Bhargav Reddy – APAC Assistance Operations Assistant
Major Issues In EAST ASIA PACIFIC
FRIDAY, 22 March 2019
Widodo changes campaign strategy. The campaign team of President Joko Widodo and his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, will reportedly shift its campaign strategy to door-to-door campaigns to inform the public of the president’s achievements. Campaign head Erick Thohir pledged that he will intensify communication with religious and community leaders, the coalition parties, entrepreneurs, volunteers, and activists. Erick’s statement comes after the latest Kompas pre-election survey showed that Widodo’s big lead over Prabowo Subianto has narrowed weeks ahead of the April 17 elections. Widodo remained 11.8% ahead of Prabowo in the Kompas survey. However, the planned change in the campaign strategy of the Widodo team shows that the team is taking the poll result seriously.
Elections on Sunday. Thailand will be having its general election on Sunday, March 24. It will be the country’s first general election in eight years, after the military intervention in 2014. People will be voting for members of parliament to fill up the country’s 500-member Lower House. A panel set up by the military government will be appointing members of the 250-member Senate. The election is largely a four-cornered fight between parties supportive of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, led by the Pheu Thai Party, the Democrat Party and the new parties including the Future Forward Party and the pro-regime Palang Pracharat Party. A record number of people are expected to vote on March 24. The Election Commission reported on March 17 that, 87% of the 2.6 million voters who registered for early voters cast their ballots. Voter turnout in Thailand has steadily increased over the decades from about 60% in the 1990s to 75% in the last election in 2011. The outcome of the election is uncertain. Analysts have opined that no party will have majority seats in the parliament and that the Senate will have a decisive vote in electing the next prime minister.
Rebels and government issue joint statement. Myanmar’s civilian government and the eight ethnic armed groups that have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, issued a joint statement after their collective peace discussion yesterday. The delegates agreed to continue meeting frequently to work towards resolving their political differences and ending armed conflicts. The eight ethnic rebel organizations will be separately meeting the military in Naypyitaw today. It is uncertain how the rebel groups’ meetings with the military will go, particularly that of the Arakan Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). The Arakan Army is currently at war with the military in Rakhine State and the TNLA has threatened to join the Arakan Army. The future of the peace process is also uncertain due to ongoing hostilities. The rebels reportedly want no less than a federal Myanmar and the rewrite of the present military-scripted Constitution. However, the military and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party are opposed to changing the Constitution. Clients are advised to avoid the Rakhine and its neighboring states as fighting between the military and ethnic rebels intensifies.
Case filed against China in ICC. Two former high-ranking Philippine government officials have filed a case against Chinese President Xi Jinping in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales have accused China of “atrocious actions in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory” on March 13, four days before the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC on March 17. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said both China and the Philippines are beyond the jurisdiction of the ICC. He said the filing of the case will not affect the Philippines’ diplomatic relations with China. Duterte is set to visit China for the fourth time in April. The ICC case is not likely to affect China’s actions in the South China Sea. China disregards the ICC and is not a signatory to the Rome Statute which sets the legal framework for the ICC.
Casual weapons banned. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an immediate ban on assault rifles and semi-automatic firearms yesterday as part of sweeping changes to the nation’s gun laws. The new law was announced after the shootings in two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 people dead and dozens injured on March 15. Ardern said another tranche of reforms will cover the firearm registry and licensing. The amendments to New Zealand’s gun laws reportedly enjoy popular support. It is hoped that the new laws will prevent another gun-violence incident in the country..
Explosion in chemical plant kills six people. Six people were killed and more than 30 others were injured after a huge explosion hit a chemical plant in Yancheng City in eastern China yesterday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the accident. The incident is the latest in a string of industrial accidents in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced. Authorities are expected to revisit the enforcement of industrial safety laws.