Michael Hart

Michael Hart is a writer and researcher covering civil conflict, peacebuilding and war legacy issues in Southeast Asia. He has written about these issues and Asia-Pacific politics more broadly for publications including Geopolitical Monitor, The Diplomat, Asia Sentinel, World Politics Review and Southeast Asia Globe. Michael is currently editorial assistant for The Pacific Review journal, based at the University of Warwick. He previously researched for Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and studied an MA in International Relations at the University of Westminster.

Cambodia Naval Base Gets a Chinese Upgrade

cc COMSEVENTHFLT, modified, SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (May 1, 2012) - U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) anchors off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Blue Ridge is on patrol in the Asia-Pacific and in Sihanoukville for a port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Sarah A. Stancati)

Cambodia insists work on a newly-dredged port and shipyard at Ream Naval Base is not being carried out to enable a permanent Chinese military presence. Washington is not so sure.

The Limits of Hydropower in Laos

Dam construction for energy supply in the lower reaches of the Nam Ou, cc Tbachner , modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&redirs=0&search=laos%20dam&fulltext=Search&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns14=1&title=Special:Search&advanced=1&fulltext=Advanced%20search#/media/File:2014_12_Thailand_Laos-449.JPG

Laos has reduced its reliance on fossil fuels by building dams on a mass scale, and aims to export the electricity generated to its neighbours. Yet the plan comes with economic and environmental risks.

Can China’s Belt and Road Open Up Landlocked Laos?


As a 420 km high-speed railway nears completion, two Chinese-built highways have been given the green light. Will these projects open up Laos, or make it a crossing point on China’s Belt and Road?

Delayed Elections and the Bangsamoro Peace Process

Duterte summit at the Kremlin, cc http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/61718, kremlin.ru, modified

The first elections in the Bangsamoro autonomous region have been pushed back to 2025, giving its transitional government more time to establish democratic institutions and demobilize rebels.

Malaysia: New Prime Minister, Familiar Challenges

Empty Singapore-Malaysia Causeway during the Malaysia COVID-19 lockdown., cc Lionel Lim, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Empty_Singapore-Malaysia_Causeway_2.jpg

Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Malaysia’s fourth prime minister since 2018, must fix the COVID-hit economy and heal political divisions if he is to avoid the fate of predecessors Mahathir and Muhyiddin.

How Militarization and Cycles of Violence Fuel Separatism in Southern Thailand

U.S. Soldiers, assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade, board a UH-60 Black Hawk during an air assault exercise with Royal Thai Army Soldiers assigned to 31st Regiment, 1st Battalion, 3rd Riffle Company, during exercise Cobra Gold 16 in Lop Buri, Thailand, Feb. 13, 2016. Cobra Gold increases cooperation, and collaboration among partner nations in order to achieve effective solution to common challenges. The U.S Soldiers are currently deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., on the first leg of Pacific Pathways 16-1, the U.S. Army Pacific's premier method to capitalize on multiple training opportunities in several countries with partner militaries over a three-to-four month period. Unit: 25th Infantry Division, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&limit=500&offset=0&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns14=1&sort=last_edit_desc&search=thailand+army+filetype%3Abitmap&sort=last_edit_desc&advancedSearch-current={%22fields%22:{%22filetype%22:%22bitmap%22}}#/media/File:Air_assault_exercise_CG_16_160213-A-HH432-002.jpg

After 16 years under emergency rule and with peace talks halted amid the pandemic, eroding trust and cycles of violence at the local level are driving Southern Thailand’s decades-old separatist war.

China’s Belt and Road Runs Aground in the Philippines

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 20. Photo by King Rodriguez/PPD, cc Philippine government, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:President_Duterte_handshake_with_President_Xi.jpg

Lacking the mega-projects seen in mainland Southeast Asia, Beijing’s infrastructure plans in the Philippines have been noticeably smaller in scale and focused more on local connectivity.

COVID-19 Rages as Myanmar’s Post-Coup Economy Crumbles

Inle Lake Myanmar (Burma) 2014, cc Caroline Jones, modified, Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

The World Bank projects that Myanmar’s economy will contract by 18% in 2021 as a third wave of COVID-19 compounds the impacts of February’s military coup.

Amid Renewed Protests, Thai Opposition Pushes for Constitutional Change

The protests on August 16, 2020 in a large demonstration organized under the Free Youth umbrella (Thai: เยาวชนปลดแอก; RTGS: yaowachon plot aek) at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok., cc Supanut Arunoprayote, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?sort=last_edit_desc&search=bangkok+protest+filetype%3Abitmap&title=Special%3ASearch&profile=advanced&fulltext=1&advancedSearch-current=%7B%22fields%22%3A%7B%22filetype%22%3A%22bitmap%22%7D%7D&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns14=1#/media/File:Protest_in_2020_Democracy_Monument_(I).jpg

Opponents of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party are pushing to amend Thailand’s 2017 constitution, which kept Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha in power. A military-appointed Senate stands in their way.

Papua Braced for Violence as Indonesia Vows to Crush Separatists

cc Kodam I/Bukit Barisan, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&limit=500&offset=0&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns14=1&search=indonesia+army#/media/File:Indonesian_Army_AMX-13s_of_the_Yonkav_6.jpg

Since a regional intelligence chief was killed in an ambush by Papuan rebels in April, residents of Indonesia’s restive easternmost province have lived in fear of an imminent military crackdown.

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