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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

The Coup One Year On: Why Has Thai Democracy Regressed?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-coup-protests Soldiers take position along roads blocked around the Victory Monument, where anti-coup protesters were gathering on previous days, in Bangkok on May 30, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

On a hot spring afternoon in 1999 at the investigative reporting section of the Bangkok Post, one of Thailand’s two English-language dailies, the section’s editor marked off a long list of stories on a white board. The section had plenty of targets in its sights—police corruption, Thailand’s drug trade and many other subjects. Read more »

Is the Mass Grave a “Turning Point” for Thai Policy on Trafficking?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-Songkhla A member of the security forces is seen at an abandoned camp in a jungle some three hundred meters from the border with Malaysia, in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 2, 2015. (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters)

Last Friday, Thai police discovered a mass grave near the country’s southern border with Malaysia. Twenty-six bodies have been exhumed from the grave thus far. According to a report in the New York Times, the mass grave was located in an abandoned detention camp that was likely used by human smugglers. These camps, primarily for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, are common in southern Thailand. This one, the Times reported, was “made up of bamboo cages, watchtowers and what the Thai police described as a ‘torture room,’ without giving more details.” Read more »

Myanmar’s Election Day May Be Only a Step Toward Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
shwe mann-aung hlaing-suu kyi-myanmar Shwe Mann (C), speaker of Myanmar's Lower House of Parliament, Myanmar's military Commander-in-chief Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing (L) and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrive for Myanmar's top six-party talks at the Presidential palace in Naypyitaw on April 10, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the end of October, Myanmar will hold what will be probably its first truly free national election in twenty-five years. Several reports released this week on the upcoming election suggest that, for all the problems with Myanmar’s reform process over the past five years, the actual Election Day is likely to be relatively fair. A new International Crisis Group (ICG) report on the upcoming election notes that the election commission has, thus far, operated transparently and consulted widely and that the government has reached out to credible international observers to help ensure Election Day is fair. Read more »

Amid Spectacle of Malaysia Infighting, Democratic Slide Continues

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-malaysia Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during the opening ceremony of the 26th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 27, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters)

Since the end of 2014, Malaysians, normally living in one of the most stable countries in Asia, have witnessed an extraordinary political spectacle. Although the same ruling coalition has run Malaysia since independence five decades ago, 89-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently launched a fusillade of public attacks on the current prime minister, Najib Razak, his longtime political protégé. Read more »

Philippines and Vietnam Rapidly Building Strategic Partnership

by Joshua Kurlantzick
benigno-aquino-nguyen-tan-dung Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) greets Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his courtesy call at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila on May 21, 2014. (Aaron Favila/Courtesy: Reuters)

Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Read more »

What Does Thailand’s Article 44 Mean for Thailand’s International Relations?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-medvedev Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (R) speak during a news conference at the Government House in Bangkok on April 8, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy: Reuters)

Thailand’s ruling junta now has replaced martial law, which had been in force since the coup in May 2014, with legislation under Article 44 of the interim constitution. This shift has been heavily criticized by human rights organizations, many foreign countries, and some Thai media outlets. Human Rights Watch has called the shift to operating under Article 44 an attempt to give Prayuth “unlimited powers without safeguards against human rights violations.” Read more »

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 »