CAMBODIA’S TOP TEN TYCOONS


Sensitive But Unclassified. Not for internet distribution.

¶1. (SBU) Summary. Prime Minister Hun Sen is making efforts
to bridge the gap between the political and private sector by
cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with the
country’s most prominent business tycoons. These business
leaders contribute money to the ruling Cambodian Peoples
Party (CPP) and Hun Sen can call on them to fund charities
and public works projects and to attract foreign investment,
achievements for which the CPP can claim credit. In return,
the business tycoons enjoy the added credibility and
legitimacy of having the Prime Minister’s support. These
symbiotic relationships illustrate the networks of business
tycoons, political figures, and government officials that
have formed in Cambodia, which reinforce the culture of
impunity and limit progress on reforms such as Hun Sen’s
self-declared “war on corruption.” Post highlights the
storied lives and diverse investment portfolios of ten of the
most prominent of these well-connected tycoons. End Summary.

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Kith Meng: “Mr. Rough Stuff”
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¶2. (SBU) A dual Cambodian-Australian citizen with a BA from
Australian National University, Kith Meng was born on
September 1, 1968. He is described as a relatively young and
ruthless gangster by Mekong Bank Chairman Michael Stephen
(PROTECT). Another well-connected business man in the
Cambodian community claims that Kith Meng is notorious for
using his bodyguards to coerce others into brokering deals.
As the chairman and CEO of Royal Group of Companies (RGC),
his resume runs the gamut of many different businesses. He
is concurrently the chairman of mobile phone company Cam GSM
Co., Cambodia Television Network (CTN), Cambo Six European
soccer betting Co., and CamLot Lottery Co. He has also
become an exclusive distributor of Canon products. Kith Meng
owns the Northbridge International School and the Cambodiana
Hotel. One of the most widely recognized achievements of the
Royal Group is its new joint venture with Australian-based
ANZ bank, in which both companies established ANZ Royal Bank
in 2005. The Royal Group owns 45% of the new bank. Kith
Meng also recently launched a new Cambodian insurance
company, Infinity General Insurance, through a joint venture
with Kuala Lumpur-based Infinity Financial Solutions.

¶3. (SBU) Recently, Kith Meng was elected President of the
Cambodian Chamber of Commerce. He also serves as an advisor
to Prime Minister Hun Sen and serves on the board of the
Cambodian Red Cross, whose President is Hun Sen’s wife, Bun
Rany. Politically, Kith Meng has good relations with the
Cambodian People’s Party, FUNCINPEC, and the Sam Rainsy
Party. He claims credit for negotiating the three-way deal
among the parties to engineer Sam Rainsy’s return to Cambodia
in early 2006. Several sources believe that the CPP has
tried to strengthen its relationship with Kith Meng because
it wants CTN’s ability to broadcast to a large number of
Cambodians living abroad. Kith Meng speaks, reads, and
writes both Khmer and English.

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Ly Yong Phat: “The King of Koh Kong”
————————————
¶4. (SBU) A prominent Cambodian-Thai dual citizen, Ly Yong
Phat was born in Koh Kong on January 7, 1958 under the name
of Phat Suphapha. He is nicknamed “The King of Koh Kong,”
for his prominence in his home province, which is located in
southwestern Cambodia bordering Thailand. Although he never
went beyond high school, Ly Yong Phat amassed a large fortune
from importing and exporting cigarettes, generating
electricity, and running casinos and resorts. He has good
relations with businessmen and government officials on both
sides of the Cambodian-Thai border, including particularly
close ties to Cambodian officials of Thai heritage such as
Defense Minister Tea Banh, Navy Commander Tea Vinh, and Koh
Kong Governor Yuth Phouthang. Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak
is his cousin.

¶5. (SBU) As he currently serves as a CPP Senator and advisor
to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Ly Yong Phat boasts to visitors
that he was personally appointed to develop his home
province, Koh Kong. He also sits on the board of the
Cambodian Red Cross, headed by Hun Sen’s wife. He is the CEO
and Chairman of the cigarette distributor Hero King Co. Ltd,
an administrator and majority shareholder of Koh Kong Sugar
Industry Co., Ltd, and the Koh Kong Plantation Co., Ltd. The
Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) (PROTECT) reported
that, after receiving land concessions that exceed the legal

PHNOM PENH 00001034 002 OF 004

limit of 10,000 hectares from the government in 2006, Ly Yong
Phat used his influence to send armed military police forces
to grab land from villagers and to clear their lands by
burning down their crops and trees. He speaks Khmer, Thai,
and Chinese dialects.

———————————–
Mong Reththy: “Hun Sen’s Money Man”
———————————–
¶6. (SBU) With only four years of schooling at a temple in
Phnom Penh, Mong Reththy has emerged as one of the most
influential businessmen in Cambodia and is often referred to
as “Hun Sen’s Money Man.” Born in Takeo Province on July 11,
1959, he founded Mong Reththy Group Co., Ltd, which initially
exported rubber to Singapore, Malaysia, China, and other
Asian countries. His company has now expanded and made a
fortune in palm oil and cattle. Mong Reththy has also
launched other companies such as Samnang Khmeng Wat (Luck of
Pagoda Boy) Construction Co., Ltd, which received an
exclusive contract to construct buildings for all of Prime
Minister Hun Sen’s charity projects. He has contributed
greatly to Cambodia’s infrastructure by building schools,
pagodas, hospitals, roads, and bridges. His business
portfolio also includes the Green Sea Agricultural Co.
economic land concession in Stung Treng province, which is
ten times the size permitted by Cambodia’s Land Law of 2001.

