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Asia’s global rise: what does this mean for ASEAN?

Much has been made of Asia’s rise to global prominence and the continent’s increasingly important role in global politics. But what does this mean for ASEAN, whose regional presence has also received growing attention from the global community

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Much has been made of Asia’s rise to global prominence and the continent’s increasingly important role in global politics. But what does this mean for ASEAN, whose regional presence has also received growing attention from the global community

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The US has already launched its ‘forward-deployed diplomacy’ strategy in the region, as evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s attendance at last year’s ASEAN Regional Forum and her landmark visit to Myanmar in December last year. And the US’s recent high-level meetings with the Philippines and Singapore over defence and security issues equally suggest that ASEAN will become a strategic region for Washington in the not-so-distant future.

Foreign ministers and government officials attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Much has been made of Asia’s rise to global prominence and the continent’s increasingly important role in global politics. But what does this mean for ASEAN

Meanwhile, Beijing has embarked on its own charm offensive by putting its money where its mouth is. By matching its political rhetoric with material resources, China has increasingly built its reputation as a credible long-term stakeholder within the region, with very positive results. The ASEAN-China Free Trade Area is now the third-largest in the world by trade volume. Additionally, Beijing has embarked on other new initiatives such as the Greater Mekong Subregion, the emerging Beibu Gulf Economic Rim, the Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor and the East-West Economic Corridor.

In 2009, the Chinese government also proposed to invest US$25 billion in infrastructure and other development projects in the region over the next three to five years

In fact, Beijing’s ability to maintain its stellar economic performance despite the global economic downturn has prompted some analysts to suggest that China could emerge as an independent source of demand, with Chinese consumers making up — at least partially — for consumption loss in the West.

The need to straddle both Washington’s and Beijing’s interests is not lost on ASEAN. While visiting Washington earlier this February, Singapore’s foreign minister, K. Shanmugam, suggested that the US needed to avoid anti-Chinese rhetoric in its domestic debates. Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh also explained the ASEAN strategy in a recent interview as ‘bringing the major powers (particularly the US and China) together and embedding them in a cooperative framework … thereby reducing the deficit of trust’.

With the newly revamped East Asia Summit (EAS) in the regional limelight of late, some scholars have described the need for ASEAN to lead the EAS in such a way as to make it ‘acceptable to Beijing as well as relevant to Washington’. One approach currently being pursued is the stress on ‘ASEAN centrality’ — the notion of an ASEAN-led regional architecture in which the region’s relations with the wider world are conducted with the interests of the ASEAN community in mind. Over the years, the usefulness of this strategy has been demonstrated at the EAS, a forum whose agenda and membership are determined solely by ASEAN members. The inclusion of the US and Russia in the meeting last year suggests that greater attention is now being accorded to the ASEAN political theatre.

Last year’s ASEAN Regional Forum also saw participating countries discuss a wide range of issues from territorial disputes in the South China Sea to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Indeed, the forum found considerable traction among top global leaders, as seen by the attendance of both Hillary Clinton and China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi.

Nevertheless, there is a danger of overstretching the usefulness and effectiveness of such an approach, especially if ASEAN countries start to adopt an ‘inward-looking, it-is-all-about-ASEAN mentality’. Paradoxically, ASEAN’s ascension to global prominence came about as a result of member states’ willingness to open up to the wider global community of nations. In other words, ASEAN centrality was made possible because individual ASEAN countries chose to align their fortunes with the rest of the world; this opening up is the main driver of the ASEAN community’s collective success.

In light of the increasingly complex and multifaceted nature of global challenges, the tendency and temptation for ASEAN to look inwards and close in on itself will grow. Anxieties over big-power relations and the uncertainties of how these interactions will play out could lead ASEAN member states to disengage from global challenges and develop parochial and isolationist tendencies instead.

The Bali Concord III, signed in November 2011 by ASEAN leaders, must not be used to justify an overly ASEAN-centric view of the world. Such an outcome would paralyse a region whose very growth was founded upon the diverse and dynamic relationships its member states have with the wider world. Already the first two months of 2012 have witnessed the emergence of several political narratives that could define global matters for the rest of the year. ASEAN will inevitably be drawn into the picture; its ability to maintain global engagement while keeping its own house in order will be a critical test of its readiness — and relevance — as a regional stakeholder.

