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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Obama’s Visit to Laos: Part 2—The Legacy of the War

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-laos-part 2 A fence made of collected American bomb shells is seen in a Hmong village near Phonsavan in Xieng Khouang province on October 29, 2007. (Tim Chong/Reuters)

In my previous blog post, I noted that the bilateral relationship between the United States and Laos remains limited, and will likely remain very limited for years to come. Sure, Laos is the chair of ASEAN this year, which gives the tiny country some influence, but Laos remains a minor destination for U.S. investment, and a country of more strategic relevance to China, Vietnam, and Thailand (among others) than to the United States. U.S. assistance to Laos is primarily focused on humanitarian areas. Read more »

The Indonesia Model for Combating Radicalism

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic-state-current-history Muhammad Fachry (2nd L), also known as Tuah Febriansyah, who is accused of supporting Islamic State, is escorted by a policeman as he arrives for his trial at West Jakarta court in Jakarta, on February 9, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

In early May, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, three countries that often have trouble cooperating on transnational challenges, and have long disputed some of their adjacent waters made a major announcement. They would begin coordinated patrols at sea, and would launch a tri-country hotline to discuss kidnappings and other militant activities. The announcement came after ten Indonesian sailors had been kidnapped in the southern Philippines by the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group operating in the lawless deep south. Read more »

Obama Makes the First U.S. Presidential Visit to Laos: Part 1

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-laos-part 1 U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Laos President Choummaly Sayasone upon his arrival at Sunnylands for a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Next week, President Obama will arrive in Laos for the first visit of a U.S. president to the country. He comes to Laos for the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, for the East Asia Summit, and also for bilateral meetings with several of Laos’s leaders. The tiny communist country, the current chair of ASEAN, selected new leaders—in its typically opaque way—earlier this year. According to some reports, Laos’s new leaders are eager to move the country away from its growing dependence on China for trade and aid, and are seeking to shift Laos back toward its historically closer relations with Hanoi, which was the patron of Laos’s communist party during the Indochina wars. Read more »

What to Expect at Aung San Suu Kyi’s Peace Conference

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-xi-jinping Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping (R) poses for the media before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on August 19, 2016. (Rolex Dela Pena/Reuters)

Next week, Aung San Suu Kyi and a host of other dignitaries, including United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, will preside over a major peace conference in Naypyidaw. The conference is billed as a kind of sequel to the Panglong conference, held in February 1947, and presided over by Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San. At the original Panglong, Aung San, then essentially interim head of the government, and many ethnic minority leaders agreed to work together in a national government. Read more »

Cambodia’s Democratic Transition Has Collapsed, With Dangerous Consequences

by Joshua Kurlantzick
cambodia Tens of thousands of people attend a funeral procession to carry the body of Kem Ley, an anti-government figure and the head of a grassroots advocacy group, "Khmer for Khmer" who was shot dead on July 10, to his hometown, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on July 24, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

As Cambodia prepares for national elections in two years, its politics have veered dangerously out of control. Even though young Cambodians are demanding political alternatives and accessing more information outside of state media, the country’s transition toward two-party politics has collapsed. The government’s brutal tactics of the 1990s and early 2000s, when political activists were routinely murdered and opposition parties nearly put out of business, have returned. Young Cambodians may be left with no outlet for their grievances, creating a potentially explosive situation, especially given the promise of reform and dialogue just a few years ago. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Year: Meet the New Boss…

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-referendum Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha casts his ballot at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand on August 7, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

After the junta-managed referendum was approved by voters earlier this week, Thailand plans to hold elections in November 2017, according to the military regime. As I wrote earlier, the charter contained numerous provisions that seem designed to weaken the power of the two biggest political parties, the Democrat Party and Puea Thai. The new charter will potentially make the lower house of parliament nearly unmanageable, and possibly pave the way for the unelected upper house, the judiciary, the military, and the bureaucracy to wield the real levers of power in the kingdom. Read more »

What Happens After Thailand’s Referendum?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thai-protestor-referendum A student activist is detained during a silent protest in Bangkok after Thailand’s election commission filed charges against a group for posting “foul and strong” comments online criticizing a military-backed draft constitution, April 27, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

On August 7, Thais hold a national referendum on a new charter. As I noted in my previous blog post, Thailand has had twenty different constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Constitutions have been shredded by military governments after coups, rewritten during times of political upheaval, and even (as in the mid-1990s) written with thought and considerable public input and implemented under elected governments. Now, the junta, which took power in May 2014, has stage managed the drafting of a new proposed charter. Read more »

Thailand’s August 7 Referendum: Some Background

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thai-student-elephants-referendum A Thai student holds posters in front of elephants during a campaign ahead of the August 7 referendum in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, August 1, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

On August 7, Thailand will hold an up or down national referendum on a proposed new constitution. Drafting new charters are hardly unusual in the kingdom, which has had twenty constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. (One famous Thai joke told to me by many friends involves a Thai student visiting a library to read a copy of the current constitution, only to be told to check in the periodicals section.) This charter has been drafted by a group of pro-military/royalist former officials, and stage managed by the junta, which took power in May 2014 after months of destabilizing street protests against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government. Read more »

A Debate on the New Philippine Administration

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Duterte-State-of-the-Nation Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds up a copy of his speech as he speaks before the lawmakers during his first State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Over email, Professor Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University in Manila and CFR Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia Joshua Kurlantzick discussed some of the potential effects—both positive and negative—of the administration of new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Richard Javad Heydarian: By many indicators, Rodrigo Duterte is emerging as the Philippines’ most powerful president since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship three decades ago. Fresh into office, and after months of aggressive campaign rhetoric, the new president enjoys excellent trust ratings, has amassed super-majority support in the Philippine Congress, and is set to appoint a majority of Supreme Court justices in coming years. The Ombudsman office, which has been waging a relentless campaign against corrupt officials, also enjoys close and cooperative relations with Duterte. Read more »

Q&A on Cambodia with Sophal Ear

by Joshua Kurlantzick
hun-sen-cambodia A Cambodian Muslim supporter takes a selfie with President of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen (C), after a ceremony at the party headquarters to mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the party in Phnom Penh on June 28, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Last week, I spoke via email with Sophal Ear, Associate Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs at Occidental College, and author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, about the current crisis in Cambodian politics. After a brief truce following elections in 2013, in which the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) shocked the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) by nearly winning control of the National Assembly, any semblance of détente has broken down. Read more »