US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from May 2016 to Aug 2016

: Fifteenth annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) military exercise to collaborate and execute responses maritime security challenges such as smuggling and piracy among naval forces from Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and the United States is held with the Singapore Navy’s Multinational Operations and Exercises Center (MOEC) as the main coordinating center.

: US State Department of State releases its annual Report on International Religious Freedom. The report includes specific criticisms of Brunei’s implementation of its Sharia Penal Code Myanmar’s new laws related to the “protection of race and religion,” and Vietnam’s recently released draft law on religion and belief.

: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha confirms that a general election will take place around November 2017.

: US State Department says it summoned Philippine Chargé D’affaires Patrick Chuasoto, to discuss President Duterte’s “inappropriate” remarks about Ambassador Goldberg.

: Thai voters approve a draft constitution put forth by the military government in a referendum, with 61 percent of votes in favor. Critics warn that the constitution would grant inordinate power to the military.

: Philippine President Duterte accuses US Ambassador Philip Goldberg of interfering in Philippines elections earlier this year, using a slur in referring to the ambassador.

:   Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visits Washington to meet President Obama and members of Congress, stressing trade and security.  The visit also celebrates the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

:   Secretary of State Kerry visits the Philippines and meets Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay as well as President Rodrigo Duterte.   Kerry announces a grant of $32 million for law enforcement training, while also emphasizing the importance of human rights and rule of law in democratic countries.

:   Secretary of State Kerry at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting praises ASEAN for speaking up for “a rules-based international order.” He also attends the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit.

: US Navy and Marines begin 22nd annual CARAT exercise with Singapore Navy.

:   US Justice Department charges relatives and close associates of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak with embezzling more than $3 billion from the country’s sovereign wealth fund.  The US is seeking to seize $1 billion in US-based assets.

:   US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski visits Cambodia and warns that Washington could end bilateral military ties if the Cambodian forces commit human rights violations.  He also demands that Phnom Penh drop all charges against the opposition party and permit an independent investigation of the murder of government critic, Kem Lay.

:   US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passes a resolution, urging Cambodia to improve democracy, rule of law, and human rights before the 2018 general election and end the persecution of opposition lawmakers.

:   United States turns over four patrol boats to the Maritime Group of the Philippine National Police.  The boats will be based on Palawan for law enforcement patrols in what Manila calls the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

:   US Ambassador to Burma Scot Marciel visits the segregated Muslim community in Rakhine state and says he will raise their concerns with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

:   US government’s annual Trafficking in Persons report upgrades the Philippines to the top tier of those with improved records, downgrades Myanmar to the bottom tier, and upgrades Thailand to Tier 2.

:   US aircraft carriers John C. Stennis and Ronald Reagan sail together in exercises in the Philippine Sea.

:   Four US Navy E/A-18 Growler aircraft and 120 personnel arrive at Clark Air Base to train Philippine pilots for sea patrol.

:   The 22nd annual US-Thai CARAT exercise is held with shore and sea-based events, including air defense, helicopter operations, ASW training, surface warfare maneuvering, and joint amphibious landings.

:  US and Cambodia conduct Pacific Angel military exercise. They are joined by service members from Australia, Vietnam and Thailand in working with local nongovernmental organizations to provide humanitarian assistance.

: US and Philippines conduct CARAT military exercise at various locations in and near the Philippines.

:   Most ASEAN defense leaders attend the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.  US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter also attends.

: US and Malaysian naval forces hold annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises in Sabah State and Sulu Sea waters. The maneuvers include amphibious landings and gunnery drills.

:   Secretary of State Kerry delivers an address on the establishment of the Fulbright University Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City.

: US and Thailand conduct naval exercise Guardian Sea in the Andaman Sea.

:   President Obama visits Vietnam and announces that the US arms embargo is now completely lifted.

:   Secretary of State John Kerry meets State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw. The joint press conference discusses the plight of the country’s Rohingya Muslims and Kerry expresses appreciation for Myanmar’s commitment to nuclear nonproliferation.

: Obama administration lifts a broad range of sanctions on Myanmar, particularly on state-owned banks and businesses, in recognition of the country’s move toward democracy.

:   Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha excoriates US Ambassador Glyn Davies’ criticism of Thailand’s human rights situation, claiming the critique would “backfire.”

:   Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry issues a statement ahead of President Obama’s May 22-25 visit that a US decision to lift the lethal arms embargo against Vietnam would reflect growing “trust” between the two countries.

:   Assistant Secretary of State Russel visits Malaysia, the host for this year’s ASEAN-US meetings.

: USS William P. Lawrence, a guided-missile cruiser, conducts a freedom of navigation patrol near Fiery Cross Reef, an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea. The Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also claim Fiery Cross Reef.

:   Assistant Secretary Russel visits Vietnam for discussions on maritime security and human rights progress.

:   Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel visits Laos for a series of meetings on the Lower Mekong Initiative, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the East Asia Summit.

:   Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry asks the US Embassy to stop using the term “Rohingya” in referring to the persecuted Muslim community in Burma.  US Ambassador Scot Marciel says it is normal to call a people by the name they wish to be called.

: ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) naval exercise hosted by Brunei includes three Russian warships for the first time.

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