Southeast Asia largely quiet on Ukraine, Vietnam’s Russian connection and Timor-Leste’s crowded election

ASEAN toes the line on invasion, Vietnam affected by a longstanding relationship and Timor-Leste’s prepares to vote

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March 19, 2022
Southeast Asia largely quiet on Ukraine, Vietnam’s Russian connection and Timor-Leste’s crowded election

Hello Globe readers,

In the three weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and more than 3 million people have fled as refugees.

Yet most ASEAN governments have shown restrained responses. To explore why, I joined a team of Southeast Asia Globe journalists including Brian P. D. Hannon, Govi Snell and Ashley Yeong who spoke with regional analysts. The experts say smaller nations are weighing neutrality against the invasion’s dangerous precedent, largely joining a UN resolution demanding Russia’s withdrawal but refraining from harsh criticism.

Govi also zeroes in on the unique ties between Russia and Vietnam, which date back to the Soviet Union’s recognition of Vietnam’s independence declaration from France in 1945 and support during the decades-long war with the U.S. Much to the chagrin of some citizens, the Vietnamese government abstained from the UN resolution and has yet to condemn the invasion.

In Timor-Leste, citizens are scheduled to cast ballots on 19 March in a presidential election marking 20 years since regaining national sovereignty. Brian explores the complex history of the 1.3 million-person nation and the political landscape ahead of the election, which includes a record candidate pool of 12 men and four women.

The Ream Naval Base in Cambodia’s coastal Sihanoukville province has become an increasingly hot pressure point between China and the U.S. as satellite images appear to show new construction, Globe contributor Alec Pronk writes. Though a Cambodian naval base working with China would pose no immediate threat, American officials fear work at the installation represents increasing Chinese soft power.

In Singapore, the revelation that a member of parliament lied about the circumstances of another woman’s sexual assault case snowballed into a massive political embarrassment, according to contributor Robin Vochelet. But for sexual abuse and assault victims, the political transgression diverted attention from important questions about the level of protection and support for victims in the city-state.

Finally, we are one week away from the start of Spring Festival Cambodia! Come out and enjoy 8 live bands, dancing, food and fun in Phnom Penh, over March 25-26. Globe members get a free ticket, so subscribe today and join us.

Stay safe and enjoy this week’s stories.

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