoked ire among passengers’ families and China’s government with his self-contradictions and failure to provide definitive answers.

“People are trying to find somebody to blame,” said Ahmad Rafdi Endut, senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia. “Given that he’s the minister in charge of finding this airplane, people easily pinpoint his weaknesses. I believe he’s doing as best as he could.”

… “For Hishammuddin this is indeed another massive setback for his political career,” said Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, an assistant professor and coordinator of the Malaysia program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “He failed to show leadership in this current issue. In a party where strong leadership is essential, this might spell the end of his political career.”

Xi, Obama Agree on Moves to Build Military Trust
The Straits Times, 26 Mar 2014

CHINESE President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama have, for the first time, raised and agreed on the need for an early notification mechanism and a code of conduct between their militaries.
The proposed moves, aimed at boosting mutual trust and preventing accidental clashes, were a topic at their meeting on Monday on the sidelines of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague in the Netherlands.

"Both sides concurred with the need to set up a mechanism to inform each other of major military moves at an early date, and draft a code of conduct to safeguard the security of the navies and air forces on the high seas," reported the official Xinhua news agency yesterday.

… S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies analyst Hoo Tiang Boon said one trigger for the early notification mechanism could be the surprise launch of the air defence identification zone by China in the East China Sea last November.

He added that the proposed code of conduct, which reportedly will cover both sides' navies and air forces and spell out rules of engagement, likely stems from a desire to avoid accidental clashes, after a near-collision in the South China Sea between Chinese and American warships in December.

Losing an Airliner: What’s Wrong with Southeast Asia?
Dylan Loh Ming Hui
The Nation (Thailand), 25 Mar 2014

Indeed, after coming under some criticism for the lack of effort and coordination during Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, this was the chance for Asean to seek redress and to mute criticism.

On the contrary, the lack of joint effort by the region's countries in the search for the missing airliner , as opposed to the involvement of individual Asean states on a bilateral basis , is noticeable. Is it time for Asean as a group to step up to support the multinational search drive?

… Dylan Loh Ming Hui is a research analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Careless Act or an Election Gimmick?
MyPaper (Singapore), 24 Mar 2014

THE upcoming elections in Indonesia could well be playing a part in fuelling the recent spate of incidents which have ruffled Singapore’s feathers.

At an international defence conference in Jakarta last week, two Indonesian marines posed as Usman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, the perpetrators of the MacDonald House bombing in 1965.

This follows Indonesia’s decision last month to name a new frigate as the KRI Usman Harun, after the duo who were executed in Singapore.

… “In an election year, it may be difficult for the Indonesian government to backtrack on its decision to name a warship after the two marines, now that the issue has become public knowledge in Indonesia,” wrote Associate Professor Leonard Sebastian of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.

Bear Hug Becomes Fodder for Smear Campaign on Bakrie
The Straits Times, 24 Mar 2014

Indonesian presidential aspirant Aburizal Bakrie is finding out the hard way that hugging a teddy bear while on holiday with two young actresses can quickly be made an issue.

Pictures and a video of the Golkar party chief in a private jet with sisters Marcella and Olivia Zalianty en route to the Maldives, and of the brown stuffed toy, have gone viral online.

As Indonesia's three-week campaign for legislative elections hit the second week yesterday, several top party leaders have found themselves the targets of kampanye hitam, or black campaigns.

The idea is simple enough: Play up a "scandal" involving your political rival and turn voters off that person.

"Black campaigns are orchestrated to discredit popular politicians with the aim of forcing them to exit the political stage. Such campaigns employ religious sentiments or even promote ideological themes," said associate professor Leonard Sebastian from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Secretive Nation
The Times of India, 24 Mar 2014

The outing of the ‘top secret’ Henderson Brooks report online only underlines India’s obsession with secrecy. The colonial OSA is cited when it comes to matters of security or intelligence even as the under-staffed National Archives is buried in a 2,00,000-file backlog. Sunday Times looks at how the government has become a black hole of Independent India’s history

In a sprawling corner office on the first floor of South Block occupied by the defence secretary, locked away in a vault lies the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 India-China war. Over the years, defence secretaries — including the BJP’s — have guarded the document as if it was the holy grail of Indian statehood. Even after sections of the report were released online by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell last week, there is no indication that the government will make the report public now.

The guardianship of national secrets is not the sole prerogative of the defence secretary. Babus, too, act as custodians of files that could throw better light on major incidents of the past and prove instructive on dealing with the next crisis. Quite a few military experts have pointed out that the Henderson Brooks report contained lessons that are as valid today as they were in 1962 such as the need to build roads in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector to tackle Chinese incursions.

… Declassification is not an issue that is limited to the military alone, says Anit Mukherjee, military researcher currently based in Singapore. "There is no one office/ officer whose job it is to declassify in any of the departments. Therefore the first rule of bureaucracy applies — If it is no one’s job, the job does not get done. Why is this so? For three reasons. Firstly, bureaucracies are afraid they may come across looking bad. Secondly, the existing historical myths suit them and revisiting the past may throw up uncomfortable facts. Third, the most charitable view, is that they don’t do it because they don’t think it is important. Hence, officials are not convinced that they have anything to learn from revisiting the past."

Missing MH370: Probe Likely to be Long, Tricky
Asia News Network, 23 Mar 2014

Security experts expect investigations into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to go on for a very long time.
They also expect that Malaysia may not be able to reveal all information in its possession too quickly for fear of tipping off parties who may be responsible.

Investigators are looking for leads as to what happened on board the flight after it took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on March 8 to the time when all contact was lost at 2:15am, said an intelligence analyst.

… Security expert Rohan Gunaratna said investigators in Malaysia are looking for evidence that will show whether it was a terrorist attack.
They are also determining if the suspect was mentally disturbed and whether the flight's disappearance was an act of criminal sabotage.

Terrorism expert Kumar Ramakrishna said that the Malaysians are trying to release more information but are not able to.
"Investigators, working on leads on the suspects, probably do not want to reveal too much as the bad guys would also be watching the press conferences,'' he said.

Missing MH370: Terrorism ‘Cannot be Ruled Out Yet’
Asia News Network, 23 Mar 2014

Do not rule out terrorism just because no terrorist group has claimed responsibility yet for the disappearance of MH370, security experts told The Sunday Times.

They pointed out that the al-Qaeda terror network, which has made a speciality of using hijacked planes as weapons of mass destruction, is known to take its time before claiming responsibility.

After the Sept 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, its leader Osama bin Laden waited until 2004 to make a televised appearance, admitting for the first time that he ordered the attacks.

"It's the al-Qaeda style where they don't claim responsibility immediately," said Dr Bilveer Singh, a counter-terrorism expert. "They see themselves as God's warriors and don't worry about the media and publicity."

… Dr Rohan Gunaratna from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said al-Qaeda planned three times to attack Singapore.

Missing MH370: Serious Gaps in Aviation Security, Say Experts
Asia News Network, 23 Mar 2014

Security experts told The Sunday Times that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has exposed serious security gaps and loopholes in the international aviation system that must be plugged.
A big question, they said, was whether Malaysia alerted its neighbours when the jetliner vanished so that they could take precautions to protect themselves.

If the flight was hijacked, they said, many others in the region - including Singapore - might have been at risk of a terror attack.

Airport and aviation protocols must be revamped after what one expert described as a "turning point in aviation security".

… Agreeing with Bergerbest-Eilon's views, counter-terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) called MH370 a "turning point in aviation security and a catalyst that will force governments in Asia to enhance aviation security".

Nuclear Security Summit has Lost Momentum but is Still Relevant, Say Experts
Channel NewsAsia, 22 Mar 2014

Nuclear security experts say the biennial Nuclear Security Summit has lost momentum, but they believe it is still relevant as the threat of nuclear terrorism still exists and it is important to keep the dialogue going.

The third summit will be held in The Hague, Netherlands.

The inaugural Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington DC four years ago.

Analysts agreed that the summit had raised the profile of the nuclear security issue through the participation of heads of state.

However, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism remain threats that are alive and well.

Professor Rajesh Basrur, advisor of the Energy and Human Security Programme at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "Some people are sceptical about its future, and I think there is reason for that because there is a sense that the whole process has slowed down."

Old War, New Methods; Preventing Nuclear Terrorism Slaughter
The Straits Times, 22 Mar 2014

NEXT week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong goes to The Hague to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. Held every two years, the summit reviews the progress made in measures to enhance nuclear security.
It may not appear obvious, but Singapore has an interest in nuclear security.

This is because although the country does not have nuclear power capabilities, it would be exposed to any fallout from a nuclear attack nearby.

More specifically, as a shipping hub, it also has to be careful about container security and the risk that traffickers of nuclear and radioactive materials may use the country's facilities.

Nuclear terrorism expert Rajesh Basrur says Singapore's efforts to manage nuclear security risks are strong signs that it is playing its part as a responsible member of the international community.
"Singapore is proactive in implementing the rules requiring high-quality nuclear security, and this is laudable," says the expert from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

… RSIS security expert Rohan Gunaratna says Singapore is not out of the nuclear danger zone.

Asian Voices: Reluctant Wan Azizah in the Spotlight Again
The Statesman (India), 22 Mar 2014

Wife of Malaysia’s opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim. Mother of star politician Nurul Izzah Anwar. President of Malaysia’s opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). And soon, it is likely that everyone can add one more title for Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail: Kajang assemblywoman.

The 61-year old is a candidate for the Kajang by-election, replacing her husband who has been disqualified from contesting after a sodomy conviction was upheld in court. “Dr Wan Azizah is once again forced to be the reluctant saviour ~ the loyal wife who has to dig deep into her inner energy to be many things all at once,” said Yang Razali Kassim, senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “She is the alter ego of her husband, mother to her children, and the alternate glue that binds the disparate opposition parties together.”

Bin Hammam Payments Question Qatar World Cup Bid and FIFA/AFC Anti-corruption Efforts
James M. Dorsey
Huffington Post, 18 Mar 2014

Media reports of questionable payments by a company owned by banned former world soccer body FIFA vice president and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed Bin Hammam to another disgraced former FIFA executive committee member, Jack Warner, raise renewed questions about Qatar's controversial winning of the right to host the 2022 World Cup as well the integrity of FIFA and the AFC's efforts to root out corruption.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the Doha-based Kemco Group wholly owned by Mr. Bin Hammam, a Qatari national who was banned by FIFA in 2012 because of "conflicts of interest" during his AFC presidency and FIFA vice presidency, had paid some $2 million to former FIFA vice president Jack Warner and others related to him shortly after Qatar was awarded the World Cup.

In a statement to the Telegraph, the Qatari committee responsible for World Cup-related infrastructure rejected any knowledge that would call the payments into question. "The 2022 Bid Committee strictly adhered to FIFA's bidding regulations in compliance with their code of ethics. The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy and the individuals involved in the 2022 Bid Committee are unaware of any allegations surrounding business dealings between private individuals."

… James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is also co-director of the University of Würzburg's Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a forthcoming book with the same title.

Here are All the Big Mistakes Malaysia Made with Flight 370
The Week, 18 Mar 2014

Nobody is giving Malaysia high marks for its handling of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which mysteriously vanished early March 8. In every high-profile mess — and losing a giant Boeing 777 with 239 people on board ranks very high — there are always people second-guessing and spitballing official decisions. But in this case, it appears Malaysia did drop the ball on a number of fronts.

The timeline, according to the most recent information, goes something like this:

· Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lampur's airport at 12:41 a.m., heading northeast toward Beijing.
· About half an hour into the flight, the airplane's radio and tracking systems started shutting down. The last transmission from the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was at 1:07 a.m., the final radio message ("all right, good night") came at 1:19 a.m. from the co-pilot, and the last communication from the transponder was at 1:21 a.m.; there was no ACARS transmission at 1:37 a.m., as scheduled.
· At 2:15 a.m., Flight 370 appeared on a Malaysian military radar, the last known record of the plane's location.
· Sometime after 8 a.m., a satellite over the Indian Ocean picked up the final known transmission from the aircraft, a "ping" or "keep alive" signal that suggests the plane was somewhere along an arc stretching from Kazakhstan to off the west coast of Australia. The plane had enough fuel to travel up to an hour beyond that point.

… Rohan Gunaratna, a security and terrorism expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, is less surprised. "European and North American militaries and governments respond to such anomalies and aberrations in aviation routes, but many Asian governments don't as they are not paying such close attention," Gunaratna tells TIME. "Even if the government is informed, it may not take the same decisive action."

A Chance to Build on Spirit of Cooperation
The Straits Times, 19 Mar 2014

ALTHOUGH the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 is undeniably tragic, something positive may come out of it.
Regional maritime security forces are involved simultaneously in search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations. The resulting cooperation presents a useful opportunity to build confidence and thus make unwanted maritime confrontations less likely in the future.

Arguments over territorial claims in the South China Sea have been put on hold. Instead, there is bilateral and multilateral cooperation aimed at finding the missing craft, and rescuing victims when found.

The 26 countries involved include Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

… This is adapted from an article in RSIS Commentaries, a Web initiative by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Missing MH370: The Reactions; A Test for China’s Leaders – But an Opportunity too
The Straits Times, 19 Mar 2014

THE lives of its citizens are at stake, but that may not be the only reason why the Chinese government has spared no effort to search for the missing Flight MH370.

The all-out push, say observers, also reflects China's desire to bolster its standing domestically and internationally.

Chinese analysts and media believe that China's search operation is the largest ever, with 10 naval ships, several planes and 21 navigation satellites deployed. Officials say more could be deployed as China adjusts its search efforts.

… Singapore-based analyst Li Mingjiang said "the No 1. reason is the 153 lives but there are also political considerations at play".

He believes the top leadership is under pressure to live up to the "China Dream" political slogan espoused by President Xi Jinping since he took power in November 2012. It envisages the rise of a powerful Chinese nation and people, among other notions.

"If the government did not respond in a big way to search for the missing plane, many Chinese would be critical of the political slogan and may even question why China is spending more on its military and not putting them (men and materiel) to use when the need arises," said Dr Li of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The Race is on: Search for Missing Jetliner Tests U.S., China Power in Hotly Contested Pacific
New Europe, 18 Mar 2014

Finding the missing Malaysian jetliner would be a coup for any of the more than two dozen countries out there looking. But for China and the United States, it's a lot more than that — it has been a chance for the two rival powers in the Pacific to show off what they can do in a real-life humanitarian mission across one of the world's most hotly contested regions.

The hunt has major ramifications for Beijing, which has been rapidly improving its military while aggressively challenging neighbors over territorial disputes. Washington is looking to prove it's still the top dog to allies worried about how seriously it takes the threat China poses to the Pacific status quo.

So far, neither country has come up with anything significant. But they have been vigorously waving their flags.

… "China is strong in terms of hardware, but it lacks experience and good security ties with regional states," said China expert Li Mingjiang at Singapore Nanyang Technological University. "The U.S. sailors have far better networking with their regional counterparts, making it more possible for the U.S. to play a leading role in the search and rescue effort."

Taiwan’s Defence: Towards an All-volunteer Military? – Analysis
Wu Shang-su
Eurasia Review, 18 Mar 2014

Taiwan’s transformation from conscription to all-volunteer system has not been successful. This could weaken its defence situation.

THE MINISTRY of national defence (MND) in Taipei has encountered a number of difficulties in recruiting professional soldiers to supplement the manpower gap left by the termination of compulsory military service. The MND’s latest report to the Congress reflects a low level of recruitment, achieving just 30% of its goal, last year.

In the infantry and armour units, the recruitment rates are even lower at 4% and 16% respectively. As a result, the MND has postponed the start of full transformation by two years, ie 2016. Some relevant policies such as increasing salary and relaxing requirements are proposed by the MND to attract more young men to join the armed forces.

