Lecture: MALAYSIA: From Kleptocracy to Democracy


May 30, 2018

Public Lecture Announcement

MALAYSIA: From Kleptocracy to Democracy

 

The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations at The  University of Cambodia is pleased to announce that there will be a public lecture on June 2, 2018 at UC Main Campus by Prof. Din Merican. Prof Din’s lecture is titled Malaysia: From Kleptocracy to Democracy. He will discuss the May 9 Malaysian General Elections (GE-14) and its impact on his country; and he will also touch on Cambodia-Malaysia relations in the new Mahathir Administration.

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Prof. Chhea Keo, Dean, Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

Biographical Sketch of Prof. Din Merican

Prof. Din Merican has had a long-standing history with Cambodia, and the experience he has brought to the study of International Relations in Cambodia is part of a career which encompasses a wide diversity of achievement in both the diplomatic and corporate world. He has connected Malaysians, Cambodians, and millions of others through his personal blog. which is devoured by those who share his passion for International Relations; it has received over 25 million hits.

In 2000-2002, he was consultant to the Asia-Europe Institute, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. In 2017 he was awarded the Dean’s Letter of Commendation for his contributions to the George Washington School of Business at George Washington University, and since 2015 he is  Associate Dean at the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations.

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Prof. Merican has Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours in Economic from The University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 1970, he graduated from The George Washington School of Business, The George Washington University, Washington D.C., USA with Master’s  Degree in Business Administration in Finance and International Business (with distinction). He was the Best Graduate Student in International Business for the Graduating Class of 1970. In 1989 he attended the well-known Advanced Management Program at INSEAD (The European Business School), Fontainebleau, France.

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Over the years, Prof. Merican served in many positions in both the public and private sectors. He began his career in 1963 at the Malaysian Foreign Ministry as Assistant Secretary (Political) in charge of Southeast Asia (covering Indonesia,  Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand and Burma) and military intelligence. This is where he established his relationship with Cambodia, and quickly realized that Cambodia captured his attention and imagination. For his outstanding contributions to teaching and research on Cambodia and ASEAN, he awarded a Doctorate (h.c) in International Relations in 2016 by The Board of Trustees, The University of Cambodia.

Lecture at The University of Cambodia: US Foreign Policy and Trends by Former United States Ambassador George Bruno


January 10, 2018

Lecture at The University of Cambodia: US Foreign Policy and Trends by Former United States Ambassador George Bruno

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The University of Cambodia and The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations in collaboration with The Embassy of The United States of America in Phnom Penh are pleased to announce that there will be a Lecture on “US Foreign Policy and Trends” on January 16th 2018 at 3:00pm – 5:00 pm by Former U.S Ambassador George Bruno in The United States of America Room , 9th Floor, The University of Cambodia.

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The Dean Techo Sen School Prof. Keo Chhea will represent H.E Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, Founder, Chairman of Board of Trustee and President of The University of Cambodia. Prof. Dr. Din Merican, Associate Dean, The Techo Sen School will be a moderator for the Lecture.

All Students, Faculty, Staff and Members of The UC Community are cordially invited.

 

George Bruno

https://www.americanambassadors.org/members/george-bruno

George Bruno is a lawyer in private practice concentrating on business matters and immigration law. He is also the Managing Director of USA Group International, an international consulting firm serving businesses and governments, with offices in New Hampshire and Washington, DC.

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He is under contract with the University of New Hampshire to manage its Partners for Peace Program dealing with civil-military emergency preparedness focusing this past year on Russia and Latvia. Ambassador Bruno is also an adjunct professor of International Affairs in the Graduate School of New England College and serves as an advisor to the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University, Ft. McNair, Washington, DC.

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Ambassador Bruno has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY, and a law degree from The George Washington University, Washington, DC. He was awarded a graduate fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

In 1998-1999, as a senior member of the US team, he made monthly visits to Panama to facilitate fulfillment of the 1977 Canal Treaty. In 1999-2000, he represented the US in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania to promote civil protection and cooperation among the Balkan nations. In the spring of 2002, he traveled to Indonesia and Korea for the State Department to discuss democracy, foreign policy and 9/11 before government, student and business audiences.

He has served on election observation missions in Kosovo, Pakistan and Romania, and participated in world forums on trade, human rights, democracy, military affairs, and the administration of justice. In 2005, he served as an advisor to the Bosnia War Crimes Tribunal.

He was appointed Ambassador to Belize from 1994-1997 by President Bill Clinton where he worked to increase trade, strengthen Belize’s democratic traditions, stem the flow of illegal drugs and aliens and promote friendly relations between our countries.

