Marty in Myanmar

Earlier this month, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa went to Myanmar to see for himself the situation on the ground in troubled Rakhine State. As expected, he saw a huge landscape of humanitarian needs — shelter that was more for protection than as makeshift tents, food, medicine and other basics.

As a result of deadly communal conflicts that broke out in May last year, some 8,500 Rakhine now live in 31 refugee camps, while more than 110,000 Rohingya are crammed into 35. They have lost loved ones and their homes. They are surviving on humanitarian aid.

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Abe’s Rousing Reprise

They call Shinzo Abe “recycled” because during the past decade, he spent less than a year serving a very forgettable term as prime minister of Japan. And today he is premier again.

Last month, Abe led his party to a landslide election victory on a campaign promise to get tough on China and resurrect a Japanese economy that had been brain dead for almost three decades.

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New ‘Swing States’

Move over BRICS, CIVETS and all you floaters in the geopolitical alphabet soup. The “Swing States” are rising! Make way for them! That’s the buzz in international circles these days.

The term “Swing State” doesn’t refer to the nine battleground states in the US presidential election that produced the votes that gave Barack Obama another four-year residency in the White House — although they did inspire the appellation.

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Surin’s Challenge

This month, Surin Abdul Halim bin Ismail Pitsuwan of Thailand turns over the office of Asean secretary-general to Le Luong Minh of Vietnam. And already you can hear a loud chorus in media and diplomatic circles proclaiming that Surin is a tough act to follow. Pity the guy who succeeds him.

Well, I don’t. Le Luong Minh, you will soon find out, is no palooka. Like Surin, he is a veteran diplomat with a truckload of accomplishments. He may not have Surin’s star power but, hey, not even Michael Jordan won basketball games all by himself. What’s important is the quality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations team that is formed during Minh’s tenure. And that team will only be as good as the 10 member nations will make it.

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