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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

What Will Thailand’s Post-Coup “Democracy” Look Like?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives before a meeting to discuss the 2015 national budget at the Army Club in Bangkok on June 13, 2014. Prayuth was the head of the junta that seized power in Thailand last month (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

As an excellent piece in the Associated Press notes this week, Thailand’s junta appears to be entrenching itself for the long haul. Junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has named himself to Thailand’s Board of Investment. The junta is putting other cronies at the heads of major state-controlled companies, Prayuth has left the timetable for a total return to civilian rule purposefully vague, and the coup leaders also have refused to say exactly what that civil government will look like, or what Thailand’s next constitution will look like either. (The generals essentially ripped up the previous constitution after launching the coup in May.) Read more »

Jokowi’s Plans?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters). Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters).

Although Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has seen his lead in the polls shrink in the run-up to the July 9 elections, he still remains the overwhelming favorite. Jokowi has lost ground to Prabowo Subianto because of Prabowo’s effective social media and on-the-ground campaign apparatus. Still, Jokowi and his running mate, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, performed well in the first presidential debate, hitting on Prabowo’s highly problematic human rights record and exposing Prabowo’s sharp, even crazy temper. Jokowi seems to have realized that he needs a better get-out-the-vote operation. He also has become more skilled in deflecting concerns that he will just be a tool of his PDI-P party and of party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. Read more »

Thailand’s Tough Coup

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A woman and her child walks past policemen standing guard as anti-coup protesters gather outside the Australian embassy in Bangkok on June 4, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). A woman and her child walks past policemen standing guard as anti-coup protesters gather outside the Australian embassy in Bangkok on June 4, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

As the Thai coup settles into some kind of normality, the outlines of how this junta will act are becoming clear. As Leeds and Columbia University professor Duncan McCargo has written, this coup is proceeding far differently than other recent military takeovers in the kingdom. The timeline for returning power to the people through national elections is long and somewhat indeterminate, the military is cracking down on dissent much harder than it did in 2006 or even in the early post-coup 1990s, and the army seems intent on creating a cult of personality around it this time that has been absent for decades in Thailand. The military is reportedly launching Friday broadcasts to foster “happiness” in the kingdom, it is hauling in hundreds of journalists, academics, and activists for what are essentially old-school re-education sessions, and it even has ideas of trying to control and block social media outlets, including one of the most popular Thai social media outlets. Read more »

What Has Gone Wrong in Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-coup-protest A protester, who was briefly detained and then released, walks back toward others protesting against military rule near the Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 24, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

What has gone wrong in Southeast Asia? Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, many countries in the region were viewed by global democracy analysts and Southeast Asians themselves as leading examples of democratization in the developing world.

By the late 2000s, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore all were ranked as “free” or “partly free” by the monitoring organization Freedom House, while Cambodia and, perhaps most surprisingly, Myanmar had both taken sizable steps toward democracy as well. Read more »

China’s Ready to Rumble

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A fisherman (C) receives medical treatment upon his arrival home, after his boat was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) A fisherman (C) receives medical treatment upon his arrival home, after his boat was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two months, as China’s maritime disputes with Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam have escalated, most foreign observers and American officials, though worried, have shown little concern that the conflicts would explode into a full-scale war. After all, for more than three decades China has profited enormously from being part of the global economic system. Its military, though growing, remains far less technologically advanced than American armed forces. And for thirty years, predictions that China one day would try to dominate its region by force have always been proven wrong. Read more »

Thailand’s Coup Just One Sign of Southeast Asia’s Regression From Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-coup-demonstration Demonstrators march as riot police officers and soldiers block a street during a protest against military rule in central of Bangkok on May 24, 2014. Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a "safe place" on Saturday, an aide said, after being held by Thailand's army following its seizure of power this week, as opposition to the coup grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

This past week, the Thai military launched its second coup in a decade, destroying what was left of Thailand’s shaky democratic system. This coup is likely to last longer, and be much harsher than the coup in 2006; already, the Thai armed forces are censoring Thai media and putting journalists and politicians in detention or in jail. Read more »

The U.S. Response to Thailand’s Coup

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-coup Soldiers take up position at the Democracy monument after the coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014. Thailand's army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha took control of the government in the coup on Thursday saying the army had to restore order and push through reforms, two days after he declared martial law (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

So, the Thai military has now made real what, in effect, it had already done earlier this week—launched a coup and taken over the powers of government. The armed forces now have posted troops around Bangkok, dispatched ministers from the previous civilian government, abrogated the standing constitution (except for a few articles) and passed harsh new censorship decrees as part of their martial law plan. Most likely, the leaders of the Thai army shortly will appoint a caretaker government, which will be made up of mostly conservative, royalist political figures. Unsurprisingly, the anti-government PDRC protestors who had been demonstrating for months to evict the elected government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and to put democracy on hold now are jubilant. The PDRC protestors have seemingly gotten exactly what they wanted—Yingluck is gone, the Puea Thai party is in disarray, and democracy has been put on hold. Whatever appointed government is put into place by the military likely will launch reforms that, in theory, could help cleanse Thailand’s political system of graft and vote buying but that, in reality, will be designed to try to ensure the Shinawatras and their political base are disempowered once and for all. Read more »

Thailand: It’s A Coup, Let’s Call it a Coup

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai martial law Thai soldiers walk inside a compound of the Army Club after the army declared martial law nationwide to restore order in Bangkok on May 20, 2014. Thailand's army declared martial law nationwide on Tuesday to restore order after six months of street protests that have left the country without a proper functioning government, but insisted the surprise intervention was not a military coup (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

Last night U.S. time the Thai military took control of the country’s broadcast networks and announced it was declaring martial law across the country, effectively putting the army in charge of all of Thailand, even though many provinces had been unaffected by the ongoing political strife in Bangkok. Whether or not the military has the legal basis to declare martial law remains unclear; the current Thai constitution seems to suggest that only the government—which means presumably the elected prime minister and cabinet—can declare martial law. The older constitution referred to by the military as its justification for intervening yesterday also states that a martial law order only can be revoked by a royal decree. Read more »

ASEAN’s Failure on Vietnam-China

by Joshua Kurlantzick
vietnam-china Security forces (front) scuffle with protesters chanting anti-China slogans during an anti-China protest in Vietnam's southern Ho Chi Minh city, in this photo taken by Kyodo on May 18, 2014. Vietnam flooded major cities with police to avert anti-China protests on Sunday, while Beijing evacuated thousands of citizens after a flare-up over disputed sovereignty in the South China Sea sparked rare and deadly rioting in Vietnam last week. China has evacuated more than 3,000 nationals following the attacks on Chinese workers and Chinese-owned businesses at industrial parks in its southern neighbor (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters).

Over the past week, as Vietnam’s contentious South China Sea dispute with China has escalated into outright ship-to-ship conflict around China’s new rig in the South China Sea, protests in Vietnam have escalated into major attacks on Chinese-owned factories in Vietnam (as well as on some other foreign factories, in part because demonstrators thought these factories were owned by Chinese companies.) Over the weekend, Vietnam’s government worked hard to cool the unrest inside Vietnam, primarily because the authoritarian regime in Hanoi is uncomfortable with any public protest, since it never knows what direction the demonstrations could turn. But Hanoi has not turned down its rhetorical anger at Beijing, with Hanoi’s official news agency accusing Beijing of showing “its aggressiveness by sending more military ships” to the area surrounded the disputed oil rig. Chinese ships reportedly have attacked Vietnamese coast guard ships with water cannons and rammed Vietnamese ships as well. Read more »

Vietnam Protests: More Than Just Anti-China Sentiment

by Joshua Kurlantzick
vietnam protests Protesters march during an anti-China protest on a street in Hanoi on May 11, 2014 (Kham/Courtesy: Reuters).

Protests that broke out earlier this week at factories in southern Vietnam have resulted in hundreds of arrests the past two days. Demonstrators torched several factories and smashed up more in industrial areas on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. The exact number of arrests remains unknown, but some human rights activists I spoke with are now estimating the number of arrests is in the high hundreds, not the figures in the low hundreds given by news reports on Wednesday. Without a doubt, though, the coverage of the riots in the New York Times, which called them the worst public unrest in recent Vietnamese history, is correct. There have  been deadlier protests and riots in rural areas of Vietnam in recent years, especially in ethnic minority highland areas, but these protests and crackdowns received little public attention, and did not involve the numbers of people that we saw involved in the Ho Chi Minh City riots this week. Read more »