The US intelligence community has identified several Southeast Asian leaders as “regional threats,” joining a list that includes China and North Korea, in a Worldwide Threat Assessment released last week.
In Southeast Asia, Cambodian leader Hun Sen “will repress democratic institutions and civil society, manipulate government and judicial institutions, and use patronage and political violence to guarantee his rule beyond the 2018 national election,” according to the report.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s suggestion that he might suspend the constitution, declare a “revolutionary government,” and impose nationwide martial law helped him make the cut.
And rounding out the list of threatening regional governments was Thailand’s ruling junta, which will “institutionalize the military’s influence,” despite its pledge to hold elections in late 2018.
The document also warned that the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar threatened the country’s fledgling democracy and might “provide openings for Beijing to expand its influence.”
The assessments were listed under the heading of Regional Threats, where China is listed at the top, citing the country’s “firm stance on its sovereignty claims in the East and South China Seas.” North Korea is listed second.
Manila expresses concern
Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a radio interview on Wednesday that the government did not take the assertions lightly.
“We view this declaration from no less than the intelligence department of the United States with some concern,” Roque was quoted as telling DZMM radio.
“For one, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is no autocrat or has autocratic tendencies. He adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the constitution,” Roque said in a statement.