The DailyBrief

Tuesday September 26, 2017

Cambodia’s China-backed clampdown: Prime Minister Hun Sen has leveraged Beijing’s rich support to rout the political opposition and repudiate the US and EU, previously his government’s biggest financial supporters, David Hutt writes. Many believe China’s support has emboldened Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party to lead what is shaping into its most extreme crackdown on political dissent and opposition in years. China says it “supports the Cambodian government’s efforts to protect national security and stability,” including, it seems, the recent arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason charges ahead of elections scheduled for next year. “China has given Hun Sen the diplomatic and economic wiggle room to launch the current crackdown,” said Sebastian Strangio, author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia.” “Previously, Hun Sen couldn’t have repudiated US and other Western support so openly.”

Indonesia’s fishing strategy: Fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti has earned a tough reputation by blowing up hundreds of foreign fishing boats caught poaching in Indonesian waters, and now with the national catch on the rise, she is taking the bold step of banning all exports of frozen fish, John McBeth writes. The former fish trader is anxious to add more value to marine products, in line with broader efforts to boost manufacturing and improve sluggish economic growth. Pudjiastuti also wants to turn 12 ports, from Merauke in far southeast Papua to Sabang in northwest Aceh, into processing points for direct export to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Pulau, Japan and Australia. But achieving her objectives requires intra-government cooperation, and in Indonesia – where bureaucratic reform is still a work in progress – that can be exceptionally difficult to secure.

All Xi’s men: Scheduled to open on October 18, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will be very important because, for the first time since Mao Zedong’s rule, only one man will decide all appointments – party general secretary Xi Jinping, Francesco Sisci writes. Significantly, in Mao’s time, China was a speck in the international political and economic scenery, but now it is a superpower. Of course, similar to Mao’s time, Xi will have to deal with other power centers, the party apparatus, the state-owned enterprises, the military, etc. But each of them has been or is being reformed by Xi’s rule, and they now are institutions, not factions, as they were during Deng Xiaoping’s era.

Malaysia refugee policy: Prime Minister Najib Razak began to champion the Rohingya cause about a year ago in an attempt to shore up his support among Muslim Malaysians, Josh Hong writes. Najib has so far organized at least one massive rally to highlight the plight of the severely persecuted Muslim minority group in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and allowed two street protests to take place in the heart of Kuala Lumpur without the organizers having to notify the police as they would otherwise be required to do under the much-criticized Peaceful Assembly Act. Najib’s growing interest in the Rohingya has irked the Myanmar authorities so much that they have suspended the policy of visas-on-arrival for Malaysians, making Malaysia the only member of Asean whose citizens need to acquire a visa before visiting fellow member Myanmar.

Southeast Asia ‘superbug’: News that resistance to artemisinin combination drugs – the frontline response against malaria – is spreading has spurred debate on whether a new approach is needed to counter the disease and other serious threats to human health, Jim Pollard writes. Leading malaria scientists revealed last week that alarming failure rates had been encountered in new areas in Southeast Asia where health workers are treating people for the disease. They warned that a “superbug” – malaria parasites highly resistant to artemisinin and the partner drug piperaquine – originally identified in western Cambodia has now also spread to southern Vietnam. Artemisinin drug-resistant P falciparum C580Y mutant malaria parasites have now spread across the entire Mekong sub-region, the scientists said in a letter to The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Pakistan’s national obsession: Since the country’s inception, policymakers, strategists and diplomats have securitized every inch of our domestic and global view, Hammal Kashani writes. Our national and international discourse, our media discourse, foreign-policy lectures, domestic debates and even our drawing-room conversations have been securitized. This obsession has made Pakistan a mere security state. Our political history, national policies and foreign-policy initiatives, relations with superpowers and regional powers, associations with Arab countries and even our economic engagements with various nations are directly or indirectly viewed within the prism of security.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.