US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2006 to Mar 2006

: ASEAN Secretary General Ong Ken Yong pressures China and India to persuade the Burmese junta to step up democratic reform after Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, in his capacity as ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar, is denied permission to meet National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

: U.S. Peace Corps announces that it will place Volunteers in Cambodia for the first time in that country’s history. Scheduled to arrive in 2007, the first volunteers will teach English and work in health education.

: Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, State Department EAP DAS Eric John signals that the Bush administration will support renewal of the import ban in the Myanmar Freedom and Democracy Act.

: House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights conducts hearings on human rights in Vietnam, to assess progress in light of the anticipated debate on granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Hanoi this summer.

: At the first international conference for victims of Agent Orange, held in Hanoi, war veterans from the U.S., Australia, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam call for the U.S. government to apologize for the use of defoliants during the Vietnam War, and for U.S. manufacturers of Agent Orange to pay compensation “commensurate with liability.”

: U.S. and Vietnam hold negotiations on Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization, on the margins of the 12th multilateral round on Vietnam and the WTO in Geneva.

: U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Marine indicates that the State Department is “exploring conditions” for Vietnam’s removal from the list of Countries of Particular Concern on religious freedom.

: U.S. announces a $11.5 million grant to Indonesia for poultry and health surveillance programs to avert avian flu. To date, the virus has killed 22 Indonesians. Jakarta estimates it will require $900 million to fight the disease.

: Exxon Mobil and P.T. Pertamina sign a joint operating agreement for the Cepu oil block.

: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Indonesia, the only Southeast Asian country in a trip that includes Australia, Chile, and Peru. She meets the Indonesian foreign policy establishment, visits a Muslim school, and launches an $8.5 million U.S. assistance program to promote education using Sesame Street characters.

: A senior U.S. official, speaking on background, asserts that “Indonesia can be a big player again,” and suggests the country could take a more vigorous role in ASEAN.

: UN and Cambodia issue agreements that form a legal foundation for efforts to put Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for crimes against humanity during their 1975-78 reign.

: In response to Myanmar’s announcement of an avian flu outbreak near Mandalay, the U.S. provides 2,000 units of protective clothing and sprayers through the Food and Agricultural Organization.

: FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole visits the Philippines. The U.S. provides more than $12 million in assistance, equipment, and training to help strengthen Philippine law enforcement.

: U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman launches first round of negotiations between the U.S. and Malaysia for a free trade agreement. A heavy turnout of senators and congressman is viewed as a hopeful sign for approval of a final agreement.

: Malaysia announces it will open its market to U.S. boneless beef.

: President Arroyo lifts the state of emergency in the Philippines.

: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill arrives in Manila to co-chair the ASEAN Regional Forum Intersessional Support Group and to kick off a “listening tour” of the region on the U.S. role in Southeast Asia. He indicates that U.S. reservations against the East Asia Summit are waning.

: Vietnam’s 54 shrimp companies that have been exporting to the U.S. since 2004 ask the Department of Commerce to reconsider anti-dumping tariffs against them. A decision will be forthcoming in 90 days.

: Thai government suspends talks on the U.S.-Thai Free Trade Agreement because of snap elections scheduled for April 2. Negotiations are tentatively set to resume in October. Bangkok also postpones signing a free trade agreement with Japan.

: State Department issues a statement welcoming the unanimous decision of the Cambodian National Assembly to reinstate Sam Rainsy and two opposition MPs, all of whom had been expelled from the legislature in 2005.

: Intel announces it will build a $300 million semi-conductor assembly and testing plant in Ho Chi Minh City, making it the largest investment in Vietnam by a U.S. company. Operations will begin in the second half of 2007.

: In response to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo’s declaration of national emergency, the State Department issues a statement urging the government and anti-Arroyo activists to reject violence and protect civil liberties. Arroyo imposed the emergency because of a rumored coup plot timed to coincide with 20th anniversary celebrations of the 1986 “People’s Power” revolution.

: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono indicates that he will back Exxon Mobil as the lead operator of the Cepu Contract Area in East and Central Java in the oil company’s dispute with the wholly-owned state enterprise P.T. Pertamina.

: U.S. and Vietnam resume official dialogue on human rights in Hanoi, after a three-year hiatus.

: Balikatan 2006 training exercises are launched, with simultaneous activity in Cebu, Luzon, and Sulu. The exercises focus on counterterrorism and interoperability between the two militaries, and involve 5,500 U.S. and 2,800 Philippine personnel.

: After the Philippines suffers a massive mudslide in Leyte, the U.S. diverts a naval vessel docked in Subic Bay for Balikatan exercises to provide disaster assistance; U.S. helicopters, also in country, perform rescue and relief services.

: U.S. moves the Philippines from the “Special 301 Intellectual Property Rights Priority Watch List” to the “Watch List,” which signifies improvement.

: State Department issues a statement welcoming the return to Cambodia of Sam Rainsy, opposition leader whose year-long exile was ended when King Norodom Sihamoni pardoned his criminal conviction for defamation at the government’s request.

: Protests against caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in Danish newspapers spread to the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya.

: At an Asia Society forum in Houston, Singaporean ambassador to the U.S. Chan Heng-chee says, “The U.S. response or failure to respond to the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 strengthened China’s standing in the region…China did not take a wrong step during this crisis.”

: ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong indicates that ASEAN is in discussions with Washington on establishment of the first formal U.S.-ASEAN Summit, which could take place in late 2006 or early 2007.

: U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Ralph Boyce seeks assurances from the Thai government that U.S. businesses would not lose preferences with the expiration of trade provisions in the 1966 Thailand-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations.  Under WTO rules, the provisions expired Dec. 31, 2005.

: Ministry of Trade and Industry in Vietnam announces new allocation procedures for quotas on U.S.-bound textile exports. Under the new system, 40 percent of the quota will be automatically allocated, vs. 70 percent in previous years; the remaining 60 percent will be divided among companies with good performance records in 2005.

: U.S. and Philippine militaries embark upon a month of small unit exchanges – Balance Piston 06-02 – in North Catabato under the U.S. Joint Combined Training program for the Pacific Rim.

: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill opens the new U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen uses the occasion to free Kem Sokha and three other activists, calling the releases “a gift to the United States.”

: Through a diplomatic note, the U.S. informs the Philippine government that it will retain custody of four Marines accused of rape while their case is processed through the Philippine courts. The Marines will reside at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

: State Department expresses concern that no one has been brought to justice in Thailand for the 2004 disappearance of attorney Somchai Neelaphaisit, who alleged that the police tortured prisoners, after four officers charged in the disappearance were acquitted.

: U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli says the Cambodian government should stop arresting critics and “needs to chill.”

: Four-day talks to negotiate the U.S.-Thailand Free Trade Agreement, the sixth round of negotiations, begin in Chiang Mai amidst protests there and in Bangkok.

: The State Department protests the arrests of Kem Sokha, human rights activist, and three other civil society figures in Cambodia and charges the Cambodian government with attempting to neutralize all opposition.

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