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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Cambodia’s Turn Toward Authoritarianism (Again)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event to celebrate Children's Day in Phnom Penh May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event to celebrate Children's Day in Phnom Penh on May 31, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Over the past year, any hopes that Cambodia, where national elections almost led to a change in government three years ago, was headed toward a democratic transition, have been fully dashed. Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) are again taking complete control of the kingdom. In fact, as the country prepares for the next national elections, to be held in 2018, Hun Sen appears to be resorting to his usual combination of repressing opposition politicians and co-opting a small number of his opponents. These harsh but skillful tactics have helped him become the longest-serving non-royal ruler in Asia, surviving one of the most tumultuous political environments in the world. Read more »

Asia Summer Reading

by Joshua Kurlantzick
bookstore A passenger takes a book in a bookstore at Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal on April 14, 2016. (Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

It’s that time of year again—when Washington cooks, the public transport goes on extended holiday, people head to the beach, and I offer some thoughts on books to take with you on vacation if you have an interest in Asian history, Southeast Asian politics, and Southeast Asian culture. Keep in mind that none of these books are exactly traditional “beach reads”—light page-turners that you can flip through while also watching your kids bury themselves in sand. Read more »

What Does the Future Hold for the Rohingya?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rohingya-camp A boy walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar on May 3, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Of all the ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in the world, wrote the Economist last year, the Rohingya may well be the most persecuted people on the planet. Today nearly two million Rohingya live in western Myanmar and in Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar they have no formal status, and they face the constant threat of violence from paramilitary groups egged on by nationalist Buddhist monks while security forces look the other way. Since 2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burnt entire Rohingya neighborhoods, butchering the populace with knives, sticks, and machetes. Read more »

Reforming the International Military Education and Training Program

by Joshua Kurlantzick
balikatan-2015 Filipino soldiers take positions as a U.S. military helicopter CH-47 takes off during the annual "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games at a military camp, Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija in northern Philippines on April 20, 2015. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which provides U.S. government funds to members of foreign militaries to take classes at U.S. military facilities, has the potential to be a powerful tool of U.S. influence. IMET is designed to help foreign militaries bolster their relationships with the United States, learn about U.S. military equipment, improve military professionalism, and instill democratic values in their members. For forty years, the program has played an important role in the United States’ relations with many strategic partners and in cultivating foreign officers who become influential policymakers. Read more »

Duterte’s Policies Take Shape

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rodrigo-duterte-economic Philippines' President-elect Rodrigo Duterte answers questions during a news conference in Davao City, southern Philippines on May 31, 2016. (Lean Dava/Reuters)

The new president-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, came into office without a clear policy platform. On the campaign trail, Duterte had vowed to get tough on crime, duplicating his efforts as mayor of Davao on a national level. He had made vague promises of changing the Philippines’ political system to reduce the power of entrenched elites, and he had offered contradictory, sometimes confusing statements on the Philippines’ major security challenges—the ongoing threat of militant groups in the southern Philippines, and the growing contest with China over control of disputed parts of the South China Sea. Read more »

The Global Democratic Regression and Wealthy Democracies

by Joshua Kurlantzick
donald-trump-2 U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California, U.S. June 1, 2016. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

As the presidential election moves into general mode, Donald Trump’s blowtorch style has led many critics to accuse him of bringing dangerous 1930s-style politics to America. But in reality, Trump’s rise does not signal a return of fascism, and his political style does not exactly parallel that of Mussolini. Instead, Trump is part of a modern-day, worldwide democratic retreat, one that has been going on for a decade now in the developing world—and is now making its way to America and Western Europe. Read more »

The Final Normalization of U.S.-Vietnam Relations

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Obama-Vietnam-trip U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang after an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 23, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

After a period of broken diplomatic ties following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the United States and Vietnam re-established formal diplomatic relations in 1995. Since then, the two nations have built increasingly close strategic and economic ties, to the point that Hanoi is now one of the United States’s closest security partners in Asia. With a professional military and a highly strategic location, Vietnam is gradually becoming as important to U.S. security interests in the region as longtime allies and partners like Thailand and Malaysia. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta and the Southern Insurgency

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-chan-ocha-2 Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 16, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha lamented the ongoing bloodshed in southern Thailand and implicitly criticized his own government’s feeble attempts to restart talks with the insurgents. In his weekly address in early May, Prayuth lamented the “sad and terrible waste of lives” in fifteen years of fighting in the south. More than 6,500 people have reportedly been killed in the southern insurgency since 2001. Read more »

Obama and the Vietnam Arms Embargo

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-vietnam U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong after they spoke to reporters following their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington July 7, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

This weekend, President Obama will travel to Vietnam, making the third U.S. presidential visit to the country since the end of the Vietnam War. Obama’s trip, which will also include a stop in Japan, will encompass several priorities. He will try to reassure allies that the United States remains committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though the deal has stalled on Capitol Hill and could be rejected in Congress entirely. (For more on the TPP’s current fate, see this new Bloomberg piece.) He will become the first president to visit Hiroshima, where he will likely reaffirm his commitment to reducing nuclear proliferation without making a formal apology for the use of nuclear weapons in World War II. Read more »

Some Brief Takeaways on Duterte’s Win

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte raises a clenched fist before casting his vote at a polling precinct for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao city in southern Philippines, on May 9, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters) Presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte raises a clenched fist before casting his vote at a polling precinct for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao city in southern Philippines, on May 9, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

With Rodrigo Duterte now officially confirmed as the winner of the Philippines’ presidential election last Monday, it is time for some brief thoughts on the immediate implications of his victory.

Duterte will now try to win a mass of defectors from the president’s party. Although the Liberal Party performed reasonably well in some local elections, political parties in the Philippines are notoriously weak, which is one reason why charismatic figures like Duterte and celebrities are able to win higher office. Expect the president-elect to try to win over large numbers of Liberal Party members who won local elections earlier in the week. Read more »