Southeast Asia

In Thailand, the domestic political situation remains unchanged after the military coup in 2014.  It is characterized by the antagonism between two groups, the so called “Red Shirts” (followers of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawartra from the poorer rural areas in the East and North-East) and the so called “Yellow Shirts” (predominantly middle and upper class in Bangkok and central Thailand). A national reconciliation with Muslim separatists in the South is still outstanding. In October 2016, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX.), who was respected by all political groups, died after 70 years in power; successor is his son Vajiralongkorn.

In the constitutional monarchy Cambodia the first free elections took place in 1993 after the Khmer Rouge Regime and the civil war. The Khmer Rouge finally has laid down their weapons in 1998. A Tribunal by the United Nations and Cambodia (supported by Austria) investigates crimes committed in the past.Acknowledging and dealing with the past is a difficult process to cope with. Internal political tensions prevail between the opposition and the long-term Prime Minister HunSen.

The only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Lao People's Democratic Republic has close relations with China and seeks cooperation with its neighbouring countries, especially with Thailand with whom it shares ethnic and historical ties. Relations with Thailand have not always been free of frictions in the past. The Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) is governing the country since 1975 as the single political power in the country. Laos is one of the least developed countries, but has great potential thanks to abundant natural resources.

Since the elections of November 2015, when Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won the parliamentary election in a landslide victory,  Myanmar has taken further steps with regard to democratization. Due to the democratization process which has also led to significant economic development,  the EU sanctions expired, with the exception of an arms embargo. Reconciliation of ethnic minorities and Muslim refugees are important challenges for the young democracy .

Vietnam accomplished important economic and social reforms, especially higher growth rates and a reduction in poverty within the “Doi Moi” (renewal) reform policy started in 1986 by the communist leadership. The reform was based on a transformation of the former communist-centralist economy towards a market oriented economy with socialist characteristics. Vietnam has become an attractive investment location for international companies and has reached the status of a “Middle Income Country” by  World Bank standards.

The constitutional elective monarchy Malaysia was founded in 1963 as a federation. Initially it included the former British colony of Singapore, which left in 1965, and northern Borneo. Malaysia is rich in natural resources (tin, rubber, oil) and well developed economically. About half of the population is Malay ;Chinese are by far the largest minority followed by Indians. This ethnic mix is a source of repeated political tensions.

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

The sultanate Brunei Darussalam is independent since 1984. The country is one of the richest worldwide, due to an abundance of natural resources. Brunei is continuing its course of economic diversification.

In the Philippines, the government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, elected in 2016, puts his domestic policy priority  on economic growth and on an unconditional fight against illegal drugs. The zero-tolerance implementation of his political program is criticized internationally. The economy of the Philippines continues to show high rates of growth. The new government is trying  to advance the peace process on Mindanao, including other rebellious groups than the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a ceasefire agreement in 2014.

Since the end of the authoritarian regime of long-term President Suharto in 1998, Indonesia, a country of 250 million managed to consolidate democracy including freedom of the press. The conflict in the province of Aceh was resolved peacefully in 2005; the province received additional autonomous rights. Indonesia is the largest economy in the region (G 20 member) and has experienced high growth rates in recent years. First steps for economic reforms and reduction of bureaucracy have been implemented.

In Timor-Leste, independent since 2002, the political situation has further stabilized. The most recent presidential and parliamentary elections were considered as largely peaceful and fair. Timor-Leste has observer status in ASEAN and continues to seek full membership.