¶7. (SBU) Mong Reththy is likely the closest business tycoon
and ally to Prime Minister Hun Sen, given that they take
trips together to China and they both lived in the same
temple in Phnom Penh, Neakavoan, while attending secondary
school. Also, Hun Sen publicly shielded Mong Reththy by
deflecting accusations made by a former Secretary of State,
the late Ho Sok, when Mong Reththy was implicated in a
seven-ton marijuana drug bust in April 1997. Mong Reththy
owns a private port, Oknha Mong Port (aka Keo Phos Port) near
Sihanoukville, which he uses to export his agricultural
products. Comment: The recently departed Canadian Ambassador
(PROTECT) visited Okhna Mong Port and was disturbed by the
extreme deference customs and police officials stationed
there paid to Mong Reththy, leading her to question how
robustly government port security and customs measures are
enforced. End Comment. Recently, Mong Reththy entered into
a USD 50 million joint venture with Thai billionaire Charoen
Sirivadhanabhakdi to build the first Cambodian sugar refinery
by December 2008, in which Mong Reththy will have a 51%
stake. The refinery will process sugar palm from Mong
Reththy’s large estate on the road to Sihanoukville. He is a
Vice President of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, a board
member of the Cambodian Red Cross and serves as a CPP senator
as well as advisor to Hun Sen. He speaks Khmer and limited
English.

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Sy Kong Triv: “Pacific Giant”
——————————
¶8. (SBU) Born into a well-to-do ethnic Chinese family in
Kampot on August 8, 1947, Sy Kong Triv is the chairman of KT
Pacific Group, a manufacturing and distribution company that
provides one of the largest varieties of services in the
country. He personally owns many local businesses including
KTE Mitsubishi electronics and the Mondial Center, the
largest business and wedding reception center in Phnom Penh.
He also has joint ventures in a number of diverse businesses
including British American Tobacco (BAT), Eastern Steel
Industry Corporation and SCA Airport, through which he owns a
large portion of the Phnom Penh International Airport. He is
also the co-director along with Lao Meng Khin (co-owner of
Pheapimex) of a Chinese tree plantation company called
Wuzhishan LS, which has been accused of environmental
degradation in sacred ancestral areas, negatively affecting
the health of the local indigenous population, according to
the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC)
(PROTECT).

¶9. (SBU) Like other major tycoons, Sy Kong Triv is one of
the CPP’s main financiers. He is also a Vice President of
the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and an advisor to the
Association of Khmer-Chinese of the Kingdom of Cambodia. He
speaks Khmer, Vietnamese, three Chinese dialects, and limited
English.

—————————-
Kok An: “Gambling King Pin”
—————————-
¶10. (SBU) Born in Koh Kong Province as Phu Kok An on July 7,
1954, Kok An dropped his Chinese last name (Phu) when Lon Nol

PHNOM PENH 00001034 003 OF 004

seized control of the Cambodian Government and discrimination
against Cambodians of Chinese ancestry was rampant. With a
high school education, he started a lucrative business in the
1980s, trading goods between Thailand and Vietnam. In the
1990s, he became involved with the fishing business and the
cigarette industry. He also broadened his business interests
when he started operating Crown Resorts Casino in PoiPet and
soon after built a power plant. Kok An is Managing Director
of ANCO Brothers Company, Ltd, a Cambodian company that
distributes tobacco for Singapura United Tobacco Ltd. (SUTL).
Since 1993, he has distributed the 555 brand of cigarettes
for British American Tobacco (BAT) in Cambodia.

¶11. (SBU) Kok An has strong ties to the ruling CPP and was
reportedly one of the people who helped pay the USD 50
million in compensation to Thailand for damage to the Thai
Embassy during the anti-Thai riots in early 2003, according
to Director General of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce Meng
Tech (PROTECT). He currently serves as CPP senator and
advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen. He also is a member of
the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and on the board of the
Cambodian Red Cross, run by Hun Sen’s wife. Kok An speaks
Khmer, Thai, Chinese, and some Vietnamese.

———————–
Sok Kong: “Mr. SOKIMEX”
———————–
¶12. (SBU) Despite having only a third-grade education, Sok
Kong managed to transform USD 50 into USD 50 million in
capital. After fleeing Phnom Penh to Vietnam in 1975 when
the Khmer Rouge seized the city, Sok Kong returned after the
collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime and began a business
distributing and supplying Vietnamese-manufactured rubber
products such as bicycle tires. He soon created his own
rubber mill and secured a contract with the government to
produce rubber shoes made from tires. He also supplied the
government with military uniforms, food, and medicine for
military personnel.

