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Asia Unbound

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

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Showing posts for "Democracy"

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Investigated for Lèse Majesté

by Joshua Kurlantzick
glyn-davies-thailand U.S. ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies listens to a question from a journalist during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 30, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Last week, in a move that was shocking despite the cooling U.S.-Thailand relationship, the Thai government announced that the U.S. ambassador in Bangkok, Glyn Davies, was being investigated on suspicion of having insulted King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. Ambassador Davies had spoken to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in late November. During his talk, according to the New York Times, Davies criticized the “long prison sentences handed to some of those found guilty of criticizing [the] king” under Thailand’s lèse majesté laws, generally considered the harshest in the world. Read more »

Najib Stays in Power as UMNO Meets

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-unmo meeting Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at a session of the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, on November 21, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

This past summer, as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak faced an explosion of news articles about alleged irregularities in the 1MDB state fund and about the appearance of over $600 million in Najib’s personal bank account, many Malaysian politicians believed that Najib would not survive as prime minister through the end of the year. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, still one of the most influential figures in Malaysia, had unleashed a steady stream of online invective at Najib, repeatedly calling on him to resign. Read more »

The Year in Democracy in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-3 Supporters of Myanmar's pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, on November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

In the weeks since Myanmar’s national elections in November, the country’s potential as a democratic success story seems clearer and clearer. As I have noted, there are many remaining obstacles to Myanmar’s transition, including the continuing influence of the military in politics, the ongoing ethnic insurgencies, and the National League for Democracy’s inexperience in governing. Still, Myanmar’s free and fair elections, and the ruling party’s apparent willingness to step down, mark a major milestone for that country and surely are the high points for democracy in Southeast Asia in 2015. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Coming “Refolution”

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Tianjin-protest-12-8-2015 Residents evacuated from their homes after explosions in Tianjin, China, take part in a rally outside the venue of a government officials' news conference, August 19, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

In this podcast, I interview Minxin Pei, Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 professor of government and George R. Roberts fellow and director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College, on his new research on the potential for regime transition in China. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 4, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India-coal - 12-4-15 Laborers load coal on trucks at Bari Brahamina on the outskirts of Jammu, India, March 16, 2012. (Mukesh Gupta/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. India’s embrace of coal complicates ambitious renewable energy targets. India brings a unique position to the climate negotiations underway in Paris as a huge developing country with grand economic plans that is also disproportionately facing the consequences of climate change. Read more »

What Should the NLD’s Priorities Be in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-elections-2 National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for Myanmar's first parliament meeting after November 8's general elections, at the Lower House of Parliament in Naypyitaw on November 16, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Having won a decisive victory in last week’s national elections, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which will have an absolute majority in the next parliament, now will have to set its priorities for the next few months. The next months could be an extremely turbulent time in Myanmar, as the party proposes a compromise choice for president, the current USDP ruling party comes to terms with its massive loss, the military tries to ensure that it remains the most powerful force in the country, and the NLD negotiates with various ethnic minority leaders to ensure the next government is broadly representative of Myanmar’s people. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Afghan-protests - 11-13-15 Men carry one of the coffins for the seven people who were killed by unknown militants, during a protest procession in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 10, 2015. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Afghans protest beheadings. Thousands of protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday following the beheading of seven Afghans in the southern state of Zabul. The individuals were taken hostage in the central city of Ghazni and relocated as many as fifty-six times before being killed with razor wire. An affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan is believed to have conducted the beheadings, although it has not yet taken responsibility. Read more »

Opposition Landslide in Myanmar Won’t Push the Army Out of Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-2 Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi celebrate as partial results are shown on a television the outside National League for Democracy (NLD) party headquarters in Yangon on November 8, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

This past Sunday, Myanmar men and women voted in their first true national elections in twenty-five years. On Election Day, the mood in many towns and cities was exuberant. The 1990 elections, the last national elections, were essentially annulled by the armed forces, which continued to govern until launching a transition to civilian rule in 2011. Unlike in 1990, this time many Myanmar people believed that the election would be upheld, leading to the country’s first democratically elected government in five decades. Read more »

What to Expect After Myanmar’s Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-1 Supporters of Myanmar's pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, on November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

On November 8, Myanmar held general elections, a milestone in the promised process of democratization and political reform. Early results indicate a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party led by former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Read more »

What Will Happen in Rakhine State after Myanmar’s Election?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-Rakhine Supporters react as Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech during her campaign rally for the upcoming general elections in Toungup, Rakhine state, on October 16, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Myanmar’s election last Sunday has been hailed, by the world, as a major step forward for the country’s young democracy. The excitement on the ground in Myanmar in the days leading up to the election, and on Election Day, was intense—Myanmar residents reported a kind of giddy feeling in many cities and towns, as people thrilled to the idea of voting in a real national election for the first time in twenty-five years. On the campaign trail, Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders drew enormous and often jubilant crowds, similar to the situation before the 1990 national elections. Read more »