Thai tensions form apt backdrop for Asean meeting - The Irrawaddy, October 28, 2008
...However, political tension does not plague Thailand alone. Malaysia, to its south, is gripped with its own turmoil. The government that has ruled for decades, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), is in a spin due to an internal tussle for power and pressure from the opposition led by the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim.
The power of the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Alliance) coalition was shattered during general elections in March, emboldening the opposition and the country's minorities to mount challenges after the watershed poll. The opposition won five states and 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament, while the Barisan retained 140 seats...
What is happening in Thailand and Malaysia reflects a "shift in how people perceive democracy in this region," says Roshan Jason, executive director of the Asean Inter-parliamentary Myanmar (Burma) Caucus. "The public is demanding greater engagement in the process of government and decision making."
"The old order of letting Southeast Asian governments rule without any accountability to the people is unravelling," he added during a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur. "Unfortunately, Asean still trails behind other regions in this area," Jason said.
Yet not all of Asean's founding nations--Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand--are eager to create a political culture that keeps an elected government in check through opposition pressure and campaigns by anti-government activists. The affluent city-state of Singapore is still determined to remain a nominal democracy...