¶13. (SBU) His company, SOKIMEX, is the largest petroleum
supplier in the country and sells to both the government and
the private sector. Although its primary product is
petroleum from Vietnam, it has also expanded to provide
transport, power, agro-industry, rubber plantations, and
tourism services. One of SOKIMEX’s biggest successes was
acquiring the ticketing rights to Angkor Wat in 1999. There
is much controversy surrounding the revenue from Angkor Wat
as reports suggest that SOKIMEX is grossly underreporting the
amount of money it makes from ticket sales. In addition,
Angkor Wat conservation advocates say that insufficient
revenue from these sales is dedicated to temple preservation.
Sok Kong has also allegedly gained a bad reputation for not
paying taxes on oil, but has recently made efforts to
increase tax payments. He is still very close to Hun Sen and
the government hierarchy. He speaks Khmer, Vietnamese and
some French.

—————————————-
Yeay Phu & Lao Meng Khin: “Power Couple”
—————————————-
¶14. (SBU) One of the most politically and economically
connected couples in the country (after Prime Minister Hun
Sen and his wife and Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh and his
wife), Lao Meng Khin and Yeay Phu (aka Choeung Sopheap) were
born on January 1, 1944 in Sihanoukville and May 11, 1949 in
Kampot Province, respectively. They are the co-owners of
Pheapimex Fu Chan Co. Ltd, a controversial logging company
that has expanded to cover salt iodization, iron ore
extraction, bamboo cultivation, pharmaceutical imports and
hotel construction. According to a number of NGOs that
monitor environmental issues, Pheapimex is the company that
has acquired the largest total land area through the logging
business. Recently, the company has shifted from logging
concessions to economic land concessions (ELCs), by which it
now has access to at least 315,028 hectares of land for
agribusiness.

¶15. (SBU) Phu, who is of Chinese origin, uses her contacts in
China to attract foreign investment from Chinese companies
such as Wuzhishan LS and Jiangsu Taihu International. Her
husband, Lao Meng Khin, is a Vice President of the Cambodian
Chamber of Commerce, and he serves as a CPP senator and
advisor to Hun Sen. Together, they have a joint venture with
Sy Kong Triv through Wuzhishan LS for a pine tree plantation
in Mondulkiri Province. This dynamic duo has a rather strong
relationship to Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany. Lao Meng
Khin has accompanied the Prime Minister on more than one trip

PHNOM PENH 00001034 004 OF 004

to China, while Yeay Phu, who is a board member of the
Cambodian Red Cross, is reportedly a close friend and
business associate of Bun Rany. Yeay Phu is also a business
associate of Tep Bopha Prasidh, the wife of the Minister of
Commerce; and Ngyn Sun Sopheap, the wife of the Director of
the National Department of Customs and Excise. The Pheapimex
couple’s son is married to the daughter of Lim Chhiv Ho, the
Managing Director of Attwood Import Export Co., Ltd. In
addition to Khmer, Lao Meng Khin speaks Mandarin Chinese and
Yeay Phu speaks several Chinese dialects.

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Lim Chhiv Ho: “The Gatekeeper”
——————————
¶16. (SBU) Born in Sihanoukville on October 1, 1961, Lim Chhiv
Ho is one of Cambodia’s most well-connected women. She is the
Managing Director of Attwood Import Export Co., Ltd, the
official distributor in Cambodia for Hennessy Cognac and
popular brands of beer and whisky including Johnnie Walker
and Heineken. As a growing company, Attwood has diversified
its services and now owns hotels, real estate and property
development firms as well. The company has received
contracts from the government to develop Special Economic
Zones (SEZs) in Sihanoukville and Bavet near the Vietnamese
border. She has also recently signed a joint venture with
Zephyr Co. to create the Japan Cambodia Development
Corporation, which will establish another SEZ close to Phnom
Penh. To attract investment, these zones offer various
privileges to both local and foreign businesses including a
nine-year tax holiday, exemptions on VAT and import and
export duties.

¶17. (SBU) Lim Chhiv Ho, a vice president in the Cambodian
Chamber of Commerce, has very strong connections to other
prominent government and business officials in the country.
One of her strongest connections is to Choeung Sopheap (Yeay
Phu), co-owner of Pheapimex Co. Lim Chhiv Ho’s daughter is
married to Yeay Phu’s son. Lim is a close business associate
of Tep Bopha Prasidh, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh’s
wife, who owns 10 percent of shares of Attwood valued at
approximately USD 1 million. Lim Chhiv Ho is also a business
associate of Ngyn Sun Sopheap, the wife of the Director of
the National Department of Customs and Excise. Lim Chhiv Ho
is a Cambodian Red Cross board member and fundraiser.

——————————–
Pung Kheav Se: “Banking Pioneer”
——————————–
¶18. (SBU) A soft-spoken Cambodian of Chinese ethnicity, Pung
Kheav Se was born in 1946 in Phnom Penh. He is one of the
most well-known bankers in Cambodia. Pung Kheav Se fled
Cambodia in the late 1970s to Montreal, Canada, where he made
a fortune buying gold from the central bank and reselling it
at a profit. As the founder of Canadia Bank, the largest
bank in the country, he holds one-fourth of the nation’s bank
deposits. He is the owner of the Independence Beach Resort
HOTEL IN Sihanoukville as well as the new upscale Sorya
Shopping Center in Phnom Penh. He is also currently the
chairman of Cambodia’s Foreign Trade Bank and the Association
of Banks in Cambodia, an advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen,
and an advisory member of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce.
He speaks Khmer, English and Chinese.

