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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Thailand Headed for a Violent Ending

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thayakorn Yosubon, the father of a pair of siblings killed in Sunday's bomb blast near an anti-government protest site, mourns as he hold a photograph of his children during their funeral at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on February 24, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters) Thayakorn Yosubon, the father of a pair of siblings killed in Sunday's bomb blast near an anti-government protest site, mourns as he hold a photograph of his children during their funeral at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on February 24, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters)

Clashes in Thailand between anti-government protestors and security forces have intensified. This past weekend, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at anti-government protestors in eastern Thailand and killed a five-year-old girl, and someone apparently launched two grenade attacks in Bangkok. Since this current round of demonstrations started last November, 21 people have been killed and hundreds injured in Thailand. The country has basically functioned without an effective government now for months, the once-teflon economy is sputtering, and Thais are preparing for the violence to get worse. Read more »

Behind Pattern of Global Unrest, a Middle Class in Revolt

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Policemen hold their weapons ready as they pull back during clashes with anti-government protesters near the Government House in Bangkok on February 18, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) Policemen hold their weapons ready as they pull back during clashes with anti-government protesters near the Government House in Bangkok on February 18, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

For months now, protesters have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all of these places, protesters are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all of these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won elections in relatively free polls. And in nearly all of these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities. The streets seem to be filled with very people one might expect to support democracy rather than put more nails in its coffin. Read more »

Assessing John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this weekend (U.S. time) to Jakarta was brief, packed into his whirlwind Asia trip. His short stay in Jakarta was understandable—I think Kerry, despite criticism that he has focused too much on the Middle East, has put in enough of the face time in Asia to justify his claim that he has continued the administration’s policy of re-engagement with Southeast Asia. The fact that Kerry chose to give a speech in front of an audience of students at a cultural center highlighted some of the American embassy in Jakarta’s soft power efforts in the archipelago. And I certainly would agree with most of what Kerry said in his speech on climate change and the threat of global warming—that climate change is a near-apocalyptic threat to the world, that the science about global warming is settled, that Indonesia is one of the developing nations most likely to be affected by climate change, that global warming could prove a death blow to many parts of the archipelago. Read more »

John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

At the end of his current trip to Asia, Secretary of State John Kerry will be stopping in Jakarta and meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. Although his visit in Jakarta will be short, Kerry will undoubtedly emphasize the same themes he is hitting throughout the visit, including pushing to restart talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and prodding China to work more seriously with Southeast Asian nations on a real code of conduct for the South China Sea. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, traveling with Kerry, has a thorough summary of the trip’s agenda here. Read more »

Chemical Weapons in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Reporters hold banners as they march for press freedom in Yangon on January 7, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) Reporters hold banners as they march for press freedom in Yangon on January 7, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

This past week, the Myanmar government detained—and may be arresting—six Burmese journalists who reported that the country may have had a chemical weapons factory under the former military dictatorship. The local journal produced the following report, according to the Irrawaddy: Read more »

Thailand’s Election Day: Overall, the Voters Win, But Chaos Ahead

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Election commission officials display ballot papers to the media while counting votes at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy Reuters) Election commission officials display ballot papers to the media while counting votes at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy Reuters)

Despite protesters blocking voting in southern provinces and many parts of Bangkok, and despite several serious incidents of violence in Bangkok, including a gunfight in the streets, the Sunday election actually was somewhat more peaceful than expected, and turnout slightly higher than expected. The relatively high turnout, the lack of widespread violence that protest leaders surely hoped would erupt, and the fact that heads of the armed forces quietly voted, suggests that overall, Sunday was a net loss for the anti-government PDRC, though hardly a sign that the Thai government is now in the clear. Read more »

Drip, Drip, Drip: The Impact of Thailand’s Political Chaos on the Thai Economy (and the World)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester walks down an empty road during a rally near the Government Complex in Bangkok on January 24, 2014. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester walks down an empty road during a rally near the Government Complex in Bangkok on January 24, 2014. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

For months now, even as Thailand’s political crisis has escalated from street protests into daily violence, the disintegration of state institutions, and the threat of a coup, most Thai businesspeople, foreign investors, and analysts of the Thai economy have maintained a relatively positive outlook for the Thai economy this year and next. After all, as several long-time investors in Thailand have told me, the country’s economy has over decades proven extraordinarily resilient, surviving nineteen coups and attempted coups, natural disasters, the Indochina wars, and many Bangkok street protests that ended in bloodshed. Read more »

Thailand Endgame

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester (C) negotiates with a local official and police officers regarding the closing of a polling station after protesters blocked its entrance during advance voting for a general election in Bangkok on January 26, 2014. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester (C) negotiates with a local official and police officers regarding the closing of a polling station after protesters blocked its entrance during advance voting for a general election in Bangkok on January 26, 2014. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Thailand’s political crisis moved closer to the ultimate endgame, which is a complete takeover by anti-government forces, both in the street and in institutions in Bangkok. Primarily pro-government Thais came out to polls across the country to vote in advance balloting, which went on without incident in much of the North and Northeast. In these places, one might have thought a normal election was proceeding. In Bangkok and parts of the South, the demonstrators blocked many polling booths, and the level of anger and violence went up a notch, if that was even possible. The Economist this weekend essentially suggests that Thailand is going to break apart. I think that’s extreme, but the situation is deteriorating out of control quite quickly. Read more »

Democracy Suffers Again in 2013

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A supporter of the constitution gestures in front of a statue of Egypt's former Army Chief of Staff Abdel Moneim Riad near Tahrir square, during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo on January 15, 2014. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Courtesy Reuters) A supporter of the constitution gestures in front of a statue of Egypt's former Army Chief of Staff Abdel Moneim Riad near Tahrir square, during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo on January 15, 2014. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Courtesy Reuters)

In mid-January, millions of Egyptians voted in a constitutional referendum that won resoundingly, with a majority of 98.1 percent voting yes, according to the nation’s election commission. Egyptian leaders, and some outside observers, lauded this vote as a victory for the country’s democratic transition. Read more »

Thai Royalty Becomes More Openly Involved in Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters celebrate under portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit as they enter the area near the Government house in Bangkok on December 3, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters celebrate under portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit as they enter the area near the Government house in Bangkok on December 3, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Despite officially being a constitutional monarchy and supposedly no different than the monarchies of Britain, the Netherlands, or modern-day Japan, Thailand’s royal family has, during the reign of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, always been far more closely involved in Thai politics than any constitutional monarch would be. However, until the past decade, the royal family usually conducted its interventions behind the scenes. The king and his allies normally acted behind at least a veil of deniability, so that in times of crisis, the king could potentially play the role of mediator and neutral-broker. Read more »