Bridget Welsh is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of the National Taiwan University. She is based in Southeast Asia, where she works on Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries in the region. She is committed to engagement, fostering mutual understanding and empowerment.

Project Malot Marches On

Over the last year, there has been considerable transition on my end (with my departure from Singapore), but there has been continuity with the support for education efforts in the Malot village tract in Myanmar near Bogalay. After a tremendously successful fund-raiser in Singapore in January of 2014, thanks to the kindness of my former colleague Brian Mooney and his musician friends, we were able to support two students to attend the Bogalay high school directly – Nandar Tun and Bo Min Chein (on left in photo on left). One of these students was graciously directly supported by Professor Andrew Harding. Additional support was given to five other students to cover their high school fees over the year (three of these are in the photo on the right), all of the other top students who interviewed for the annual scholarship. Contributions were also allocated to prizes for the top students in each year of the middle school, for support for the school library and to supplement the tuition cost for teachers to teach high school classes in the Malot village. These commitments were made possible by the generosity of those who attended the fundraiser, continued support from the SAIS community...

Political persecution is hurting Malaysia

Video commentary on the show ‘On The Move Asia‘, Bloomberg, about Anwar’s jailing.

Pakatan’s problem marriage

Published on Feb 06, 2015 in The Edge Review Malaysia’s opposition coalition united in backing troubled leader Anwar Ibrahim but divided in almost everything else. It may not survive… Malaysia waits with bated breath for a new twist to its most celebrated political saga. On February 10, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is scheduled to learn his fate when a judgment is made on his appeal against sodomy charges. One thing is certain: if Anwar escapes the political noose this round, there remain other charges to bring and other opportunities to remove him from the political scene. This is only another battle in a long war begun in 1998. Ironically, a conviction now may even help his opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, to win in the longer term. It is often said, but few inside the system fully appreciate, that jail time will make Anwar a martyr for a new generation, rally his supporters at home and abroad and signal the weakness of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government in its need to remove an opponent. Convictions of opposition figures have a long history of backfiring. This may even occur in Najib’s own party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which heads the...

A Visit to Hanoi

I cannot visit Vietnam without thinking about Hoa. Arriving at the airport makes me recall similar moments on route to see her in hospital or celebrate her life. The city itself brings back even more memories – of her favorite food, of the bustle in which she grew up, of laughter. It is over four years since her body has left us, but her spirit still lives on, in the community of people who she touched and in her legacy. Many of her friends were on hand during the January 2015 Hanoi trip. The occasion was to honor Professor Fred Z. Brown, who was given the Friendship and Peace Award from the Vietnamese government. This is an honor he greatly deserved, as an important interlocutor in the bilateral relationship and a champion for mutual understanding. The event was organized by his former students, led by Professor Markus Taussig, Thủy Nguyễn and others. At the young age of his many years, Professor Brown shared his wisdom on US-Vietnam relations, past and present, and reminded those in attendance of the importance of investing in people, particular in education and cultural exchanges. The room was filled with his former students and colleagues, many...

Hijack on Capitol Hill

Published on Jan 23, 2015 in The Edge Review How the new Republican US Congress plans to seize control of Obama’s Asia policy After its first month focused on reversing domestic healthcare and social policies, the new Republican-majority US Congress is expected to start trying to stamp its mark on President Barack Obama’s initiatives abroad, including his “rebalancing” efforts in Asia. After all, the 2016 presidential election campaign has already effectively started, with posturing and positioning aplenty. The mode is one of attack to showcase policy shortcomings of the Obama administration in an all-out effort to win the next presidency. Square in Congress’ sights is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. This needs Senate approval to be ratified, and efforts to promote the passage of trade agreements on Capitol Hill take considerable legwork and leadership. Most analysts believe that the Republican majority in Congress has improved the chances for the TPP, which has been bogged down in negotiations. Republicans have traditionally supported free trade, and the interests of their core constituency – corporate business – have been well represented in negotiations. But hopes of inking the agreement during Obama’s presidency are overly optimistic. Any successful passage would require his administration’s cooperation,...