¶19. (SBU) Comment: Cambodia’s tycoons are a close-knit and
powerful group, who often share involvement in charitable
activities like the Cambodian Red Cross and are further bound
together by marriages and business partnerships. Many have
been awarded the honorary title of “Okhna” which over the
last five years has been bestowed on those who have
contributed large sums of money to the government’s coalition
parties, CPP and FUNCINPEC. (Most of these donations appear
to have gone towards the CPP party.) Another striking aspect
of this network is the active involvement of the spouses of
government and business officials who are significant
shareholders in various businesses. Hun Sen’s relationship
to this group is both symbiotic and self-limiting. The
tycoons help to finance the CPP, contribute greatly to
economic growth, and undertake important charitable work such
as the construction of schools and hospitals, while reaping

the benefits of close government ties. Hun Sen announced a

“war on corruption” in 2004, which was aimed at legal,
judicial, and public administration reform. However, Hun
Sen’s very reliance on his tycoon network may hinder progress
in battling corruption, illegal logging, and other sensitive
issues that he claims are priorities. End Comment.
CAMPBELL

Source: Wikileaks

South China Sea – Current Issues and Recent Developments in Maritime Security


American and Chinese Strategic Intentions

In November 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the ‘Strategic Pivot to Asia’, the most important strategicshiftsincetheend oftheColdWar.Oneofthe keydriversinthisdecisionisbasedontheassessment that the geopolitical relevance of Asia has grown considerably. According to a study conducted by the HSBC Bank of September this year (2014), worldwide trade is set to triple by 2030, with Asia as the chief driver of economic growth. Hence, the U.S. was compelled to adapt its political, economic and military strategies.

U.S. Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, challenged Beijing at the 13th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2014 (May 30 – June 1, 2014) in Singapore, when outlining China’s destabilizing unilateral action in disputed waters off the South China Sea, thereby underscoring America’s strategic intention of remaining within the region.

In an interview with Nikkei ASIAN Review at the end of August this year (2014), Richard Myers, former chair- man of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated: “The U.S. has always considered itself an Asia-Pacific nation. We always talk about the Asia-Pacific as being the key to the future and to a lot of our vital national interests.”

While the mutual interests and opportunities for cooperation between Washington and Beijing are several, both sides face a fundamental conflict of interests. Whereas, according to China, the U.S. should disengage militarily from Asia, the U.S. has, for its part, demonstrated its determination to stay in the region.

One widespread view among Chinese strategists is that the U.S. encourages regional actors to confront Beijing, and that disputes between China and other regional actors are in Washington’s interest. In the U.S. most strategists contend that the recent source of instability is a consequence of China’s provocative behaviour, thus indicating that China ultimately seeks to challenge the world order as spearheaded by the United States.

The leaderships of both nations are aware that the three million square kilometres of the South China Sea (SCS) are of particular strategic importance. Around US$ 5.3 trillion in trade flows through the region in and around the South China Sea annually, one-fifth of which is U.S. commerce. Around 80% of China’s crude oil imports, approximately 66% of South Korea’s energy supplies and almost 60% of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy are transported through the SCS.

The sovereignty disputes in the SCS involve major themes in grand strategy and territorial defence, including the protection of the sea lines of communication (SLOC), energy, food and environmental security. They are also linked to rising populist nationalism in Asia.

Military Aspects

While the West reduces its defence spending, Asia proceeds to rapidly modernize its armed forces following rapid economic growth and strategic insecurity. Nominal defense spending in Asia has risen by 23% since 2010, from around US$ 261.7 billion to US$ 321.8 billion, in 2013. China’s official defense budget amounted to US$ 112 billion, in 2013; an increase of 10.7% over 2012. Both China and its neighbours have invested heavily in so called anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities.

ThePLA’s strategicprioritiesaregraduallyshiftingfromthedefence ofChina’sborderstoforceprojectionwithin East Asia and further afield in an endeavour to secure sea lines of communication and maritime resources. According to the latest Defence White Paper, Beijing plans to deploy forces capable of winning local wars based on informationisation by 2020, namely, successful joint-operations in a contested regional environment enabled by modern technology. Beijing’s objective is to become a ‘peer competitor’ to the U.S. by 2050, in spite of present weaknesses in China’s military capabilities, and even high-ranking Chinese officials admit that the U.S. is 20 to 30 years ahead.

The rapid modernisation of Asia’s military forces coupled with a conflict situation in the competition for natural resources and regional aspirations amounts to a hazardous concurrence of factors that cannot be ignored.

In his speech at the 13th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, 2014, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel stated that the U.S. willcontinueitsaidtonationsinbuildingtheirrespectivehumanitariananddisaster-reliefcapabilities,and in upgrading their respective armed forces. For the first time Indonesia is to receive Apache helicopters to conduct counter-piracy operations, and control the free flow of shipping through the Straits of Malacca.1 Furthermore, Washington plans to provide robust assistance to the Philippines’ armed forces, and strengthen their maritime and aviation capabilities.2

South Korea is to receive “Global Hawk Drones” in an effort to substantially enhance its intelligence, surveill- ance and reconnaissancecapabilities. South Korea also plans to aquire the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.3 The United States is poised to deploy two additional ballistic missile defense ships and has deployed its most advanced capabilities – including two Global Hawks at Misawa Air Base, F-22 fighter aircraft at Kadena Air Base, and MV-22 Ospreys on Okinawa.4

Next year the U.S. Navy will introduce the Joint High Speed Vessel in the Pacific and an additional submarine forward station in Guam. As many as four Littoral Combat Ships will be deployed in the same region by 2017. By 2018, the navy’s advanced multi-mission Zumwalt-class destroyer is scheduled to begin operating out of the

Pacific. And by 2020, the U.S. plans to achieve its objective of operating 60% of both its navy and air force fleets out of the Pacific, while also flying the Hawkeye early-warning and unmanned Triton ISR aircraft in the region. These are clear indications that the U.S. is and will continue to be a Pacific power.

