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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 "Human Rights"

When Protests Halt Progress

by Alyssa Ayres
Smoke rises as a bus burns on a street after a nationwide strike was called, in Dhaka November 9, 2013 (Mahmud Opu/Courtesy Reuters). Smoke rises as a bus burns on a street after a nationwide strike was called, in Dhaka November 9, 2013 (Mahmud Opu/Courtesy Reuters).

If I were to describe a country that has achieved around 6 percent economic growth for much of the last decade, has the eighth largest population in the world, has delivered maternal and child health improvements on a scale comparable to the great Meiji restoration of 19th century Japan, is the world’s second largest exporter of ready-made garments after only China, and has achieved a 94 percent infant immunization rate, what place would come to mind? As much as it pains me to write this, I don’t believe the average Western reader would blurt out “Bangladesh, of course” after hearing that roster of accomplishments, as true as they are. Read more »

Challenges in Designing an Effective North Korean Human Rights Policy

by Scott A. Snyder
refugee-interview-photos North Korean refugees provide some of the mounting evidence against systemic human rights abuses in North Korea. Here, one refugee shows pictures of his family in North Korea. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters).

There is no more vexing issue than the challenge of how to support the improvement of human rights in North Korea, a country that has consistently ranked at the bottom of international indices rating human freedom around the world.  The U.S. Congress passed the North Korea Human Rights Act almost a decade ago, the United Nations has appointed a rapporteur to examine the human rights situation inside North Korea for almost as long, and the Korean Institute for National Unification has published an ever-growing annual white paper on North Korean human rights since 1996.  This year the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Commission of Inquiry that has held public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, DC; the commission will report back to the UN Human Rights Council with its assessment and recommendations by spring of next year.  But the stream of North Korean refugee testimony to unspeakable atrocities and evidence of systemic abuses inside North Korea continues to grow. Read more »

Women in India: Much More Than Recent Headlines

by Alyssa Ayres
All four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi were sentenced to death on Friday, a decision the judge said sent a message to society that there can be no tolerance for such a savage crime September 13, 2013, (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). All four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi were sentenced to death on September 13, 2013, a decision the judge said sent a message to society that there can be no tolerance for such a savage crime (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, the Indian media and social media have been seized with an unfolding scandal involving a news magazine, Tehelka, that made its reputation ferreting out truth and exposing wrongdoing. This time, it’s founding editor Tarun Tejpal who’s exposed. He has been accused, and a criminal investigation is now underway, of sexually assaulting a junior reporter at his own magazine. The story is unusual not only because of the profile of the accused, but also for the victim’s decision to step forward and not allow the assault to be forgotten or buried as a “misunderstanding.” And judging by the media coverage in recent days, both women and men in India are overwhelmingly supportive of that decision. Read more »

New Attempted Bombings in Myanmar Could Be Prelude to New Disaster

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

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 »

China’s Xinjiang Problem

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A child looks out from a door as a Uighur woman walks by in a residential area in Turpan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on October 31, 2013 (Michael Martina/Courtesy Reuters). A child looks out from a door as a Uighur woman walks by in a residential area in Turpan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on October 31, 2013 (Michael Martina/Courtesy Reuters).

This post first appeared on CNN’s GPS blog and can be found here.

In the aftermath of an apparent suicide attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on October 27 that injured dozens of people and killed five (including three involved in the attack), Chinese authorities moved quickly to label the incident terrorism and to arrest a handful of suspects who reportedly helped plot the attack. In the process, word leaked out that those involved were from Xinjiang, a Muslim-dominated region in the far northwest of China. For decades, Xinjiang, itself, has been the site of often-violent ethnic strife between the Muslim Uyghur majority and the Han Chinese minority. Uyghur discontent, however, has rarely spilled over into other parts of China. Now, Chinese authorities are claiming that Uyghur extremists have, for the first time, taken their cause to Beijing. Read more »

Dominic Bocci: Gay Rights and the Internet in Asia, One More Part of the Pivot

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A desktop picture shows Rungtiwa Tangkanopast and Phanlavee Chongtansattam holding hands, as Rungtiwa works at her office in Bangkok August 16, 2013 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters). A desktop picture shows Rungtiwa Tangkanopast and Phanlavee Chongtansattam holding hands, as Rungtiwa works at her office in Bangkok August 16, 2013 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters).

This is a guest post by Dominic Bocci, assistant director at the Council on Foreign Relations’ David Rockefeller Studies Program.

Most of the attention paid to the U.S. pivot to Asia has focused on economics and security, primarily through the lens of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S. military’s presence throughout the region. However, policymakers are turning their focus to issues of governance in Asia, understanding that strong support for democracy and human rights is central to U.S. interests abroad. Read more »

Najib Goes Back to the Internal Security Act (ISA)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak celebrates with his other party leaders after winning the elections at his party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 6, 2013. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters) Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak celebrates with his other party leaders after winning the elections at his party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 6, 2013. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters)

In the four months that have elapsed since Malaysia’s national elections in May, Prime Minister Najib tun Razak frequently has offered two conflicting public messages. To the party faithful in United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which now utterly dominates the ruling coalition, Najib—a relative moderate by temperament—has offered hunks of red meat, proposing new legislation that would further entrench economic and political preferences for ethnic Malays. Some allies of the government now have proposed classifying all Muslim indigenous people in the country as ethnic Malays, according to a report in Asia Sentinel; doing so would make even more people in Malaysia eligible for Malays’ economic preferences, though it likely would also further undermine economic growth and drive Chinese and Indian businesspeople out of the country. In the short term, the red meat approach has been relatively successful for Najib, whose coalition won more parliamentary seats in the May elections than the opposition but actually lost the popular vote, and without gerrymandering and alleged fraud likely would have won less seats than the opposition too; the increasingly pro-Malay agenda has prevented hard-line politicians from challenging Najib and his allies at recent internal UMNO elections. Read more »

United States Makes Right Decision to go Slow on Military Cooperation with Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Muslim girl watches from the doorway of her home as soldiers walk by in Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. Security forces raced to contain deadly violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, police said, after mobs torched Muslim homes and Buddhist villagers were attacked in a region plagued by intractable sectarian tensions. (Thandwe/Courtesy Reuters) A Muslim girl watches from the doorway of her home as soldiers walk by in Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. Security forces raced to contain deadly violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, police said, after mobs torched Muslim homes and Buddhist villagers were attacked in a region plagued by intractable sectarian tensions. (Thandwe/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, the Obama administration announced that, despite the rapid warming of ties between the United States and Myanmar, the former military dictatorship would not get any American military assistance in the fiscal year 2014. (Of course, as it stands now, there will be no U.S. budget in the fiscal year 2014!) As the Irrawaddy reports, the administration has taken this step because the Myanmar military allegedly still uses child soldiers, which makes it ineligible for U.S. military aid.

There are many advocates within the Obama administration for moving faster on military-military ties with Myanmar, and indeed several other democracies, like former colonial power Britain, are moving faster than the United States on military-military ties. Yet the use of child soldiers is hardly the only reason why this decision to hold off on military aid is warranted. As an excellent recent Associated Press report notes, one of the major arguments for closer military- military ties does not hold up to scrutiny. Advocates of quickly boosting military-military ties argue that the interaction will help inculcate in the Myanmar military a culture of respect for rights and for the rule of law. This can be accomplished, so the theory goes, by sponsoring leading Myanmar officers to attend training through the U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Yet the AP report notes:

Read more »