CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Thailand’s Coup, One Year On

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, May 26, 2015
thailand-coup-anniversary-protests Police move in to detain protesters gathered in central Bangkok on May 22, 2015. Thai authorities detained dozen of activists protesting against military rule on Friday, a year after the army seized power from an elected government. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

This past week marks one year since Thailand’s most recent military coup, either the 19th or the 18th in the kingdom’s modern history, depending on how one counts putsch attempts. The year since the coup has revealed a range of lessons, most of which bode poorly for Thailand’s future. Read more »

Modi, Turnaround Artist: U.S.-India Ties Revived After Slump

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, May 26, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) wave during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi January 25, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) wave during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi January 25, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

May 26 marks the completion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first full year in office. Indian and international media have used the anniversary to take stock. In India, Modi has generally gotten high marks for foreign policy but some notches below that for slower than expected economic reform. The Economist devoted its cover this week to Modi (“India’s One-Man Band”) and urged more dramatic action to transform India lest the window of opportunity close. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 22, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 22, 2015
A Rohingya child who recently arrived by boat has his picture taken for identification purposes at a shelter in Kuala Langsa in Indonesia's Aceh province on May 18, 2015. (Roni Bintang/Courtesy: Reuters) A Rohingya child who recently arrived by boat has his picture taken for identification purposes at a shelter in Kuala Langsa in Indonesia's Aceh province on May 18, 2015. (Roni Bintang/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Plight of migrants in Andaman Sea continues. As many as three thousand refugees, mostly Rohingya minority Muslims fleeing state-sanctioned persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshi economic migrants, remain stranded in the waters in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar and Thailand. An estimated seven thousand refugees were abandoned by human traffickers during the past week without food or water in overcrowded boats; as many as fifty thousand attempt the trip each year. Read more »

Human Rights Conditions of Overseas Laborers from North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, May 22, 2015
North Korean men look up as they work along the banks of the Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, in this photo taken September 8, 2014. (Jacky Chen/Courtesy: Reuters) North Korean men look up as they work along the banks of the Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, in this photo taken September 8, 2014. (Jacky Chen/Courtesy: Reuters)

The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) has released a new report entitled Human Rights and North Korea’s Overseas Laborers: Dilemmas and Policy Challenges, by Yoon Yeosang and Lee Seung-ju This report provides the most comprehensive picture to date on the scope and conditions under which North Koreans are contracted for overseas labor assignments. The report was discussed at an event last week in Washington held at the Korea Economic Institute of America. Read more »

The Debate on U.S.-China Relations: Make Room, Make Way, or Make Hay

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, May 20, 2015
A U.S. Navy servicemen listens to a walkie-talkie in front of a Chinese national flag onboard U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington during its port call in the Hong Kong waters June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS MARITIME) A U.S. Navy servicemen listens to a walkie-talkie in front of a Chinese national flag onboard U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington during its port call in the Hong Kong waters on June 16, 2014 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters).

The Asia security field is a crowded one these days, and that is a good thing. The region is confronting a number of destabilizing threats: disputes over islands in the South and East China Seas, weak governance in several Southeast Asian nations, and continuing uncertainty over North Korea’s intentions and capabilities, among others. All are long-term, ongoing challenges, and the more ideas that get out there about how to manage these issues, the better. Read more »

Strategies for Addressing the Rohingya Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, May 20, 2015
migrants-thai-navy A boat with migrants is being towed away from Thailand by a Thai navy vessel, in waters near Koh Lipe island on May 16, 2015. (Aubrey Belford/Courtesy: Reuters)

As countries in Southeast Asia dither and argue with each other about how to handle the thousands of Rohingya migrants currently stranded on the seas, the migrants’ condition presumably is getting worse. Most of their boats are barely seaworthy, their conditions on board are often horrendous, and they frequently lack proper food and water. The United Nations has warned that the boats could become “floating coffins.” Read more »

Little Chance of a Regional Solution for the Rohingya

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, May 19, 2015
rohingya-indonesia-aceh Rohingya migrants, who arrived in Indonesia by boat, queue up for their breakfast inside a temporary compound for refugees in Kuala Cangkoi village in Lhoksukon, Indonesia's Aceh Province on May 18, 2015. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the wake of the latest horrific reports of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, the United States government has called Southeast Asian nations to come together and adopt a region-wide strategy for addressing the refugee crisis. “This is a regional issue. It needs a regional solution in short order,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters last week, according to the Associated Press. As of today, thousands of Rohingya reportedly remain at sea, off the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia, on rickety boats, after human smugglers abandoned them; Malaysia and Indonesia refuse to accept any more of the refugees stranded at sea. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Environmental Health Crisis – Challenges and Politics

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters) Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

After more than three decades of rapid industrialization and modernization, China is on the cusp of potentially becoming the world’s largest economy. Yet China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous costs on the environment and public health. Topping this list is extensive air pollution, water pollution, and soil contamination—outdoor air pollution, for example, has been linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The result, as shown in the recent viral documentary “Under the Dome,” has been an environmental health crisis that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications. The ascending popularity of the documentary, followed by its quick disappearance from all major websites in China, beget a series of questions on China’s environmental health crisis: What is the nature and magnitude of the crisis? What are its causes and consequences?  What is the response of the Chinese government to the crisis and is this response sufficient to the challenges at hand? Read more »

Grading Global Governance: Implications for East Asia

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, May 14, 2015
Models of a North Korean Scud-B missile (center) and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles are seen at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul in this photo from April 14, 2009. (Jo Yong-Hak/Courtesy: Reuters) Models of a North Korean Scud-B missile (center) and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles are seen at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul in this photo from April 14, 2009. (Jo Yong-Hak/Courtesy: Reuters)

The Council of Councils (CoC), a network of think tanks that mirrors the membership of the G20, released this week a thought-provoking report card assessing the state of global governance. The report evaluates the performance of global institutions in addressing ten international challenges, ranks the seriousness of these global challenges, and assesses prospects for breakthrough in international efforts to deal with these issues. The report card accurately captures the issue overload and prioritization challenges on the global agenda, provides a compelling snapshot of the scope of challenges to global governance and reveals the major gaps that will likely continue to challenge the international community. Read more »

Preparing for Jokowi’s Visit to Washington

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, May 12, 2015
jokowi-WEF Indonesia's President Joko Widodo gestures as he delivers a speech during the interactive session of the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Jakarta on April 20, 2015. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters)

Two weeks ago, a senior aide to Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo confirmed that the Indonesian leader plans to make his first visit to Washington as president in June. Thus far, despite hopes in Washington that Jokowi’s term as president might usher in closer ties to the United States, the U.S.-Indonesia relationship has remained roughly where it was before Jokowi took office. The bilateral relationship is generally warmer than it was in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the two countries’ strategic, economic, and cultural relations still lag far behind those the United States enjoys with many other partners in Southeast Asia. Read more »