South China Sea Dispute: No Solution any time soon


October 8, 2017

South China Sea Dispute: No Solution any time soon

by Bunn Nagara

http://www.thestar.com.my

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WHEN a problem clearly becomes hopeless, it may generate one of two opposite reactions – intellectual equivalents of fight or flight. One is to see tremendous hope in the depths of disappointment; the other is to surrender utterly to crushing despondency. Both extreme reactions are equally unrealistic.

The intractable South China Sea disputes with their multiple layers of challenges form one such example.

Bill Hayton of London’s Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) think tank became an authority on the subject with his 2014 book The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia.

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As his talk at the Institute of China Studies, Universiti Malaya on Thursday showed, China’s current claim to most of the South China Sea is of quite recent origin, beginning after 1909.

China was more concerned about the Paracel Islands closer to home, not objecting to France’s claim to the Spratlys in 1933. For much of the time China even seemed unaware of the Spratly Islands.

Beijing began to claim the Spratlys only in 1946. This island group is now hotly contested by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In 2009 China sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General asserting its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters and islands of the South China Sea. Beijing argues that its rights date back centuries if not millennia.

But disputed claims based on little more than assumptions in a hazy and distant past pose problems abroad. Nothing substantive or meaningful can be anchored in international law recognised by all claimants.

For any country to display old maps of questionable origin to support the claims as ancient and therefore legitimate is not enough. That only enlarges the disputes, which is what has happened.

But what have Chinese geographers and legal experts made of Hayton’s revelations? Apparently they have yet to respond, since a Chinese translation of his work is on the way.

Such findings can better inform the disputes, raise the level of debates and encourage more reasonable claims. But that is as far as they go.

New information does not enable anyone – not even Hayton, as he claims – to resolve the South China Sea disputes in a week. That is sheer delusion in full flight mode. Greater familiarity with such disputes would make the many challenges clear enough. But some false hopes still need to be exposed.

The issue of joint development is among them. China has offered to conduct joint exploration and development with other claimant countries, but that has been rejected.

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Apart from the problems of who should pay how much of the costs and receive how much of the profits, any partnership in the spoils of a dispute is no answer. In law, it would already be an admission of another country’s rights over one’s national territory.

Another problem area is the nature of talks itself. Given the multiple claims, should negotiations be multilateral involving all the claimant countries or just bilateral?

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China insists on bilateral negotiations only, probably in series as it deals with one country at a time. The general perception however is that only inclusive multilateral talks can be worthwhile.

However, bilateral talks have also been seen as more realistic since the overlapping nature of the claims would get nowhere multilaterally. Too many conflicting disputes with far too many starting points may not see any progress.

But bilateral talks themselves may still go nowhere – each set of talks between two countries cannot proceed without recognising the prior arrangement made in the preceding set of talks involving other countries.

The fundamentally flawed nature of both bilateral and multilateral talks testifies to the surreal nature of ever resolving such disputes. The only realistic assessment of the prospect of successful talks may just be that success is unrealistic.

If all six parties claimed all of the Spratlys, then perhaps a settlement may be reached based on an equitable partitioning of the territory. Alternatively, if each of the claimant states staked a claim on only a part of the area, a settlement may also be reached through an agreed distribution of those parts.

But none of those situations applies. Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines each claims only part of the Spratlys, while China, Taiwan and Vietnam each claims all of the island group.

Complicating things further, there are overlapping claims by two or more countries. Worse, there are several areas of overlap by different sets of countries.

Besides the claims, claimant countries have also occupied various islands, outcrops and underwater features. Vietnam has some 30 military outposts on them, far outnumbering all the others which have 10 or fewer outposts each.

Backed by enormous resources, China has lately been the most ambitious in its scale of construction and land reclamation on the features it occupies. It has also rejected international legal hearings.

International law does not accept historical claims based on assertions, however vocal. Critics say that China avoids international hearings because it may lose by basing its claims on history alone. However, China says that such disputes centre on national sovereignty, and tribunals such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration that rejected its claims last year have no authority to decide on issues of national sovereignty.

To add still more colour and complexity, Taiwan’s claims have been subsumed by China. Since China already claims Taiwan as a province, Taiwan’s claims are also China’s.

This leaves Taiwan in an uneasy position. Even as it wants to assert its own individuality, it is comforted by China’s embrace in its claims to outlying territory.

The other player that is not actually in the game is the US. When the Philippines once relied on it for backing if not outright protection in staking its claims, there are now serious second thoughts.

Unlike claimant countries including China, the US has no claim to any territory in this region. In one sense that makes it neutral in overseeing order on the high seas.

However, in another sense it means an asymmetrical relationship where the US may not go very far in protecting a country’s disputed claims over another’s. At the same time, the US has a very large economic stake of its own in maintaining healthy relations with China.

That explains US actions being limited to “freedom of navigation operations” (Fonops), which see its vessels plying through waters that China has declared as its own.