Sources: ISN, ISPSW

The Two Faces of Thai Authoritarianism


Thai politics has completed a dramatic turn from electoral authoritarianism under deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001–2006 to a virtual military government under General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These two sides of the authoritarian coin, electoral and military, represent Thailand’s painful learning curve. The most daunting challenge for the country is not to choose one or the other but to create a hybrid that combines electoral sources of legitimacy for democratic rule and some measure of moral authority and integrity often lacked by elected officials.

A decade ago, Thaksin was practically unchallenged in Thailand. He had earlier squeaked through an assets concealment trial on a narrow and questionable vote after nearly winning a majority in the January 2001 election. A consummate politician and former police officer, Thaksin benefited from extensive networks in business and the bureaucracy, including the police and army.

In politics, his Thai Rak Thai party became a juggernaut. It devised a popular policy platform, featuring affordable universal healthcare, debt relief and microcredit schemes. It won over most of the rural electorate and even the majority of Bangkok. Absorbing smaller parties, Thai Rak Thai virtually monopolised party politics in view of a weak opposition.

Thaksin penetrated and controlled supposedly independent agencies aimed at promoting accountability, particularly the Constitutional Court, the Election Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission. His confidants and loyalists steered these agencies. His cousin became the army’s Commander-in-Chief. His police cohorts were fast-tracked to senior.

positions, including his brother-in-law, who became national police chief. Similarly, Thaksin’s business allies and associated partners secured plum concessions and choice government procurement projects.

After his landslide victory in February 2005, Thaksin became the first prime minister to be re-elected and to preside over a government composed only of one party. But his virtual monopoly on Thai politics and accompanying hubris inevitably got the better of him. Making a lucrative business out of politics led to his demise in the September 2006 military coup. Thaksin’s rule was democratic on paper but authoritarian in practice.

Yet Thaksin’s legacy is already strong. His subsequent proxy governments in 2008 and 2011–2014, under his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, were politically paralysed by anti-Thaksin street protests. When Yingluck looked poised to complete her term, Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party came up with a blanket amnesty bill that upended her government, assisted by the independent agencies that had turned against Thaksin in the 2006 coup. The putsch on 22 May 2014 was merely the knock-out blow on an ineffectual administration that was not allowed to govern.

Now the pendulum has swung [1] to the other, authoritarian end. General Prayuth now heads a regime with no democratic pretences, ruling with absolute power. His is a military government both on paper and in practice. The tone of the 22 May coup clearly signalled that the military would dominate politics, epitomised by the general himself becoming prime minister.

Prayuth’s allies under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have now taken key portfolios relating to the Thai economy and society, foreign affairs and internal security. The structure of power under the NCPO is clear.

Two months after seizing power, the NCPO rolled out an interim constitution and appointed a National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Today the NLA is filled not with business cronies and spouses of politicians but with military classmates and siblings, who in turn chose Prayuth as prime minister. The caretaker prime minister then selected his cabinet, more than one third of which is military. The National Reform Council (NRC) will soon be formed, leading to a constitution-drafting committee, which will be nominated by the NRC, NLA, cabinet and NCPO.

Like a politburo, the NCPO is thus the nexus of this interim governing structure, comprising the NLA, cabinet, and NRC. This monopoly of power is reminiscent of the Thaksin juggernaut a decade ago. It was a parliamentary dictatorship then as it is now. But the fundamental difference is that the current authoritarian period completely bypassed the electorate.

Prayuth enjoys the same immense personal popularity as Thaksin did. His no-nonsense state of the nation speeches have been to the point and delivered in appealing tones. The NCPO’s anti-corruption campaign is popular and would certainly score more points if it dared to aim at higher-up corruption schemes and concessions, not just low-hanging fruits like extortion rackets that run motorcycle taxis and the state lottery.

Prayuth and the NCPO also benefit from the fact that public expectations started from a low base. After six months of anti-government street protests and policy paralysis, the coup was a

relief. Everyone had to make do with the coup because there was no initial alternative in the face of continuing martial law. But reality will start to bite as the military-dominated government starts its day-to-day work. The next 14 months of the NCPO’s timetable to return to democratic rule may be long and hard.

The military-backed government faces a tall order dealing with the grievances and expectations of a neglected electorate. Those who spoke out against the political monster that the Thaksin regime eventually became must now be wary of the potential for the military-backed government setting on a similar path. Unaccountable power with absolute authority and direct rule is inadvisable in Thailand. Past experiences in the 1960s, early 1970s and 1991–1992 have shown that such governments eventually end in tears.

