CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Human Rights"

Thailand’s Mounting Trafficking Problem

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-human-trafficking Human trafficking suspects arrive at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 10, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Human trafficking has long been a serious problem in Thailand. For decades, Thailand has been a source country for trafficked people, a transit country, and a destination for trafficked men and women, who come mostly from poorer neighboring states. (By some estimates, at least two million people from Myanmar alone are working in Thailand illegally, and many of these Myanmar citizens were trafficked to Thailand.) Men and women are trafficking to the kingdom to work in Thailand’s construction, sex, seafood, and domestic service industries, among other sectors of the economy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories From the Week of December 11, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Trafficking-camp-malaysia-12-11-15 A cage made of barbed wire and bamboo sticks that Malaysian police said was used to hold migrants is seen at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the jungle close the Thailand border at Bukit Wang Burma in northern Malaysia, May 26, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Human trafficking investigator flees Thailand. Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, a senior Thai police officer leading an investigation on human trafficking in Thailand, has fled the country to seek asylum in Australia. After more than thirty graves, which are believed to contain the remains of trafficked Rohingyas, were discovered near the Malaysian border this summer, Paween had been tasked with investigating the site and the trafficking network responsible. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Seoul-protests - 11-20-2015 A protester reacts as water mixed with tear gas liquid is sprayed by police water canon to disperse protesters during an anti-government rally in central Seoul, South Korea, November 14, 2015. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Antigovernment protests erupt in Seoul. This week, tens of thousands of people filled City Hall plaza in downtown Seoul to protest President Park Geun-hye, demanding her resignation. The protestors wore plastic raincoats to guard against the cannons of water and liquid tear gas fired at them by the police. 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 »

Is a Genocide Taking Place in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rohingya-idp-camp Rohingya people pass their time in a damaged shelter in Rohingya IDP camp outside Sittwe, Rakhine state on August 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Since 2011, when Myanmar’s political reforms began, launching a stuttering process of democratization, attacks on Muslim Rohingya in western Myanmar have become common. The violence often has been abetted by paramilitary groups, hard-line Buddhist monks, and Buddhist civilian groups affiliated with the hard-line monks. Since the violence worsened in 2012, neither the government nor the leaders of the National League for Democracy have taken any effective steps to stop anti-Rohingya discrimination, provide suitable accommodations for Rohingya who have left their homes, help Rohingya who were stripped of their Myanmar citizenship regain it, or halt the activities of paramilitary organizations. Read more »

China’s Role in Myanmar’s Dangerous Jade Trade

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Jade-trade-11-2-15 A man checks the quality of a jade stone found in the mine dump piled by major mining companies at a jade mine in Hpakant township in Myanmar's Kachin State, January 10, 2010. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In late October, Global Witness released an important report that systematically explored Myanmar’s jade industry, calling it the “biggest natural resource heist in modern history.” The mining and trade of the gem have been catalogued by journalists, photographers, and authors in the past, but most accounts only mention China’s economic role in driving demand for jade. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 16, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Ma-Ba-Tha-rally - 10-16-15 Leaders of radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha arrive during a celebration of the recent establishment of four controversial bills decried by rights groups as aimed at discriminating against the country's Muslim minority, at a rally in a stadium at Yangon, October 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

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

1. Hard-line Buddhist monks sway politics in Myanmar. One of the most influential groups in Myanmar’s upcoming election may not be a political party, but a nationalist Buddhist group called the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion. The group, better known by the acronym Ma Ba Tha, does not officially back any party. However, the controversial monk and Ma Ba Tha member Ashin Wirathu, who was imprisoned for stoking anti-Muslim attacks in 2003, has expressed support for the Union Solidarity and Development Party rather than Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 2, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Xi-Jinping-United-Nations-10-2-15 President Xi Jinping of China addresses attendees during the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

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

1. China commits billions to international development. Addressing a United Nations conference on the UN sustainable development goals late last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China would pledge $2 billion in aid to the United Nations to help developing countries. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 17, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Police officers hold barricade tapes to form a cordon outside the parliament building expecting the arrival of crowds for a second day of protests against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's security-related legislation in Tokyo on  July 16, 2015 (Thomas Peter/Courtesy: Reuters). Police officers hold barricade tapes to form a cordon outside the parliament building expecting the arrival of crowds for a second day of protests against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's security-related legislation in Tokyo on July 16, 2015 (Thomas Peter/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Rough week for human rights in China. Chinese police detained dozens of human rights lawyers this week on allegations that they were running a “criminal gang.” The “gang’s” offense? Creating “social chaos” by appealing to authorities and the public on behalf of their clients. The lawyers have been the subject of harsh criticism in state media; authorities have also rolled out the increasingly familiar tactic of televised confessions to publicly shame those arrested. Read more »

Toward a Solution to the Rohingya Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick
migrants-rakhine-myanmar Migrants, who were found at sea on a boat, collect rainwater during a heavy rain fall at a temporary refuge camp near Kanyin Chaung jetty, outside Maungdaw township, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar on June 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

So far, despite global coverage of Southeast Asia’s desperate migrants, Myanmar leaders continue to try to cast doubt on the idea that there is a migration crisis at all, though Myanmar officials attended the regional conference on the migration crisis held in Thailand in late May. Still, Myanmar officials reportedly refused to attend the meeting unless it was pitched as a broad discussion about migration, rather than a meeting to address the crisis of fleeing Rohingya. At the meeting, Myanmar “categorically refused to discuss its role as a cause for the crisis,” notes Matthew Davies of Australian National University, an expert on human rights in Southeast Asia. Read more »