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

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Showing posts for "Human Rights"

Amid Spectacle of Malaysia Infighting, Democratic Slide Continues

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-malaysia Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during the opening ceremony of the 26th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 27, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters)

Since the end of 2014, Malaysians, normally living in one of the most stable countries in Asia, have witnessed an extraordinary political spectacle. Although the same ruling coalition has run Malaysia since independence five decades ago, 89-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently launched a fusillade of public attacks on the current prime minister, Najib Razak, his longtime political protégé. Read more »

Little Mention of Southeast Asia in Secretary of Defense’s Rebalance Speech

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ash-carter-rebalance U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. military personnel during a meeting near an F-16 fighter jet at Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a speech at Arizona State University earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter laid out a kind of relaunch of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia—a plan for moving the rebalance forward over the final years of the president’s second term. Carter hit many key points that the administration hopes to emphasize: the importance of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership both for the region’s economic future and for America’s own strategic interests; the growth in maritime partnerships with longtime allies like Australia and Japan; the increase in training programs for partner militaries in the Asia-Pacific region. Read more »

Will Thailand’s Prime Minister Amass Even More Power?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prayuth-Chan-ocha Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C) gestures in a traditional greeting after a speech at the Stock Exchange of Thailand in Bangkok on February 26, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Over the past month, the Thai press has repeatedly suggested that the junta-installed government will soon remove martial law. Martial law has been in place since the May 2014 coup. (Some provinces in the south had martial law long before 2014.) And indeed, this week the Thai government does appear ready to lift martial law. Coup leader-turned prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government may be making this move since many foreign governments and rights organizations have specifically criticized martial law, holding it up as a sign of serious restrictions on rights and freedoms. Read more »

Kafka in Paradise: Maldives Court Sentences Former President for Terrorism

by Alyssa Ayres
March 10, 2014. Photo by Dying Regime licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original. March 10, 2014. Photo by Dying Regime licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.

On March 13, a Maldivian court found Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, guilty of terrorism and sentenced him to thirteen years in prison.

The specific act of which Nasheed was accused? Ordering the arrest of a criminal court judge back in 2012 when Nasheed was still president of the island nation of 400,000 people. The mismatch between accusation and conviction beggars belief. Read more »

Myanmar’s Rights Record Deteriorates in 2014

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-rohingya-protests Buddhist monks and other people take part in a protest to demand the revocation of the right of holders of temporary identification cards, known as white cards, to vote, in Yangon on February 11, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

This week, Amnesty International released its assessment of Myanmar’s 2014 human rights record. Although Myanmar’s bumpy road to reform had been well-documented, the report is even more negative than I had expected. Program toward improvement in political and civil rights in Myanmar “stalled” and went into reverse in 2014, Amnesty reported in the Myanmar chapter of its annual global assessment of freedom. Read more »

The U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue: Frank Criticism but No Action

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state June 9, 2014. Baekon is among many Rohingya Muslims living in squalid camps in Myanmar after being displaced by religious unrest. Baekon is from Rakhine state, where her family home was burned down in religious riots that broke out in June 2012. Baekon ended up in a refugee camp, where she is still living now. Her husband left her before she gave birth to twins, and she is struggling to feed them. June 20 is World Refugee Day, an occasion that draws attention to those who have been displaced around the globe. In the run-up to the date, Reuters photographers in different regions have photographed various people who have at some point fled their homes. Picture taken June 9, 2014. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS RELIGION CIVIL UNREST) Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state, on June 9, 2014 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski, U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, and a group of other U.S. officials from State, Defense, and USAID were in Myanmar for the second U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue. The dialogue came at a time when Myanmar’s rights record is backsliding, more than one-hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims remain internally displaced in Myanmar, and there are concerns, both within Myanmar and among outside countries, that this year’s critical national elections will be waylaid, not allowing the vote to go on freely and fairly. Read more »

The Senate Torture Report’s Global Ramifications

by Joshua Kurlantzick
us embassy london A police officer patrols outside the U.S. embassy in London on December 9, 2014. Preceding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of a report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, U.S. officials moved to shore up security at American facilities around the world as a precaution (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy: Reuters).

The executive summary of the report released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal detention interrogation practices after 9/11 offers the most damning assessment of the Agency in four decades. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee, another Senate committee, issued reports that condemned the CIA for spying within the United States, attempting to assassinate foreign leaders, working with the Mafia on operations, and other abuses. Read more »

Darcie Draudt: South Korean Multiculturalism and the Next Step in Civic Nationalism

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
seoul women's migrant center Foreign brides from Vietnam take part in a Korean conversation class at the Women Migrants Human Rights Centre in Seoul in this photo from May 27, 2008 (Jo Yong-Hak/Courtesy: Reuters).

Darcie Draudt is a research associate for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On September 29, the United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, began the first-ever official UN Human Rights Council mission to South Korea. Ruteere is scheduled to present his preliminary findings at a press conference on October 6, at the end of his visit. South Korea has increasingly aroused scrutiny for its myopic depiction of foreigners in media and treatment of foreigners in workplaces and public spaces. But the situation is more complicated than meets the eye, and the special rapporteur is likely to find a nation confronted with new, unfamiliar choices in defining itself as it continues to deepen and broaden exchange on the global stage. Read more »

Human Rights Watch Reports Thailand Indefinitely Detaining Thousands of Migrant Children

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rohingya-in-thailand Rohingya people from Myanmar, who were rescued from human traffickers, are kept in a communal cell at the Songkhla Immigration Detention Centre in Thailand near the border with Malaysia in this photo from February 13, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

As if Thailand’s international image hadn’t suffered enough, with a coup government trying to turn the clock back forty years, the country’s seafood industry being exposed as one of the worst examples of human trafficking and outright slavery in the world, and even neighboring Myanmar’s politics looking good by comparison, Human Rights Watch today released a lengthy report on the detention of migrant children in Thailand. The report is available here. Read more »

Erwin Li: Finding China’s Missing Children

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A security guard (R) looks on as a man writes characters on the back of six topless activists with the message "pay attention to children trafficking" during a demonstration against children abduction and trafficking, in Taiyuan, Shanxi province May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Jon Woo (CHINA - Tags: CRIME LAW SOCIETY) A security guard (R) looks on as a man writes characters on the back of six topless activists with the message "pay attention to children trafficking" during a demonstration against children abduction and trafficking, in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, on May 18, 2013. (Jon Woo/Courtesy Reuters)

Erwin Li is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Late last month a National People’s Congress inspection group vowed to raise “[the] moral concepts of juvenile protection throughout society.” Besides cases of child abuse and sexual assault, the group has paid special attention to child trafficking—investigating punishments handed out in five provinces since April. But it remains unclear how China wishes to further pursue its goals for child protection; a 2014 U.S. State Department trafficking report did remark on China’s progress, but there’s a far more alarming message to be gleaned: we still know very little about the abduction and sale of children. Read more »