… Wu Shang-su is a research fellow in the Military Studies Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He previously taught at the National Defence University in Taiwan and worked in the Legislative Yuan.

Jokowi Joining Race Boosts Indonesian Party: Southeast Asia
Bloomberg, 17 Mar 2014

Indonesia’s biggest opposition party kicked off its campaign for the country’s parliamentary elections with a head start after nominating Jakarta’s popular governor for president.

Twelve parties will vie in an April election for spots in the 560-seat parliament where President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party is now the biggest single entity with 26 percent of seats. The coming ballot may see that advantage eroded as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, and its presidential candidate Joko Widodo lead in opinion polls.

“There will be an increase in votes for PDI-P,” Yose Rizal, founder of politicawave.com, which tracks political discourse on the Internet, said March 14. “With the nomination of Jokowi, who’s a favorite, fewer people will choose to abstain from voting,” he said, referring to Widodo by his nickname.

… Megawati made a wise choice to have Widodo named as the PDI-P’s presidential candidate, according to Leonard Sebastian, associate professor and coordinator of the Indonesia program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“I believe her calculation would be based on the fact that the PDI-P now will go into the election with a clear presidential candidate and one who obviously will be able to garner huge support from the electorate,” he said. “This should translate into huge gains for the PDI-P in the general elections.”

MH370 Search Irons Out Island Disputes
Oh Ei Sun
Global Times (China), 18 Mar 2014

It has been more than a week since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 lost contact with air traffic controllers, tracking radars and communications satellites alike.

On Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stepped onto the podium again and announced to a nervous and expectant audience in Kuala Lumpur and beyond that latest evidence had shown MH370 to have made an about turn and headed toward the Indian Ocean, as opposed to the South China Sea as was earlier surmised, before it went totally mute. The communication devices onboard also appeared to have been deliberately switched off.

After this latest round of information sharing, there were those who were quick to condemn the "wasteful" and "unproductive" aerial and maritime searches conducted over a vast expanse of the South China Sea as having been misguided from the start.

… The author is a senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

News Analysis - Day 10 of Missing MH370: More Questions Than Answers; Experts Cautious on Terror Attack Theory
The Straits Times, 18 Mar 2014

IS THE case of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane a bid to stage an attack similar to the 9/11 attacks, with perpetrators hoping to crash the jet into buildings in a major city in the region?
Is the plane's disappearance engineered by a lone-wolf operator or a group with terrorist links?

These are some of the questions being discussed in terrorism analysis circles as a probe deepens into the case of Flight MH370, which went missing in the early hours of March 8 with 239 people on board, many of them from China.

In particular, the theory of a 9/11-style attack was triggered by revelations last week from Al-Qaeda informant Saajid Badat that a group of Malaysians had been planning to take control of a Malaysia Airlines plane by blowing up the cockpit door with a bomb hidden in a shoe.

… "An incident of this magnitude has to have a trail," said Singapore-based terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna.

"If pilot error and mechanical failure have been discounted, and the Malaysian Prime Minister has said it was deliberate, the possibilities are that it could be a criminal act, a terrorist attack or one driven by psychological stress," said the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

MH370 ‘Flew Low to Evade Radars’
The Australian, 18 Mar 2014

THE mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has deepened further after investigators said the plane dropped as low as 5000 feet to evade radar in at least three countries.

Whoever was flying the plane is believed to have using a dangerous technique known as terrain masking to ensure that the Boeing 777 and the 239 people on board were not detected by conventional radar.

Australia's hopes of helping to solve the mystery have been dashed because the nation's most powerful radar was not looking west towards the Indian Ocean at the time when the missing plane may have passed by Australia.

… Speculation that one of the plane's pilots, rather than terrorists, may have stolen and then crashed the plane was further heightened after terror expert Rohan Gunaratna debunked British media reports that there was a terror plot to hijack an aircraft using a shoe bomb to blow open the cockpit door.

Mr Gunaratna told The Australian that the reported plot was a decade old and the shoe bomb was intercepted by US authorities in 2004 before it could be used in a plane.

“The only group that has expertise and experience in this domain is al-Qaida,'' he said.

“But there is no evidence at this point that it is terrorism. The options are either terrorism, crime or a psychologically affected person.''

Mr Gunaratna said there was no intelligence in the lead-up to the plane's disappearance to suggest a terror attack was imminent. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told parliament yesterday any information gathered by Australia's intelligence services was being passed on to Malaysia.

Reluctant Wan Azizah in the Spotlight Again
The Straits Times, 17 Mar 2014

Anwar's wife steps in for him again to contest Kajang by-election

WIFE of Malaysia's opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.
Mother of star politician Nurul Izzah Anwar.

President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

And soon, it is likely that everyone can add one more title for Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail: Kajang assemblywoman.

The 61-year old is a candidate for the Kajang by-election, replacing her husband who has been disqualified from contesting after a sodomy conviction was upheld in court.

"Dr Wan Azizah is once again forced to be the reluctant saviour - the loyal wife who has to dig deep into her inner energy to be many things all at once," said Mr Yang Razali Kassim, senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"She is the alter ego of her husband, mother to her children, and the alternate glue that binds the disparate opposition parties together."

Banned, but Vote-buying Still Plagues Election Process
The Straits Times, 17 Mar 2014

WHEN lawyer Taufik Basari visited constituents in his Jakarta district to distribute leaflets telling them why he deserved their vote, many asked him why the envelope was missing.

"Some residents opened the fold of the leaflet, expecting to find money, and asked 'Pak, where is the envelope?'," said the 37-year-old first-time legislative candidate for the National Democratic Party (NasDem). "They are still expecting cash or generous handouts of groceries. But I tell them, a political office is a mandate. That cannot be bought - it is priceless."

His experience is not unusual. A recent survey by the Indikator Politik Indonesia found that four out of 10 Indonesians still find it acceptable for politicians to hand out money or staples like rice or oil, as part of campaigning.

… For the 2009 legislative election, each candidate spent an average of 2 billion rupiah, according to associate research fellow Fitri Bintang Timur and senior research analyst Adhi Priamarizki of Singapore think-tank, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The total campaign spending declared by parties this time has risen to nearly a trillion rupiah, compared to 298 billion rupiah in 2004 and 826 billion rupiah in 2009, they added.

Najib Helps Curb Critics, but Doubts Remain
The Straits Times, 17 Mar 2014

AS THE Malaysia Airlines jetliner remains missing for the second week, Malaysia continues to face international fire for its crisis management, although domestic anger has cooled a little after the extraordinary aspects of the crisis became clear.

Prime Minister Najib Razak made an unexpected live television broadcast on Saturday, a week after the plane disappeared, to announce a dramatic twist in the search for the Beijing-bound MH370.

In his first major statement since the crisis began, he stressed the unprecedented nature of a situation where a plane had its communication systems disabled, and flew in the opposite direction for almost seven hours before vanishing.

… "China, in particularly, still clearly thinks that Malaysia is hiding something, or is plain incompetent," said political analyst Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

He added that while it was not unusual for a top Malaysian leader to make major announcements, Mr Najib's appearance could have been in response to criticism, especially from China, that the investigations were being left in the hands of a lesser-ranked minister.

Timing of Report by Flight’s Pilot Focuses Inquiry
The New York Times, 17 Mar 2014

A signaling system was disabled on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet before a pilot spoke to air traffic control without mentioning trouble, a senior Malaysian official said on Sunday, reinforcing theories that one of the pilots may have been involved in diverting the plane and adding urgency to the investigation of their pasts and possible motivations.
With the increasing likelihood that Flight 370 was purposefully diverted and flown possibly thousands of miles from its planned route, Malaysian officials faced more questions about how the investigation, marked by days of contradictory government statements, might have ballooned into a global goose chase for information.

Prime Minister Najib Razak acknowledged on Saturday that military radar and satellite data raised the possibility that the plane could have ended up somewhere in Indonesia, the southern Indian Ocean, or along a vast arc of territory from northern Laos across western China to central Asia. Malaysian officials said they were scrambling to coordinate a 25-nation effort to find the plane.

… Rohan Gunaratna, a professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who studies security and terrorism in Asia, said that while the weight of suspicion would inevitably fall on the pilots and other crew members, investigators were following established procedure by examining everyone on the missing plane.

“You can’t rule anything out, so everyone on the plane must be treated as a potential suspect,” Professor Gunaratna said in a telephone interview. He said he had heard no credible information of any militant group’s claiming responsibility for seizing the plane.

“That does not mean the possibility does not exist, but at this stage of the investigation it’s important to be open to all the possibilities,” he said.

The Worst Defence Minister Ever
India Today, 17 Mar 2014

Two years ago, an outraged vice-admiral strode into Defence Minister A.K. Antony's wood-panelled office on the first floor of South Block. He wanted to know why Antony had signed on a policy that would exclude submariners and aviators from holding the top job in the Navy. It would make submariners and aviators second-class citizens and destroy recruitment, he warned. Antony, the vice-admiral recalls, held his head in his hands and sank into his chair. He later struck the policy down. But he had exposed his embarrassing cluelessness at what he had almost allowed.

As the UPA slips into the twilight of a decade-long tenure, its lead actors examine legacies and worry how historians will judge them. None, with the possible exception of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will leave a legacy as bitterly questioned as Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

… The divide between the 1.4 million men in uniform and the civilians who run the defence ministry has never been greater. Antony outmanoeuvred those who advocated defence reforms to promote synergy in civil-military functioning by setting up the Naresh Chandra Committee in 2011. "He reiterated the old line of permanent chairman, chiefs of staff, requiring political consensus but has not convened even one all-party meeting in seven years to push for it," says Anit Mukherjee, a military analyst with the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Malaysia Says Jet’s Disappearance ‘Deliberate’
Daily Times (Pakistan), 16 Mar 2014

A missing Malaysian airliner was apparently deliberately diverted and flown for hours after vanishing from radar, Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday, stopping short of confirming a hijack but taking the excruciating search for the jet into uncharted new territory.

Najib said investigators believed “with a high degree of certainty” that systems relaying Malaysia Airlines flight 370’s location to air traffic control were manually switched off before the jet veered westward in a fashion “consistent with deliberate action”. But a grave-looking Najib told a press conference watched around the globe that he could not confirm whether the plane had been forcibly taken over.

… “Investigations should focus on criminal and terrorist motives,” said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. “It is likely that the aircraft was hijacked by a team knowledgeable about airport and aircraft security. It is likely they are supported by a competent team from the ground.”

Officials Rebut Criticism, Debunk Reports
The Straits Times, 14 Mar 2014

MALAYSIA is stepping up to criticism from international media on its poor handling of the missing MH370 plane with 239 people onboard, amid a dizzying maze of contradictory and confusing information which has angered family members of the passengers.

Yesterday, Malaysian officials faced the media again on their search efforts, and gave their most detailed explanation yet of the ongoing search while debunking stories swirling about how the aeroplane disappeared.

Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed a Wall Street Journal story, citing anonymous US investigators, that said the plane had continued to fly for hours after Malaysia lost contact with it.

… It does not help that various government agencies appear to be working without coordination, said Dr Oh Ei Sun, a political analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Volcanoes Test Indonesia’s Disaster Management
Jonatan A. Lassa
East Asia Forum, 14 Mar 2014

After about 400 years of silence, the Sinabung volcano in North Sumatra, Indonesia, has erupted twice in the last five years. The first time was on 27 August 2010. The eruptions lasted for two days, and resulted in no casualties. The second, ongoing eruption period began on 15 September 2013. Since then, eruptions have caused the deaths of at least 45 people, 31 of whom were staying in poorly managed temporary shelters. About 30,000 people have been evacuated out of the danger zone. Yet the formal response system remains weak. LEARN (an NGO) reports that the shelters lack basic water and sanitation facilities, and provide little privacy.

The Indonesian media and the public blame the government. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finally paid a visit to Sinabung in January this year. But public dissatisfaction has risen since the violent eruption of Kelud volcano on 13 February, with the general public and politicians criticising the president for responding more promptly to the Kelud eruption, because the volcano is located on Java, the island where the majority of voters live.

… Jonatan A. Lassa is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Malaysia Plane Disappearance Prompts Security Discussion
Thai News Service, 13 Mar 2014

It is still unclear why a Malaysia passenger jet vanished on its way to China early Saturday from Kuala Lumpur. But as authorities investigate apparent security lapses, analysts say they should be a catalyst for bolstering airline safety in the region.

The little information that has emerged from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has frustrated increasingly desperate families and authorities who are still searching for the plane.
In Malaysia Monday, transport minister Hishammuddin Bin Tun Hussein urged people to refrain from repeating rumors until authorities are able to verify what happened.

… Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based terrorism expert says that while it is too early to say what ultimately caused the plane to go down, the fact that passengers got on board with stolen passports was a security breach.

Singapore One of Few Countries Using Interpol Database
The Straits Times, 12 Mar 2014

VISITOR passports presented to immigration officers at Singapore checkpoints are screened against Interpol's database of lost or stolen travel documents, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) yesterday.
And if a passport is one of more than 40 million on Interpol's list, the officer is automatically alerted and the traveller pulled aside for further checks.
This procedure has been in place since May 2008, an ICA spokesman told The Straits Times.

He did not elaborate on how the system works, but security experts said that this verification typically takes just a few seconds.

But despite the fact that checks are quick, Singapore remains one of only a few countries that useInterpol's database to ensure border security, experts noted.

… Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna from Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said it should be mandatory for governments to report lost and stolen travel documents, as well as for immigration agencies to screen passenger passports against the Interpol database.

Malaysia Airport Security Spotlighted Over Missing Plane
Channel NewsAsia (Off AFP), 10 Mar 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: Revelations that at least two people used stolen passports to board a missing passenger jet raise serious "red flags" about security at Malaysia's main international airport, analysts and Interpol have warned.

However, they cautioned against a rush to judgement, citing ongoing investigations and widespread disregard of international databases on stolen passports.

Flight MH370 disappeared over the waters between Malaysia and southern Vietnam early Saturday en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. No traces of the plane have been confirmed found.

… Kumar Ramakrishna, a security expert at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said it should be easy for authorities to quickly access Interpol's database.

"It may not be fair to finger the whole system in place there (at Kuala Lumpur International Airport)," he said.

Despite Iranian Link, Chinese Netizens Think Muslim Uighur Separatists Behind Missing Jet
Malaysia Chronicle, 11 Mar 2014

Beijing - Amidst all the rumor and speculation surrounding the baffling disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 bound for Beijing, politically charged suggestions that terrorists were to blame carry the gravest implications for China.
Chinese and Malaysian officials are playing down the idea, in the absence of any evidence to support it. But that has not stemmed online allegations pointing the finger at Uighur separatists from the predominantly Muslim province of Xinjiang. Last week, the Chinese authorities blamed Uighur Islamic extremists for a knife attack in the southwestern city of Kunming that left 33 people dead and more than 100 wounded, though they have not produced any of the eight suspects whom police say they have detained.
“I am afraid the incident was launched by Xinjiang people,” read one such conjecture posted by @Chen Lei on the Tencent social media platform. “It is time to investigate Xinjiang and kill those who should be killed.” Of the 239 passengers aboard the plane, 154 were Chinese.

… The investigation into the disappearance of flight MH370 “must include counterterrorism investigators,” says Rohan Guneratna, a terrorism expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, since two of the passengers on the plane were using forged passports.

No Headway in MH370 Search
Global Times (China), 11 Mar 2014

Search and rescue for a missing Malaysian Airlines plane with 239 aboard, about two-thirds of them Chinese, made little headway on Monday, despite a rare multinational search that has been going on for over 60 hours.
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director-general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur Monday night that oil slick samples and debris recovered in the South China Sea were not connected to the missing MH370, which disappeared around 50 minutes into its flight from the Malaysian capital to Beijing early Saturday.
"Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft," he said.

