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Asia Unbound

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Showing posts for "Democracy"

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 »

Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan

by Alyssa Ayres
"Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

President Ashraf Ghani’s successful visit to Washington last month notwithstanding, the headlines out of Afghanistan since the end of international combat operations in December 2014 have mostly been grim. The Taliban have stepped up attacks since the start of 2015, and the self-declared Islamic State has spread to Afghanistan. During the March UN Security Council session held to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom told the Security Council that the Islamic State banner might serve to unite disparate radical groups. 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 »

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 »

Kafka in Paradise: Maldives Court Sentences Former President for Terrorism

by Alyssa Ayres
March 10, 2014. Photo by Dying Regime licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original. March 10, 2014. Photo by Dying Regime licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.

On March 13, a Maldivian court found Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, guilty of terrorism and sentenced him to thirteen years in prison.

The specific act of which Nasheed was accused? Ordering the arrest of a criminal court judge back in 2012 when Nasheed was still president of the island nation of 400,000 people. The mismatch between accusation and conviction beggars belief. 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 »

IMF Worried About Bangladesh’s Growth

by Alyssa Ayres
Women work at Goldtex Limited garment factory inside the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) in Savar on April 11, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters). Women work at Goldtex Limited garment factory inside the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) in Savar on April 11, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Bangladesh has been wracked by political protests over the past two years. Paradoxically, despite the country’s dysfunctional politics, its economy has done well. Last year, the all-important garment sector defied the odds and actually grew around 14 percent between July 2013 and May 2014. This insulation of the economy from the country’s toxic politics may be coming to an end, however. Since early January, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has led street protests (hartals) along with transportation blockades. For the last two months, the daily strikes and protests have continued, keeping the country at a low boil, and resulting in the death of more than 120 people. 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 »