CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Democracy"

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 »

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 »

Can Malaysia’s Opposition Survive Anwar’s Jail Term?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a rally on the eve of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur, February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (MALAYSIA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a rally on the eve of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur on February 9, 2015 (Olivia Harris/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to jail for the second time in his life on charges of sodomy. Anwar’s jail term was set by Malaysia’s highest court at five years, and the opposition leader likely will never be able to hold a position in Malaysian politics or government again. Amidst outcry by the opposition, as well as international rights groups, about the Anwar trial and decisionHuman Rights Watch called the verdict “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law”some in the three-party opposition alliance also worry that the coalition will face challenges holding together with the charismatic Anwar gone. Read more »

What the Delhi Elections Mean for Indian Foreign and International Economic Policy (Not Much, Yet)

by Alyssa Ayres
Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters). Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters).

Delhi voters just elected—by a landslide—the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to lead their state assembly. What’s more, the chief minister will again be quirkily charismatic Arvind Kejriwal, who led the new anti-corruption party to a strong showing in Delhi in December 2013 but abandoned governance for street sit-ins and staged public protests. He then quit government after forty-nine days and plunged the state into a long period of uncertainty. Despite this, wielding brooms and wrapping a scarf (“muffler” in India, hence his nickname “Mufflerman”) around his head during winter, Kejriwal campaigned aggressively to root out corruption and provide free water, half-rate electricity, and a better jobs deal for the poor. It worked. Read more »

The U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue: Frank Criticism but No Action

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state June 9, 2014. Baekon is among many Rohingya Muslims living in squalid camps in Myanmar after being displaced by religious unrest. Baekon is from Rakhine state, where her family home was burned down in religious riots that broke out in June 2012. Baekon ended up in a refugee camp, where she is still living now. Her husband left her before she gave birth to twins, and she is struggling to feed them. June 20 is World Refugee Day, an occasion that draws attention to those who have been displaced around the globe. In the run-up to the date, Reuters photographers in different regions have photographed various people who have at some point fled their homes. Picture taken June 9, 2014. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS RELIGION CIVIL UNREST) Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state, on June 9, 2014 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski, U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, and a group of other U.S. officials from State, Defense, and USAID were in Myanmar for the second U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue. The dialogue came at a time when Myanmar’s rights record is backsliding, more than one-hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims remain internally displaced in Myanmar, and there are concerns, both within Myanmar and among outside countries, that this year’s critical national elections will be waylaid, not allowing the vote to go on freely and fairly. Read more »

Sri Lanka’s Victory for Democracy

by Alyssa Ayres
Sri Lanka's newly elected president, Mithripala Sirisena, waves at media as he leaves the election commission in Colombo on January 9, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy: Reuters). Sri Lanka's newly elected president, Mithripala Sirisena, waves at media as he leaves the election commission in Colombo on January 9, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy: Reuters).

In a stunning upset today, Sri Lanka’s Maithripala Sirisena defeated ten-year incumbent strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sirisena is a former member of President Rajapaksa’s cabinet who defected, with more than twenty other members of parliament, to lead an umbrella opposition coalition just two months ago. Rajapaksa conceded with the vote count still underway; at the time of his concession early on Friday morning, the election results posted showed a nearly 52 percent lead for Sirisena against almost 47 percent for Rajapaksa. Read more »