… Ei Sun Oh, a senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said that he doesn't think the involved parties have been coordinating the efforts at the government-to-government level, but perhaps "at the operational levels, whereby ship talks to ship."
Oh told the Global Times all sides must learn from this rare lesson and devise an emergency response coordination mechanism for future cases.

"China should better demonstrate its humanitarian search and rescue capabilities especially in situations like this, so as to reduce surrounding countries' mistrust toward its intentions. This can reduce regional tension," he said.

Q&A: What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370?
Channel NewsAsia, 10 Mar 2014

SINGAPORE: Nearly three days after it disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, mystery still shrouds the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the 239 people on board.

No debris from the Boeing 777-200ER has been recovered despite an international search involving the navies and air forces of several Asian nations as well as the United States.

… Q: Is security at Kuala Lumpur International Airport questionable?

Revelations that at least two people aboard the plane were using stolen European passports have heightened fears about a security breach.

Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said the passport issue could indicate a "glaring flaw" in the airport's immigration clearance.

He noted that Interpol maintains a database of stolen passports that should have raised alarms at the immigration counter.

"There are two categories of people who use these (stolen passports) -- criminals and terrorists," he said.

Security Measures at Region’s Airports Tightened Up
The Straits Times, 11 Mar 2014

SEVERAL airports in the region have begun tightening their security procedures after two passengers were discovered to have used stolen passports to board a missing Malaysia Airlinesflight, raising questions about the level of security at busy airports.
Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines are reviewing their procedures to weed out fake passports while China and Indonesia said their systems were already secure.

Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority did not respond by press time to queries on whether they have ordered stricter checks at Changi Airport.
Although there is no link yet between the imposters and the disappearance of the Beijing-bound jetliner MH 370 on Saturday, news of their presence on board have set off alarm bells.

Interpol said in a statement that its database has records of more than 40 million missing travel documents, but complained that few countries use it as a matter of course.
Neither Malaysia nor any other country had checked the two stolen passports against the Interpoldatabase.

… Professor Joseph Liow, who is with Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said it was unclear if all airlines had access to the Interpol database.
"It appears that the information is available but the question is access. It's not clear if it's easily accessible to the airlines as well as national agencies of the various countries," he said.

The Economics of Indonesia’s Election Campaigns
Fitri Bintang Timur and Adhi Priamarizki
TODAY, 10 Mar 2014

Indonesia’s election campaigns are an expensive business. They can even lead political parties to financial ruin. From spending on such things as free music concerts, food, T-shirts, stickers and expenses for candidates, parties need funds to cover their campaign costs.

Some politicians may even attempt to use illegitimate funding sources, which will undermine their parties’ and candidates’ integrity.

How much are the political parties willing to invest in order to contest the upcoming elections next month, compared with the last elections?

Political parties and candidates often do not hesitate to heavily invest in their campaigns. In the 2004 and 2009 legislative elections, the total funds reported to the state auditor were 298 billion rupiah (S$32.1 million) and 826 billion rupiah, respectively.

… Fitri Bintang Timur is an Associate Research Fellow and Adhi Priamarizki is a Senior Analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

N.Koreans go to the Polls, and the Results are Almost Certain
Asia News Network, 9 Mar 2014

Singapore (The Straits Times/ANN) - It is the highest and most sacred peak in the Korean peninsula, where North Korea's first leader Kim Il-sung led a resistance movement against the Japanese, and where his son and successor Kim Jong-il was supposedly born.

On Sunday, grandson Kim Jong Un will also lay claim on Mount Paektu - as his constituency - in his first election since inheriting the Hermit Kingdom after his father's death in 2011.

But, instead of taking over his father's constituency number 333, the third-generation leader has chosen to stand for Mount Paektu, which is numbered 111, for symbolic reasons, say analysts. The seat has been held by a vice minister of construction since the last elections in 2009.

Associate research fellow Sarah Teo from S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, who specialises in Korea peninsula affairs, told The Straits Times: "It is something to be revered, it signifies the sovereignty and authority of his leadership, and it will further elevate his status and consolidate his leadership over North Korea."

It is almost a guaranteed win, as Kim's name will be the only one on the ballot - as with all the other 686 constituencies in the communist state.

Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane: Q&A with Analysts on Likely Scenarios
The Straits Times, 9 Mar 2014

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - The sudden disappearance on Saturday of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 - with no distress call or other signs of trouble - has ignited intense speculation over what happened to the jet and its 239 passengers.

The following are some of the scenarios being mulled over by the regional authorities, investigators and industry experts.

… Q: Is lax security at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to blame? The modern facility does not have a history of known security breaches.
A: But Mr Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said the passport issue could indicate a "glaring flaw" in the airport's immigration clearance.

He noted that Interpol maintains a database of stolen passports that should have raised red flags at the immigration counter.

"There are two categories of people who use these (stolen passports) - criminals and terrorists," he said.

Singapore Happy to Host Ma, Xi: Academic
Taipei Times, 9 Mar 2014

A Singaporean academic on Friday said that the city-state would be happy to host a meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese President Xi Jinping because it is always happy to help promote peace between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Tan Khee Giap, director of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policys Asia Competitiveness Institute, told the Central News Agency that he is optimistic about the chances of such a meeting being held in Singapore if it is decided that it should take place at a third location.

However, Tans fellow academic Li Mingjiang said it would not be possible to hold the meeting at any place other than Taiwan or China because of its political sensitivity.

Using Singapore as a location for the encounter would give international media room to offer their own interpretations of the events significance, which Beijing would not be happy about, said Li, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapores Nanyang Technological University.

Myanmar at ASEAN Helm: We Must Push for National Reconciliation
Eliane Coates
The Nation (Thailand), 8 Mar 2014

Myanmar's chairmanship of Asean, which began in January, will become an open display of its progress on national economic and political reforms. Nay Pyi Taw's hosting of the regional bloc has the potential to improve the country's international reputation, national economy and domestic reconciliation efforts.

After emerging from international-pariah status, Myanmar sees taking the Asean helm as an opportunity to demonstrate its reformist credentials and as a platform to re-engage the global community. The nation's chance comes after almost 50 years locked in the grip of a fierce and repressive military regime that paid little attention to international criticism.

However, under the leadership of a quasi-civilian government, it has stepped onto a path towards substantial reforms, including a loosening of the political system, press freedom and economic liberalisation. This has not only convinced Nay Pyi Taw's Asean neighbours, but has also managed to woo major powers including the United States into easing sanctions.

… Eliane Coates is a senior analyst at the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Indonesia’s Leadership Transition: Will Jakarta’s Foreign Policy Change? – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 8 Mar 2014

The forthcoming leadership transition in Indonesia will not result in a radical foreign policy change. However, Indonesia is likely to diversify its foreign policy choices by promoting its emerging middle power status. This article continues a series on this year’s national elections.

INDONESIA will undergo a significant transformation this year as the country will hold national elections to choose new legislators at both the national and regional levels and elect a new president to succeed incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been in power since 2004.

During his presidency which spans two terms, Yudhoyono has been lauded for reviving activism in Indonesia’s foreign policy after years of difficulty following the 1997-1998 Asian financialcrisis and the fall of President Suharto. Will the forthcoming leadership transition result in a drastic change in Indonesia’s foreign policy?

… Awidya Santikajaya is a PhD candidate at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, the Australian National University. He contributed this to RSIS Commentaries.

Scholars Mixed about Possibility of Ma-Xi Meeting in Singapore
The China Post, 8 Mar 2014

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Speculations on the possibility of a cross-strait summit in Singapore have received mixed reactions from scholars from the Southeast Asian city-state, a report said yesterday.

Tan Khee Giap, a scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, said he would be happy to see his country host a meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, according to the Central News Agency reporting from the city-state.
Singapore is neither too big nor too small, and there is always room there for the two leaders to meet, Tan was cited as saying.

… Li Mingjiang, a scholar at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, agrees that the chance of the two leaders meeting at APEC this year is slim, the CNA said.
But neither does he see a bigger chance of the pair meeting in a third country, the CNA reported.

Li explained that the 1994 meeting was a semi-official one, but a Ma-Xi meet would carry much more political significance. Beijing would not want it to be misread because of its choice of venue in a third country, he said.

Malaysian Court Sentences Anwar to Five Year in Jail for Sodomy
Global Post (U.S.), 7 Mar 2014

Malaysia's Court of Appeal sentenced opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Friday to five years in jail for sodomizing his former male aide, overturning his earlier acquittal by a lower court.

The ruling put Anwar's political future on the line as he may have to relinquish all his political positions, including as a member of Parliament if he fails in his appeal to the Federal Court, the country's highest court.

Anwar's hope of running in a by-election for a state legislative seat slated this month is also dashed.

… Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, told Kyodo News that Friday's court ruling put paid to Anwar's plan to run in a by-election, but he added it will bolster his party's chance of winning.

Experts Predict Economic Growth for Iran
Trend News Agency (Azerbaijan), 7 Mar 2014

Some international organizations predicted economic growth in Iran after the country and the P5+1 Group reached an agreement over Tehran's nuclear program.

A while ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its first regular assessment of Iran after more than two years predicted a positive growth in country's economy before the end of 2015.
The foreign companies from time to time voice their intention to resume their activity especially in Iran's energy sector. Furthermore, the parliamentary delegations and high-ranking officials of several European countries visited Iran to discuss possible investments in the country.

Senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, James M. Dorsey, told AzerNews that easing of sanctions would allow Iran to achieve economic growth.

Territorial Disputes in South China Sea: Proposal Provides Platform for Discussion
Robert C. Beckman and Clive H. Schofield
The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2014

In an article published on Feb 28, retired naval captain Raul Pedrozo wrote that a proposal for China to base its claims on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea would not contribute to peace in the region. Below is a rejoinder to Professor Pedrozo's piece.

IN HIS response to our joint commentary, published in these pages on Feb 18, Professor Raul "Pete" Pedrozo of the United States Naval War College gives six reasons why our proposal "will not work".

The first two points raised are the assertion that China has no legitimate claim to sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea, and that our proposal "rewards Beijing for its illegal occupation of the Paracel and Spratly islands".

We intentionally left issues of territorial sovereignty out of our proposed formula for a paradigm shift in the South China Sea disputes. Thus, we did not address the merits of China's claim (or those of any other claimant state) to sovereignty over any disputed islands in the South China Sea. Nor did we suggest that any of the other claimants should acquiesce to China's claim to sovereignty over the islands.

… Robert C. Beckman is the director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies(RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. Professor Clive Schofield is the director of research at the Australian Centre for Ocean Resource and Security, University of Wollongong, Australia.

This article first appeared in RSIS Commentaries.

NS May be Cut by a Few Weeks: Ng Eng Hen
The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2014

More career soldiers to be hired to take over training now done by NSFs

FULL-TIME national service may be shortened by a few weeks, under a planned move by the Singapore Army to hire more career soldiers to train the enlisted men in green.

They are to step in and take over the training that is now being conducted by second-year, full- time national servicemen (NSFs).

These seasoned soldiers, with more experience, will make NS training more effective and efficient, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday, adding that about 1,100 old hands will be employed for it.

But he said: "The time savings will be a few weeks at most, if any."

… Defence analysts like Mr Ho Shu Huang said the move to increase the pool of professional trainers will be an uphill task with the tight labour market.

But their presence will free NSF trainers to do more when called up for in-camp training after completing their national service, said Mr Ho, an associate research fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Trade Union Call for a Freeze on Kafala Puts Qatar to the Test
James M. Dorsey
Daily News Egypt, 6 Mar 2014

Qatar’s response to a call by international trade unions to freeze its controversial sponsorship system for foreign workers injured in a gas leak and separate gas explosion is likely to indicate the Gulf state’s willingness to reform or abolish a scheme that critics denounce as a form of modern slavery and Qataris see as a protective wall against loss of control of their country.

Qatar has been fighting an uphill battle to limit substantial damage to its reputation in the wake of its winning in 2010 of the right to host the 2022 World Cup as a result of criticism of the working and living conditions of its foreign workers. The number of foreign workers, already a majority of the tiny state’s population, is expected to rise substantially as construction of World Cup-related infrastructure kicks into high gear.

Qatar has responded to the criticism, fuelled by reports of annually hundreds of deaths of predominantly Asian workers allegedly as a result of working conditions, by issuing improved safety, security and welfare standards, and pledging to step up enforcement of existing rules and regulations.

… James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies(RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is also co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author ofThe Turbulent World of Middle East Soccerblog and a forthcoming book with the same title.

China Leader Assures Army’s Growth
The Wall Street Journal, 6 Mar 2014

BEIJING -- The double-digit increase in China's 2014 defense budget amounts to the biggest increase in absolute terms in at least a decade -- $14.4 billion -- and illustrates Beijing's determination to prioritize military spending as the Pentagon faces cutbacks.

The 12.2% rise in military spending unveiled in a government budget plan Wednesday wasn't unusually big in percentage terms; China's defense budget has grown by an annual average of more than 10% for over two decades.

Measured in absolute terms, the 88.03 billion yuan ($14.4 billion) increase is the largest since at least 2005 and takes China's overall military budget to 808.23 billion yuan ($131.57 billion) -- more than double what it was in 2007, according to official Chinese figures.

… "It just shows how sacrosanct the defense budget is. They've made this decision that defense spending will be supported, no matter what," said Richard Bitzinger, an expert on regional military modernization at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
"This is the rich-nation, strong-military syndrome. It's the idea that you have to be able to show hard power as well as soft power. A strong military is part of the China Dream," he said, referring to one of Mr. Xi's signature slogans.

Leadership in the Age of Restiveness
Yang Razali Kassim
The Straits Times, 6 Mar 2014

THIS IS the age of restiveness in South-east Asia. No South-east Asian leader can be comfortable in his seat. Of the 11 countries in the region, 10 of which are in Asean, at least half of this generation of leaders face growing aspirations, or disaffection, among their citizens. It is an age of heightened uncertainty.

Thailand's current crisis epitomises this. As Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra looks increasingly besieged, even as the opposition seems to be softening, the outcome appears to be heading towards political flux or political change. If mayhem follows, a return to military rule cannot be ruled out, despite the generals' equivocation.
Doubtless, the region is waiting with apprehension, yet no one really knows what awaits at the end of the tunnel. Thailand is becoming the most unstable country in the region today.

… The writer is a senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. He is the author of a book on leadership in South-east Asia.

China Fortifies Army Despite Slowdown
The Wall Street Journal, 5 Mar 2014

BEIJING-- The double-digit increase in China's 2014 defense budget amounts to the biggest increase in absolute terms in at least a decade -- $14.4 billion -- and serves as a sign that Beijing is determined to prioritize military spending as the Pentagon faces cutbacks.

The 12.2% rise in military spending unveiled in a government budget plan Wednesday wasn't unusually big in percentage terms; China's defense budget has grown by an annual average of more than 10% for over two decades.

Measured in absolute terms, the 88.03 billion yuan ($14.4 billion) increase is the largest since at least 2005 and takes China's overall military budget to 808.23 billion yuan ($131.57 billion) -- more than double what it was in 2007, according to official Chinese figures.

Coming at a time of overall slower economic growth, the outlay suggests that Chinese President Xi Jinping is ring-fencing defense-spending rises to ensure political support from military commanders and to finance Mr. Xi's stated goal of re-establishing China as a major world power, analysts said.

"It just shows how sacrosanct the defense budget is. They've made this decision that defense spending will be supported, no matter what," said Richard Bitzinger, an expert on regional military modernization at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"This is the rich-nation, strong-military syndrome. It's the idea that you have to be able to show hard power as well as soft power. A strong military is part of the China Dream," he said, referring to one of Mr. Xi's signature slogans.

