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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 "Philippines"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 8, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Security forces and rescue workers inspect an abandoned camp at a rubber plantation near a mountain in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 7, 2015 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters). Security forces and rescue workers inspect an abandoned camp at a rubber plantation near a mountain in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 7, 2015 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Mass graves of human trafficking camp unearthed in Thailand. Police exhumed twenty-six bodies at a mass grave located in the jungles of Songkhla province this week. Most of the migrants once held at the now abandoned site were Rohingya Muslim refugees from western Myanmar and Bangladesh. According to reports, this camp was made up of “bamboo cages, watchtowers and what Thai police described as a torture room.” Even as the grave was discovered, more than fifty Thai police officers were punished over suspected links to human trafficking networks. The mass grave was hardly the first indicator that Thailand has a booming human trafficking business and it remains to be seen if the Thai government can successfully undertake steps necessary to combat human trafficking. Read more »

Philippines and Vietnam Rapidly Building Strategic Partnership

by Joshua Kurlantzick
benigno-aquino-nguyen-tan-dung Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) greets Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his courtesy call at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila on May 21, 2014. (Aaron Favila/Courtesy: Reuters)

Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 30, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila January 30, 2015. Aquino urged legislators on Wednesday not to abandon a plan for autonomy for Muslims to end a decades-old insurgency after the clash in which dozens of people were killed, saying doing so would dash hopes for peace. A top official described the clash on Sunday, which shattered a three-year ceasefire, as a "misencounter" during a bid to arrest two militants who had taken refuge with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY) Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila, on January 30, 2015 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Forty-four commandos killed in the Philippines. On January 25, forty-four commandos in the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) were slain in a firefight with two Muslim rebel groups in the southern province of Maguindanao. The area in which the raid took place is currently held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who signed a peace deal with the government last year to end years of fighting; MILF was apparently uninformed of the planned raid. The team of 392 had been deployed to capture two high-value terror suspects: suspected bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan. President Benigno Aquino held a ceremony to honor those killed and urged the nation to support the ongoing peace process. Read more »

Power Trip: Might China’s Struggles With Its Neighbors Bring War to Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
spratlys Members of the Philippine marines are transported on a rubber boat from a patrol ship after conducting a mission on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as they make their way to a naval forces camp in Palawan province, southwest Philippines on March 31, 2014. (Erik De Castro/Courtesy: Reuters)

A version of this post also appeared at The Nationaland can be found here.

From the air, the Spratly Islands, a cluster of miniature rocks and sandbars 160,000 miles square in the middle of the South China Sea, are almost imperceptible. Even up close, the Spratlys do not look like much – a few islands have tiny rocky beaches or occasional makeshift buildings. A tiny contingent of Filipino Marines camp on a rusty hulk of an American World War II-era ship grounded in the Spratlys. Read more »

Better Planning This Time for Philippine Typhoon

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Typhoon-Hagupit Children look out of a window at an evacuation center set up for the coastal community to shelter from Typhoon Hagupit, near Manila, on December 8, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos began to return to their homes battered by a powerful typhoon over the weekend, but the nation collectively breathed a sigh of relief as a massive evacuation plan appeared to minimize fatalities (Cheryl Gagalac/Courtesy: Reuters).

As of Sunday night on the U.S. East Coast, Typhoon Hagupit had made landfall in the Philippines and moved across parts of the country. The typhoon had weakened and appears to not pack the force of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the Philippines last year. Still, Hagupit already has caused significant damage. Casualty and damage figures remain incomplete, but initial estimates suggest that at least 20 people have been killed and thousands of homes have been destroyed by Typhoon Hagupit, with the damage yet to be tolled from the storm’s movement over Metro Manila. Typhoon Hagupit also may have set back some of the reconstruction that has taken place in areas hit by Haiyan last year. Read more »

Thailand’s Coup Just One Sign of Southeast Asia’s Regression From Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-coup-demonstration Demonstrators march as riot police officers and soldiers block a street during a protest against military rule in central of Bangkok on May 24, 2014. Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a "safe place" on Saturday, an aide said, after being held by Thailand's army following its seizure of power this week, as opposition to the coup grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

This past week, the Thai military launched its second coup in a decade, destroying what was left of Thailand’s shaky democratic system. This coup is likely to last longer, and be much harsher than the coup in 2006; already, the Thai armed forces are censoring Thai media and putting journalists and politicians in detention or in jail. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 14, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Missing Malaysia Airlines flight leaves the fate of 239 passengers shrouded in mystery. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared Saturday, and its fate has still not been determined nearly a week after it vanished from radar screens. The most recent information indicates that the plane was deliberately flown off course, making a sharp left and flying hundreds of miles toward India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar islands. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Maulana Sami ul-Haq, one of the Taliban negotiators, and government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui (L) smile before a news conference in Islamabad on February 6, 2014. (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters) Maulana Sami ul-Haq, one of the Taliban negotiators, and government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui (L) smile before a news conference in Islamabad on February 6, 2014. (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Pakistan begins official peace talks with the Taliban. Pakistani government officials and Taliban representatives began formal talks on Thursday. The government delegation has requested an immediate cease-fire and that the talks to be limited to areas where the insurgency is strongest. The Taliban negotiators initially agreed to work within the framework of Pakistan’s constitution. However, one of the Taliban’s negotiators pulled out on Friday because he wanted the agenda included an imposition of Islamic law. Read more »

Why Was Vietnam Better Prepared Than the Philippines for Typhoon Haiyan?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A man sits at his damaged shop in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180 km (112 miles) from Hanoi on November 11, 2013. (Nguyen Huy Kham/Courtesy Reuters) A man sits at his damaged shop in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180 km (112 miles) from Hanoi on November 11, 2013. (Nguyen Huy Kham/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past week, as aid trickled and now is flowing into the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, some broader questions about the country’s preparedness—or lack thereof—have arisen. Although it would be unfair to compare the Philippines, a country with a GDP per capita of around $2,600, with richer countries hit by natural disasters (such as Thailand in the 2004 tsunami), it is worth asking why the Philippines seemed much less prepared for Haiyan than neighboring Vietnam, a country with a GDP per capita of only $1,600. Although the typhoon also passed through Vietnam, albeit after slowing down somewhat over the water in between, Vietnam suffered fourteen deaths, as compared to what appears to be thousands of fatalities in the Philippines. Read more »

Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines, the United States, and China

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Evacuated residents prepare to get onto a U.S. military plane at Tacloban airport in central Philippines on November 13, 2013, five days after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Evacuated residents prepare to get onto a U.S. military plane at Tacloban airport in central Philippines on November 13, 2013, five days after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

As more news of the extensive destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan rolls in—some storm experts are saying that it is the most powerful typhoon ever to hit land—I have spoken with a number of reporters in the United States and Asia about how the relief effort will be impacted by U.S. relations with the Philippines and the Philippines’ relationships with other major regional powers. The United States and the Philippines, a relationship always fraught with the challenges of former colony/colonizer history and ties between Filipinos in the United States and the Philippines, has clearly been on the upswing over the past five years. Read more »