Sources: ISN, EABER, SABER

Indonesian and Malaysian IS Supporters: Need for ‘Soft’ Approach


In July, a picture of extremist Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir in his maximum security prison in Nusakambangan, Central Java, with an ISIL flag as its background, was widely circulated on Indonesia’s social media. Ba’asyir had also called on his followers to support their “fellow brothers” who were part of the IS group. Another jailed jihadi leader, Aman Abdurrahman, had also conveyed support for IS and has been translating and distributing IS publications over the Internet. A video by the IS recently featured an Indonesian fighter named Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi delivering an impassioned appeal to fellow Indonesians to ‘join the ranks’. A growing number of young individuals are drawn to the IS’ cause among them Abu Muhammad, a 19 year old Indonesian who studied in Turkey and later joined the IS in Syria.

Malaysian authorities say that the IS sympathisers are attracting a small number of Malaysians from a wide variety of backgrounds through social media, particularly Facebook, and have also managed to raise funds through such channels.

The primacy of the IS’ theological arguments feature strongly in the Indonesian militants’ motivations to fight in Syria. The activities of Malaysian IS supporters on Facebook on the other hand points to a more complex mix of reasons motivating Malaysians to join the IS, most of which are political, financial or ideological.

According to the IS’s radical narrative, Syria is said to be the epicentre of the Last Caliphate. The IS believes that the Final Battle against the false prophets will ensue in the ongoing battle in Syria.

Following the 2002 Bali bombings Indonesia has stressed a hard approach to countering the threat of terrorism, primarily through the lens of law enforcement. Under Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit Detachment-88 Jakarta has successfully captured hundreds of terrorist suspects across the archipelago and confiscated their weapons.

Amid reports that four new Malaysian militant groups, identified by their acronyms BKAW, BAJ, Dimzia and ADI, are bent on creating a “super” Islamic caliphate in parts of Southeast Asia, including secular Singapore, Malaysia has stepped up its counterterrorism efforts and arrested several individuals. The BKAW was reportedly recruiting through Facebook and rallies. One of its members is said to be Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, a 26 year old factory worker and the first Malaysian IS-linked suicide bomber, who killed 25 soldiers during the attack in Iraq on May 26.

So far, the emphasis on hard approaches has brought some success in apprehending terrorists and disrupting terrorist plots. But the IS has mounted a sophisticated online campaign to spread its propaganda worldwide. The Internet provides the perfect medium for terrorist groups like the IS to recruit, disseminate their ideology and get financing from individuals in Southeast Asia.

According to 2011 statistics from Techinasia, Indonesia has the second-largest population of Facebook users in the world and the fourth-largest population of Twitter users in the world, with a growing number who use other social media platforms. According to the International Telecommunications Union, Malaysia has also seen an increase in Internet users since 2000, from 21% to 65% in 2012. Developments in the Arab world today can easily enter the country and pose a legitimate concern for Indonesian and Malaysian governments due to the ubiquitous presence of the Internet.

Source: ISN, RSIS

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress


China is building a modern and regionally powerful Navy with a modest but growing capability for conducting operations beyond China’s near-seas region. The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, has emerged as a key issue in U.S. defense planning. The question is of particular importance to the U.S. Navy, because many U.S. military programs for countering improved Chinese military forces would fall within the Navy’s budget.

As a part of the U.S. strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region announced in January 2012, Department of Defense (DOD) planning is placing an increased emphasis on the Asia- Pacific region. Observers expect that, as a result, there will be a stronger emphasis in DOD planning on U.S. naval and air forces. Administration officials have stated that notwithstanding constraints on U.S. defense spending, DOD will seek to protect initiatives relating to the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Decisions that Congress and the executive branch make regarding U.S. Navy programs for countering improved Chinese maritime military capabilities could affect the likelihood or possible outcome of a potential U.S.-Chinese military conflict in the Pacific over Taiwan or some other issue. Some observers consider such a conflict to be very unlikely, in part because of significant U.S.-Chinese economic linkages and the tremendous damage that such a conflict could cause on both sides. In the absence of such a conflict, however, the U.S.-Chinese military balance in the Pacific could nevertheless influence day-to-day choices made by other Pacific countries, including choices on whether to align their policies more closely with China or the United States. In this sense, decisions that Congress and the executive branch make regarding U.S. Navy programs for countering improved Chinese maritime military forces could influence the political evolution of the Pacific, which in turn could affect the ability of the United States to pursue goals relating to various policy issues, both in the Pacific and elsewhere.

China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a broad array of weapon acquisition programs, including anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and supporting C4ISR (command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems. China’s naval modernization effort also includes reforms and improvements in maintenance and logistics, naval doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises.

Observers believe China’s naval modernization effort is oriented toward developing capabilities for doing the following: addressing the situation with Taiwan militarily, if need be; asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea; enforcing China’s view that it has the right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ); displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and asserting China’s status as a leading regional power and major world power. Consistent with these goals, observers believe China wants its military to be capable of acting as an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. forces. China may also use its navy for other purposes, such as conducting maritime security (including anti-piracy) operations, evacuating Chinese nationals in foreign countries when necessary, and conducting humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) operations.

Potential oversight issues for Congress include the following: whether the U.S. Navy in coming years will be large and capable enough to adequately counter improved Chinese maritime forces while also adequately performing other missions around the world; the Navy’s ability to counter Chinese ASBMs and submarines; and whether the Navy, in response to China’s maritime A2/AD capabilities, should shift over time to a more distributed fleet architecture.