Indonesia Simultaneous Elections in 2019: Strong Parliament, Weak Presidency? – Analysis
Jonathan Chen and Adhi Priamarizki
Eurasia Review, 5 Mar 2014

The Indonesian Constitutional Court recently passed a ruling allowing for legislative and presidential elections to be held simultaneously within a single day, effective only in 2019. Separate elections remain constitutional and valid for the upcoming national elections this year. How will this new policy affect Indonesian politics post-2014? This commentary is part of a series on Indonesia’s 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections.

A PETITION submitted earlier in January 2013 challenging the constitutional status of separate elections finally came through when the Constitutional Court of Indonesia (Mahkamah Konstitusi Republik Indonesia) did a belated about-turn on Law No. 42/2008, scrapping the customary three-month interlude between legislative and presidential elections.

Legislative elections due this year are still scheduled to run in April, followed by presidential elections in July. The new ruling, allowing for simultaneous elections at the national level to take place in a single day, will however take effect only in 2019.

… Jonathan Chen is an Associate Research Fellow and Adhi Priamarizki is a Senior Analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Move to Boost Confidence as Xi Urges Ethnic Unity
The Straits Times, 5 Mar 2014

Discrepancy in assailant numbers 'not a sign of bid to close case before NPC meet'

WHEN news of the Kunming terror attack last Saturday first broke, state media was reporting that there were 10 assailants involved. But by Monday night when the security ministry declared the case successfully cracked, the number had been reduced to eight.

Yet, the discrepancy in numbers is no indication that there has been an attempt to conclude the case quickly before the start of the National People's Congress legislature sessions today, say counter-terrorism experts.

Instead, they believe China is eager to boost public confidence amid swirling rumours of more attacks in south-western Kunming city and elsewhere that are already prompting heightened security in many cities and tighter control on Chinese media reporting on the country's worst terror attack.

… Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies pointed out that the United States also took some time to identify those involved in the 9/11 attacks.

World Should See Knife-wielding Killers as Terrorists, China Says
The Globe and Mail (Canada), 4 Mar 2014

BEIJING -- Terrorists such as the knife-wielding assassins who struck a Chinese railway station are the “common enemy of all mankind,” China's Foreign Ministry said Monday in a reproach to countries whose expressions of condolences omitted any reference to terror.
The gang of black-clad attackers who killed 29 and injured 143 others in Kunming, a city deep in China's southwest, are “devoid of conscience and humanity,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing.

He added: “We believe that when dealing with violent terrorists like that, the international community should speak with one voice and take joint action.”

… Those who study terrorism said the co-ordination of the attack showed a new level of sophistication. Rohan Gunaratna, who leads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said it is likely the attackers have ties to, or drew inspiration from, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a radical Islamic Uyghur secessionist group. The ETIM has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a “group of concern.”

High-speed Cruise Missiles in Asia: Evolution or Revolution in Fire Power? – Analysis
Kalyan M. Kemburi
Eurasia Review, 4 Mar 2014

Recent reports indicated that China has successfully tested a hypersonic system – a potential precursor for a high-speed cruise missile. What is the role of high-speed cruise missiles in providing firepower for land-attack missions?

IN THE last two decades, cruise missiles were predominantly deployed by a select group of advanced industrial countries, in particular the United States. Subsequently, there had been a wider use of this weapon system by militaries, partly due to globalisation which accelerated technology diffusion, but also because of affordability and operational requirements (in particular the search for asymmetric capabilities).

Asian militaries top this list. The main advantage of cruise missiles involves the ability to strike targets accurately almost under any weather condition from a long range by evading most air defences, and with minimal risk to friendly forces.

… Kalyan M. Kemburi is an Associate Research Fellow with the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

The South China Sea Disputes: Formula for a Paradigm Shift – Analysis
Robert C. Beckman and Clive H. Schofield
Eurasia Review, 4 Mar 2014

Our proposal that China bring its maritime claims into conformity with international law and UNCLOS in particular has been critiqued by Professor Raul ‘Pete’ Pedrozo of the US Naval War College as “problematic” and “counterproductive”. We beg to differ. While he offers an interesting perspective and is entitled to his own views of China’s policy on the South China Sea, we believe that several of his points warrant a rejoinder.

IN HIS response to our joint commentary, Professor Raul ‘Pete’ Pedrozo of the US Naval War College articulates six reasons why our proposal “will not work”. The first two points raised are the assertion that China has no legitimate claim to sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and that our proposal “rewards Beijing for its illegal occupation of the Paracel and Spratly Islands”.

These comments disregard the fact that we intentionally left issues of territorial sovereignty out of our proposed formula for a paradigm shift in the South China Sea disputes. Thus, we did not address the merits of China’s claim (or those of any other claimant State) to sovereignty over any disputed islands in the South China Sea. Further, we did not suggest that any of the other claimants should acquiesce to China’s claim to sovereignty over the islands.

… Robert C. Beckman is the Director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. Professor Clive Schofield is the Director of Research at the Australian Centre for Ocean Resource and Security (ANCORS), University of Wollongong, Australia.

3 More Suspects Arrested, Ringleader Identified
The Straits Times, 4 Mar 2014

CHINA's security agencies have successfully cracked the case involving a brutal railway station attack, and arrested three additional suspects behind the incident that left 29 people dead and more than 140 others injured, state media reported yesterday.

In a terse report, the official Xinhua news agency said it took officers from various law enforcement agencies about 40 hours to solve the case, which involved a total of eight assailants. They carried out a stabbing spree at the railway station in the south-western city of Kunming late last Saturday night, targeting innocent bystanders and travellers alike.

Two of the suspects were women, according to Xinhua. Police who confronted the assailants at the scene shot dead four of them and injured one of the women.

… Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said the "single most cruel terrorist incident in China" signals a turning point in the nation's battle against terrorism.
"The threat is growing in Xinjiang, the ideology is spreading. People are increasingly motivated to mount attacks on the government... and they know they can hurt China more by attacking from outside Xinjiang."

In Myanmar, A Buddhist ‘Siege Mentality’ at Work?
TODAY, 4 Mar 2014

Since religious violence erupted in western Myanmar in 2012 and subsequently spread to other parts, there has been a litany of analyses on the plight of the Rohingya and the underlying causes of the conflict. Regarding the causes, much emphasis is placed on the actions of nationalists and a controversial group of chauvinistic monks called the 969 Movement.

Analysts also attribute the violence to the loosening of military control and of censorship, absence of the rule of law and machinations of disgruntled factions within government. President Thein Sein’s administration has also been accused of inaction and even deliberate involvement.
While these are recent factors that have precipitated violence against Muslims in Myanmar, other critical issues have been overlooked — especially a long-standing siege mentality of the Myanmarese populace, drawing on Buddhist millenarianism and a sense of demographic besiegement.

… Kyaw San Wai, a Myanmar national, is a Senior Analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. His research focus is on Burmese politics, political Buddhism, Southeast Asian affairs and biosecurity. This is an excerpt of a longer piece.

Bloody Attack Raises Questions Over China’s Xinjiang Policies
TODAY, 3 Mar 2014

HONG KONG — The 10 or so attackers, dressed in black and wearing cloth masks, arrived in front of Kunming Railway Station in south-west China on Saturday night and began slashing at employees and commuters, sometimes repeatedly plunging their long knives into people too stunned or slow to flee.

The assault in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province — one of the worst of its kind in China in recent memory — was an alarming rebuff to the Chinese government’s vows to bring stability to the ethnically divided far-western region of Xinjiang, where it said the attackers came from.

President Xi Jinping called the perpetrators “terrorists” and the widespread public revulsion and fear unleashed by the attack is likely to shore up the Chinese government’s position that its pervasive security controls in Xinjiang are justified and that even tighter policies are justified there and elsewhere.

… “As a single incident, you can say that this is the most brutal, cruel incident we’ve seen from Xinjiang,” Professor Rohan Gunaratna, from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who studies terrorism in Asia, including China, said in a telephone interview.

In Rohingya Killings, A Test for Myanmar
International New York Times, 3 Mar 2014

Under the pale moon of Jan. 13, Zaw Patha watched from her bamboo house as Mohmach, 15, her eldest child, was dragged from the kiosk where he slept as guardian of the family business.

The men who abducted the boy struck him with the butt of a rifle until he fell to the dirt path, she said in an interview, gesturing with a sweep of her slender arms. Terrified, she fled into the rice fields. She assumes he is dead.

Three doors away, another woman, Zoya, dressed in a black abaya, showed the latch on her front door that she said armed men had broken as they stormed in and began beating her 14-year-old son, Mohamed. She has not seen him since.

The villagers’ accounts back up a United Nations investigation, which concluded that the attack on Du Chee Yar Tan that night resulted in the deaths of at least 40 men, women and children, one of the worst instances of violence against the country’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims. They were killed, the United Nations says, by local security forces and civilians of the rival Rakhine ethnic group, many of them adherents of an extreme Buddhist ideology who were angered by the kidnapping of a Rakhine policeman by some Rohingya men.

… The Rakhine people, a group of about 2.1 million who are fiercely proud of their ancient kingdom, known as Arakan, are fearful of the Rohingya based on ‘‘an acute sense of demographic besiegement,’’ according to a recent article by Kyaw San Wai, a Myanmar citizen who is a senior analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. It is a feeling shared by many Buddhists across Myanmar.

Abe’s Russia Visit: Widening Japan’s Options? – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 1 Mar 2014

The recent visit of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Sochi for the Winter Olympics signalled some innovative diplomacy by Japan to reaffirm its position in the global geopolitical stakes. However, Japan-Russia relations continue to be hobbled by a long-festering territorial dispute.

JAPAN’S PRIME Minister Shinzo Abe’s Sochi visit for the Winter Olympics on 7 February 2014 came against the backdrop of several western leaders not attending the Games. Ever since coming to power, Prime Minister Abe has been expanding Japan’s foreign policy options as Japan’s ties with its neighbours China and South Korea hit new lows, especially in the aftermath of his visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo.

While on one hand, Abe’s visit was meant to show support for Russia, which has been facing flak for its anti-gay laws and on issues of human rights, he knows too well that Japan would also require Russia’s support when it hosts the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. In addition, economic considerations are also at work since Japan, after the Fukushima disaster, has been forced to cut down on nuclear energy generation and has been scouting for alternative energy sources.

… Rupakjyoti Borah is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the School of Liberal Studies, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, India. He contributed this to RSIS Commentaries.

Myanmar is Cracking Up Under A Buddhist Siege Mentality
Kyaw San Wai
The Nation (Thailand), 28 Feb 2014

The religious violence that erupted in Western Myanmar in 2012 and quickly spread to other parts has inspired countless analyses on the plight of the stateless Muslim Rohingya and the underlying causes of the conflict. Regarding the causes, much emphasis is placed on the actions of Buddhist nationalists and a controversial group of extremist monks called the 969 Movement.

Analysts also attribute the violence to the loosening of military control and of censorship, weak rule of law, and disgruntled factions within government. President Thein Sein's administration has also been accused of inaction and even involvement in the attacks. While these are recent factors behind the violence against Muslims in Myanmar, other critical issues have been overlooked , especially a long-standing siege mentality among the populace that draws on Buddhist millenarianism and a sense of being demographically besieged.
There is a widespread belief in the country that Buddhism will disappear in the future. While international coverage discredits fears of Islamic encroachment by pointing to Myanmar's Buddhism-majority demographic, local Buddhists have a starkly different worldview in which their faith is besieged by larger, well-funded and better-organised faiths. This millenarianism can be traced to a scripturally unsupported but widely believed prophecy that Buddhism will disappear 5,000 years after its founder's death. As 1956 is considered the halfway point, the belief is that Buddhism is now declining irreversibly.

… Kyaw San Wai, a Myanmar national, is a senior analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

An Unclos Proposal That Will Not Work
The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2014

Asking China to base its claims on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea will not contribute to peace in the region.

PROFESSORS Robert Beckman and Clive Schofield recently suggested in a commentary in these pages a way for China to "bring its maritime claims into conformity with... international law and still protect its legitimate interests in the South China Sea".

They propose that China should depict "the outer limit of its... Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims from the islands over which it claims sovereignty".

This would create an area of overlapping claims in the middle of the South China Sea where the claimant states could move towards joint development, pending a final agreement on maritime boundaries.

… The writer is a retired naval captain who is now a professor assigned to the International Law Department at the United States Naval War College.

This article first appeared in RSIS (S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies) Commentaries.

Aquino in Malaysia for First State Visit
The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2014

Issues of mutual concern on agenda, but united front against China unlikely

PHILIPPINE President Benigno Aquino arrived here yesterday for a state visit at a time when concern is heightening over China's increased activity in the South China Sea that affects both the Philippines and Malaysia.
A joint press release last week said Mr Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will "exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual concern", but did not spell out if China's assertiveness was on the agenda.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman did not respond to queries from The Straits Times on this visit, which comes ahead of United States President Barack Obama's visit in April. The US and China are in increasing competition for influence in this region.

… Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said there is likely to be a lot of concerted effort behind the scenes to find a comprehensive solution.

Peace in Mindanao: The Challenge of Disarming Rebels – Analysis
Joseph Franco
Eurasia Review, 27 Feb 2014

A military offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) reduced the threat of “spoilers” to rekindle violence. However, failing to reintegrate BIFF communities can lead to the emergence of a new generation of violent militants, posing a threat to the wider region.

ACCOLADES FOLLOWED the 25 January 2014 signing of the Normalisation Annex between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was, afterall, the last remaining hurdle before the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement.

The Annex detailed the phased decommissioning of MILF combatants, the redeployment of Philippine security forces, and the overall reduction of illicit firearms in Mindanao, Southern Phiilippines. Optimistic projections forecast the legislation of a Bangsamoro Basic Law by the end of 2014 and the subsequent creation of an autonomous Bangsamoro region by 2016.

… Joseph Franco is an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

The Economics of Indonesia’s Election Campaigns – Analysis
Fitri Bintang Timur and Adhi Priamarizki
Eurasia Review, 26 Feb 2014

Political parties have submitted for official vetting their preliminary campaign budgets for the legislative elections that will be held on 9 April 2014. There are lessons to be learned from the 2009 elections. This commentary is part of a series on Indonesia’s national elections this year.

INDONESIA’S ELECTION campaigns are an expensive business. They can even lead political parties to financial ruin. From spending on such things as free music concerts, food, t-shirts and stickers to expenses for candidates, parties need funds to cover their campaign costs. Some politicians may even attempt to use illegitimate funding sources which will undermine their parties’ and candidates’ integrity.

How much are the political parties willing to invest in order to contest the forthcoming elections in April 2014 compared to the last election? Political parties and candidates often do not hesitate to heavily invest in their campaigns. In the 2004 and 2009 legislative elections, the total funds reported to the state auditor is Rp 298 billion (US$25 million) and Rp 826 billion (US$62 million) respectively. For the upcoming election, the preliminary campaign budgets registered with the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU) have reached Rp 927 billion (US$76 million).

… Fitri Bintang Timur is an Associate Research Fellow and Adhi Priamarizki is a Senior Analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Asia Pac Nations Move Closer to TPP Deal
The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2014

TRADE ministers from 12 Asia-Pacific nations meeting in Singapore in recent days have edged closer to achieving an ambitious regional pact.

But the end is still not yet in sight for the deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), set to cover 790 million people.

The latest round of talks ended in Singapore yesterday with no clear signs of a timeframe as to when the deal will be concluded.

