Foreign Policy Blogs

Red Shirts Meet THE MAN, Indonesia's Role, and more…

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Meets Red Shirt Opposition

Thailand:  Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva not only kept his word to meet with opposition Red Shirt leaders, but also allowed the exchange to be carried live on state television.  In regard to one of the Red Shirt’s central demands, Vejjajiva agreed to consider dissolving Parliament and calls for new elections, a move that many Red Shirts believe will usher them back into power.  I find it unlikely this will occur.  The entire event was done to calm tensions in on the streets, by “throwing a bone” to the opposition.  Especially in light of  the several grenade attacks that happened in Bangkok over the weekend, which wounded several soldiers.

Indonesia:  World Politics Review is running an interesting  op-ed on Indonesian.   One point of contention is that the author believes the reason that 180 million Muslim strong Indonesia cannot serve as an “ambassador to the Muslim World” is that it does not participate in Arab or Persian Middle Eastern centered political issues.

This is likely true, but more import is the common belief of many in the Middle East is that they are the closest to  “The Prophet”, the true “guardians of Islam”, so the issue, I believe, is very much ethnocentric in nature.  More importantly, it is not even clear if Indonesia wishes to serve in this role.  As the author notes,  historically Indonesia has relished in playing great powers off against each other, as during the Cold War, not serving as a de facto ambassador for a single one.

The Philippines:   NY Times has a biographical article on Benigno S. Aquino III, the son of the late former president  Corazon Aquino, who is currently campaigning for president.  Although an instant front runner,  as the novelty of the Aquino  name  begins to decline, two months ahead of the election, Benigno is slipping in the polls as compared to his chief rival, Senator Manuel Villar.  A populist like this mother, Aquino is running on an anti-corruption platform. He is also critical of the U.S. military presence in the southern Philippines.  His supporters are mainly middle class and loyal to the family, also unusually defensive of him.   There is a lot of questions, even in his own camp,  concerning Aquino the younger’s aptitude, as well as the apparent “lack of fire” in his belly.  However, in the Philippines, family loyalties and political dynasties often trump policy platforms.  Still, although Mr. Aquino has a low bar to cross, it is not clear if he is motivated enough to get there.