Source: ISN, CRS

Do Reports of WMD Found in Iraq Vindicate George W. Bush?


The New York Times published an article this week that has re-ignited a 12-year-old debate: Was then-President George W. Bush right about Iraq? The report examined U.S. service personnel’s encounters with abandoned chemical weapons in Iraq – and some conservatives were quick to pounce on the story as evidence that claims by Bush in the lead-up to the war that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction were true and that the United States’ 2003 invasion was justified.

The article by Times reporter C.J. Chivers focused on U.S. soldiers who suffered from exposure to the sulfur mustard and other nerve gases which emitted from the bombs. According to the story, about “5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs” were found scattered across Iraqi soil. The U.S. government buried the cases from both the public and the troops. As a result, injured soldiers did not receive proper medical treatment.

The conservative Twittersphere immediately exploded with commentary – not over the military’s negligent health service or the government’s secrecy, however.

The roots of the debate hark back to a year after the 9/11 attacks when Bush told the U.N. that inspections showed that “stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents” were likely hidden in Iraq and that the regime was “rebuilding and expanding” chemical weapons production facilities. But Bush’s often-reiterated claims of an impending WMD threat were contradicted by a 2004 CIA report that said there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq, and liberal media outlets had charged that Bush misled the country into an unnecessary war.

After years of criticism from Democrats, Bush loyalists felt validated by Chivers’ article and cast the story as a victory for an unpopular former president.

“I bet George Bush is feeling on top of the world today, as it turns out that our presence in Iraq was justified, and contrary to what liberals would have us all believe, the war wasn’t about oil,” wrote Michael Cantrell of Young Conservatives.

Just as swiftly as right-wing supporters celebrated the find, liberal critics were quick to point out that Chivers never said the bombs were the same WMDs that Bush described; they were from the 1980s and early 1990s.

“Conservatives may hope to exploit the New York Times report, but the article references pre-1991 weapons,” wrote Steve Benen on the MaddowBlog. “Everything Republicans said in the lead up to the 2003 invasion is still wrong. Indeed, a little common sense is in order – if U.S. troops had found WMD stockpiles, the Bush/Cheney administration would have said so. Indeed, they were desperate to do exactly that.”

Source: The New York Times

FY 2015 WEAPON SYSTEMS FACTBOOK


Each year, the Department of Defense (DoD) submits a Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) to Congress detailing the status, plans, and funding requirements for more than 80 major acquisition programs. The most recent SAR, submitted in December 2013, projects funding and quantities for major acquisition programs extending more than 30 years into the future. The SAR projects these programs will need $324 billion over the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), spanning FY 2015 to FY 2019, and an additional $498 billion in FY 2020 and beyond.

This report summarizes the program plans and funding for each of the major acquisition programs included in the SAR and two additional programs. The Air Force’s Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) and the Navy’s Ohio-Class Replacement programs are not yet reported in the SAR, but enough is known about each program to construct a reasonable cost estimate. The LRS-B and Ohio Replacement programs are among the largest acquisition programs in DoD’s portfolio, as shown in the figure on the following page, and any discussion of major acquisitions would be incomplete without them. The programs included in this report represent 39 percent of the total acquisition budget in the FY 2015 FYDP. The remaining 61 percent of funding is used for hundreds of smaller acquisition programs not reported in the SAR or other programs too early in development to be included in the SAR.

The report is divided by categories of weapon systems: aircraft, air and missile defense, communications and electronics, ground systems, missiles and munitions, nuclear forces, shipbuilding, and space systems. The aircraft category is the largest among these, both in terms of the number of programs and the total funding projected. It includes fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and manned and unmanned aircraft for all four Services.

Unless otherwise noted, the cost and quantity figures used in this report are from the December 2013 SAR obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request. The SAR data does not include complete funding projections for some programs, as is noted throughout the report. Unlike other CSBA budget analyses, cost figures in this report are shown in then-year dollars unless otherwise noted.

Source: ISN, CSBA

Secret US Embassy Cables


Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th 2010 publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February 2010, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next year. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments — even the most corrupt — around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of “The Iraq War Logs”, the world’s previously largest classified information release).

The cables cover from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010 and originate from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

Groups to contact for comment

How to explore the data

The best way to explore the data is using http://www.cablegatesearch.net.

Search for events that you remember that happened for example in your country. You can browse by date or search for an origin near you.

Pick out interesting events and tell others about them. Use twitter, reddit, mail whatever suits your audience best.

For twitter or other social networking services please use the #cablegate or unique reference ID (e.g. #66BUENOSAIRES2481) as hash tags.