"We made further strides towards a final agreement", the 12 ministers noted in a joint statement yesterday after the four-day talks at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

"We have agreed on the majority of the 'landing zones' identified at our last meeting. While some issues remain, we have charted a path forward to resolve them in the context of a comprehensive and balanced outcome."

However, no date has been set for the next round of negotiations, leaving experts wondering if the deal's conclusion will be reached only near the end of this year.

"Not having any date at all is not a good sign... It makes everyone wonder if they are entering a period of drift," said Dr Deborah Elms, a TPP specialist and head of the Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade and Negotiations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
"They didn't get as far as we would have hoped. The progress is not nearly as strong," she told The Straits Times yesterday.

Asia Pacific Trade Talks End with No Deal
The Wall Street Journal, 26 Feb 2014

SINGAPORE -- Negotiators from the U.S. and 11 other nations in the Asian-Pacific region failed to sign a free-trade pact, but said they are moving toward a deal.

The negotiators wrapped up a meeting in Singapore on Tuesday to work out details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement.

The talks, which the U.S. views as a way of extending its economic clout in Asia, were supposed to conclude last year. But a number of sticking points, especially between the U.S. and Japan about agriculture and autos, meant that deadline was unachievable. Officials said they made significant progress in the talks that began at the weekend, but didn't set a deadline for reaching an agreement. "We made further strides toward a final agreement," the ministers said in a joint statement, while acknowledging that "some issues remain."

The failure to reach at least the broad outlines of an agreement surprised some analysts who had expected a deal to emerge from the Singapore talks. "Most of what's left are politically sensitive issues. If ministers meeting for four days cannot agree on the political issues, it's disappointing," said Deborah Elms, head of the Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade & Negotiations at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Ministers Cite Progress in TPP Talks But No Deal Yet
Channel NewsAsia (Off AFP), 25 Feb 2014

Asia-Pacific trade ministers negotiating a huge US-led free trade area said Tuesday they were making headway but differences remain over market access.

In a joint statement at the end of a four-day meeting in Singapore, the 12 prospective members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) said they had made "further strides towards a final agreement".

"While some issues remain, we have charted a path forward to resolve them in the context of a comprehensive and balanced outcome," they said.

Talks in December, also in Singapore, ended with negotiators failing to meet a self-imposed deadline to reach a deal by the end of 2013.

… Deborah K. Elms, a specialist on the TPP at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said prolonged talks could make the agreement obsolete.
"The rules that are being negotiated, depending on the industry, may turn out to be out of date by the time the rules come into effect, especially for fast moving industries like e-commerce," she told AFP.

Analysis: Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Talks “On Track to be Finished by This Year”
The Straits Times, 24 Feb 2014

TRADE ministers from 12 Asia-Pacific nations are in town to resume talks on an ambitious regional pact that is still on track to be sealed this year.

Experts say the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which end tomorrow, will probably not conclude the complex process, with April cited as the earliest possible completion date.

The TPP talks began in March 2010 with the aim of a deal by the end of last year, but key issues, such as those involving market access, could not be resolved in time.

… Dr Deborah Elms, a TPP specialist and head of the Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade and Negotiations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said a conclusion this year is likely, with April the earliest possible date.

Dr Elms told The Straits Times yesterday: "They are likely to come out of this meeting and say they have made substantial progress and are nearly finished."

TPP Talks “On Track to be Finished By This Year
The Straits Times, 24 Feb 2014

Trade ministers in town for meeting, but not expected to conclude process

TRADE ministers from 12 Asia-Pacific nations are in town to resume talks on an ambitious regional pact that is still on track to be sealed this year.

Experts say the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which end tomorrow, will probably not conclude the complex process, with April cited as the earliest possible completion date.

The TPP talks began in March 2010 with the aim of a deal by the end of last year, but key issues, such as those involving market access, could not be resolved in time.

Economists have noted that missing the timeline is not the key issue. Rather, the most important factor is that all parties agree on a deep level of commitment to ensure a high-quality agreement.

The TPP has been hailed as a cutting edge, 21st-century trade pact that goes beyond removing just tariffs to tackle broader environmental and intellectual property issues.

Dr Deborah Elms, a TPP specialist and head of the Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade and Negotiations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said a conclusion this year is likely, with April the earliest possible date.
Dr Elms told The Straits Times yesterday: "They are likely to come out of this meeting and say they have made substantial progress and are nearly finished."

She added that such talks usually get "very hard" towards the end because the negotiators could be dealing with "highly sensitive political issues" which they could have been putting off earlier.

Uphill Battle for Fish Farmers
The Straits Times, 23 Feb 2014

Latest mass fish deaths highlight challenges they face as S'pore aims to boost locally farmed stock

Even while Singapore tries to boost the supply of locally farmed fish, the latest mass death incident to hit farmers has highlighted the challenges they face.

It was around Chinese New Year last month when fish farmers off Pasir Ris began to notice something amiss: Their fish were surfacing and gasping. This showed oxygen was lacking in the water.

In a desperate bid to save their stocks, the fishermen harvested what they could, aerated the water and moved high-value fish into mussel nets that would filter plankton and waste from the water.

… Such tank-based farming may mean higher infrastructure costs, but lets farmers control water quality, said RSIS senior fellow in food security Paul Teng.

For food security's sake, some form of government help will probably be needed to maintain farm production in small, high-cost Singapore, Professor Teng added. "It's just like military security. You don't expect returns, you need to secure your borders."

DPM Happy Over Recognition for First NS Batch
The Straits Times, 23 Feb 2014

A day after the Budget fleshed out details of the generous health-care benefits in the Pioneer Generation Package, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said he was happy the age range was extended to 65, as this recognises the first batch of national servicemen.

He said on Facebook: "Careful budgeting means we can set aside a fund now to fully pay for this level of pioneer benefits without burdening younger generations."
There are 190,000 Singaporeans in the 65 to 69 age bracket, he said.

They include the first batch of 900 full-time national servicemen who enlisted in July 1967.

Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang said that that first batch formed the core of the Singapore Armed Forces' manpower in the early years.

"After independence, there were only a few hundred regulars, not enough for any form of a credible defence force," he said. "So these men certainly enlarged the existing force."

They also introduced the rest of Singapore to the idea of full-time national service.

Mr Ho, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "Now, we have relatives and friends to talk to about NS. Back then, they had no one to talk to, and no one knew what to expect. To a large extent, they epitomised the pioneering spirit."

New Round of TPP Ministerial Meeting Kicks Off in Singapore
Xinhua News Agency, 23 Feb 2014

A New round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministerial meeting kicked off in Singapore on Saturday, which observers viewed "unlikely" to be concluded here, with main sticking points on intellectual property protection, state-owned enterprise, agricultural products, as well as the U.S. "fast track".

The meeting carried on with its tradition of negotiating behind closed doors. The participants include trade ministers and representatives of 12 countries such as Singapore, the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam.

Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement that prior to this meeting, chief negotiators and subject matter experts also met in Singapore from Feb. 17 to 21.

… "There have not, as far as I know, been breakthroughs yet on the U.S.-Japan portion of the agreement," said Deborah K. Elms, Head of Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade and Negotiations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore's Nanyang Technological University during a recent interview.

She also views it "quite unlikely" to conclude the talks at this round here, quoting "fast track" of the U.S. as a major problem right now.

Myanmar’s Religious Violence: A Buddhist “Siege Mentality” At Work – Analysis
Kyaw San Wai
Eurasia Review, 21 Feb 2014

The root causes for the violence by Burmese Buddhists against Muslims in Myanmar are complex. Contrary to the simplified narratives carried by the international media, a nuanced understanding of the situation is needed to attain a viable solution.

SINCE RELIGIOUS violence erupted in Western Myanmar in 2012 and subsequently spread to other parts, there has been a litany of analyses on the plight of the Rohingya and the underlying causes of the conflict. Regarding the causes, much emphasis is placed on the actions of nationalists and a controversial group of chauvinistic monks called the ‘969 Movement’.

Analysts also attribute the violence to the loosening of military control and of censorship, absence of the rule of law, and machinations of disgruntled factions within government. President Thein Sein’s administration has also been accused of inaction and even deliberate involvement. While these are recent factors which have precipitated violence against Muslims in Myanmar, other critical isssues have been overlooked – especially a long standing siege mentality of the Burmese populace drawing on Buddhist millenarianism and a sense of demographic besiegement.

… Kyaw San Wai, a Myanmar national, is a Senior Analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. His research focus is on Burmese politics, political Buddhism, Southeast Asian affairs and Biosecurity.

Staying Ahead of Cyber Crooks and Terrorists
The Straits Times, 21 Feb 2014

HOW much harm can a terrorist do using technology? In today's hyper-connected world, the short answer is: immense.

Imagine a cyber terrorist who kills someone by altering the digital information in a pacemaker.

Or introduces an electronic worm into a nuclear plant that initiates a series of actions that results in disaster.

These forms of cyber attack are possible as long as devices have e-connections.

And the worst of it all is that the virtual attackers are invisible. They can be located anywhere in the world. They can steal data and sell it to people, organisations or even states that have a hostile agenda.

… Developments in cyber terrorism in Indonesia and elsewhere worry security expert Rohan Gunaratna at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

In the past two years, terrorists have become very interested in attacking the websites of banks and government departments, he discloses. Cybertheft has become a means of raising money for their cause.

China Slams Japanese Lawmakers’ Taiwan Bill
The Straits Times, 21 Feb 2014

Right-wingers seek to lay legal basis for closer ties with Taiwan

IN A move set to worsen already fraught Sino-Japanese ties, a group of Japanese lawmakers is drafting a Bill that will lay the legal basis for closer ties with Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province.

The Bill, said to be modelled on the United States' 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), a law based on which the US has been selling arms to Taiwan to counter China's military threat, has drawn fierce opposition from the Chinese foreign ministry. It comes amid warming political ties between Beijing and Taipei.

… The final Bill could be a hard version making a security commitment to Taiwan and including the possibility of weapon sales or a softer one calling for stronger economic and people-to-people exchanges, Dr Li Mingjiang of Nanyang Technological University told The Straits Times.

"A softer version is more likely but even that is a provocation," he added. "The Japanese want to send a message that it has diplomatic cards to play, but it's an unnecessary provocation, given how bad relations are now."

Obama Faces Tough Sell During April Visit to KL
The Straits Times, 21 Feb 2014

Rare trip by US leader unlikely to change cosy Sino-Malaysian ties

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama will travel to Malaysia in April seeking to regain American influence in South-east Asia's third-biggest economy at a time when concerns are rising in the region about the growing assertiveness of China, Asia's dominant power.
The first American leader to travel here since the late Lyndon B. Johnson's visit in 1966, Mr Obama will be received by Prime Minister Najib Razak, regarded as the friendliest Malaysian leader the United States has had in more than three decades.
Still, many regard it as not an easy sell.

… Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Malaysia, like other South-east Asian nations, traditionally seeks a precarious balance between welcoming a US security presence and engaging China economically.

He said this was evident when the RMN chief made it a point to state that Malaysia and the US had been informed about the Chinese patrol near James Shoal.

"That is significant. It was a subtle signal to China that in this part of the world, there is more than one superpower. Malaysia chose to send this signal in a subtle way," he said.

The South China Sea Disputes: Formula for a Paradigm Shift? – Analysis
Robert C. Beckman and Clive H. Schofield
Eurasia Review, 19 Feb 2014

China could trigger a paradigm shift in the disputes in the South China Sea if it were to issue charts indicating the outer limit of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims from the islands over which it claims sovereignty. A full effect ‘equidistance line’ from the largest islands towards the surrounding coasts would create a large area of overlap between the EEZ claims of the ASEAN claimants and the EEZ claim of China from the disputed islands. This could lead to possible provisional arrangements of a practical nature, including joint development zones, in the areas of overlapping claims.

CALLS ON China to clarify its maritime claims in the South China Sea have been reopened following the testimony on 5 February 2014 by US Assistant Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific Daniel Russel, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

Mr Russel stated that the United States takes a strong position that maritime claims must accord with customary international law, and that this means all maritime claims must be derived from land features and otherwise comport with the international law of the sea. He further stated that claims in the South China Sea that are not derived from land features, such as those apparently based on China’s so-called nine-dash line, are fundamentally flawed. He called upon China to clarify or adjust its maritime claims so as to bring them into accordance with the international law of the sea.

… Robert Beckman is the Director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological

Has Religion Become Evil? – Analysis
Mohd Alami Musa
Eurasia Review, 19 Feb 2014

Hostilities involving religion have significantly increased globally. While religion is not the problem, people of religion have made it problematic. Government intervention is needed to reduce hostilities, but the onus of redeeming the good image of religion falls on the shoulders of people of religion.

PEW RESEARCH Centre recently released the findings of their study on religion. Social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012. One third of the 198 countries studied had very high or high Social Hostilities Index (SHI), up from 20% six years ago, in 2007. This is bad news for religion. Has religion turned evil? Has it become bad?

In spite of its rare achievement to be an oasis of religious harmony in a troubled world, a cohesive multi-religious society and a functioning secular nation-state for the last 50 years, Singapore’s fear about the social and political divisiveness of religion has not receded. Its religious diversity is often associated with the danger of social fragmentation. A religious controversy like the tudung issue had been cited as a possible threat to good inter-religious relations due to a possible push back from other faith communities. Should religion then be feared?

… Mohammad Alami Musa is Head of Studies on Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. This article has also appeared in The Straits Times.

China Fund Shifts Focus Away from Commodities to U.S., European Recovery Plays
Wall Street Journal, 19 Feb 2014

BEIJING--China Investment Corp. is selling energy and commodity holdings while seeking to capitalize on recovering U.S. and European economies, a major shift in strategy for the $600 billion sovereign-wealth fund.
Since late last year, CIC has unloaded more than $1.5 billion of shares in companies includingAES Corp., a U.S. power company, and GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed green-energy company, according to regulatory filings by the companies. CIC, the world's fifth-largest government-controlled fund, has also sold stakes in two other Hong Kong-traded wind-power companies, according to filings.
In addition, CIC is considering selling direct ownership stakes in certain assets such as oil-sands projects, according to people with knowledge of the fund. The fund is undergoing a "more dynamic adjustment" of its energy portfolio, one of the people said.

… CIC, founded in 2007, invests part of China's vast hoard of foreign-exchange reserves abroad. The fund's focus on resources has been widely regarded as "strategically motivated," said Friedrich Wu, an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who follows CIC. "China, an export-dependent economy, requires access to secure supplies of energy and natural resources to power its economy," he said.

Reining in Asia’s “Rogue Allies”: What the U.S. and China Can Do Together – Analysis
Kai He
Eurasia Review, 18 Feb 2014

There are two hotspots in Asian security: North Korea’s provocations and Japan’s reemerging ultra-nationalism. Kim Jong-un and Shinzo Abe have become the respective liabilities of China and the US. How to rein in their “rogue allies” is their most important immediate responsibility.


KIM JONG-UN came to power after his father died in December 2011. Following the brutal political shuffling in Pyongyang in which Kim executed his uncle for “corruption,” Kim warned his troops to prepare for “a war without prior notice” on Christmas Eve in 2013.

Two days after Kim’s warning of war, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni War Shrine, in which 14 class-A war criminals of World War II were honoured. Since the Yasukuni Shrine has been a symbol of Japan’s imperial military past, each visit by a top Japanese leader has triggered strong diplomatic and political protests from Asian capitals, especially Beijing and Seoul.

… Kai He is an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science, Utah State University. He contributed this to RSIS Commentaries.

Mapping Way Out of South China Sea Rows
Robert C. Beckman and Clive H. Schofield
The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2014

Two academics have come up with a novel proposal on how China can start a paradigm shift in the disputes in the South China Sea: Base its claims on the largest disputed islands. This brings it in line with international law - and allows for joint exploration of overlapping areas with other claimants.

