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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"

Nepal: Back on the Political Track

by Alyssa Ayres
A woman holds a ballot paper during the election campaign of Nepali Congress Party in Kathmandu November 15, 2013 A woman holds a ballot paper during the election campaign of Nepali Congress Party in Kathmandu November 15, 2013 (Navesh Chitrakar/Courtesy Reuters).

There have been a lot of elections in South Asia in recent days. On November 16 a run-off election produced a surprise result in Maldives, where Abdulla Yameen—the half-brother of former President Gayoom—narrowly succeeded over Mohamed Nasheed, who had led the previous two first-round elections. The Indian state of Chhattisgarh (the size of a small country, with about 25 million people) had its first phase of state-level polls on November 11. And on Tuesday, November 19, there will be two elections underway in the region—the second phase in India’s Chhattisgarh, as well as the long-overdue national Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal. Read more »

Framing Indian Power and Foreign Policy: State vs. Center? Or Rights vs. Realism?

by Alyssa Ayres
A man paints the logo of CHOGM 2013, ahead of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013, in Colombo, November 11, 2013 A man paints the logo of CHOGM 2013, ahead of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013, in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 11, 2013 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters).

On Friday, November 15, the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) convenes in Sri Lanka. This year’s gathering of fifty-three Commonwealth members has been anything but routine, however. A number of countries have had heated internal debates about their attendance and its intended signals; three have elected to send delegations below the “head of government” level as a way to highlight concerns about Sri Lanka’s limited progress on post-conflict reconciliation, human rights and democracy, and accountability for violations at the 2009 end of the nearly thirty-year conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Read more »

Maldivian Do-Over

by Alyssa Ayres
A man casts his vote at a polling centre during the presidential elections in the Maldives September 7, 2013 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters). A man casts his vote at a polling centre during the presidential elections in the Maldives September 7, 2013 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters).

On Saturday, November 9, Maldivians will return to the polls, again, to vote for president. But instead of being an occasion for celebration of democratic consolidation following a difficult year and a half of political upheaval, Saturday’s presidential election represents an extraordinary and unprecedented do-over: they already held this election once before. Read more »

Disillusionment in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's Police Chief Zaw Win speaks at a news conference about the recent bomb blasts around the country, at the Yangon Division government office in Yangon on October 18, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) Myanmar's Police Chief Zaw Win speaks at a news conference about the recent bomb blasts around the country, at the Yangon Division government office in Yangon on October 18, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Why Obama Shouldn’t Cancel his Asia Trip

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before a Luau for APEC leaders after dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before a Luau for APEC leaders after dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

With the government shut down, the White House announced yesterday that the President’s upcoming trip to Asia, scheduled to begin October 6, will be cut short. Plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines have been shelved for now, though Obama will still attend the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting of leaders in Bali, Indonesia. Read more »

Obama’s October Trip to Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor as they arrive at the opening dinner of the APEC Leaders Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. President Obama will be visiting Malaysia in October 2013. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor as they arrive at the opening dinner of the APEC Leaders Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. President Obama will be visiting Malaysia in October 2013. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters)

The White House last week confirmed that President Obama will be traveling to Southeast Asia between October 6 and 12. He will visit Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Read more »

Cambodian Opposition Growing Into Powerful Force

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Buddhist monk records the speech of one of the leaders of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) during a rally in Phnom Penh on September 7, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) A Buddhist monk records the speech of one of the leaders of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) during a rally in Phnom Penh on September 7, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Cambodia’s opposition coalition, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), held a large rally in Phnom Penh to protest the national election commission’s ratifying of the results of this summer’s election. The national election commission—which is controlled by the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)—essentially said that all the results of the summer national election were valid, that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP had won 68 seats in Parliament, enough to form a government, as compared to 55 for the CNRP. Of course, 55 seats was an enormous gain for the opposition compared to previous parliaments, but opposition leaders Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha, and others claim that the CNRP really won a majority of the seats, and only has been allotted 55 due to massive irregularities, fraud, and the toothlessness of the national election commission. The opposition brought over 20,000 people to Phnom Penh this weekend to protest the election commission’s ratification of results and to call, once again, for an international inquiry into the election results. Read more »

Myanmar Civil Society Going to Lose Another One?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmareses living in Malaysia display placards in protest against the Myitsone dam project, outside Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur on September 22, 2011. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters) Myanmareses living in Malaysia display placards in protest against the Myitsone dam project, outside Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur on September 22, 2011. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters)

Since Myanmar’s reform process began in earnest in 2010, Myanmar civil society activists seem to have won one victory after the next. Indeed, the apparent change in the power of civil society, from before 2010 to today, has been probably the most striking aspect of Myanmar’s transition. Although the political system has opened up, there has not yet been a national general election since 2010; although the military is not as omnipresent as it was before 2010, it remains the central institution in the country, its role as a political actor untouched in many respects; although the business climate undoubtedly has improved, many Western and Japanese investors who have come to Myanmar in the past two years have returned home disappointed that, in reality, graft, poor infrastructure, uncertain regulations, and poor quality labor remain huge impediments to doing business. Read more »

China’s Internet Suppression Tactics Diffuse into Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks use an iPad in front of riot policemen during a rally outside a shopping mall in Bangkok on June 9, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks use an iPad in front of riot policemen during a rally outside a shopping mall in Bangkok on June 9, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

In an excellent new piece on Voice of America (VOA) news, Steve Herman analyzes how several nations in Southeast Asia appear to be moving to “emulate China” in the way that these countries, like China, regulate and harshly restrict social media. In Thailand, for example, which has one of the harshest climate for Internet speech in the world—despite being theoretically a democracy—the government is now moving to crack down on Facebook users who just post or “like” any articles that could be deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy. Unlike in most other countries that still have lèse-majesté laws on the books, Thailand actually enforces its  lèse-majesté laws, and anyone—not just the king, queen, and other royals—can file a lèse-majesté charge against anyone else in Thailand. As a result, the  lèse-majesté law has become an oppressive tool of political repression by all sides in Thailand’s never ending political drama. Read more »

Why is There a Military Build-up in Phnom Penh?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen as they participate in an East Asia Summit dinner in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen as they participate in an East Asia Summit dinner in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, tanks, armored personnel carriers and other heavy weaponry appeared in the Phnom Penh area, according to reports in the Cambodian press and in Asia Sentinel. Only a few weeks after Cambodia’s national elections, which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) allegedly won in a squeaker and the opposition claims was fraudulent, why are tanks and APCs rolling into Phnom Penh? Cambodia has no battles in the capital; even its border skirmishes with Thailand over the disputed Preah Vihear Temple have calmed down in the past two years. No, the show of force is designed to intimidate opposition supporters, who tend to live in urban areas. Defense Minister Tea Banh of the CPP didn’t mince words. According to the Cambodia Daily, he said, “You don’t have to wonder, they [the weapons] will be used to protect the country, and crack down on anyone who tries to destroy the nation.Read more »