Author: Benjamin Ho, RSIS

Benjamin Ho Tze Ern is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Multilateralism Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

A version of this article was first published here as RSIS Commentary No. 28/2012.

Read the rest here:
ASEAN centrality: a year of big power transitions

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Asean

COVID-19 Vaccine Roll Outs in ASEAN Live Updates by Country

Thailand is currently expecting vaccines to be delivered in mid-2021. The doses would cover 13 million people in a population of about 69 million. Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute signed a non-refundable advance market commitment contract worth 2.38 billion baht (US$79 million) with AstraZeneca to reserve the supplies

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ASEAN coronavirus Covid-19 live updates by country

Brunei

Brunei has joined the global Covax scheme and is expecting to have the COVID-19 vaccine in Q1 2021, having sourced enough supplies to cover 50% of the population. Discussions are on-going with other suppliers.   

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  • Brunei recorded one new case on May 8, bringing the total to 330 cases amid three deaths.
  • Brunei saw one new case on May 7, taking the total to 229 cases amid three deaths.
  • Brunei recorded one new case on May 4, taking the total to 228 amid three deaths.

Cambodia

Cambodia is expected to import vaccines from both China and Russia. China’s vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials while Russia has already commenced production. Australia has offered financial support to aid vaccine coverage in several southeast Asia countries including Cambodia.  

  • Cambodia recorded 538 new cases on May 8, bringing the total to 18,717 cases amid 114 deaths.
  • Cambodia recorded 558 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 18,179 cases and 114 deaths.
  • Cambodia reported 650 new cases and four deaths on May 6, bringing the tallies to 17,621 cases and 114 deaths.

Indonesia

Indonesia has commenced vaccinations with just over nine million doses being given to front line workers from last month. China’s Sinovac is in discussions with Indonesia to provide supplies, however, the Government faces difficulties with a large population of 268 million and price sensitivity at Sinovac’s estimated costs at 200,000 rupiah (US$20) a dose.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry’s Disease Control and Prevention Director-General Achmad Yurianto said that vaccinations would only be provided to citizens aged 18-59. The vaccine has also been required to pass halal certification prior to use and it is uncertain how the country can source enough vaccines to reach a sizeable part of its population.  Australia has stated it will also provide financial support to solve these issues.  

  • Indonesia recorded 6,130 new cases and 179 deaths on May 8, bringing the totals to 1,709,762 cases and 46,842 deaths.
  • Indonesia saw 6,327 new cases and 167 deaths on May 7, bringing the tallies to 1,703,632 cases and 46,663 deaths.
  • Indonesia reported 5,647 new cases and 147 deaths on May 6, bringing the totals to 1,697,305 cases and 46,496 deaths.

Laos

Laos has been trialing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and is also in discussions with China about acquiring supplies. 

  • Laos recorded 28 new cases on May 8, bringing the total to 1,233.
  • Laos saw 28 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 1,205.
  • Laos saw 105 new cases on May 6, taking the total to 1,177.

Malaysia

Malaysia is to provide vaccines free of charge to its nationals, but foreigners will need to pay for the treatment, according to the Malaysian Minister of Health, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who has signed a deal with Pfizer for 12.8 million doses.

These will be administered in two stages of 6.4 million people each, with the program to commence in Q1 2021. The country aims to inoculate between 80-100% of its citizens. 

  • Malaysia reported 4,519 new cases and 25 deaths on May 8, taking the tallies to 436,944 cases and 1,657 deaths.
  • Malaysia saw 4,498 new cases and 22 deaths on May 7, bringing the tallies to 432,425 cases and 1,632 deaths.
  • Malaysia recorded 3,551 new cases and 19 deaths on May 6, taking the totals to 427,927 cases and 1,610 deaths.

Myanmar

Myanmar is seeking assistance from the Gavi and Covax programs to acquire vaccines, while Australia is also providing financial relief. At present, the Government aims to treat 20 percent of the ‘most at risk’ in the country with vaccines. The Government is struggling with finances and logistics and is also under US sanctions, while cases are surging. The Government has banned the celebration of Christmas and other seasonal celebrations.   