THE testimony on Feb 5 of United States Assistant Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific Daniel Russel, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, has reopened calls for China to clarify its maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Mr Russel argued that, consistent with the international law of the sea, all maritime claims must be derived from land features. He further stated that claims in the South China Sea that are not derived from land features, such as those apparently based on China's so-called "nine-dashed line", are fundamentally flawed.

… The first writer is the Director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.

Scenarios for Aceh’s Turning Point
Fitri Bintang
The Jakarta Post, 17 Feb 2014

The latest regulation to apply sharia law in Aceh to all residents -- including non-Muslims -- has created international headlines.

Some agencies and communities perhaps wonder whether this is still the same region they helped in the tsunami tragedy almost a decade ago, and whether it was a mistake to help such a region that is now keen to push religious law, rather than clean and efficient governance.

Prior to the 2004 tsunami, Aceh was torn by three decades of civil war, as a faction of the Acehnese fought for independence, driven by the injustices of the New Order that saw most oil revenue go to the capital.

Although the Acehnese spoke up against this injustice, they felt Jakarta ignored them as a minority, compared to the largely Javanese ruling elite of the New Order.

… The writer is an associate research fellow of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and a fellow of the Marthinus Academy in Jakarta.

Sochi Olympics: Terrorist Attack Imminent? – Analysis
Krishna Khanal
Eurasia Review, 17 Feb 2014

The winter Olympics in Sochi are a “prestige project” and symbol of “Russia’s rise”. Despite President Putin’s enthusiasm and optimism, western media have reported the likelihood of a terrorist attack from the Caucasus Emirate.

THE WINTER Olympics in Sochi, Russia, face the threat of an imminent terrorist attack by Islamist militants based in the North Caucasus; they have been the subject of online warnings of chemical attacks and suicide bombings. The United States has issued a warning that explosives could be smuggled in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes.

The security at Sochi has been strengthened after US warning that terrorists might be planning to target flights to Russia. Russian president Vladimir Putin however exuded confidence about Russia’s ability to host a safe Olympics. At the same time, Islamist militants have vowed to stop the games by any means. The government has imposed a special security zone called a “ring of steel” to protect the games.

… Krishna Khanal is a Research Analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

China’s Naval Drills Signal “Desire to Play Bigger Role” on High Seas
Asia News Network, 14 Feb 2014

China's navy conducted unannounced military exercises in waters between Indonesia and Australia earlier this month, prompting Australia to scramble an air force surveillance plane to monitor the proceedings.

The Chinese drills, which come on the heels of its patrol of James Shoal off the coast of Sarawak, are seen as the strongest signal yet of China's desire to play a greater role on the high seas and flex its growing naval capabilities.

The five-day exercise between Java and Christmas Island began on January 29, and involved anti-piracy, search and rescue, damage control and combat drills.

Analysts say that while there is no reason to be alarmed, Beijing was also sending a strong signal that it seeks a greater role in the Indian Ocean, where it has been aggressively courting littoral states and building ports.

"These exercises do attest to China's expanding interests, and the intention to protect them, in the Indian Ocean," Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies told The Straits Times.

At Singapore Airshow, It’s About What’s Not on Display for China
CNN, 14 Feb 2014

A United States Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon completes a triple roll in the sky above the largest aerospace and defense show in Asia. It's followed with an aerial demonstration by the U.S.A.F MV-22B Osprey -- the world's first production tilt-rotor aircraft. It can take off and land like a helicopter, but flies with the range, airspeed and payload of fixed-wing airplane.

Inside the vast exhibition hall, trade visitors to the biennial Singapore Airshow eye some of the latest global offerings in military technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft, fire control radars and infrared counter-measures.

Keen to demonstrate its supremacy in defense and aerospace technology, the United States has more on display than any other country.

… Richard Bitzinger, senior fellow from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and global expert on the Chinese military agrees. He says so much remains unknown.

"I think China has been able to think creatively about how they use what they do have. Consequently that's why we're worried about things like their cyber war capabilities or these new types of weapons systems like an anti-ship ballistic missile," says Bitzinger.

Protecting Buildings from Terrorists, Disaster
The Straits Times, 14 Feb 2014

EYES glued to the television screen, Professor Pan Tso-Chien watched the haunting image of smoke billowing from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 2001.

An enemy that had lost its sense of humanity had struck the United States. Al-Qaeda terrorists had deliberately rammed two aeroplanes into the World Trade Center on Sept 11, 2001, killing more than 2,800 people.
He reeled in shock, just like many ordinary folk. "I thought it was a scene from a Hollywood movie," he says.

But, he went further. He began taking mental notes of the time the crash occurred and the time it took for the towers to crumble. He also noted that the copious black smoke pouring out of the buildings was caused by fuel.

… A white board in Prof Pan's office in NTU is filled with dates of meetings scheduled with officers of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and ministries of National Development and Home Affairs, as well as security experts from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, among others.

China’s Naval Drills “Signal Desire to Play Bigger Role” on High Seas
The Straits Times, 14 Feb 2014

Canberra scrambles plane to monitor exercises in waters between Indonesia and Australia

CHINA'S navy conducted unannounced military exercises in waters between Indonesia and Australia earlier this month, prompting Australia to scramble an air force surveillance plane to monitor the proceedings.

The Chinese drills, which come on the heels of its patrol of James Shoal off the coast of Sarawak, are seen as the strongest signal yet of China's desire to play a greater role on the high seas and flex its growing naval capabilities.

The five-day exercise between Java and Christmas Island began on Jan 29, and involved anti-piracy, search and rescue, damage control and combat drills.

… "These exercises do attest to China's expanding interests, and the intention to protect them, in the Indian Ocean," Mr Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies told The Straits Times.
"They also carry an implicit message that China wants to be reckoned with as an Indian Ocean power by other countries with a naval presence there, particularly India, the United States and Australia."

Workers’ Welfare in Qatar: Navigating a Minefield
James M. Dorsey
Daily News Egypt, 13 Feb 2014

Qatari organisers of the 2022 World Cup - in a bid to fend off criticism in the European parliament, convince world football body FIFA of progress made in improving conditions of foreign workers, and side line political demands by international trade unions - has issued the Gulf state’s most detailed workers welfare standards to date.

The 50-page document to be included in all World Cup-related contracts was issued two days before a hearing in the European parliament at which FIFA executive Theo Zwanziger is expected to testify on Qatar’s progress.

Qatar has been under pressure by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and human rights groups since winning the World Cup hosting rights to address concerns about the living and working conditions of foreign workers, who account for a significant majority of the Gulf state’s population. Critics noted that the standards do not apply to a majority of vast infrastructure projects that don’t fall under the purview of the World Cup organisers.

… James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is also co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author ofThe Turbulent World of Middle East Soccerblog and a forthcoming book with the same title.

MacDonald House Attack Still Strikes Home in Singapore
The Jakarta Post, 13 Feb 2014

The bombing of MacDonald House by two Indonesian saboteurs might have taken place 48 years ago, but that event long ago casts a shadow that still falls over today's Singapore.

This explains the intense reaction of Singapore to Indonesia's recent decision to name a navy ship after the two men executed for the bombing incident.

Those old enough remember the shock of the event when the pair of Indonesian marines bombed the Orchard Road building on March 10, 1965.

… Recalling the incident, Barry Desker, dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "At that time, MacDonald House was an iconic building as it was the tallest in Orchard Road. The other buildings were single- or double-storey buildings and the land at Ngee Ann city was a burial ground."

The Usman-Harun Issue: Some Thoughts for Indonesia to Ponder – Analysis
Leonard C. Sebastian
Eurasia Review, 13 Feb 2014

Following the flap over Indonesia’s decision to name a corvette after two marines who carried out a bomb attack in Singapore during Confrontation, Jakarta needs to make a gesture that it still values the bilateral relationship with its smaller neighbour. How can such a gesture be done so that the issue can be resolved?

IN OCTOBER 1968, two Indonesian marines were executed for detonating a bomb in McDonald House along Orchard Road three years earlier, leading to the deaths of three people and injuring 33 others. Their appeal to the Privy Council was rejected. Before their execution, the two marines, Usman Mohammad Ali and Harun Said, had asked to see the families of the victims and sought their forgiveness.

Indonesia was in Confrontation against the formation of Malaysia of which Singapore was a part before it became an independent republic in 1965. Sukarno, who saw the incipient Federation of Malaysia as a post-colonial “stooge” of the British, embarked on Konfrontasi and had an arrogant attitude towards Singapore.

… Associate Professor Leonard C. Sebastian is Coordinator of the Indonesia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Why the Past Matters
Barry Desker
The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2014

AT NOON on Saturday, the blast of air raid sirens will be heard again. It is a reminder that the fall of Singapore to the Japanese imperial army occurred on this date, Feb 15, in 1942. This year, for the second year, the Singapore Armed Forces will hold the Total Defence Commemoration Ceremony at the War Memorial Park on Feb 15.

As part of this event, recruits from the 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards will be handed their rifles in a weapon presentation ceremony at 6.20pm. This recalls the exact time of the surrender of allied forces to the Japanese at the old Ford Motor Factory on Upper Bukit Timah Road.
For a generation of Singaporeans now passing away, the Japanese occupation was the single most significant formative experience of their lives. The sense of helplessness, the fear of a new set of colonial overlords, the loss of close relatives and the dislocation of families resulted in many a story being told over dining tables as Singaporeans were growing up.

… The writer is the dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. He was Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1993.

South Korea’s Air Force: Does It Have a Coherent Strategy? – Analysis
Jeong Lee
Eurasia Review, 12 Feb 2014

The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) still lacks several critical features that would make it a credible independent fighting force. The ROKAF must ultimately come up with its own coherent operational doctrines and strategy, besides developing flexible and wide-ranging capabilities.

SINCE THE late 1990s, the South Korean armed forces have attempted to transform themselves into an independent military that is capable of dealing with hybrid threats emanating from North Korea on the one hand, and with its rivalry with its powerful neighbours, namely Japan and China, on the other.

However, while the United States seems determined to hand over wartime operational control to the ROK military effective December 2015, the Park Geun-hye administration appears reluctant to exercise independent control over its military, despite repeated assurances from the Obama administration that it will work closely at strategic levels with the ROK government to deter the North Korean threats.

… Jeong Lee is a freelance writer whose writings on US defence and foreign policy issues and inter-Korean affairs have appeared on various online publications. This commentary is adapted from his speech to the 7th Asia Pacific Security Conference (APSEC 2014) held in conjunction with the Singapore Airshow.

MacDonald House Attack Still Strikes Home
The Straits Times, 12 Feb 2014

Those old enough remember shock when iconic building was bombed

THE bombing of MacDonald House by two Indonesian saboteurs might have taken place 48 years ago, but that event long ago casts a shadow that still falls over today's Singapore.

This explains the intense reaction of Singapore to Indonesia's recent decision to name a navy ship after the two men executed for the bombing incident.

Those old enough remember the shock of the event when the pair of Indonesian marines bombed the Orchard Road building on March 10, 1965.

… Recalling the incident, Mr Barry Desker, dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "At that time, MacDonald House was an iconic building as it was the tallest in Orchard Road. The other buildings were single- or double-storey buildings and the land at Ngee Ann city was a burial ground."

A Chronic Dilemma
Jurise Athena Oliveros and Paul S. Teng
New Straits Times, 11 Feb 2014

CLARION CALL: High risk of climate hazards is threatening food security in Asia,are highly highly susceptible to climate hazards, resulting in food insecurity, write Jurise Athena Oliveros and Paul S. Teng.

TYPHOON Haiyan, which swept across the central Philippines in November last year, left in its wake widespread devastation. The number of lives lost exceeded 5,000.

The gargantuan damage caused to property and the agriculture sector has made a significant dent to the economy of the region and serve as an ominous reminder of how the country in general remains vulnerable to natural disasters.

The affected areas encountered multiple problems in the aftermath of the typhoon, chief of which was the lack of access to food and water.

… Paul S. Teng is professor and dean of Graduate Studies and Professional Learning in NIE and adjunct senior fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

Terrorist Threat to Sochi Olympics: Testing Times for Russia – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 11 Feb 2014

The suicide bombings in Volgograd and the threat of attacks by terrorists underscore a changed reality confronting a resurgent Russia. The Winter Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi will test Russia’s counter-terrorism capabilities.

ON 18 JANUARY 2014, a little known militant group, the Ansar al-Sunnah (“The Helpers of Sunnah”) claimed responsibility for the December 2013 twin suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd, which killed 33 people and injured 65 others. The group also threatened Russia with further attacks, including using chemical weapons, claiming that they have a “surprise” for the visitors and hosts of the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014.

As the 22nd Winter Olympic Games are already underway in the Russian resort city of Sochi, there is widespread speculation whether Russia can ensure security for this grand event. The city is located in the close vicinity of Volgograd (formerly known as Stalingrad) and the North Caucasus Federal District of Russia. North Caucasus has been a turbulent zone which witnessed ethno-separatist conflicts and terrorist activities from 1991 to 2009.

… Nodirbek Soliyev is a Research Analyst at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He holds an LL.M. Degree in International Law from the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED), Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Singapore Signals “Strong Displeasure”
The Nation (Thailand), 11 Feb 2014

As the controversy over the Indonesian Navy's decision to name a new frigate KRI Usman Harun continues, officers and observers say it appears Singapore is keen to signal its strong displeasure on the matter.

Indonesian defence spokesmen said Singapore's Ministry of Defence rescinded invitations to 100 Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) officers who were slated to attend the Singapore Airshow starting today.
The move came days after five Singapore ministers conveyed their concerns over the insensitivity of the decision to name the ship after two marines who bombed MacDonald House on Orchard Road in 1965, killing three people and injuring 33 others.

… General Moeldoko was scheduled to deliver a lecture organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) tomorrow, but it would appear that is now off.
Military officers and observers see the latest developments as signalling that as far as Singapore is concerned, there are consequences to what many in Indonesia argue is an internal matter.

Deputy director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the RSIS Dr Tan See Seng said the latest moves are a "reflection that Singapore treats this incident very seriously and wants to convey that impression".

Mutual Persistence Helps Sino-Russian Ties Reach Olympian Heights
Oh Ei Sun
Global Times (China), 11 Feb 2014

It was a winter wonderland in resplendent display. Snowy features in crystalline glitters gave ways to colorful gigantic balloons in the shapes of the famous "onion heads" characteristic of Russian Orthodox churches, punctuated by phantasmagoric sets of fireworks.

In a sense, the Winter Olympics opening ceremony at Sochi could be likened to a coming-of-age rite for a confident modern Russia, having trudged through its share of growing pains since the late 20th century.

The grand event was perhaps rendered even more meaningful by the attendance of Chinese President Xi Jinping. For two years in a row since he took up the reins of leadership, Xi has made Russia his first overseas destination, and Sochi his first international sporting-event visit. These positive gestures no doubt testified to the high degree of importance attached by the Chinese side to a revitalized Sino-Russian relationship, and are reciprocated by the warm hospitality extended by the host, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

… The author is a senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Singapore Airshow – The Joint Strike Fighter and the Asian Arms Market – Analysis
Richard A. Bitzinger
Eurasia Review, 10 Feb 2014

As the Singapore Airshow approaches, interest in the future global fighter market is growing. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is perhaps the favoured competitor in this market, but it also faces cost-benefit disadvantages that give other fighter jets an opening.

AS THE 2014 Singapore Airshow approaches, there is an upsurge of speculation surrounding the modernisation of regional air forces. In particular, there is much interest in the likely future acquisitions of new combat aircraft. Nearly every air force in Asia anticipates buying new fighter jets over the next decade, and every one of them wants to get the best fighter they can afford.