Finding hope for Malaysia in 2015

Taken from Malaysiakini.com Difficult is an understatement for the year Malaysia had in 2014. Today marks a new beginning, an opportunity for assessment and moving forward. With so many Malaysians suffering from bouts of despair with the national leadership on both sides of the political divide, I wanted to take an opportunity to share some positive observations on the present situation and the country’s future. Despite all the challenges the country faces, it is vital not to be blinded by negativity. Doing so will let the dark forces that have been fanned since 2013 win. Malaysians deserve better – a hope for change and the promise of better governance. While acknowledging the devastating tragedies of last year as well as the deterioration in race relations and the woefully inadequate performance of political leaders, I highlight here developments and lessons that are strengthening, and can further strengthen, Malaysia. Caring Malaysia There were important bright spots in 2014 that should be recognised. On multiple occasions Malaysians came together across faiths in their shared humanity. Malaysians are a generous people in giving and empathetic with others. Malaysians regularly stop when a person is in trouble, and this is often in spite of real...
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A mountain to climb

Published on Jan 02, 2015 in The Edge Review 2015 is a banner year for ASEAN as it takes the long-awaited leap towards integration. But obstacles to success remain formidable This is supposed to be a pivotal year for Southeast Asia as ASEAN approaches its stated aim of creating an integrated market and boosting regional...

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Democracy under siege

Published on Dec 12, 2014 in The Edge Review Column Between a military coup, killings, sedition charges, religious oppression, lawsuits and censorship, Southeast Asian nations took alarming steps backwards in 2014 It has, without question, been a hard year for democracy in Southeast Asia. The coup in Thailand in May is perhaps the most obvious...

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How UMNO lost its mojo

Published on Nov 28, 2014 in The Edge Review Column As Malaysia’s dominant political party held its 68th annual general assembly this week, the familiar rallying cries of imminent crisis and racial insecurity rang out again. The leadership tactic of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) from Dr Mahathir Mohamad onwards has been to foster...

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The summit of Myanmar’s ambitions

Published on Nov 14, 2014 in The Edge Review Column Posturing and positioning were high on the agenda for the host – and many guests – at this week’s East Asia Summit Myanmar has become a world stage, at least this week when leaders gathered in the capital, Naypyidaw, for ASEAN and East Asia Summit...

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PAS reactionaries strike back

Taken from Malaysiakini.com With emotional outbursts, walkouts and contradictory statements, PAS’ 60th muktamar last week was more of a confrontation rather than a celebration.With the PAS president referring to the Islamic party’s Pakatan Rakyat partners as “minor enemies” and its members who stood with ally PKR as “lackeys”, it has become evident that PAS under...

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Selangor a Pakatan Rakyat family fight

Taken from Malaysiakini.com The ongoing Selangor crisis has riveted the Malaysian public for weeks and called into question the ability of the opposition to govern as a coalition.From attacks on each other to sackings and perceived party betrayals, the Selangor crisis has revealed underlying tensions among Pakatan Rakyat partners and showcased the fierce competition for...

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Wong Ho Leng was a brave fighter

Taken from Malaysiakini.com For those who knew Bukit Assek assemblyperson Wong Ho Leng, the words ‘brave fighter’ come to mind. When he entered politics over 30 years ago, he joined at a time when being part of the opposition was unpopular.It was the economic boom years in Sibu, derived primarily from timber, and he chose...

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The core character of Malaysia seen at LCCT

Taken from Malaysiakini.com Today marks the closure of the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang. Opened in 2006, this no-frills terminal has seen multiple millions of passengers pass through its gates and helped to develop the tourism sector nationally and internationally. The LCCT became the main transfer point of the 40 million tourists visiting Malaysia,...

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One year after GE13, lost in sea of politicking

Taken from Malaysiakini.com Today marks the one year anniversary of the historic 13th general election. This election was pivotal in the country’s history as the incumbent BN coalition held onto power, with the opposition calls for ‘change’ unfulfilled.Scholars have highlighted the fundamental shifts in the power of Umno, the imbalance of the opposition parties, the...

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