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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Najib Faces Trouble on All Fronts

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-parliament Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 19, 2015. Hee Loy Sian, a Malaysian lawmaker in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's People's Justice Party, known by its Malay acronym PKR, has submitted notice for a motion of no confidence against embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Since July, when the Wall Street Journal and other publications broke stories alleging that hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly from a Malaysian state fund, had been deposited into Prime Minister Najib tun Razak’s personal accounts, the prime minister has been struggling to hold onto his job, and to keep more scandals from erupting. Read more »

President Widodo Comes to Washington

by Joshua Kurlantzick
jokowi-visit Indonesian President Joko Widodo addresses members of parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 14, 2015. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

On October 26, Indonesian President Joko Widodo will arrive in Washington for his first U.S. visit as leader of the largest country in Southeast Asia. In advance of and during the visit, Obama administration officials probably will stress the increasingly close ties between Indonesia and the United States, building on the comprehensive partnership signed by the two nations. But in reality, the U.S.-Indonesia relationship has been more of a disappointment than a triumph over the past seven years. Read more »

China’s Charm Offensive Continues to Sputter in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-protests Riot police protect the entrance to Chinatown from "Red Shirt" demonstrators during a rally to celebrate Malaysia Day and to counter a massive protest held over two days last month that called for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a graft scandal, in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

After a decade, in the 2000s, in which China aggressively pursued warmer relations with many Southeast Asian nations, using a combination of diplomacy, aid, and soft power to woo its neighbors, the past five years have seen a significant chill in China-Southeast Asia relations. First, Beijing’s more aggressive pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea led to heightened tensions between China and other claimants—most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, but also increasingly Indonesia, where the armed forces are trying to rapidly modernize Jakarta’s naval capacity in part out of fear of China’s actions in the South China Sea. Read more »

Myanmar’s Cease-Fire Deal Comes up Short

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-General Min Aung Hlaing Myanmar's army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing addresses reporters during a news conference at the Defence Ministry in Naypyitaw on September 21, 2015. (Hla Hla Htay/Reuters)

This past weekend, the Myanmar government announced that it will sign a permanent cease-fire deal with seven or eight of the ethnic armed insurgencies in the country. This will be a permanent peace deal, not a temporary cease-fire like some of those arranged between the insurgencies and the government in the past. As such, it could provide a measure of stability before the upcoming national elections, and it includes some of the longest-fighting insurgent groups, like the Karen National Union. Read more »

Thailand’s Bombing Case Twists and Turns

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-police-Erawan Shrine bombing Thai national police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang (C) attends a news conference about the Bangkok blast which killed 20 people, including foreigners, as screen shows suspects, at the Royal Thai Police headquarters in central Bangkok, Thailand, on September 28, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

More than a month after the deadly bombing at central Bangkok’s Erawan shrine, the Thai authorities have made two arrests in the case, and issued at least seventeen arrest warrants overall. On Monday, the Thai police announced that one of the men in custody was the person caught on closed circuit television on the day of the bombing in August—the man who appeared to be leaving a bomb at the shrine. But some Thai commentators remain doubtful that the government has gotten closer to actually solving the case. Read more »

Thailand Slashes Its Economic Growth Forecast

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Somkid Jatusripitak_Thailand_economy Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak gestures during an interview with Reuters at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on September 21, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

On Friday, Thailand’s central bank slashed its growth forecast for the Thai economy for 2015, to 2.7 percent. As noted in a summary of the bank’s report in The Diplomat, this was the third time this year that the Bank of Thailand (BoT) has cut its growth forecast, and the BoT’s projected growth for 2015 is about half what it had expected for the Thai economy before the year started. A growth rate of 2.7 percent for the year would almost surely make Thailand the worst performing economy for 2015 in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Singapore’s Ruling Party Defies the Odds

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Lee Hsien Loong_Singapore_elections Singapore's Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the People's Action Party (PAP) Lee Hsien Loong is greeted with a dragon dance as he thanks supporters after the general election in Singapore on September 12, 2015. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

When Singapore split from Malaysia in 1965, becoming an independent city-state, its first elections were won by the People’s Action Party (PAP), then headed by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had overseen the country’s separation from Britain and its divorce from Malaysia. This victory was hardly a surprise: The PAP had won elections going back to 1959, when Singapore was still technically part of Britain, though it was getting self-rule. Read more »

New Contingency Planning Memorandum: A China-Vietnam Military Clash

by Joshua Kurlantzick
china_vietnam_HY SY 981 Chinese oil rig Haiyang Shi You 981 is seen surrounded by ships of China Coast Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam on May 14, 2014. (Nguyen Minh/Reuters)

The risk of a military confrontation between China and Vietnam is rising. Although the two countries have enjoyed close party-to-party ties for decades, since 2011 they have both asserted conflicting claims to the South China Sea. Beijing claims 90 percent of the sea as its exclusive economic zone. China has repeatedly moved oil rigs into disputed areas, dredged and occupied parts of the disputed Paracel Islands, and constructed at least one and potentially multiple airstrips, possibly for military use, in the Spratly Islands. Vietnam has also tried to use oil explorations to claim disputed areas of the sea and reportedly has rammed Chinese vessels in disputed waters. Vietnam has cultivated close military ties to the United States, to other Southeast Asian nations like the Philippines, and to regional powers such as India, all to the consternation of China. Read more »

What to Expect From a Turnbull Government in Australia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malcolm-turnbull Malcolm Turnbull (R) shakes hands with Australia's Governor-General Peter Cosgrove after Turnbull was sworn-in as Australia's 29th prime minister at Government House in Canberra, on September 15, 2015. Turnbull, the former communications minister, was sworn in on Tuesday as Australia's fourth leader in two years, replacing Tony Abbott. (Lukas Coch/Pool/Reuters)

After an intraparty leadership contest on Monday, Australia has a new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, the former environmental minister, communications minister, and leader of the Liberal Party. Turnbull’s ascension to the prime minister’s job was not unexpected, as this was the second intraparty leadership challenge this year in the governing coalition. The Wall Street Journal reported that, before the intraparty leadership contest, surveys of Australian voters “pointed to defeat for the ruling Liberal-National coalition at federal elections due next year.” Leadership contests between elections have become common for both major parties, adding to instability in Australian politics. Read more »

Singapore’s Election Apparently Delivers Big Result for Ruling Party

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A People's Action Party supporter celebrates the general election results at a stadium in Singapore September 12, 2015. Singapore voted on Friday in its most hotly contested general election with the outcome expected to test the long-ruling People's Action Party's (PAP) dominance of politics even though it is bound to win. REUTERS/Edgar Su A People's Action Party supporter celebrates the general election results at a stadium in Singapore September 12, 2015. Singapore voted on Friday in its most hotly contested general election with the outcome expected to test the long-ruling People's Action Party's (PAP) dominance of politics even though it is bound to win. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

In the run-up to Friday’s general elections in Singapore, the first since 2011, many foreign analysts, and some Singaporean experts, predicted that the long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) would suffer a significant defeat. After losing its first group member constituency in 2011, the PAP could have lost even more group constituencies to the opposition, led by the Workers Party. Some analysts predicted that the PAP’s share of the popular vote would fall to its lowest point in history, even if the PAP remained in power in Singapore’s parliament.
Read more »