The US ban on imports from one of the world’s biggest palm oil producers highlights the seriousness of human rights abuse issues. However, the ban on the Malaysian firm and ongoing media scrutiny are not likely to improve conditions for palm plantation workers unless the Malaysian government intervenes.
Articles by Umair Jamal
Vietnam’s next leader will struggle to measure up to the legacy of outgoing President Nguyen Phu Trong, as the current general secretary of the Communist Party has spearheaded unprecedented anti-corruption campaigns.
Thirty years on, Malaysia’s Vision 2020 still remains a pipe dream. To meet its goal of becoming an industrialized nation, the country needs to review its policies and strategies to align them with the country’s prevailing economic and social conditions.
It is unclear if Cambodia’s apparent criticism of Chinese coronavirus vaccines is meant to refute the country’s reputation as China’s proxy. If that is the case, then Cambodia needs to do far more to introduce balance to its foreign policy.
Southeast Asia’s autocratic leaders have adored Trump’s transactional approach to foreign policy and at times won trade and defense deals without adequate scrutiny of their poor human rights records. The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden will take a tougher stance on democracy and human rights in bilateral deals.
The US has placed conditions on its aid to Cambodia over the kingdom’s human rights violations and growing ties to China. The change is not likely to achieve any major changes unless the US comes with an offer that matches China’s commitment to the current regime in Cambodia.
The US Treasury Department’s designation of Vietnam as a currency manipulator reflects President Trump’s push to punish countries that have trade surpluses against the US. However, the move is likely to start a new phase of negotiations to avoid harm to both countries’ strategic interests.
Facebook’s reported compliance with the Vietnamese government’s censorship requests does not set an encouraging precedent. The practice is likely to encourage authoritarian regimes as more repressive governments may adopt similar strategies against the tech giant.
Jokowi’s proposal to set up a rocket launch site for SpaceX in Indonesia is primarily meant to show the country’s openness to other partnerships with Elon Musk. Indonesia’s massive nickel reserves hold significant value for Tesla as the company seeks supplies for battery production.
With funding and vaccines at his disposal, Jokowi may still be unable to execute a free COVID-19 vaccination program as questions remain among Indonesians about the drugs’ safety and their halal status.