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Asia Unbound

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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Little Mention of Southeast Asia in Secretary of Defense’s Rebalance Speech

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ash-carter-rebalance U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. military personnel during a meeting near an F-16 fighter jet at Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a speech at Arizona State University earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter laid out a kind of relaunch of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia—a plan for moving the rebalance forward over the final years of the president’s second term. Carter hit many key points that the administration hopes to emphasize: the importance of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership both for the region’s economic future and for America’s own strategic interests; the growth in maritime partnerships with longtime allies like Australia and Japan; the increase in training programs for partner militaries in the Asia-Pacific region. Read more »

Is There Such Thing As a Thai-Style Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prayuth-Chan-ocha-Thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pays respect in front of Buddhist monks as he attends the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

This past week, Thai prime minister—and junta leader—General Prayuth Chan-ocha ended martial law, which had been in place since the May 2014 coup, and replaced it by invoking an article of the interim constitution that gives him nearly-absolute powers. This shift did not necessarily mean Thailand is moving any closer to a return to democracy. Read more »

Will Thailand’s Prime Minister Amass Even More Power?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prayuth-Chan-ocha Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C) gestures in a traditional greeting after a speech at the Stock Exchange of Thailand in Bangkok on February 26, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Over the past month, the Thai press has repeatedly suggested that the junta-installed government will soon remove martial law. Martial law has been in place since the May 2014 coup. (Some provinces in the south had martial law long before 2014.) And indeed, this week the Thai government does appear ready to lift martial law. Coup leader-turned prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government may be making this move since many foreign governments and rights organizations have specifically criticized martial law, holding it up as a sign of serious restrictions on rights and freedoms. Read more »

Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s Future

by Joshua Kurlantzick
lee-kuan-yew-singapore Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew makes a speech during the 12th International Conference on 'The Future of Asia' in Tokyo on May 25, 2006. (Kiyoshi Ota/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the wake of the death of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, many obituaries lauding Lee’s role in transforming the city-state also have argued that Singapore faces high hurdles to continuing Lee’s revolution. As Forbes’ Joel Kotkin writes, Lee’s achievements during his three decades as prime minister were extraordinary, but in Singapore today the “durability of his legacy is in question.” Read more »

Thailand’s Teflon Economy Finally Seems to Be Cracking

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-tourism-campaign Performers take part in a parade during the "2015 Discover Thainess" campaign, an event held to promote tourism, in Bangkok on January 14, 2015. (Chaiwat Subprasom /Courtesy: Reuters)

For nearly fifteen years in the 2000s and early 2010s, Thailand’s economy, once one of the fastest-growing in the world, survived the effects of near-constant political turmoil, natural disasters, and worries about the country’s future in the wake of a looming royal succession. Even after the massive floods in the monsoon season of 2011 that destroyed much of the industrial estates north of Bangkok, home to auto parts, disk drive, and other key manufacturing plants, Thailand’s economy rebounded strongly. Read more »

Growing Political Crisis in Malaysia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
nurrul-izzah-kuala lumpur-rally Nurul Izzah, daughter of jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, speaks to the crowd during a rally to protest against his imprisonment in Kuala Lumpur on March 7, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters)

The jailing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in February, though called “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law” by Human Rights Watch, appeared to some Malaysian politicians and observers like a challenge to the country’s political opposition. With no one leader ready to completely replace Anwar, the opposition alliance, which has deep internal divisions over social and economic policy, seemed poised to fracture before the next election. Read more »

Thai Junta Seems Ready to Put Elections Off Longer

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prayuth Chan-ocha-thailand-elections Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha toasts during a luncheon organized by Keidanren, Japan Business Federation, in Tokyo on February 9, 2015. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a recent letter to the Washington Post, Thailand’s new ambassador to the United States insisted that despite the May 2014 coup, continued martial law, crackdowns on activists of all types, and an unclear path to election, Thailand remains a democracy. “Thailand has not wavered in its commitment to democracy…progress is being made,” the ambassador insisted. His letter was written in response to a Washington Post editorial entitled “Thailand’s Ineffective Rule by Force,” which argued that the generals are holding hundreds of political prisoners, have mismanaged the Thai economy, have failed to bring stability to the country, and are trying to “permanently hobble democracy” in Thailand. Read more »

Some Goals for Timor-Leste’s New Prime Minister

by Joshua Kurlantzick
east timor-Rui-Maria-Araujo East Timor's new Prime Minister Rui Maria Araujo smiles at his inauguration ceremony at the President's office in Dili on February 16, 2015. (Lirio Da Fonseca/Courtesy: Reuters)

In February, Xanana Gusmao, Timor-Leste’s prime minister and by far its leading national figure, stepped down. In a decision that would be unthinkable in many countries, he gave way to allow a member of the opposition party, Rui Araujo, to be his successor as prime minister. The new prime minister is from a different generation of Timorese—he is two decades younger than the former guerilla fighter. What’s more, Rui Araujo has won respect from members of all Timorese parties for his previous work as health minister and as a senior advisor to Timor’s Finance Ministry. Read more »

Jokowi’s Fall

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-jokowi-cabinet Indonesia's President Joko Widodo leads a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, on March 4, 2015. (Antara Photo Agency/Courtesy: Reuters)

It has been less than a year since Joko “Jokowi” Widodo won the Indonesian presidential election, calling on his vast support on social media and from young activists to defeat the better funded and better managed campaign of Prabowo Subianto. Although Jokowi blew a huge lead in the polls before the vote and then rallied to win the election, he still came into office shouldering extraordinarily high expectations from many Indonesians. Read more »

Myanmar’s Rights Record Deteriorates in 2014

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-rohingya-protests Buddhist monks and other people take part in a protest to demand the revocation of the right of holders of temporary identification cards, known as white cards, to vote, in Yangon on February 11, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

This week, Amnesty International released its assessment of Myanmar’s 2014 human rights record. Although Myanmar’s bumpy road to reform had been well-documented, the report is even more negative than I had expected. Program toward improvement in political and civil rights in Myanmar “stalled” and went into reverse in 2014, Amnesty reported in the Myanmar chapter of its annual global assessment of freedom. Read more »