The Diplomat nominated its top 15 stories for the ASEAN region for 2015. As might be expected, Thailand under the military dictatorship looked sick in a region not marked by shining political good health:
1. Landslide victory for Myanmar’s National League for Democracy….
2. Corruption scandal in Malaysia….
3. Indonesian haze….
4. Lese majeste cases in Thailand. Since grabbing power in 2014, the Thai junta has used the anti-Royal Insult law to silence and harass opposition leaders, activists, and even ordinary citizens. Some lese majeste cases led to convictions with harsh prison terms. The law is meant to protect the monarchy but the junta is using it to justify repression. Diplomats and foreign scholars are urging Thailand to review its strict implementation of the law but the junta responded by threatening to arrest critics — and recently, even began investigating the U.S. ambassador for insulting the king by questioning the application of the lese majeste law.
5. Corruption scandal in Indonesia….
6. Rohingya refugees. Thousands of Rohingya boat refugees were pushed back into the seas by the governments of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia early this year. The Rohingya are mostly Muslim but they are treated as illegal residents in Myanmar. The marginalized Rohingya are living in makeshift camps in western Myanmar, forcing many of them to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
7. Trade agreements and economic integration….
8. Cambodia’s opposition lawmakers boycott parliament….
9. Laos assumes leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations….
10. Philippines vs China maritime case….
11. Death of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew….
12. Human trafficking in Thailand. International scrutiny over human trafficking in Thailand continued in 2015, as a shocking expose led to several arrests and rescue missions related to slavery in Thailand’s seafood industry. The discovery of mass graves of trafficking victims in the country and the case of a senior police officer seeking asylum in Australia only heightened concerns about the issue in the country.
13. Vietnam passes transgender law….