Foreign Policy Blogs

Week-end Roundup 8-21-2009

Thai Soldiers on the Cambodian Border

Thai Soldiers on the Cambodian Border

The New York Times has a great article on the post-Aquino Philippines, which discusses the disillusionment many Filipinos feel with the state of their society.  The conclusion is that although the political structure of the nation changed the underlying political culture did not, which resulted in the lackluster political and economic performance that has been seen over the last 20 years.  It is remarkable to me, that although the Philippines has not been under Spanish control for over 110 years and do not tend to speak Spanish as a primary language, there are significant parallels between its political dramas and those historically seen in Latin America, possibly more than exist between the Philippines and  its Malayo-Polynesian speaking neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia.

– American Senator Jim Webb visited Vietnam this week as part of his Southeast Asian tour.  Among other things, he mirrored Secretary Clinton’s comments last month concerning greater American involvement in Southeast Asia, but went further, speaking specifically to the need to balance China with American “soft power”.   Being a constant concern for Vietnam, Webb also spoke about territorial issues between various Southeast Asian states and China in the South  China Sea, something is blog has looked at.  Vietnam recently had to plead with China to release Vietnamese fishermen from custody.  They were arrested by China for violating its border, although they were in disputed waters trying to escape a storm.   Incidents such as these have sparked nationalist outrage on the Vietnamese streets.

Thailand is upset with Cambodian warships patrolling in disputed waters.  This provocation is likely a response to a recent Thailand violation Cambodian airspace (which is apologized for) and Thailand setting up a forward patrol base on the island of Koh Kut in response to Cambodia allowing a French oil company to carry out surveys in the area.  This area is one of many being disputed by the two nations.

– The UN will wind down it mission in East Timor.  The 1600 man peace keeping force has mainly been training local police.  The withdrawl will be gradual to avoid the creation of a security vaccum that could lead to an uptick in conflict.   Mission Chief of Staff Dr. Gerard Gallucci also suggested that Australia and Singapore begin to reduce forces.  He cited East Timors stable democracy and justice system as accomplishments, but cautioned that the Timorese still need assistance on numerous issues.  He did not mention the high levels of government corruption; East Timor is currently ranked below the Phillippines and slighty above Laos by Transparency International’s Corruption Index.