These are only symbolic and temporary gestures challenging China’s own rhetorical assertions and presumptions. And that is just how they have been treated. Hayton argues that countries in South-East Asia should be more assertive in making their own historical claims as China does, since they have been using the South China Sea for millennia.

However, use of waterways by a country’s nationals in their passage (unlike occupation) may not equate to that country’s sovereignty over the waterways in international law.

Besides, sovereignty may be claimed only by nation states, and those of today’s South-East Asia did not exist centuries or even decades ago. Meanwhile state entities like Champa, Majapahit and Sri Vijaya are no longer with us .Such challenges make any resolution of the South China Sea disputes most unlikely even in a month of blue moons.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

 

Twenty years on: The Asian Financial risis and Asian Monetary Fund (AMF)


September 28, 2017

Twenty years on: The Asian Financial risis and Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) 

David Nellor

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

 

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Proposals for an Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) dominated corridor conversations at the 1997 IMF–World Bank annual meetings in Hong Kong. The Asian financial crisis had erupted a few months earlier and was engulfing the region.

The United States vetoed the idea, framing the proposal as the ‘IMF versus AMF’ where any type of AMF would undermine the IMF’s central role in the global financial system. Twenty years on, the circle has been closed, with the IMF launching a framework for collaborative action with regional arrangements.

 

Arguably, at that early stage of the crisis, the US position was not unreasonable. The mood of Asian finance officials was one of denial. Set against the backdrop of the Asian miracle, it was inconceivable, they thought, that self-inflicted policy distortions — quasi-fixed exchange rates combined with independent monetary policy — as well as compromised financial sector supervision helped drive the crisis. The idea of unconditional financing — not tied to reform — that would avoid reform was, they thought, a defendable proposition.

Still, the push for an AMF did suggest gaps in the global and regional financial architecture. What followed was a struggling ASEAN seeking to catch up, stop gap consultative groups like the Manila Framework Group, and a sequence of ad hoc parallel financing arrangements from the ‘Friends of Thailand’ to Indonesia’s so-called ‘second line of defence’.

The crisis broke on 2 July 1997. By late July, plans led by Japan and in cooperation with the IMF were underway for a regionally based meeting on Thailand. This informal grouping hosted by Japan in Tokyo on 11 August, became the ‘Friends of Thailand’. The concrete outcome of the meeting was a series of financial commitments by seven countries and the multilaterals, with the United States notably absent. The absence of the United States was perhaps shaped by congressional dissatisfaction with the Clinton Administration’s financial support of Mexico, which had been provided directly by the US Treasury without congressional approval during Mexico’s 1994 crisis.

Almost remarkably, this rushed US$17.2 billion collaborative financing arrangement was the regional success story from a sequence of ad hoc efforts to provide funding to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. The support was structured as a series of bilateral arrangements between Thailand and each country. Each drawing under these agreements was triggered in parallel with Thailand’s drawings under the IMF supported program. Commitments were credible as they were both conditional and fulfilled step by step.

By contrast, Indonesia’s more than US$40 billion package — including an US$18 billion ‘second line of defence’ through bilateral support — failed. The enormous scale of the funding, especially at that time, was intended to be a ‘shock and awe’ approach signalling to financial markets that stability was assured.

Some thought the second line would never need to be drawn and perhaps commitments were made with that expectation. But markets saw through this and in short order sufficient questions arose about the willingness of countries to follow through on commitments. This triggered uncertainty at best and arguably made the situation worse.

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The South Korean experience of international support was different. The concentration of external debt through the South Korean banking system enabled the coordination of a relatively effective capital control mechanism, creating a window to develop a market-based debt restructuring in the first half of 1998. Here the US Federal Reserve played a leading role, along with other central banks, supported by the technical contributions of IMF and South Korean officials.

Asia’s leaders were unanimous in supportive statements about the need for a regional crisis response mechanism including funding. Yet there were issues that continue to pose a challenge for the credibility of arrangements, such as the ASEAN+3 Chiang Mai Initiative, today. Lee Kuan Yew, while not opposed to an AMF, cautioned that such an arrangement would need to do more than provide funding that might enable crisis countries to avoid essential reform. He went on, ‘I do not see any Asian group of governments in the AMF strong enough to tell … President Suharto, “You will do this or we will not support you”. If you don’t say that and you support him, that’s money down the drain’.

The Manila Framework Group was established in a November 1997 meeting as the direct result of the failed AMF discussions in Hong Kong. It would serve as a surveillance forum of 14 APEC economies meeting regularly and on an ad hoc basis through to the end of 2004. It played an important role by, for example, triggering a June 1998 Tokyo meeting with the G7 to respond to destabilising global currency moves. The G20 would also start in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.

