Over Coffee #13: Ukraine and Southeast Asia updates

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine continues, but it seems the Russians have been stalled. As sanctions from the West continue to impact Russia, Japan emerges as an unlikely partner, pledging to accept Ukrainian refugees and providing millions in humanitarian aid. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia debates to extend the term of office of the incumbent head of state, Joko Widodo. Cambodia also expects to conduct a visit to Myanmar.

Updates in Ukraine

Many things have happened in the last week on the Ukrainian front. At the time of writing, it is currently the tenth day of fighting. However, there seems to be a general consensus that the Ukrainian people have managed to stem the invasion for now, which is most due in part to vigorous resistance by determined Ukrainian citizens and a Russian military that seems to have stalled.

The Ukrainian government continues to raise funds (through cash, cryptocurrency, and perhaps soon, NFTs). The Ukrainian foreign legion was activated, and according to President Zelensky, 16,000 foreign volunteers have joined.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue convened in an emergency meeting on 3 March. The resulting joint statement is as bland as it gets: with the Quad members pledging to use the Quad as a “mechanism to promote regional stability and prosperity”. In the meeting, however, some members were clear that the unilateral use of force “should not be allowed in the the Indo-Pacific region” (Prime Minister Kishida from Japan) and that the Quad should “not allow what is happening in Ukraine now to ever happen in the Indo-Pacific” (Prime Minister Scott Morrison from Australia). There was no joint condemnation from the Quad of Russia due to India’s reluctance to condemn Russia’s action.

Japan joins the West in enacting financial sanctions on Russia. Japan also declares it will accept Ukrainian refugees, a move which qualifies as being historic in itself due to Japan’s high reluctance to accept refugees. Japanese citizens have also amassed donations worth USD 17 million for the people of Ukraine.

ASEAN also issued a second statement on the Russian invasion, emphasising the importance of a ceasefire. As in its first statement, ASEAN has refrained from openly condemning the invasion. To this date, Singapore remains the only ASEAN member state to have announced sanctions on Russia. Indonesia, often referred to as the de facto leader of ASEAN, remains ambivalent on taking sterner action, which is likely due to concerns on ongoing foreign investment projects.

Southeast Asia updates

Proposals have been floated about a possible constitutional amendment which would allow the President to stay in office for three terms. Jokowi, so far, has chosen to remain silent on the issue despite having publicly rejected the notion last year.

This coincides with a proposal to delay the 2024 Presidential Election. An investigation by CNN Indonesia found several things. First, the proposal to delay the election had been in the works for a while. Second, the proposal was not floated by political parties, but by government officials. The grounds for the delay seem to be the ongoing capital city relocation (which of course remains mired in legal controversy) and pandemic responses.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn will conduct a four-day visit to Myanmar in late March. The agenda has yet to be finalised, however, the visit is conducted to observe the implementation of the Five Point Consensus.

That’s all I can cover for this week. Hopefully, I can go back to my regular schedule after dealing with a lot of paperwork.

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