The options are numerous – the French Rafale, the Swedish Gripen, the Russian Su-30, to name but a few – but the standout fighter to beat has got to be the US-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). In almost any fighter acquisition competition that includes the JSF, it holds a tremendous advantage over its rivals; more often than not, it is the F-35’s contest to lose.

… Richard A. Bitzinger is Senior Fellow and Programme Coordinator of the Military Transformation Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. Formerly with the RAND Corp. and the Defence Budget Project, he has been writing on defence issues for more than 20 years. This commentary has also appeared in Defence News.

Asia’s Place in the Aviation Picture
The Business Times, 10 Feb 2014

THE Business Timesengaged some Asia-Pacific aviation industry experts on the key issues facing the industry today and on ways to overcome some of these challenges.

Richard Bitzinger: From a security perspective, Asia is obviously a much more critical region than it was in the past. Of course, the global war on terror is a never-ending one, although at a low, if sustained tempo. However, as European security has stabilised since the end of the Cold War, and as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, Asian security concerns have correspondingly risen. This is not simply a matter of relative criticality - it is also a reflection that Asia will likely be the setting for the next great-power competition - that is, between China and the United States. And this will not simply be a bilateral contest; dealing with the rise of China as a great power to be reckoned with - militarily and diplomatically, as well as economically - will involve nearly every nation in Asia.

… Richard A Bitzinger, senior fellow & co-ordinator of the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

Singapore Airshow: Can China Dominate Aircraft Manufacturing?
BBC, 10 Feb 2014

They have proven it over the years, especially on the world business stage, with Chinese companies becoming dominant global players in various sectors.

Now, they are facing their toughest test.

China has set its sights on commercial aeroplane manufacturing - a sector that has arguably more hurdles and stumbling blocks than any other.

"The barriers to entry in commercial aircraft manufacturing are extremely high, and they are not just technological," says Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Singapore Airshow: China, U.S. Lack “Clarity” on Asia Pacific Strategies
IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 9 Feb 2014

China and the United States should be less ambiguous in defining their strategic positions in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

Bitzinger, a panellist at the Asia Pacific Security Conference (APSEC) in Singapore on 10 February, sees a "need for greater clarity" from China as it becomes a great power and from the United States in defining its 'pivot' or 'rebalance' to the Asia Pacific.

Abe Calls on the World to Stand Up to “Bullying” Beijing
Benjamin Ho
The Nation (Thailand), 8 Feb 2014

Sino-Japanese ties, strained by territorial and historical disputes, took a further beating two weeks ago after a speech by Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe at the World Economic Forum in Davos in which he called on the global community to stand up to an increasingly assertive China.
Likening Sino-Japanese rivalry to that between Britain and Germany before World War I, Abe warned that Chinese military expansion, if unchecked, could have grave consequences for the world. Not surprisingly, these remarks received a sharp rebuke from Beijing calling Japan the "Nazis of the East" deliberately skirting the issue of its wartime past.

Given China's growing prominence over the past decade, it is widely assumed that Beijing's assertive behaviour reflects its broader intentions in dominating the region. Indeed China's unilateral creation of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) last November has been criticised by many observers, both within and outside Asia, as an act of hostility and not in accordance with the rules of the international system. In response, China simply , not surprisingly , reiterated its sovereign right to stake its claims, without bilateral or multilateral consensus.

… Benjamin Ho is an Associate Research Fellow in the Multilateralism and Regionalism Programme at Singapore's #124 S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

China: U.S. Remarks About Territorial Claims are Irresponsible
Voice of America, 7 Feb 2014

HONG KONG - China says that remarks made earlier this week by a U.S. top official about its maritime disputes are groundless and irresponsible. East Asia envoy Daniel Russel had raised concerns about China's assertive stance with its neighbors and questioned the legality of China's territorial claims.

China's claims to maritime territory in the East and South China Seas have raised tensions with its neighbors, in particular Japan and the Philippines.

This week U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Daniel Russel, told a Congressional hearing in Washington that China is increasingly assertive in trying to gain control over oceans in the region.

… Sam Bateman, a maritime security analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore says Russel's statements were unnecessarily provocative.
"The only way you can read them is that the U.S. is taking a position on the claims. China's claims are not very good ipso facto the claims by other countries are better," he said.

Indonesian MPs, Officers Dismiss Singapore Objections
The Straits Times, 7 Feb 2014

SINGAPORE'S objections to the naming of a new Indonesian naval frigate KRI Usman Harun were widely reported online in Indonesia, but brushed off by officers in the Indonesian military and MPs, who said a change of heart would imply weakness.

Indonesian Navy spokesman First Admiral Untung Suropati told Tempo.co news website: "They can go ahead and object - we are convinced the marines are heroes who should be emulated."

Indonesian Democratic Party- Struggle (PDI-P) MP Tubagus Hasanuddin told reporters that the government should reject any effort to rename the ship.

… Associate Professor Leonard Sebastian, who coordinates the Indonesia programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said bilateral ties would not be affected.

"Both sides know what the issues are," he said

‘Toothpaste Bomb’ Warning Ahead of Games
The Straits Times, 7 Feb 2014

US warns of possible smuggling of explosives, tells airlines to be vigilant

A UNITED States advisory to airlines flying to Russia for the Sochi Winter Olympics, warning of possible explosives smuggled on board in tubes of toothpaste or cosmetics, has raised security concerns in Asia, Europe and elsewhere.

Tight screening of passengers and cargo remains in place at major airports on both continents, after the warning from the US Homeland Security Department.

Counter-terrorism experts are urging governments to take the warning seriously, given that it comes amid fresh intelligence pointing to both the Al-Qaeda and Chechen-linked groups working to disrupt the Games.

… "The warning must be taken seriously," said Singapore-based counter-terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, currently in the US.

Enhancing Cyber Security: Improving Technical and Analytical Expertise – Analysis
Damien D. Cheong
Eurasia Review, 5 Feb 2014

Singapore’s recent initiatives to increase cybersecurity expertise through specialist training and education are timely and necessary. In addition to enhancing such skills, the strategic analytical skills of existing and potential cybersecurity practitioners must be honed as well.

IT WAS reported in The Straits Times last year that Singapore, like many other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and India, was experiencing a shortfall in the number of cybersecurity practitioners. Furthermore, graduates did not seem attracted to the IT security profession, which meant that the next generation of cybersecurity practitioners would be negatively impacted.

Expectedly, these trends are a cause for concern in light of the persistent and ever-increasing cyber threats facing the country. The government has embarked upon two major initiatives to address these issues.

… Damien D. Cheong is a Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Food Security Post-calamity: A Chronic Dilemma – Analysis
Jurise Athena Oliveros and Paul S. Teng
Eurasia Review, 5 Feb 2014

Many Asian countries are highly susceptible to climate hazards, resulting in food insecurity. The magnitude of the devastation of typhoon Haiyan should serve as a clarion call for regional action to improve food security in the region.

TYPHOON HAIYAN which swept across the central Philippines in November 2013 left in its wake widespread devastation. The number of lives lost exceeded 5,000. The gargantuan damage caused to property and the agriculture sector has made a significant dent to the economy of the region and serve as an ominous reminder of how the country in general remains vulnerable to natural disasters.

The affected areas encountered multiple problems in the aftermath of the typhoon chief of which was the lack of access to food and water. Distribution of food, water and medicine was hampered by an incapacitated local government and damaged infrastructure particularly roads and communications. Surviving victims were left to scour for food and basic necessities from the massive heaps of rubble that were their homes. As the country began to recover, discussions have been rekindled on long-term solutions and disaster responses.

… Jurise Athena Oliveros is a Research Assistant in the Office of Graduate Studies & Professional Learning, National Institute of Education. Paul S. Teng is Professor and Dean of Graduate Studies and Professional Learning, NIE, and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

China is Marching West for Food – Analysis
Zhang Hongzhou
Eurasia Review, 5 Feb 2014

China’s ‘Marching West’ strategy has gained international attention as a counter-response to the US pivot to Asia. But food could be an important driver behind China’s westward advance.

AS THE United States pivots towards the east, China launched the so-called “Marching West” strategy to avoid a direct confrontation with the Americans – a strategy first articulated by a prominent Chinese scholar Wang Jisi.

While much of the attention has been given to the strategic and diplomatic importance of countering the US pivot to Asia and on China’s overseas quest for energy resources, food could be an important driver behind China’s Marching West strategy.

… Zhang Hongzhou is an Associate Research Fellow with the China Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

How I Got Him Out
The New Paper, 3 Feb 2014

Yesterday, we told Ali's story of how he had picked up radical ideology from radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki via the Internet. After he was caught, Ali served a two-year detention order and received counselling. He was later released. This is his counsellor's story.

Some bang tables, while others hurl insults.

And few are receptive to counselling at the start, said Ustaz Mohd Feisal Mohd Hassan. (Ustaz is the title for an Islamic teacher.)

The 40-year-old has been involved in counselling Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) detainees and self-radicalised individuals.
Among the people he has counselled is Ali, a former polytechnic student with the smarts to make it to university.

… Ustaz Mohd Feisal Mohd Hassan is a secretariat member of the Religious Rehabilitation Group and is a religious rehabilitation counsellor.

He holds two master's:

Master of Arts in Islamic Thought from the International Islamic University Malaysia

Master of Science in International Relations from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

He is now pursuing a PhD at the University of Melbourne.

His PhD discusses moderation in Islamic thought, especially in minority communities.

Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure Very Advanced, Key to Peace May Lie in Hands of IAEA
Trend News Agency (Azerbaijan), 3 Feb 2014

The fact that a lot of money is being invested in the work of IAEA with regards to Iran's nuclear program, indicates that Iran's nuclear infrastructure is very advanced, chairman of the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS, University of London and author of "On the Arab revolts and the Iranian revolution: Power and resistance today", Arshin Adib-Moghaddam told Trend.

"The work of IARA in Iran is the most intrusive compared to any country in human history," he said. "The fact that it is so expensive is another evidence for that."

The IAEA has asked for more funding from the UN member states for checking Iran with the last year's nuclear deal with P5+1.

… At the same time, Senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, James M. Dorsey believes that funding is unlikely to be an issue even if the amounts go up.

Myanmar’s ASEAN Opportunity
Dylan Loh Ming Hui, New Straits Times, 2 Feb 2014

FOR the first time, Myanmar will lead Asean this year. The country will also host the 2014 Asean summit, in addition to over 240 regional meetings, drawing thousands of diplomats, leaders and journalists to the country throughout the year.

2014 is also an important year for Asean as it is the penultimate year before the inauguration of an integrated Asean Economic Community next year.

What are the challenges and opportunities facing the country, and Asean, as Myanmar assumes this critical role?

The most obvious test for Naypyidaw is its infrastructural deficit: unreliable power supply; limited Internet connectivity; chronic shortages of hotels; and poor transportation linkages are some of the problems that continue to plague Myanmar.

… Dylan Loh Ming Hui is a research analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

A Name Upon a Grave
Anit Mukherjee
The Caravan (India), 1 Feb 2014

THE NIGHT OF 4 FEBRUARY 2000, an army post I was commanding in Kashmir was fired upon. The incident was unremarkable at the time—just a few months after the Kargil war—and no one was hurt. The next morning, a patrol went to investigate the site from where the shots were fired. (I was away from my post on another operation.) One of the members of the patrol was Manokaran, a barber by trade, who was in many ways the live wire of the company. He should have been on leave but, a week before, faced with a shortage of personnel, I had ordered him to postpone his departure by two weeks. Manokaran accepted this cheerfully.

At the site, the patrol discovered a backpack containing some clothes and a steel tiffin box. The patrol commander, an experienced Gurkha, ordered that the box not be disturbed, but Manokaran, with characteristic daredevilry, exclaimed, “Maut se kyun dartey ho?” (Why are you afraid of death?) and opened it. This triggered an improvised explosive device that blew out his eyes. Within an hour, I was at the scene shouting into a radio to call for casualty evacuation, and ordering a medic to do more to save Manokaran’s life. I could not get myself to do what I should have done: hold his hand to comfort him. Just before he was put on a helicopter, I finally took his hand, and lied to him that he was going to be OK. He was crying for his mother. Manokaran died before the helicopter landed at Badamibagh cantonment in Srinagar.

Many years later, I gave up my uniform and started a new career as an academic. One afternoon I came upon a section of the Indian Army’s official website titled “Pay Homage to Your Martyrs”. It includes a database listing the name, rank, service number, home state, unit, and regiment of apparently every soldier who has died in all of India’s post-independence wars, as well as the name of the operations in which they died and their dates of death. In a way that other soldiers would understand, I searched out Manokaran’s name, and was happy to find that his death was listed and thereby honoured. But then, as academics do, I started to collate and analyse the army’s information.
… Anit Mukherjee is an assistant professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Thailand Faces Post-poll Impasse
The Australian Financial Review, 1 Feb 2014

Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has appealed to voters to participate in a disputed election on Sunday amid a growing consensus that the poll cannot end the country's deep divisions.

In a message posted on her Facebook page, Ms Yingluck said: "This election will be one of the most meaningful elections as it will be a guiding light to the determination of Thailand's future on the democratic path."

But observers say while Ms Yingluck's government will win a majority of the votes it is almost certain not to meet constitutional requirements for reconvening the Parliament.

… Tan Seng Chye, a senior fellow at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "The (government) Peau Thai Party has to gain some of the remaining seats to make up 95 per cent of the seats in Parliament before it can convene."

Battling Cosmic Wars in the Minds of Terrorists
The Straits Times, 31 Jan 2014

"Mr Mark, you just don't get it. All of you are like sheep!

"There's a war going on, a battle between good and evil. You just don't see it. Your government will not let you see it."

It was 1997, and the speaker was red-haired Egyptian terrorist Mahmud Abouhalima.

Mahmud had been sentenced to 240 years in jail for his role in masterminding the February 1993 explosion at New York's World Trade Centre, which killed six people and injured about 1,000.

Surrounded by a dozen heavily armed prison officers, the unrepentant terrorist was being interviewed in the United States by Professor Mark Juergensmeyer, an American expert in the study of religious violence, who is now 72.

… CENS chief Kumar Ramakrishna says religious extremist leaders like Myanmar's Wirathu and Indonesia's Abu Bakar Bashir also exploit nationalist sentiments to get their followers to commit violent acts.
For example, Wirathu has exploited the fear of Buddhists who believe that economically well-off Muslims, a minority group, will replace Buddhism with Islam in Myanmar.

"The case of Wirathu highlights the vexing nexus between non-violent extremist rhetoric and real-world violence," states Kumar.

China Risks ASEAN Unease with Patrol off Malaysia
The Nation (Thailand), 31 Jan 2014

Chinese ships patrolling an area contested by Malaysia are likely to cause more anxiety across Southeast Asia and risk the ire of a country that has long sought to downplay strategic concerns generated by China's rising power. Three Chinese ships on Sunday patrolled the James Shoal in the South China Sea, about 80km off Sarawak on Borneo island, which Beijing counts as the southernmost part of its territory. Soldiers on board swore to safeguard China's sovereignty, in the latest sign of Beijing's increasing territorial assertiveness in the waters.

On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang emphasised at a regular press conference China's "indisputable sovereignty" of the shoal, but said it is willing to use negotiations to resolve the dispute and is committed to protecting regional peace and stability. WhileMalaysia's foreign ministry did not respond to press queries, Qin said Malaysia has not lodged an official protest over Sunday's patrol. But some experts say the move will antagonise Kuala Lumpur , an Asean member with "significant influence" , and might shift the state of play in the maritime territorial dispute.

… But Malaysia has traditionally avoided confrontations as the two states have set their dispute aside in the interest of stronger diplomatic and trading ties, noted Oh Ei Sun from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. China is Malaysia's largest trading partner, while the latter is China's third largest in Asia.