Key figures:

15, 652 secret
101,748 confidential
133,887 unclassified

Iraq most discussed country – 15,365 (Cables coming from Iraq – 6,677)
Ankara, Turkey had most cables coming from it – 7,918
From Secretary of State office – 8,017

According to the US State Departments labeling system, the most frequent subjects discussed are:

External political relations – 145,451
Internal government affairs – 122,896
Human rights – 55,211
Economic Conditions – 49,044
Terrorists and terrorism – 28,801
UN security council – 6,532

Source: https://wikileaks.org/cablegate.html

United Nations confidential reports on Sexual Abuses


January 14, 2008
Wikileaks staff writers
Wikileaks has released 70 United Nations investigative reports classified “Strictly Confidential”. The reports expose matters from allegations of hundreds of European peace-keepers sexually abusing refugee girls [1] to generals in Peru using Swiss bank accounts to engage in multi-million dollar frauds against the UN.
The bulk of the reports were released today with 17 reports relating to Kosovo having being released on 24 Oct 2008.
A number of the reports are both classified “Strictly Confidential” and have selected regions redacted. Often these redacted regions can be “unredacted” by “cut and pasting” the blanked region. On the description page for each report, where possible, Wikileaks has provided a simple text version of the report that includes the redacted information. A good example is United Nations Procurement Task Force: Interim Report on a Concerned UN Staff Member (PTF-R011-06), 19 Dec 2006, starting page 15.
Since the number reports exceeds the ability of the world press to digest them, we ask that journalists and other investigators take responsibility for those reports immediately before and after the month and day of their date of birth before considering the material at large.
↑ UN finds 217 sex abuse claims against blue helmets

Source: Wikileaks

Work needed on Asean community labour policy


In 15 months, the Asean Economic Community (AEC) comes into effect, heralding a new era in which the flow of goods, services, capital and labour will be freed up across the region.

One aspect of this liberalisation is what it will mean for job opportunities across Asean’s 10 member countries.

Will an engineering graduate from Malaysia be able to apply for a job in Indonesia? Can a Filipino nurse get to work in a Thai hospital?

Under ideal conditions, the answer is a resounding yes. But there are several reasons why the answer is no and will remain so in the next few years.

Essentially, the AEC will affect employment in two ways – structural change in domestic economies as a result of greater trade integration; and from freer flow of skilled labour.

In terms of structural change, there could be some occupations that are likely to grow as the Asean integration process matures. Indeed, this kind of structural change, and changing employment dynamics, has occurred in the past.

Take the fact that during the last two decades, Asean has seen a decline in agriculture employment, which has mainly been compensated for by gains in the services sector.

Currently, while agriculture accounts for 40 per cent of total employment in the region, industry accounts for 19 per cent and services, 41 per cent.

But the regional generalisation masks cross-country variation.

Country-wise, even today, agriculture remains the largest employer for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Then again, though, services sector employment plays an important role in Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Interestingly, a study of six Asean countries from both these groupings – Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – by the International Labour Organisation and the Asian Development Bank mentions that with the AEC in place, by 2025, the six countries would gain jobs in agriculture, trade and transport, and construction. For these economies, job losses would occur in food processing, private services and mining industries.

The impact on the labour market could also be felt in a shift in occupations that would be in demand. The largest absolute demand is likely to come for low- and medium-skilled jobs, though high-skilled jobs will be wanted, too. Low and medium-skilled jobs include wood treaters, craftsmen and machine operators, locomotive drivers, hotel and restaurant managers, waiters and bartenders, and repairmen.

But it is in the area of high-skilled workers that the groundwork for greater mobility is being laid.

Asean member states have agreed on a framework for mutual recognition agreements for seven professions – engineering, architecture, nursing, accountancy, surveying services, medical and dental professions. These agreements allow each member country to recognise education and experience, licences and certificates granted in another country.

But in practice, only the skills of architects and engineers who are registered with the professional regulatory body both in their home countries and at the regional level receive cross-border recognition, and thereafter domestic rules and regulations governing these professions prevail, preventing free movement.

For example, in Malaysia, foreign engineers have to be licensed by its Board of Engineers for specific projects and must be sponsored by the Malaysian company carrying out the project. The Malaysian company must further demonstrate to the Board that it is not able to find a domestic engineer for the job.

Lastly, foreign engineers in Malaysia must be registered engineers in their home country, have a minimum of 10 years’ experience and have a physical presence in Malaysia of at least 180 days in a calendar year.

Similar restrictions prevent architects taking up full-time work in another Asean country. Most countries still impose restrictions on residency or nationality in their licensing requirements.

Foreign architects are often allowed to work on a project-based basis and, in most of the cases, employers have to submit proof that an equivalent national professional is not available. Such protectionism is not expected to go away anytime soon.

In nursing, again there is limited cross-border movement due to domestic regulations. For example, for a Filipino nurse to practise in Thailand, the candidate must pass the national licensure exam – in the Thai language.

As for the surveying profession, the mutual recognition agreement provides only broad aims and objectives for further bilateral and multilateral negotiations among Asean member states. So the advent of AEC by December 31, 2015, is not going to change anything for the Asean labour market immediately.

With maturity of economic integration over time, the region might see structural changes and, with that, changes in employment scenarios.

But those changes will take time, and the policymakers do have enough transition time to address looming issues in the domestic economies.

For example, while AEC may result in higher welfare for workers, better wages and more employment opportunities, the benefits are expected to be distributed unevenly among countries, sectors and gender.

To address this, coordinated and coherent policies will be needed at both regional and national levels to ensure inclusive and fair outcomes.

Policymakers should also continue with efforts to ensure quality education and training in their economies, as Asean strives to remain competitive and to develop itself as a regional production base in future.

The mutual recognition agreements cannot be a stepping stone towards greater mobility unless they address the domestic rules and regulations of individual Asean economies.

stopinion@sph.com.sg

The writer is a fellow and lead researcher (economic affairs) at the Asean Studies Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Source: The Straits Times