South East Asian Ambassadors brief MPs/Peers on developments
On 29 October, BGIPU hosted a parliamentary briefing featuring Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Thailand, His Excellency Brian Davidson; to HMA to Cambodia, Her Excellency Tina Redshaw; and HMA to the Philippines, His Excellency Daniel Pruce. Several Select Committees and APPGs were represented by UK participants, with BGIPU Executive Committee member, The Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP, chairing the meeting.
The event gave UK attendees the opportunity to hear first-hand updates on COVID-19, and the political, economic and social situations in each of the three countries, and across the region. Members noted that although we have heard a lot in the press about COVID responses from East Asian states such as China, Republic of Korea and Japan, we have heard comparatively little about South-East Asian countries, so the briefing provided a fantastic insight for all participants.
Although each of the three countries have taken different approaches to tackling the public health aspects of the pandemic, the knock-on economic consequences of the pandemic in all three have still been very significant. Like in the UK, South-East Asian governments have grappled with the difficult balancing act of protecting civilians whilst sustaining the economy.
With Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines all heavily reliant on the tourism, services and manufacturing industries, their economies have been hit hard. Border restrictions combined with a reduced demand in goods, have resulted in a huge rise in unemployment and sharp decreases in GDP growth. Enforcement of COVID-19-related measures have also raised human rights questions in all three countries, including against the backdrop of ongoing political developments, including student protests in Thailand.
Although all three countries face significant challenges, especially as the knock-on effects of the economic downturn become more evident, there was continuing value being placed on the future development of bilateral relations between the UK and the nations of South-East Asia.
The engagement between UK Members and Her Majesty’s Ambassadors proved hugely productive with the event raising a wide range of questions to do with future regional and bilateral partnerships. BGIPU would like to thank the FCDO for their continued support which has allowed us to carry out a vital virtual programme of international relations during this unpredictable period.