Asian Insider: Leadership changes | Asean-US summit

Dear ST reader,

We hope you’ve been keeping well. 

In our Asian Insider newsletter this week, we look at the region’s newly-elected leaders and the challenges ahead for them. Meanwhile the US hosts Asean leaders in Washington this week at a summit to demonstrate its commitment to the bloc.

Top moves

As the polls predicted, Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr has triumphed in the Philippines election and is set to become its next president. His next major task is to get the economy back on track, writes our correspondent in Manila Raul Dancel, by appointing the right people for the job. He will also need to forge alliances with other political clans to govern effectively, Raul reports in our latest instalment of Asian Insider

Over in Sri Lanka, the peaceful nature of protests against the government has ruptured, writes Rohini Mohan, with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigning after his supporters attacked activists in the capital Colombo and sparked violent reprisals.  

Power transitions ran smoother in South Korea and Hong Kong.

In his inauguration speech South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to build a free and fair society, and to lead the nation out of multiple crises including the Covid-19 pandemic and low economic growth, reports Chang May Choon from Seoul. He also offered a plan to boost North Korea’s economy, provided the regime fully commits to denuclearisation.

And while Mr John Lee had no problems securing over 99 per cent of the vote to be elected Hong Kong’s new chief executive, the true test will lie in his ability to unite a fractured society and revive a weakened economy, writes Magdalene Fung. 

Read more:

Five key tasks for John Lee

Malaysia's Anwar and Najib face off

Wins and losses for Moon Jae-in

Rajapaksas' supernatural beliefs

Asean-US summit

This week’s special in-person meeting between the US and Asean is aimed at showcasing Washington’s commitment to South-east Asia, reports Charissa Yong. The US effort will include programmes covering education, climate change and infrastructure to meet Asean's needs, rather than being geared towards competition with rival superpower China. Asean countries however will still tread carefully so as not to damage their ties with Beijing.

China's President Xi Jinping meanwhile has unveiled its global security initiative, foreshadowing a more concerted push to play a bigger role in world security that could challenge US dominance in that sphere. Find out whether the plan will take off, in Danson Cheong’s latest edition of Power Play.

Recession risk

Risks of recession have been flagged by economists, as countries hike interest rates to tackle inflation fuelled by soaring food and oil prices, and economic growth slows, writes associate editor Vikram Khanna.

Read more about Indonesia’s expected rate hike and how inflation is getting in the way of Thailand’s recovery.

The heat is on

An estimated 700 million people will be at  risk of being displaced by drought by 2030, warns a UN report released this week, with the number and duration of droughts having risen 29 per cent since 2000. Longer and more severe droughts could slash crop yields, kill livestock, reduce water supplies and turn forests and grasslands into tinderboxes, writes climate change editor David Fogarty. 

Read more:

Why India's heatwave concerns us all

India's landfills go up in flames

It's cheaper to switch from coal to clean

Let the Games begin

The South-east Asia Games kick off in Vietnam today, with more than 5,000 athletes from 11 countries taking part. The event will be the staging ground for the country's tourism reboot and a declaration of Vietnam’s success at overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee.

Thai restive south takes flight

You can now fly direct from Bangkok to Betong, a district in Thailand’s restive Yala province, and avoid the old route via Hat Yai airport which involved a “gut-churning four-hour bus ride”, writes Hui Yee. Read all about her trip in the latest dispatch of Letter from the Bureau.

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