ASEAN was a participant but not a driver when the crisis broke. Its most concrete response came a few years later when, along with the ASEAN+3 countries, the Chiang Mai Initiative was launched in 2000. It was a modest first step especially as operational modalities remained to be defined for at least a decade and only in 2016 was there a ‘dry run’ to test the Chiang Mai Initiative’s capacity to respond to crisis.

Indonesia’s hastily developed Deferred Drawdown Option, with multilateral and bilateral support during the Global Financial Crisis, was another ad hoc instrument showing that gaps in the regional financial architecture persisted well into the 2000s.

Twenty years on, the IMF has spelled out plans for how to make the global financial safety net more effective through collaboration with regional financial arrangements — an outcome that seemed remarkably distant in the midst of the Asian financial crisis.

David Nellor is a Jakarta-based consultant. He was based in Asia for the IMF throughout the Asian financial crisis and participated in discussions on regional arrangements.

 

“Inspiration lurks around every corner”


November 17, 2016

“Inspiration lurks around every corner”

By Ooi Kee Beng

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One of the first things that any undergraduate learns is that when writing a scientific text, he or she must provide references. In fact, without such references, a text is not considered scientific.

This referencing behaviour is meant to show that the student has been reading the correct material; and that he has been digesting the words so thoroughly that he can now include the thoughts in his own writing. Now, what a Malaysian student will end up doing is provide references to books and articles written by professors based in faraway universities and colleges.

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Dr. Ooi Kee Beng, ISEAS (Yusuf Ishak Institute, Singapore

My argument is not with this jarring asymmetry in global knowledge. It has always been the case in human history that in every period of time, knowledge is concentrated and generated at certain centres much more than at others. At the moment, much first appears in the English language and in countries using that language. What’s more, the spread of new knowledge is also strongly overseen by a global network based on that language.

Sanskrit, Latin and Chinese, among others, have played that role before. But none has the global reach and the amazing speed and width of dissemination that English today commands. The soft power that America enjoys today – and no other culture comes close to the reach of its soft power – is not merely of its own doing; it rides on the back of hundreds of years of English imperial strength and colonial mastery, during which the English language and its cultural preconditions penetrated the farthest reaches of the world.

My concern is with a serious side effect of the sharp imbalance in knowledge generation in our times. What happens is that people outside the English-speaking world are left nursing a lack of confidence, not only in themselves but also in those in close proximity to them. Their behaviour where the transfer and generation of knowledge are concerned becomes rather warped.

In writing a scientific text, for example, it is much more probable than not that a Third World person will refer an idea or train of thought to a known person from a distant land even when that idea may have come to him through some other more immediate and personal channel. This is because he had learned to assume that he gains more points among his peers by referring to the politically and academically correct person; and that his own ideas are merely approximations of that bigger idea expressed better by others.

But if we contemplate the matter and observe what actually happens in our daily life, we should realise that inspiration comes most of the time from proximate impulses and from individuals in our surrounding.

Given the habit of referring distantly, the chances of us giving credit to those around us are also diminished, and complimenting things and people in our immediate surrounding – for referencing someone is indeed a high form of compliment – is rendered suspect.

The competition among students and scholars of showing that they know something that their peers have as yet not gotten around to knowing cultivates in them the tendency to be stingy with praise and to be secretive about their immediate sources of inspiration.

This is an impoverishment of the soul and of our culture; where we withhold praise and admiration from those close to us and give generously of the same to distant and often dead persons.

Note that I am merely using academic referencing to initiate a debate on a more general matter. In my experience, inspiration can come from anywhere at any time, but if I were to inform people around me of personal epiphanies, I would not get as good a hearing as I would if I referred whatever idea I just had to some distant knowledge authority.

Perhaps this explains why prophets always come from distant lands speaking exotic languages; and sometimes bearing superior arms. Those who dare to be prophets in their homeland are forced to flee into exile or are crucified in one way or another.

Catholic hymns are sung in Latin, Japanese Buddhists chant in Chinese, and Muslim thoughts are preferred in Arabic. In the secular sphere, Coolness wears an American accent. Indeed, we seem tobe talking here about something generically human.

We tend not to join clubs that will accept us as members. Since you know me, you cannot possibly be a significant person. But I am being far too categorical here; I am not being generous. Come to think of it, there are two ideal types of people. There are those who cannot imagine that people they come into contact with can be important; and then there are those who treat all coming into their orbit as meaningful and significant. Most of us are sometimes the one, and sometimes the other.

My basic point is that, epiphanies are always waiting to happen and inspiration can come to us at any time and place. We just have to let this take place by not imagining that profundity dwells far away, and are foreign to us.

We just have to realise instead that inspiration lurks around every corner, and is present at every meeting.

This article is republished in Merdeka for the Mind: Essays  on Malaysian Struggles in the 21st Century by Dr Ooi Kee Beng (Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Centre, 2015). pp 9-11.