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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

The Philippines Reaches a Crossroads

by Joshua Kurlantzick
philippines-aquino-2016 Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Philippine President Benigno Aquino listen during a APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines on November 18, 2015. (Wally Santana/Reuters)

For the past five years, the Philippines, which long lagged behind faster-growing Asian economies like Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, has posted some of the highest annual growth rates in the region. Although the Philippines’ boom has not received as much attention from investors and the international media as one might have imagined, the numbers are impressive. ANZ Bank projects the country to grow by 6.1 percent in 2016. In 2014, the country’s economy also grew by over six percent, and in 2015 it grew by 5.8 percent, according to World Bank data. Read more »

Eight Predictions for Southeast Asia for 2016: Part 2

by Joshua Kurlantzick
hun sen-predictions-2016 President of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen (L), greets his supporters before a ceremony at the party headquarters to mark the 37th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime, in Phnom Penh, on January 7, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Read Part 1 here

6. Of All Southeast Asia Issues, Only Myanmar and the TPP Will Be Discussed in the U.S. Presidential Campaign

Although there are several Republican and Democratic candidates with foreign policy experience, Southeast Asia will mostly go unmentioned during the U.S. presidential primaries and general election. The two exceptions: Myanmar and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which include Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia, and may in the future include the Philippines and Indonesia as well. Read more »

Eight Predictions for Southeast Asia for 2016: Part 1

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-predictions-2016 Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha smiles as he reviews the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony for Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 18, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

It’s that time again—time for resolutions that last a couple weeks into the new year and bold predictions that (surely) will turn out right this year. Right?

1. Najib tun Razak will be Malaysia’s Prime Minister at the End of 2016

For most of 2015, many Malaysian politicians, observers, and activists wrote Najib off, sure that the in-fighting within the governing coalition, the scandals around the 1MDB state fund, and the torrent of criticism of Najib by former prime minister Mahathir would ultimately force Najib out of office. They were wrong. Read more »

Questions About the Pivot

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Obama-ASEAN summit-2 U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 21, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States has pursued a policy of rebuilding ties with Southeast Asia. By 2011 this regional focus had become part of a broader strategy toward Asia called the “pivot,” or rebalance. This approach includes shifting economic, diplomatic, and military resources to the region. In Southeast Asia, a central part of the pivot involves building relations with countries once shunned by Washington because of their autocratic governments, like Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and reviving close U.S. links to Thailand and Malaysia. Read more »

China’s 2016 Strategy Towards Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
China-PLAN-parade China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy soldiers roll on their armoured vehicles to Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing, China, on September 3, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

China’s relationships with Southeast Asian nations, which had been increasingly warm in the mid-2000s, have fluctuated between cool and downright icy since then. In 2015, China’s relations with Southeast Asian nations came out of the deep freeze—only a year earlier, China and Vietnam had a stand-off in the South China Sea that could have led to war. But despite less threat of conflict in 2015, many Southeast Asian nations continued upgrading their navies and coast guards, building relations with the United States as a hedge against Chinese power, and searching for novel strategies to constrain China’s ambitions. Read more »

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Investigated for Lèse Majesté

by Joshua Kurlantzick
glyn-davies-thailand U.S. ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies listens to a question from a journalist during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 30, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Last week, in a move that was shocking despite the cooling U.S.-Thailand relationship, the Thai government announced that the U.S. ambassador in Bangkok, Glyn Davies, was being investigated on suspicion of having insulted King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. Ambassador Davies had spoken to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in late November. During his talk, according to the New York Times, Davies criticized the “long prison sentences handed to some of those found guilty of criticizing [the] king” under Thailand’s lèse majesté laws, generally considered the harshest in the world. Read more »

Thailand’s Mounting Trafficking Problem

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-human-trafficking Human trafficking suspects arrive at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 10, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Human trafficking has long been a serious problem in Thailand. For decades, Thailand has been a source country for trafficked people, a transit country, and a destination for trafficked men and women, who come mostly from poorer neighboring states. (By some estimates, at least two million people from Myanmar alone are working in Thailand illegally, and many of these Myanmar citizens were trafficked to Thailand.) Men and women are trafficking to the kingdom to work in Thailand’s construction, sex, seafood, and domestic service industries, among other sectors of the economy. Read more »

Najib Stays in Power as UMNO Meets

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-unmo meeting Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at a session of the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, on November 21, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

This past summer, as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak faced an explosion of news articles about alleged irregularities in the 1MDB state fund and about the appearance of over $600 million in Najib’s personal bank account, many Malaysian politicians believed that Najib would not survive as prime minister through the end of the year. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, still one of the most influential figures in Malaysia, had unleashed a steady stream of online invective at Najib, repeatedly calling on him to resign. Read more »

The Year in Democracy in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-3 Supporters of Myanmar's pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, on November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

In the weeks since Myanmar’s national elections in November, the country’s potential as a democratic success story seems clearer and clearer. As I have noted, there are many remaining obstacles to Myanmar’s transition, including the continuing influence of the military in politics, the ongoing ethnic insurgencies, and the National League for Democracy’s inexperience in governing. Still, Myanmar’s free and fair elections, and the ruling party’s apparent willingness to step down, mark a major milestone for that country and surely are the high points for democracy in Southeast Asia in 2015. Read more »

Lessons From Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Obama-ASEAN summit U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of his ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit (EAS) meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 22, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Although President Obama’s Asia trip earlier this month was overshadowed by the international response to the Paris attacks and debates in the United States about refugee policy, the president’s visit to Malaysia and the Philippines did offer several lessons about U.S. relations with Southeast Asia. The Obama visits to Southeast Asia, part of a longer trip that included the G-20 summit in Turkey, were intended to demonstrate the administration’s commitment to the pivot in Southeast Asia. Read more »