US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2021 to May 2021

: United Nations Development Program issues a report warning that turmoil and violence in Myanmar has doubled the number of people in poverty, and could force half the population into poverty by early 2022, if the situation continues unchecked. Since the coup, 11% of the population has been pushed into poverty.

: Under the 2018 anti-terrorism law, the Indonesian government designates the National Liberation Army of West Papua as a terrorist group following an attack on April 25 in which they killed an army general, a policeman, and four civilians.

: State Administrative Council in Myanmar says in a statement that it will “consider” ASEAN’s points of consensus only when “genuine stability” has been reached in the crisis.

: The State Department issues a statement of concern over the April 20 arrests of 4 journalists affiliated with the Bao Sach (Clean Journalism) movement.

: After a five-day search, wreckage from the Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala is discovered at a depth of more than 800 meters in the Bali Sea. There were no survivors among the 53-person crew.

: ASEAN holds a “special meeting” on the Myanmar crisis in Jakarta. The chairman’s statement lists five “points of consensus,” intended to stop the violence and promote dialogue among the parties.

: US Treasury Department announces sanctions on two state-owned enterprises in Myanmar, the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) and the Myanmar Pearl Enterprise (MPE).

: US Treasury Department determines that Vietnam has tripped the threshold for currency manipulation but does not formally declare Hanoi a currency manipulator.

: Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces conduct the 36th iteration of the Balikatan (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder’) exercises. Although the exercises were scaled down because of COVID-19, 222 US military and 415 AFP personnel participated in combined air operations, staff seminars and humanitarian activities.

: The Indo-Pacific Command moves the US carrier strike group USS Theodore Roosevelt and the amphibious ready group USS Makin Island into the South China Sea, partly in response to the presence of Chinese vessels off Whitsun Reef, a perceived threat against the maritime security of the Philippines.

: US Treasury Department designates Myanmar Gem Enterprise for sanctions, noting that military leaders participate in an ongoing gems emporium under the company’s auspices.

: Twelve defense chiefs, including Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, issue a statement condemning the use of lethal force against civilians in Myanmar and calling on the Tatmadaw to observe international standards of military professionalism.

: World Bank announces that the economy of Myanmar has contracted by 10% since the Feb. 1 coup. Food prices have doubled, and the cost of fuel has risen by 15%.

: President Biden announces his intention to nominate Daniel Kritenbrink to serve as assistant secretary of state for East Asia/Pacific. Kritenbrink has a combination of diplomatic experience in Northeast and Southeast Asia, and was most recently US ambassador to Vietnam.

: Biden administration announces new sanctions relative to Executive Order 14014. designating two large conglomerates, the Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company (MEHL) and the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) for sanctions.

: On Twitter, the US State Department expresses support for the Philippines and concern over the gathering of “PRC maritime militia vessels” near Whitsun Reef. The Chinese embassy in Manila responds, also through tweets, that the United States is “fanning flames and provoking confrontation in the region.”

: Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana calls upon the 220 Chinese vessels surrounding Whitsun Reef to withdraw, claiming they are violating the Philippines’ rights under international maritime law.

: The United States adds two individuals to the Myanmar sanctions list, the national Chief of Police Than Hlaing and Bureau of Special Operations Commander General Aung Soe, as well as two army units, the 33rd and 77th Light Infantry Divisions.

: Laos receives its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccination through the COVAX facility, consisting of 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.

: US State Department launches the US–Mekong Partnership Track 1.5 Policy Dialogue, presently online.

: At a virtual summit of the Quad, the United States, Japan, Australia and India announced that they will provide 1 billion doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, to be produced in India, to countries of the Indo-Pacific by the end of 2022.

: United States designates the adult children of three top junta officials in Myanmar for sanctions, as well as six entities owned or controlled by these individuals.

: ASEAN foreign ministers hold a virtual meeting with Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing in an attempt to persuade him to reduce levels of violence in the continued internal conflict.

: 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Cambodia through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, which supports equitable access to COVID vaccines.

: Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai meet with Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in Bangkok for an initial discussion on the violent aftermath of the Feb. 1 coup.

: G7 foreign ministers issue a statement condemning the violence committed in Myanmar against protestors and calling upon the security forces to exercise “utmost restraint and respect human rights and international law.”

: Biden administration designates two State Administrative Council (SAC) members Maung Maung Kyaw and Moe Mying Tun for sanctions.

: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte demands $16 billion in assistance from the United States in return for renewal of the Visiting Forces Agreement. The amount would quadruple the current size of US aid to the Philippines.

: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and nine ministers survive a no-confidence motion in parliament following a four-day censure debate. Protests calling for his resignation resume. The vote marks the second no-confidence vote Prayuth’s government has faced since taking office in July 2019.

: President Biden signs Executive Order 14014, which authorizes an initial round of sanctions on top military leaders in Myanmar who were involved in the Feb. 1 coup, among other possible actions. The Treasury Department subsequently announces the names of coup leaders to be sanctioned, including Min Aung Hlaing.

: Official negotiations open on renewal of the US–Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), triggering a 180-day countdown in which the agreement must be renewed or terminated.

: USS John McCain conducts a freedom of navigation operation in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, the sovereignty of which is claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

: Biden administration officially designates the Burmese military’s actions of Feb. 1 to be a coup, a legal action which paves the way for US sanctions.

: Hours before the newly-elected parliament of Myanmar is scheduled in convene in Naypyidaw, Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and a high-ranking group of officers overthrow the new government and detain State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy. As the 2021 ASEAN Chair, Brunei issues a statement referencing human rights principles in the ASEAN Charter and calling for dialogue, reconciliation and “the return to normalcy” in Myanmar.

: The Vietnamese Community Party’s 13th National Party Congress adjourns a day early because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.

: China announces the Coast Guard Law which comes into effect on Feb. 1, defining the conditions in which Chinese vessels will be permitted to attack foreign vessels. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs files a diplomatic protest over the law, claiming that it is a “threat of war to any country that defies China.”

: The 13th National Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam opens to select the top leadership of the party as well as choosing members of the Politburo, and to set policy goals for the next five years.

: The United States contributes $1 million worth of vehicles and equipment to the UXO Lao Training Center in Vientiane, Laos, to aid UXO removal teams working in five provinces.

: King Abdullah of Malaysia agrees to declare a state of emergency, in an attempt to curb coronavirus infections. The emergency, which suspends parliament, is also a boon to beleaguered Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, in that it prevents an immediate challenge to his leadership and gives him extraordinary powers, including the authority to introduce laws without the approval of the legislature.

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