This week’s recap mostly covers updates happening in Indonesia and Myanmar. Indonesia’s delayed ratification of RCEP sheds some light on its bureaucratic inefficiencies, while its fluctuating coal export policies raise concerns of Indonesia’s commitment in transitioning to green energy. Indonesia also announces its free booster rollout amidst rising Omicron cases.
Coffee first as usual. I bought another batch of beans from 20mL, this time some Kintamani beans. Being Balinese, I pretty much grew up on this variant of coffee. But, I never thought I’d discover a sweet, berry-flavour with some hints of cloves Kintamani beans. It goes well with the Toraja beans I bought last week.
Trade, coal, and COVID in Indonesia
Indonesia RCEP ratification stalls. The Jakarta Post called the delay a “slap in the face” for Jokowi. Considering Jokowi’s strong grip on the House of Representatives, one would think that he would have this in the bag. As of 1 January 2022, when the agreement entered into force, Indonesia remains the only country which has yet to ratify the agreement. Remember, Indonesia first floated the idea of RCEP during Indonesia’s term as ASEAN chair in 2011.
In energy, Indonesia rolls back its coal exports ban. Initially imposed in early January due to the State Electricity Company (PLN) report low supplies, the coal export ban is being gradually lifted. Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Pandjaitan, stated the ban was being gradually relaxed as the PLN reported a “better supply condition”. One might also attribute the rollback to mounting protests from South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.
Indonesia is heavily reliant on coal, which makes up over half its energy mix. Jokowi’s 35,000-megawatt dream further increases reliance on fossil fuels. During COP26, Jokowi planned to transition to renewables, but cited high upfront costs as a major impediment. In late December last year, he attended the groundbreaking ceremony of a “green” industrial zone in North Kalimantan, which he hopes will “accelerate the development of new renewable energy infrastructure”.
As of writing, Indonesia has seen an uptick in the spread of the Omicron variant with a recorded 506 cases. Experts have warned of a possible new wave. The government has continued to urge discipline in conducting health protocols while also enforcing an entry ban on arrivals from 14 countries. In some uplifting news, Jokowi announces booster shots will be free for everyone. Previously, boosters were limited to medical staff. The first booster rollout will target the elderly and vulnerable groups. Turns out vaccine diplomacy works after all!
The fallout of Hun Sen’s Myanmar visit
Hun Sen’s controversial Myanmar visit concluded last Saturday. The Cambodian government praised and defended the visit. From a Cambodian perspective, isolating Myanmar—in this case, the junta specifically—is not the solution for addressing Myanmar’s problems. Prak Sokhonn stated, ““If there is anyone who opposes progressing these negotiations and the agreements like this, it is only those people who love war, those people who do not want to see Myanmar return to stability and peace,”.
The details of the visit can be found in a press release (see below) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia. Three points stand out. First, Min Aung Hlaing pledges to extend the ceasefire with Ethnic Armed Organizations till the end of 2022. Second, humanitarian aid will be distributed. Third, Min Aung Hlaing pledges to facilitate visits made by the ASEAN special envoy.
Superficially, these points might seem benign. However, as Lina Alexandra highlighted, these points actually serve to undermine the Five Point Consensus. The junta’s version of the ceasefire, for example, is looser compared to the terms of a more comprehensive ceasefire intended by the Five Point Consensus.
The visit was criticised by many, including the people of Myanmar, as legitimising the junta’s rule. The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights claimed the visit and subsequent joint statement was a “misguided and dangerous attempt to deceptively portray a breakthrough”, which only serves to undermine an ASEAN collective approach to crisis resolution. Commenting in the Jakarta Post, Rizal Sukma called for Indonesia to “boycott” the upcoming ASEAN foreign ministers retreat (to be held 18-19 January) if Myanmar is represented by the junta.
The upcoming retreat has been “postponed indefinitely” as many ASEAN leaders cited travel difficulties. This could be interpreted as a “soft boycott” on part of ASEAN members. Malaysia has shown intent to participate virtually, while other members are not so forthcoming.
And that’s all for this week! Tune in next week for another recap on niche things in the Indo-Pacific and more recommendations!
Header image: Public domain image of the 2021 ASEAN Special Summit on Myanmar’s coup d’etat.