US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2008 to Mar 2008

:   Singaporean Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam visits Washington for consultations with Treasury Secretary Paulson.  The two countries, joined by Abu Dhabi, release a set of common policy principles for sovereign wealth funds, urging that SWF’s adopt voluntary best practices.

:   Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama makes his first official visit to Washington in his new capacity.

:   The White House releases statement commemorating 175th anniversary of the U.S.-Thailand Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which established Thailand as the oldest treaty ally of the U.S. in Asia.

:   Thai PM Samak travels to Burma and meets Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

:   Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings on U.S.-Vietnam relations, with a strong emphasis on human rights.

:   Malaysian elections enable the Barisan Nasional (BN) to retain power but show dramatic new inroads by opposition parties.

:   UN Special Envoy for Burma Ibrahim Gambari makes third trip to Burma since the confrontation between the junta and Buddhist monks last year, which he reports produced “no tangible results;” he vows to continue his efforts.

:   With the help of U.S. security forces, Thai police arrest Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout on suspicion of terrorism in a sting operation, in which Bout attempted to purchase millions of dollars worth of weapons for sale to the Columbian insurgent group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionaries (FARC).

:   Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra returns to Thailand and, according to plan, is arrested on corruption charges and released on bail.

:   Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia/Pacific Christopher Hill visits Thailand and Vietnam.

:   Burmese government announces a new Constitutional Approval Law, with harsh penalties for political dissent.

: USAID and the ASEAN Secretariat announce their new joint effort, the ASEAN Vision to Advance National Cooperation and Economic Integration (ADVANCE) to promote development of an ASEAN Community by 2015.

: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visits Indonesia as part of a multi-region tour of U.S. security partners that includes Australia, India, and Turkey.

:   White House nominates Scot Marciel as first U.S. Ambassador for ASEAN affairs. The position is to be held concurrently with Marciel’s present role as deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia.

:   U.S. Appeals Court in New York rejects the request of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) to reverse the lower court’s dismissal of VAVA’s class action lawsuit against 30 American chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange and other herbicides used in the Vietnam War.

:   ASEAN foreign ministers hold retreat in Singapore to discuss further regional integration.

:   U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney holds unprecedented secret meeting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

: Amnesty International issues an open letter to ASEAN foreign ministers urging them to move quickly to implement Article 14 of the new ASEAN Charter, which calls for the establishment of a regional human rights body.

:   The 24th annual US-Philippine Balikatan exercises open in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

:   U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment holds hearings on “United States and Cambodia: Bilateral Relations and Bilateral Debt.”

:   Philippine security officials announce they have uncovered an assassination plot against President Gloria Arroyo by groups linked to Al-Qaeda. Some in the Manila political community express skepticism given the timing of anti-Arroyo rallies planned for the next day.

:   Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi dissolves Parliament in preparation for snap elections.

:   The State Department issues strong criticism of Burmese military regime, maintaining the plans for a constitutional referendum and subsequent elections are “further evidence of [the junta’s] refusal to pursue a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with Burma’s democratic and ethnic minority representatives.”

:   Rebel forces in Timor Leste critically wound President Jose Ramos-Horta in an attack in which rebel leader Alfredo Reinado is killed by Horta’s guards.  Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escapes harm.

: Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte certifies to Congress that a democratically elected government has taken office in Thailand, enabling the Bush administration to remove legal restrictions on assistance to the Thai government applied after the September 2006 coup.

:   Under targeted sanctions laws passed in late 2007 in the wake of the crackdown in Burma, the Bush administration adds nine new individuals and their companies to the sanctions list.

:   FBI Director Robert Mueller visits Vietnam and Cambodia.

:   Samak Sundaravej, leader of the People’s Power Party, is inaugurated as Thai prime minister and leader of a broad coalition of parties.

:   Former Indonesian President Suharto dies, sparking a public mourning period but little political disturbance.

:   Lionsgate Productions releases Rambo 4, in which the mercenary played by Sylvester Stallone turns his attentions to the plight of Karen guerillas in Burma.

:   Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte cancels a planned visit to Vietnam after the U.S.-China Security Dialogue due to protracted winter storm in China.

:   Singaporean Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean visits Washington.

:   Malaysia and the U.S. resume discussions on a bilateral free trade agreement, after nearly a year’s hiatus.

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