US, Russia get terror on the agenda, but maritime rows dominate talks – Nikkei Asian Review

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on camera as he gives a speech at the ASEAN summit on Nov. 21, in which he denounced IS as un-Islamic. (Photo by Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Obama held a separate press conference at a plush hotel away from the summit venue, where he repeated his view that the war in Syria — the seedbed for IS — was the fault of the Assad government, against which the U.S. has funded opposition militia groups. “It is not conceivable that Mr. Assad can regain legitimacy in a country in which a large majority of that country despises Assad, and will not stop fighting so long as he’s in power,” Obama said, at around the same time a terror threat forced the diversion to Canada of a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to New York, while Belgian capital Brussels, the European Union headquarters, remained in lockdown due to “a serious and imminent threat,” according to Prime Minister Charles Michel.

South China Sea issue trumps terrorism – Nikkei Asian Review

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the ASEAN and related summits in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 21 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Pushing global terrorism into the background, the simmering South China Sea territorial dispute dominated discussions Sunday at the East Asia Summit that brought together world powers — including China, Japan and the U.S. — and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The 10th annual summit had been expected to focus on the threat of international terrorism following remarks made by President Barack Obama on Friday. However, many of the U.S. president’s counterparts turned out to be more concerned about the dispute with China. “The South China Sea was the central issue,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters afterward.

Despite terror threat, South China Sea dispute dominates – Nikkei Asian Review

Benigno Aquino and Joko Widodo, the Indonesian President, chat at the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur on Nov  21 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Earlier this week Southeast Asia’s foreign ministers “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, freedom of navigation in and overflight of the South China Sea,” according to an account given Friday by Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman. In comments possibly aimed at China, Anifah added that “the ministers remain seriously concerned over the ongoing developments and urged all parties to exercise self restraint.” He added that clearer rules over rights and responsibilities in the South China Sea are needed, including a long discussed but yet to be finalized code of conduct.

Not a president, but a leader – Nikkei Asian Review

NLD supporters carry flowers from Aung San Suu Kyi's house on Nov. 12 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON — Tin Oo is pushing 90, but much like another nonagenarian Southeast Asian politician, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the one-time commander in chief of the Myanmar army and co-founder of the National League for Democracy shows no sign of flagging. Shoulders back, spine straight, and a booming delivery that makes a microphone superfluous, Tin Oo was phlegmatic about the NLD’s landslide victory in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 election. It was the first openly contested vote since the NLD won the 1990 elections, an outcome ignored by the ruling military. “This is progress for our side,” Tin Oo said, displaying a mastery of understatement, even as election results showed the NLD taking around 80% of the 1,150 contested seats. But for Nyan Win, another veteran NLD leader, the electoral sweep prompted some poignant reflection. “We are thinking about all the prisoners, all who worked for the NLD, all who suffered,” Nyan Win said. “We hope this election is vindication of all the years of struggle.”

NLD looks to answer doubts about its economic chops – Nikkei Asian Review

At a temple in Bagan, one of Myanmar's major tourism destinations (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON — One of the tropes the National League for Democracy will have to address before it takes office next April is the view that the party is light on concrete policies and untested in government. The latter is unavoidable, given that the army did not allow the NLD to govern after it won 80% of seats in the country’s flawed 1990 elections. As for economic policy, the party has a few ideas. “We have a plan, and we presented it in the early stages of the campaign,” said Soe Win, a member of the NLD’s central executive committee, referring to the election manifesto the party published in September. The NLD said it will keep the budget deficit under 5% of gross domestic product, cut the number of ministries and attempt to curb corruption in the bureaucracy, crack down on tax evasion, increase the independence of the central bank and focus on boosting agricultural productivity — a particularly important step given that around 70% of the population lives in the countryside.

After long wait, NLD confirmed as ruling party – Nikkei Asian Review

Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at polling station in Bahan, Yangon (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON — For years, the political party was banned and its leading members jailed or placed under house arrest. But in an historic, once-unthinkable turnaround, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will be able to form a single-party government early next year in Myanmar, formerly one of the world’s most durable military dictatorships. After a long, frustrating wait for the party, the latest set of results announced at noon on Nov. 12 by the country’s Union Election Commission showed the NLD had gained the two-thirds majority it needed to govern alone, with the party taking 348 national parliament seats, 19 more than it needed for a so-called “super majority.” The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party had won a mere 40 national parliament seats. Even as it waited for confirmation of its ruling party status, the NLD has been “moving on,” U Win Htein, a close aide to Suu Kyi and a retiring NLD parliamentarian, told the Nikkei Asian Review.

As NLD routs governing party, Suu Kyi seeks meeting with president, army – Nikkei Asian Review

NLD supporters look on as election results are read out at party HQ on Nov 9 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON — With the National League for Democracy looking likely to gain enough seats in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 poll to form a government early next year, party leader Aung San Suu Kyi has signaled her intent to meet soon with President Thein Sein, military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann. Even as vote counting continued on Wednesday, Suu Kyi requested the meeting, clearly in order to discuss the handover of power to a government that she has indicated she will run. “We cannot say exactly when they will meet as the counting process is still going at the UEC [the government’s Union Election Commission],” Zaw Htay, a presidential aide, told the Nikkei Asian Review. “Perhaps it will be next week,” Zaw Htay added. Letters from Suu Kyi to each of the three leaders requesting meetings to discuss “national reconciliation,” dated Nov. 10, were posted on the NLD Facebook page on the morning of Nov. 11. Their publication prompted swift replies — also on Facebook — from Ye Htut, the president’s spokesman, and from Shwe Mann.

Constitutional change first item for likely NLD government – Nikkei Asian Review

NLD supporters look on as election results are displayed on LCD screen at party headquarters on Nov 9. (Photo by Simon Roughneen)

YANGON — Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will focus on amending the country’s constitution if it takes power in 2016. Early results across Myanmar from the Nov. 8 national election indicate a sweeping victory for the NLD in the formerly military-ruled country. Suu Kyi, who spent a total of 15 years in detention under Myanmar’s former junta, claimed on Tuesday that her party had won around 75% of the vote, an assertion backed up by a wave of concessions from defeated candidates. A clear parliamentary majority for the main opposition party would enable Suu Kyi to form a government, even though she is prevented by the constitution from assuming the presidency. Tin Oo, an NLD founding member, told the Nikkei Asian Review that amending the 2008 constitution — which also provides the military a veto-wielding 25% bloc of seats in parliament — remains top of the NLD agenda. The constitution bans anyone with a spouse or children who are foreign citizens from becoming president. Suu Kyi had two children with her late husband, a British academic. “The constitution must be reformed in line with the universal principles of democracy,” said Tin Oo, who despite being nearly 90 has been mentioned as a possible NLD nominee for president.

Vote count tackles hard part of historic election – Nikkei Asian Review


YANGON – Party elder Tin Oo, a former general-turned-democrat and a confidante of Suu Kyi, told a crowd of several thousand jubilant supporters outside the party’s Yangon headquarters on Sunday night that the NLD could not call the overall result. He drew loud roars, however, when he thundered: “All I can say is that the NLD is in a very good position.” On the perpetually traffic-clogged road outside the NLD office, several thousand red-clad supporters danced and cheered into the night as a giant screen relayed images of vote-counting over the state-run TV channel. Even so, some supporters expressed disappointment that “the Lady,” as Suu Kyi is known, did not address the gathering as anticipated. Sein Ho, a father of four living in Yangon’s Ahlone district, said he had brought his family to the NLD headquarters in the expectation of news that the party had won the election and would form a government. “We hope this party can make the country better,” Sein Ho said. “We think the NLD can win.