  • Myanmar recorded 31 new cases on May 8, taking the total to 142,934 amid 3,210 deaths.
  • Myanmar saw 29 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 142,903 amid 3,210 deaths.
  • Myanmar recorded 16 new cases and one death on May 5, bringing the total to 142,874 amid 3,210 deaths.

Philippines

The Philippines aims to commence vaccinations from June 2021 and expects to inoculate about 25 million people (about 25 percent of its population) over the course of the year. The country has been badly affected by the virus and has the second-highest rate in Southeast Asia.

The business community has reacted, more than 30 local companies signed an agreement to purchase at least 2.6 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca in the country’s first such deal to secure coronavirus vaccines, ten days ago. They plan to donate a large part of the doses to the government for its planned vaccination program and use the rest to inoculate their employees. 

  • The country saw 6,979 new cases and 170 deaths on May 8, taking the totals to 1,094,849 cases and 18,269 deaths.
  • The Philippines reported 7,733 new cases and 108 deaths on May 7, bringing the tallies to 1,087,885 cases and 18,099 deaths.
  • The Philippines saw 6,637 new cases and 191 deaths on May 6, bringing the totals to 1,080,172 cases and 17,991 deaths.

Singapore

Singapore has been working on producing its own ‘Lunar’ vaccine, in a joint venture between the US company Arcturus together with the Duke-NUS medical school. It is a single dose, mRNA shot, developed from genetically engineering COVID-19 genes into an otherwise harmless virus. This technique is marginally safer than other vaccines which rely on dead Covid-19 material to provoke an immune response. The vaccine is expected to be available from Q1 2021. High-risk personnel will receive the vaccine first in a process to be determined by the government.     

  • Singapore recorded 20 new cases on May 8, taking the total to 61,331 cases amid 31 deaths.
  • Singapore saw 25 new cases on May 7, taking the total to 61,311 cases amid 31 deaths.
  • Singapore saw 18 new cases on May 6, bringing the total to 61,286 cases amid 31 deaths.

Thailand

Thailand is currently expecting vaccines to be delivered in mid-2021. The doses would cover 13 million people in a population of about 69 million.

Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute signed a non-refundable advance market commitment contract worth 2.38 billion baht (US$79 million) with AstraZeneca to reserve the supplies. Discussions are also on-going with Oxford University in the UK to secure a vaccine that could be available in Q1 if trials are completed in time.   

  • Thailand reported 2,419 new cases and 19 deaths on May 8, taking the tallies to 81,274 cases and 382 deaths.
  • Thailand recorded 2,044 new cases and 27 deaths on May 7, taking the totals to 78,855 cases and 363 deaths.
  • Thailand reported 1,911 new cases and 18 deaths on May 6, taking the tallies to 76,811 cases and 336 deaths.

Vietnam

Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), a division of Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, has signed an agreement with Medigen Vaccine, a Taipei, Taiwan-based vaccine company to secure the supply of 3 million to 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021. Medigen is currently conducting Phase II studies of the vaccine, co-developed with the USA’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Taiwan and Vietnam with a view to a Q1 2021 rollout.  

Vietnam is also working on producing its own vaccine, with the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC) in Nha Trang City, partnering with New York City-based Icahn School of Medicine and the global health non-profit organization PATH. Phase 1 trials are already underway in Vietnam, while Phases 2 & 3 will be conducted at the beginning of 2021. The institute plans to submit documents for approval to the health ministry as early as April next year and claims to be capable of producing 30 million doses a year, expecting that a national vaccine could be distributed to the general population in October 2021.

  • Vietnam saw 15 new cases on May 8, taking the total to 3,152 cases amid 35 deaths.
  • As of May 7, 2021, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health confirmed a total of 3,091 cases of COVID-19. However, 2,560 of the affected patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Vietnam has also recorded 35 deaths due to the pandemic. The latest community transmission cases have been reported from Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, Thai Binh, Bac Ninh, and Da Nang among others. 16 local cases are linked to the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi’s Dong Anh district.
  • As of May 6, 2021, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health confirmed a total of 3,030 cases of COVID-19. However, 2,560 of the affected patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Vietnam has also recorded 35 deaths due to the pandemic. The latest community transmission cases have been reported from Hanoi’s outskirts district of Dong Anh.

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