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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"

Dagny Dukach: Beijing Begins to Debate the Tibet Issue

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Young Tibetan monks chat during a prayer meeting for tourists at a temple in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province on July 19, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Young Tibetan monks chat during a prayer meeting for tourists at a temple in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province on July 19, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Dagny Dukach is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In early June 2013, Dr. Jin Wei, a senior Chinese government advisor and director of ethnic and religious studies at Beijing’s Central Party School, made headlines when she published an article in the Hong Kong journal Asia Weekly suggesting that there were serious problems with China’s coercive policies in Tibet. In the paper, she pushed for a more open, less oppressive policy towards the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people; strikingly, she referred to the Tibetan leader as the “Dalai Lama,” as opposed to the pejorative terms “Dalai” or “Dalai Clique” used by Chinese officials and media outlets. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 12, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) delivers remarks with China's Vice Premier Wang Yang at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Treasury Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) delivers remarks with China's Vice Premier Wang Yang at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Treasury Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Cybersecurity the main focus of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Treasury Security Jack Lew, Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi, and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang met in Washington for the fifth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue this week. The dialogue focused on a number of issues, including how to deal with North Korea, Asian maritime disputes, and economic issues; the two sides made headway on investment and climate change agreements, though (unsurprisingly) there were no breakthroughs on cybersecurity, a main focus of the talks. Read more »

Despite Democracy, Myanmar’s Muslim Minority Still Suffering

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A 969 shirt is seen among National League for Democracy party shirts and Aung San Suu Kyi shirts at a shop on a street side in Yangon on April 27, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A 969 shirt is seen among National League for Democracy party shirts and Aung San Suu Kyi shirts at a shop on a street side in Yangon on April 27, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

As Myanmar opens up, at least 100,000 Muslims have been made homeless in the past two years by violent attacks, and hundreds if not thousands have been killed, along with a much smaller number of Buddhists. Left unchecked, rising ethnic hatred and increasing attacks could push the country into a terrible period of ethnic cleansing, similar to what happened in the Balkans in the early 1990s. Read more »

Myanmar Government Continues to Blame Muslims for Unrest

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters) An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past six months, the Buddhist-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which last year seemed confined to the western Rakhine (or Arakan) State, has exploded all over the country. The violence has spread to places in central Myanmar, like Okkan and Mktila, to the outskirts of Yangon, and even to towns in the northeast, like Lashio, with little history of inter-religious tension. The nationalist, xenophobic, fascistesque 969 Movement of the monk Ashin Wirathu appears to be gaining followers. The New York Times  recently reported that Wirathu’s sermons now are attracting thousands of followers, and that it is planning to set up school for Buddhist children across the country. Read more »

Myanmar’s Religious and Ethnic Tensions Begin to Spread Across the Region

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Muslim woman cries in a monastery used to shelter internally displaced people after a riot between Muslims and Buddhists in Lashio township on May 30, 2013. A Muslim woman cries in a monastery used to shelter internally displaced people after a riot between Muslims and Buddhists in Lashio township on May 30, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

For decades, during the rule of the military junta, Myanmar’s numerous internal problems spilled over its borders, sewing chaos along the frontiers with India,Thailand,China, and Bangladesh. Myanmar’s narcotics producers flooded Thailand and other countries with methamphetamines and heroin, Myanmar’s numerous civil wars sent hundreds of thousands of refugees spilling into Thailand and Bangladesh and created a profitable cross-border illegal arms trade in India, and Myanmar’s combination of rape as a weapon of war and massive migration created some of the most virulent strains of HIV/AIDS in Asia, which then spread into China and Thailand. Read more »

Apartheid in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends the opening ceremony of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok on April 29, 2013. Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends the opening ceremony of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok on April 29, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

Next week, Myanmar President Thein Sein will arrive in Washington, DC, for a historic visit and meeting with President Obama. It will be the first visit by a Myanmar president to the United States in nearly fifty years. Only three years earlier, nearly every top Myanmar leader had been barred from entering the United States (and most other leading democracies) due to sanctions on the country’s military-ruled government and on nearly all exports to and imports from the country. U.S. congresspeople regularly castigated Myanmar as one of the most tyrannical societies on earth, and when former president George W. Bush found himself in a room in the mid-2000s, at an Asian summit, with Myanmar’s then-leader, he essentially refused to even acknowledge the other man’s presence. Read more »

Myanmar’s President Gets Peace Award While the Country Burns

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's President Thein Sein talks during a meeting with representatives from civil societies at the Yangon Region Parliament Building in Yangon on January 20, 2013. Myanmar's President Thein Sein talks during a meeting with representatives from civil societies at the Yangon Region Parliament Building in Yangon on January 20, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

On April 22, at a packed, black-tie ceremony in New York City, the Myanmar president, represented by minister Aung Min, accepted an award from the respected global NGO International Crisis Group for the “pursuit of peace.” The award, given annually by the group, is meant to honor someone who promotes change and reform, and helps end violent conflicts, like the ones that have ranged along Myanmar’s borderlands for decades. Read more »

Human Rights Watch’s Devastating Myanmar Report

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. (Reuters Staff/Courtesy Reuters)

This week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a detailed, and devastating, report on abuses against Muslim Rohingyas in western Myanmar’s Rakhine (also known as Arakan) State. The report claims that the most heinous of all crimes—crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing—were committed against Rohingya last year. It conclusively shows that, contrary to the Myanmar government’s claims that the violence against Rohingya last year erupted spontaneously, monks and local political parties had been agitating for ethnic cleansing against Rohingya well in advance of last year’s violence, in some cases with local government complicity. Read more »

More on Myanmar Unrest

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People carry weapons during riots in Meiktila on March 22, 2013. People carry weapons during riots in Meiktila on March 22, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

On the CFR site, I have an expert brief up on the surge in ethnic and religious unrest in Myanmar. You can read the expert brief here.

The anger seems to be building, despite some efforts by the government, Muslim leaders, and Buddhist leaders to cool tensions. (Aung San Suu Kyi, who had said virtually nothing about the violence for two weeks, did finally step forward and say that Myanmar needs to promote a stronger rule of law to prevent future violent outbreaks, a somewhat mealy-mouthed response.) One of the leading militant monks—a phrase that just sounds bizarre—this week gave an interview to the Irrawaddy in which he was essentially unrepentant about the attacks on Muslims. Read more »

Myanmar: Listen to the Warnings

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Riot policemen form up near a fire during riots in Meikhtila on March 22, 2013. Riot policemen form up near a fire during riots in Meikhtila on March 22, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two weeks, anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which last year had seemed confined to the western state of Rakhine where the religious conflict was intertwined with issues of residency and citizenship, has exploded across the country. Mobs of Buddhists, some with ties to the militant Buddhist group 969 Movement, have attacked Muslims in Miktila, Naypyitaw, Bago, and now in Yangon. Many Muslims in Yangon, Bago, and other large towns are afraid to go to the mosque, enter shops catering to Muslims, or show displays of their faith outside their homes or stores. Aung San Suu Kyi has been notably quiet, and she is rapidly losing much of the moral and political capital she amassed during her long years in detention. Read more »