Islamic Governance in Malaysia: Taking the Cue from Brunei? – Analysis
Yang Razali Kassim
Eurasia Review, 30 Jan 2014

Islamic governance is rising to the fore again in Malaysia as UMNO and PAS probe each other for meeting points while competing for Malay/Muslim support. Shariah, or Islamic law, is emerging as a new issue catalysed by Brunei’s adoption of hudud, the Islamic penal code.

ISSUES RELATING to Islamic governance look set to dominate the Malaysian political scene this year. New developments at the end of 2013 set the agenda for relations between the country’s two Malay/Muslim parties — the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). Both are entering a new phase of looking for common ground over Islamic issues, while remaining competitors for the support of the majority Malay/Muslim community in peninsular Malaysia.

Following the 13th general election in May, PAS and UMNO held their respective party congresses and elections, which threw up new leadership formations. While PAS continued its shift towards the centre with its slogan of Rahmat untuk Semua (“Blessings for All”), UMNO edged more to the right by its de-emphasis on 1Malaysia and a tilt towards Islam.

… Yang Razali Kassim is a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. An earlier version first appeared in TODAY.

When a Small Manoeuvre on Capitol Hill is a Big Deal to Asia
The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2014, Deborah Elms

IN US President Barack Obama's State-of-the-Union address on Tuesday, he called on members of Congress to pass something called the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The TPA is a critical component of the President's trade agenda. Without it, he will not be able to get three massive trade agreements ratified.

President Obama needs the TPA. But its format and content also matter. The content of the Bills currently circulating in Washington has some elements, especially new provisions on currency, which are deeply problematic for both the United States and for its Asian trade partners.

In the US, the Constitution grants the power to approve treaties to the Congress. However, the 535 members of this legislative body long ago recognised that they could not effectively negotiate complex trade agreements. Instead, they allowed the President and the executive branch to bargain on their behalf with foreign governments.

… The writer is head of the Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade & Negotiations, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Buzz Over Xi’s Choices for China’s New Bodies
Asia News Network (Thailand), 29 Jan 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping's pick of deputies in China's national security commission and a reform-focused task force he heads is drawing scrutiny from analysts hoping to peek into the black box that is the Communist Party.

Premier Li Keqiang's inclusion as Xi's deputy in the two bodies, for instance, has surprised some. China's premier typically does not have a hand in defence matters and Li was also not deeply involved in the drafting of the party's reform blueprint.

The new national security commission will be headed by Xi, with Li and Zhang Dejiang - No. 3 in the party's hierarchy and head of China's Parliament - as vice-chairmen.

… Professor Li Mingjiang of Nanyang Technological University said legislature chief Zhang Dejiang could have been drafted as a deputy in the security body to enact laws or approve special powers in emergency situations.

Discord Clouds Future of “Malaysia: Truly Asia”
Yahoo News (Off AFP), 29 Jan 2014

Malaysian conservatives are flexing their muscles in what analysts call a high-stakes fight for control of the powerful ruling party that is endangering reform and delicate race relations.

Since elections last May that stung the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the government has moved rightward, mothballing a reform drive launched by Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Meanwhile, religious tensions in the multi-cultural, Muslim-majority country are soaring, mainly in a dispute between Muslims and Christians over use of the word "Allah".

On Monday, two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a Catholic church, raising fears of further strife.

… "This is significant as it could mean that (Najib's) vision of a unified, cohesive and inclusive plural society that was much touted in the 2013 elections is as good as thrown onto the back burner," Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Countering the Self-radicalised Lone Wolf: A New Paradigm? – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 28 Jan 2014, Kumar Ramakrishna

Internet-driven self-radicalisation of the lone wolf is an increasing cause of concern for governments and societies everywhere. A new paradigm for countering self-radicalisation is suggested, comprising the five dimensions of Sender, Message, Recipient, Mechanism and Context.

FOLLOWING THE Boston marathon terrorist bombing of April 2013, US President Barack Obama acknowledged that one of the dangers we now face are ‘self-radicalised individuals’ who might “not be part of any network” – in short lone wolves.

Obama offered one reason why the threat of lone-wolf terrorism has emerged in recent years: “The pressure we put on Al Qaeda and other networks that are well financed and more sophisticated has pushed potential terrorists to the margins, where they are forced to plot smaller-level attacks that are tougher to track.”

… Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS),

Abe’s Call to Stand Up to China: At What Cost? – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 28 Jan 2014, Benjamin Ho

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a siren call at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos that the world must stand up to an increasingly assertive China. Will this resonate with the broader international community, especially the business fraternity which has made strong inroads into Chinese society?

SINO-JAPANESE ties, strained by territorial and historical disputes, took a further beating the past week after a speech by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at the World Economic Forum in Davos in which he called on the global community to stand up to an increasingly assertive China.

Likening Sino-Japanese rivalry to that between Britain and Germany before World War I, Abe warned that Chinese military expansion, if unchecked, could have grave consequences for the world. Not surprisingly, these remarks received a sharp rebuke from Beijing calling Japan the “Nazis of the East” deliberately skirting the issue of its wartime past.

… Benjamin Ho is an Associate Research Fellow in the Multilateralism and Regionalism Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

Analysts abuzz over Xi's picks for new bodies
The Straits Times, page A10, 29 Jan 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping's pick of deputies in China's national security commission and a reform-focused task force he heads is drawing scrutiny from analysts hoping to peek into the black box that is the Communist Party. Professor Li Mingjiang of NTU said legislature chief Zhang Dejiang could have been drafted as a deputy in the security body to enact laws or approve special powers in emergency situations.
Understanding Indonesia's 'democratic festival'
The Straits Times, page A22, 29 Jan 2014

Farish A. Noor, Associate Professor at the RSIS, NTU, contributed an opinion editorial reflecting that growing populism is a far more worrying concern than the local culture of ritualised gift-giving as Indonesia gears up for the polls this year.
China risks Asean unease with patrol off Malaysia
The Straits Times, page A10, 28 Jan 2014

Chinese ships patrolling an area contested by Malaysia are likely to cause more anxiety across South-east Asia. Three Chinese ships on Sunday patrolled the James Shoal in the South China Sea, about 80 km off Sarawak on Borneo island, which Beijing counts as the southernmost part of its territory. Malaysia has traditionally avoided confrontations as the two states have set their dispute aside in the interest of stronger diplomatic and trading ties, noted Dr Oh Ei Sun from the RSIS. China is Malaysia's largest trading partner while the latter is China's third largest in Asia.
A growing convergence over hudud in Malaysia?
The Malaysian Insider (off TODAY online), 28 Jan 2014

RSIS senior fellow Yang Razali Kassim highlighted that issues relating to Islam and governance look set to dominate the Malaysian consciousness this year. The new trend in convergence over hudud, if it stays, could be a game-changer in the dynamics of relations between the two Muslim-based parties.
Expert: If Iran increases military budget, Saudi Arabia and Israel will exploit it to their advantage
Trend (Azerbaijan), 27 Jan

RSIS senior fellow James M. Dorsey said if Iran does increase its military budget, the country's detractors, Saudi Arabia and Israel will clearly seek to exploit that to their advantage.

Taiwan: Another Step Towards Integration?
The Diplomat, 27 Jan

RSIS research fellow Shang-su Wu noted that the new concept for cross-strait relations, “China plus one,” proposed by Su Tseng-chang, who chairs Taiwan’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), suggests that Taiwan might have taken another step towards comprehensive integration with China.

Constant Eye Out to Keep Singapore Safe
The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2014

Multi-agency security watchdog looks out for suspicious behaviour in ships

A VESSEL sailing into Singapore caught the attention of the local maritime authorities last June.

On board was a crew member seeking to enter the Republic who had previously expressed interest in 3-D printed weapons and had an affiliation with terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiah.
Even before setting foot on Singapore shores, he had been monitored closely by the National Maritime Security System (NMSS) - a multi-agency security watchdog set up two years ago to prevent land and sea attacks.

Housed at Changi Naval Base, it scans international and Singapore waters, detecting and analysing an average of 10 "anomalies" a day pertaining to Singapore.

… Defence analyst Collin Koh from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said: "(The NMSS) is a good way to tap the capabilities of our agencies and it adds another dimension of deterrence against pirates and terrorists."

SIIA Ranks Top in Asia in Global Survey of Think Tanks
TODAY, 27 Jan 2014

The Republic’s oldest think-tank, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), has moved up a notch to top a list of 40 think-tanks in Asia and the Pacific in a global survey.

The 2013 Global Go To Think Tank Rankings was released last week at the United Nations University and the World Bank in Washington by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program.

In the Asia and the Pacific category, which excludes China, India, Japan and South Korea, the SIIA surpassed Australia’s Lowy Institute that was ranked first in 2012, but fell to third place last year. The Centre for Strategic Studies in New Zealand was ranked second.

In the same category, Singapore’s East Asian Institute was fifth, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies was 11th, the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies was 16th and the Political Risks Assessment Group was 29th.

The Conflict in Thailand: Cultural Roots and the Middle Way Solution – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 25 Jan 2014

The Thai Government has imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok and its immediate surroundings for 60 days to end the demonstrations and blockade of the city aimed at bringing down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. A veteran political observer in Bangkok analyses the historical and cultural factors underlying the protests and discusses a possible solution to the imbroglio through the Thai Middle Way.

Deposed former prime minister police lieutenant colonel Thaksin Shinawatra brought something new to Thailand. It is what is preventing a peaceful settlement of the conflict now raging in Bangkok’s streets, and it is not his political opening to the rural underclass as the press and public commentary superficially explain.

News coverage and editorial comment in the world press are both devoting increasing attention to the current conflict, now headed for a 2 February election which the main opposition party will boycott. Local Bangkok press and public personalities are vigorously critical of much international coverage as ignorant and distorted by the obsessions and political histories of completely different cultures.

Abe’s India Visit: Raising the Bar – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 24 Jan 2014

The upcoming visit of the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to India will take bilateral ties between Tokyo and New Delhi to a higher level. India ranks high in Abe’s priorities as Japan faces an aggressive China, while trying to once again make its presence felt in Asia’s balance of power.

THE UPCOMING visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to New Delhi on 26 January 2013 as the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations is slated to be a landmark event in the evolution of the bilateral ties between the two countries. This will be the third high-level visit from the Japanese side in a short span of two months.

Last December the Japanese Emperor paid a State Visit to India – significant because it is rare for the Emperor to undertake foreign visits. This was followed recently by the Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera who made a highly successful visit to India. This series of high-level visits, coming one after another, clearly shows the desire of the Abe-led government to put relations with India on the fast track.

… Rupakjyoti Borah is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the School of Liberal Studies, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, India. He contributed this to RSIS Commentaries

Indonesian polls face dispute over voters' list
The Sunday Times, page 20

As ballot papers for Indonesia's April 9 general election go to the printers, tensions over the voters' list remain an issue, with the accuracy of more than three million names on the rolls still disputed. A report by the RSIS' Indonesia Programme this month noted that the accuracy of the voters' list remains a heady problem for the management of this year's election.

Defusing Terror Threats from Sheik Google
The Straits Times, 24 Jan 2014

JUST when Muslim cleric Leyaket Ali Mohamed Omar felt he was getting a handle on rehabilitating detainees from militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), he found himself sitting with a different type of detainee - a lone wolf, brainwashed by "Sheik Google".

Sheik Google is a personification of the way charismatic Islamic ideologues use fiery speeches on jihadist websites to poison minds and entice converts to join them in a war against the United States and its allies.

Ustaz Leyaket, who used the term Sheik Google as a convenient shorthand, says that SheikGoogle's terror footprints are easily found on the Internet.

… Security expert Kumar Ramakrishna says that with the spread of Al-Qaeda ideology via the Internet, "the threat of terrorism has metastasised".

"Some military strategists even talk of so-called Fifth Generation Warfare in which 'super-empowered' lone wolves may in the coming decade exploit digital technology to mount crippling cyber attacks on national infrastructure. They may even deploy small radiological devices against cities," he says.

It is important to have effective counter-ideological campaigns aimed at undermining the violent extremist ideology that sustains them, he adds.

Experts Explain Why Iran Could Have IAEA Inspectors Stay in Country for 6-month Period
Trend News Agency (Azerbaijan), 22 Jan 2014

Following the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group, Iran has started to implement it's part of the deal, by halting enrichment of uranium at nearly 20-percent level on Jan. 20.

The same day, the U.S. Treasury Department said the country eased some sanctions on Iran, pausing efforts to reduce Iranian crude oil exports, as part of a nuclear deal. The EU fulfilled its part of the deal as well - by suspending some economic sanctions on Iran.

Iran was given a 6-month sanctions relief in return for curbing some of its nuclear activities. The P5+1 urged the IAEA, which monitors Iran's nuclear activity, to keep its nuclear inspectors in Iran for six months permanently, but IAEA said that there is not need for that.

… Speaking with Trend previously, Senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, James M. Dorsey said that while a permanent IAEA presence over the next six months is not an indispensable and essential action, it would certainly enhance confidence and strengthen Iran's negotiating position.

Malaysia’s PAS and UMNO: Growing Convergence Over Islamic Governance? – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 22 Jan 2014, Yang Razali Kassim, Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman and Afif Pasuni

The Islamic factor is increasingly rising to the forefront again in Malaysia as the two Muslim-based parties, UMNO and PAS, probe each other for meeting points, even as they compete for support of the majority Malay-Muslim community. Both parties recently had their party assemblies, which provided the opportunity to delve not only into the official party narratives, but also the undercurrent through robust responses from party rank and file. Against this backdrop, Islamism, characterised by hudud or Islamic criminal law, is emerging as a new issue narrowing the parties’ differences, catalysed, not surprisingly, by Brunei’s move towards the Islamic penal code.

… Yang Razali Kassim is a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University and the school’s Centre for Multilateralism Studies (CMS).

Afif Pasuni is an Associate Research Fellow and Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Indonesia’s Ores Export Ban: A Knotty Conundrum – Analysis
Eurasia Review, 22 Jan 2014, Keoni Indrabayu Marzuki

Indonesia has implemented a new law banning the export of mineral ores. From this month, all mining companies must refine their ores before they can be exported. Infrastructure weaknesses, however, render such restriction highly unviable for many companies.

INDONESIAN MINING companies have been in a curious quandary since the start of the new year as the government implements a ban on the export of unprocessed mineral ores. Mining companies are required to refine their minerals before they can be exported or sold in the international market.

The ban was originally designed to encourage local mining companies to process raw mineral ores so as to increase their value-add, thus yielding higher export revenue. However, it is becoming evident that this law would instead have a downside effect due to the lack of funds to build smelters as well as deficiencies in supporting infrastructure within the industry.

… Keoni Indrabayu Marzuki is a Research Associate of the Indonesia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

The Middle East and North Africa: Cauldron of Conflict
The Nation (Thailand), 21 Jan 2014, James M. Dorsey

To the outside world, the Middle East and North Africa is a cauldron of intractable conflicts within intractable conflicts, much like sets of Russian dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. The list of animosities is endless: Palestinians and Jews hate each other. Arabs detest Persians. Turks distrust Kurds as agents of colonialism. Sunnis despise Shiiites. Israelis see black African refugees as a mortal threat. Gulf citizens envision hordes of Asian and Arab workers claiming title to their family-run states. And Muslims eye non-Muslims as impure encroachments.

Yet as disparate as the concerns of Arabs, Iranians, Israelis, Turks, Sunnis, Shi'ites, Christians and Kurds seem, they all are rooted in often existential fears frequently exploited for elites' political expediency.

… James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture at the University of Wurzburg and author of forthcoming book "The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer".