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Asia Unbound

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

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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Thailand’s Junta Pushes Back Election Date Again

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-elections-thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures in a traditional greeting to National Legislative Assembly members at the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 21, 2015. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

News this week that Thailand’s ruling junta apparently has pushed back the date for a return to free elections should not have come as a great surprise. Since taking power in a coup in May 2014, the junta has repeatedly delayed planned elections, claiming that the country needs greater stability before a poll will be held or that the new constitution is not yet finished. After vowing elections in 2016, the deputy chairman of the junta-created legislature now reportedly has declared that elections will not be possible until 2017, since it will take so long to print the new charter and deliver written copies of it across Thailand. Read more »

What to Expect From Myanmar’s Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-elections Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for her door-to-door visits for voter education campaign at Warheinkha village in her constituency town Khawhmu, outside Yangon on July 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Myanmar announced that its much-anticipated elections, the first free national election in twenty-five years, would be held on November 8 of this year. With the election’s date finally set, after months of rumors, the country’s political parties—and there are more than eighty of them that may run in the election—can begin campaigning in earnest. Read more »

Vietnam’s Top Party Leader Meets Obama

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

After yesterday’s meeting between top Communist Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong and President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden, the United States-Vietnam relationship seems poised to reach a new level. As the Washington Post noted, it is rare for the president to welcome at the White House a foreign leader who is not the head of state or head of government. But an exception was made for the Vietnamese leader, since Hanoi is becoming increasingly important to U.S. strategic interests in Asia, and since Nguyen may well wield as much power as Vietnam’s president or prime minister within Hanoi’s opaque leadership structure. Read more »

Allegations Against Prime Minister Najib Raise the Political Temperature in Malaysia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Workmen are pictured on site at the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 1, 2015. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak slammed a report that said close to $700 million was wired to his personal account from banks, government agencies and companies linked to the debt-laden state fund 1MDB, claiming this was a "continuation of political sabotage." Picture taken March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris Workmen are pictured on site at the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 1, 2015 (Olivia Harris/Reuters).

The past week has almost surely been the most challenging of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak’s career. Late last week both the Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report, an investigative reporting website about Malaysia, reported that a group of companies linked to debt-ridden state fund 1Malaysian Development Bhd. (1MDB) had made deposits into Najib’s bank accounts. The WSJ further alleged that the biggest deposit into Najib’s account was worth $620 million, and that one of the other deposits was worth over $60 million. Read more »

Jokowi Struggles to Find an Economic Policy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia-rupiah A teller holds a stack of Indonesian Rupiah inside a money changer in Jakarta on June 4, 2015. (Nyimas Laula/Reuters)

News this week that Bank Indonesia will prohibit foreign currencies from being used in domestic transactions in Indonesia further added to analysts’ and investors’ concerns about the country’s fragile economy, and about the economic strategy of President Joko Widodo. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the law prohibiting the use of foreign currency in settling domestic transactions was actually passed years ago, but like many Indonesian laws it was not put into practice for years—until now. Read more »

Who Else Will Join the TPP?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
kerry-TPP U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a trade speech at Boeing's 737 airplane factory in Renton, Washington, United States on May 19, 2015. (Saul Loeb/Reuters)

After the Obama administration’s victories in Congress the past two weeks, it appears far more likely that the United States will become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bilateral negotiations are still taking place between some of the countries negotiating the TPP—the United States and Japan still have major issues to resolve—but the chances of these bilateral hurdles being resolved, and the final agreement being negotiated, have risen substantially now that President Obama has gained fast track authority. Read more »

What Will the TPP Mean for Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Australia's Trade Minister Andrew Robb (6th R) speaks at a news conference at the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting of trade representatives in Sydney, October 27, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) Trade representatives speak at a news conference at the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting in Sydney, October 27, 2014 (Jason Reed/Reuters).

With Tuesday’s vote in the U.S. Senate to give President Obama fast track negotiating authority on trade deals, the president is likely to be able to help complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with the United States in the deal, by the end of the year. With fast track authority completed, the United States will be positioned to resolve remaining bilateral hurdles with Japan, the key to moving forward with the TPP. Read more »

Would a U.S. Failure on TPP be a Strategic Disaster?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
TPP-negotiations U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries in Beijing on November 10, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As a new congressional vote looms this week that could decide whether the United States participates in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, advocates of the deal, both in the United States and in Asia, are arguing that the stakes could not be higher. During a visit to Washington last week, Singapore foreign minister K. Shanmugam was blunt, telling an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “It’s absolutely vital to get it [TPP] done [in the U.S.] … If you don’t do this deal, what are your levers of power?” Read more »

Myanmar’s Multiple Domestic Challenges

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar-migrants-regional Migrants from Bangladesh who were found at sea carry their belongings as they cross the Myanmar-Bangladesh friendship bridge to return to Bangladesh, in Taungpyo, northern Rakhine state on June 8, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Over the past month, Myanmar’s multiple domestic crises have spilled over into the region, highlighting setbacks in the country’s reform process just before highly anticipated national elections. The outflow of Rohingya, fleeing violence and discrimination in western Myanmar against their ethnic group and Muslims in general, has attracted the most global news coverage. Read more »

Toward a Solution to the Rohingya Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick
migrants-rakhine-myanmar Migrants, who were found at sea on a boat, collect rainwater during a heavy rain fall at a temporary refuge camp near Kanyin Chaung jetty, outside Maungdaw township, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar on June 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

So far, despite global coverage of Southeast Asia’s desperate migrants, Myanmar leaders continue to try to cast doubt on the idea that there is a migration crisis at all, though Myanmar officials attended the regional conference on the migration crisis held in Thailand in late May. Still, Myanmar officials reportedly refused to attend the meeting unless it was pitched as a broad discussion about migration, rather than a meeting to address the crisis of fleeing Rohingya. At the meeting, Myanmar “categorically refused to discuss its role as a cause for the crisis,” notes Matthew Davies of Australian National University, an expert on human rights in Southeast Asia. Read more »