CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Strategies for Addressing the Rohingya Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick
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
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 »

Preparing for Jokowi’s Visit to Washington

by Joshua Kurlantzick
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 »

The Coup One Year On: Why Has Thai Democracy Regressed?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-coup-protests Soldiers take position along roads blocked around the Victory Monument, where anti-coup protesters were gathering on previous days, in Bangkok on May 30, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

On a hot spring afternoon in 1999 at the investigative reporting section of the Bangkok Post, one of Thailand’s two English-language dailies, the section’s editor marked off a long list of stories on a white board. The section had plenty of targets in its sights—police corruption, Thailand’s drug trade and many other subjects. Read more »

Is the Mass Grave a “Turning Point” for Thai Policy on Trafficking?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-Songkhla A member of the security forces is seen at an abandoned camp in a jungle some three hundred meters from the border with Malaysia, in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 2, 2015. (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters)

Last Friday, Thai police discovered a mass grave near the country’s southern border with Malaysia. Twenty-six bodies have been exhumed from the grave thus far. According to a report in the New York Times, the mass grave was located in an abandoned detention camp that was likely used by human smugglers. These camps, primarily for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, are common in southern Thailand. This one, the Times reported, was “made up of bamboo cages, watchtowers and what the Thai police described as a ‘torture room,’ without giving more details.” Read more »

Myanmar’s Election Day May Be Only a Step Toward Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
shwe mann-aung hlaing-suu kyi-myanmar Shwe Mann (C), speaker of Myanmar's Lower House of Parliament, Myanmar's military Commander-in-chief Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing (L) and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrive for Myanmar's top six-party talks at the Presidential palace in Naypyitaw on April 10, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the end of October, Myanmar will hold what will be probably its first truly free national election in twenty-five years. Several reports released this week on the upcoming election suggest that, for all the problems with Myanmar’s reform process over the past five years, the actual Election Day is likely to be relatively fair. A new International Crisis Group (ICG) report on the upcoming election notes that the election commission has, thus far, operated transparently and consulted widely and that the government has reached out to credible international observers to help ensure Election Day is fair. Read more »

Amid Spectacle of Malaysia Infighting, Democratic Slide Continues

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-malaysia Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during the opening ceremony of the 26th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 27, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters)

Since the end of 2014, Malaysians, normally living in one of the most stable countries in Asia, have witnessed an extraordinary political spectacle. Although the same ruling coalition has run Malaysia since independence five decades ago, 89-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently launched a fusillade of public attacks on the current prime minister, Najib Razak, his longtime political protégé. Read more »

Philippines and Vietnam Rapidly Building Strategic Partnership

by Joshua Kurlantzick
benigno-aquino-nguyen-tan-dung Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) greets Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his courtesy call at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila on May 21, 2014. (Aaron Favila/Courtesy: Reuters)

Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Read more »

What Does Thailand’s Article 44 Mean for Thailand’s International Relations?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-medvedev Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (R) speak during a news conference at the Government House in Bangkok on April 8, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy: Reuters)

Thailand’s ruling junta now has replaced martial law, which had been in force since the coup in May 2014, with legislation under Article 44 of the interim constitution. This shift has been heavily criticized by human rights organizations, many foreign countries, and some Thai media outlets. Human Rights Watch has called the shift to operating under Article 44 an attempt to give Prayuth “unlimited powers without safeguards against human rights violations.” Read more »

Little Mention of Southeast Asia in Secretary of Defense’s Rebalance Speech

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ash-carter-rebalance U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. military personnel during a meeting near an F-16 fighter jet at Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a speech at Arizona State University earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter laid out a kind of relaunch of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia—a plan for moving the rebalance forward over the final years of the president’s second term. Carter hit many key points that the administration hopes to emphasize: the importance of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership both for the region’s economic future and for America’s own strategic interests; the growth in maritime partnerships with longtime allies like Australia and Japan; the increase in training programs for partner militaries in the Asia-Pacific region. Read more »