US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jul 2008 to Oct 2008

Oct. 28-29, 2008. U.S. and Philippine navies engage in the Philbex-2008 bilateral exercises in Subic Bay, part of which is civic action repair and repainting of schools in Olongapo City.

: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service begins enforcing The Tom Lantos Block Burmese Jade Act aimed at keeping Burma’s jade and jewelry from third-party countries out of U.S. markets.

: President George W. Bush invites Indonesian President Yudhoyono to attend a mid-November meeting of the G20 on the global financial crisis in Washington, DC.

: Indonesia ratifies the ASEAN Charter clearing the way for its formal adoption.

: The USS Mustin visits Danang’s Tian Sa port, headquarters of Vietnam’s Navy Zone 3, which is responsible for patrolling the area of disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands.

: State Department spokesman Sean McCormack tells reporters that the U.S. urges restraint on both Cambodia and Thailand after a gunfight broke out in a disputed zone near a landmark 11th century temple.

: 4000 Filipino and U.S. soldiers inaugurate the two-week annual joint Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise (Philbex) involving integrated air, ground, and naval training along with civic action in selected communities.

: Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchange rocket and rifle fire for about an hour in a confrontation at their border over the disputed Preah Vihear temple. At least two Cambodian soldiers are killed, and several soldiers from both sides are wounded.

: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a speech at the State Department urges ASEAN to do more in promoting democracy in Burma.

: The Philippines signs the ASEAN Charter.

: Vietnam and the U.S. conduct their first ever strategic dialogue in Hanoi, addressing political, security, defense, and humanitarian cooperation.  The Vietnamese delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Phan Binh Minh, the U.S. by Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Mark Kimmitt.

: Shots are fired between Thai and Cambodian troops in the region near the temple of Preah Vihear, injuring three soldiers.

: Indiana University Law School’s Center for Constitutional Democracy initiates an investigation to determine if Burma’s military junta has committed war crimes against minority ethnic groups.

: Cambodia’s Parliament re-elects Hun Sen as prime minister, extending his 23-year tenure, at a session boycotted by parties disputing the results of the July general election.

: Burma’s military government announces the release of 9,002 prisoners, including the country’s longest-serving political prisoner, Win Tin, and four people elected to Parliament in the landslide victory of opposition parties in 1990.

: Thailand’s Parliament elects Somchai Wongsawat as prime minister.

: Thailand signs an agreement to join Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia in maritime patrols aimed at securing the Malacca Straits.

: Thailand’s Prime Minister Somchai says he is prepared to hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen to resolve the border dispute between the two countries.

:  Secretary Negroponte urges Cambodia and Thailand to peacefully resolve their dispute bilaterally over the borderlands adjacent to the Preah Vihear Temple.

:  Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visits Cambodia to provide $24 million in health aid through NGOs.  He also promises $1.8 million for the tribunal before which five remaining elderly Khmer Rouge leaders will be tried.

:  Malaysia’s Ambassador to the U.S. is called to the State Department to explain the arrest of Malaysian citizens who had criticized the government on blog sites.

:  U.S. Embassy, Manila spokesperson Thompson says U.S. forces will remain in the Philippines for training and assistance as long as the Philippine government requests.

: Thailand’s Supreme Court rules that Prime Minister Samak violated the Constitution by accepting payments for appearances on cooking shows while in office, forcing him to resign.

:  U.S. Embassy, Manila spokesperson Rebecca Thompson states that no U.S. forces are in country permanently, nor are there U.S. bases on Philippine territory, though U.S. forces “come and go” at the invitation of the Philippine government.

: Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declares a state of emergency in Bangkok to put down a running battle between supporters and opponents of the government.

:  U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC) Commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon at a Pacific Armies Management Seminar in Indonesia says that America’s Asian partners “will continue to be a centerpiece of our engagement strategy in the theater.”

:  Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli suggests that ASEAN could help resolve the border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over the 11th century Preah Vihear Temple.

:  In collaboration with navies from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Brunei, the U.S. Navy conducts the annual Southeast Asia Cooperation against Terrorism (SEACAT) exercise – maritime cooperation against terrorism.

:  U.S. Embassy, Jakarta objects to Indonesia’s permission for a Lebanon Hezbollah militia television channel to operate in Indonesia. The Department of Information and Communication says the TV channel is not violating any Indonesian regulations.

:  In his National Day Speech, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warns that the city-state’s economy may be in for hard times because of U.S. financial problems that he does not expect see abate until well into 2009.

:  In Bangkok for a speech on Asia policy, President Bush calls on Burma’s junta to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.

: Mindanao peace talks collapse when the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front cancel the signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

:  The Cambodian government accepts assistance from the FBI to investigate the July 11 murder of an opposition party-affiliated journalist.

:  The annual U.S. Navy Cooperation Afloat and Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise begins in Brunei.  Earlier CARAT exercises this year were held with the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia.

:  Speaking to Asian reporters prior to his trip to the region, President Bush hails strong U.S. relations with ASEAN and pledges continued cooperation.

:  The U.S. Treasury announces financial sanctions against ten gem trading companies that are owned or controlled by Burma’s government and whose revenues support the families of the junta’s leaders.

:  A letter from 40 members of the U.S. Congress is sent to the Indonesian government asking it to release two convicted Papuan separatists who were sentenced in 2005 to 15 and 10 years respectively for flying the separatist Papuan flag.

:  Secretary Rice urges Malaysia to be transparent and follow the rule of law in dealing with allegations that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim committed sodomy.  Rice refers to the charge as a “human rights [and] political case.”

:  Opening the ASEAN-U.S. dialogue, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo states no major strategic issue in Asia can be resolved without the active participation of the U.S.

:  Secretary of State Rice urges ASEAN countries to put more pressure on Burma to improve human rights, adopt democratic reforms, and free political prisoners.

:  The U.S. Senate following the House of Representatives unanimously approves a bill banning the import of Burmese gemstones, thus expanding financial sanctions against the ruling military junta.

:  At the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore, Secretary Rice urges Cambodia and Thailand to peacefully resolve their border dispute over the Preah Vihear Temple grounds.

: Singapore rejects the U.S. State Department assessment that it does not meet “minimum standards” of the U.S. Tracking Victims Protection Act of 2000.  The main U.S. concern seems to be treatment of some of the 180,000 foreign domestic workers.

:  Burma becomes the seventh member country to ratify the ASEAN Charter.

: A joint report by ASEAN, the UN, and Burma agrees that the country needs $1.2 billion in international aid over three years to continue relief and recovery efforts in the cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy Delta.

:  The State Department expresses “serious concerns” over the arrest of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges.

:  U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN Scot Marciel announces that Washington will exchange military attachés with Laos by year’s end.

: U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Cameron Hume says that travel to Indonesia is safe for foreign tourists as the U.S. lifts its travel warning despite the arrest of terrorist suspects in South Sumatra.

:  Malaysia formally protests to the U.S. for interfering in its internal affairs when Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was accused of sodomy. The State Department earlier stated it would oppose any politically motivated prosecution.

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