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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 "Southeast Asia"

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 »

Jokowi’s Presidency: Part 2 – The Questions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (INDONESIA - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS) Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta, on July 23, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters).

Among his supporters, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo raised expectations so high, before he was actually elected, that he was bound to disappoint them. Somewhat like U.S. President Barack Obama, Jokowi seemed to fulfill different images of hope for different supporters, even if Jokowi himself did not try to actually cultivate all of these images. Read more »

Jokowi’s Presidency Thus Far: Part One – The Good News

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo and his wife Iriana react as names are read out during their son's graduation ceremony at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) International in Singapore November 21, 2014. Jokowi on Friday flew in to Singapore in an economy-class flight to attend the graduation ceremony of his youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, according to local media. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS) Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo and his wife Iriana react as names are read out during their son's graduation ceremony at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) International in Singapore on November 21, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters).

Without any doubt, the first months of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first term have delivered some impressive successes. The president’s “smart card” and “health card”—cards sent out to poor Indonesians guaranteeing them a certain number of years of free medical care and schooling, as well as state subsidies for school supplies—have gone out to millions of Indonesians. In the long run, this new social welfare program will likely bring dramatic improvements in education and health indicators for many of the poorest in the country. 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 »

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 »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Pope Francis waves to the Catholic faithful as he arrives for a meeting with Filipino families in Manila January 16, 2015. Pope Francis called on the Philippine government on Friday to tackle corruption and hear the cries of the poor suffering from "scandalous social inequalities" in Asia's most Catholic country. The Pope arrived the Philippines on Thursday for a five-day visit, the second and last leg of his week-long Asian tour. REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini ( PHILIPPINES - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS SOCIETY) Pope Francis waves to the Catholic faithful as he arrives for a meeting with Filipino families in Manila on January 16, 2015 (Stefano Rellandini/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Pope Francis visits Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The pope made his second trip to Asia in less than two years, a sign of his “interest and pastoral concern for the people of that vast continent,” visiting Sri Lanka and Philippines (which have Catholic populations of 6 percent and 81 percent, respectively). His first stop was Colombo, where he preached peace and reconciliation and said that Sri Lanka must heal divisions from the country’s twenty-five year civil war. After holding mass in the capital, Francis traveled to Tamil territory in the north to visit the Our Lady of Madhu shrine, a Catholic pilgrimage site. It was the first visit by a pope to the region. In the Philippines, Asia’s only predominately Christian country, the pope denounced corruption and reasserted the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception. Francis will hold three masses in the capital of Manila and in Tacloban, the province most affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Constitution Becomes Clearer

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai military Thai soldiers stand guard at the police boat T813 tsunami memorial in Khao Lak, Phang Nga province on December 25, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Although much of the negotiations within Thailand’s constitutional drafting committee, hand picked by the Thai military, will go on without public input, the outlines of the next constitution are becoming clearer as the drafting committee has begun to meet. In recent weeks, some aspects of the drafting have been covered – and even occasionally criticized – by the Thai media, and it is clear that, despite being picked by the military, a few drafters have concerns about the opaque drafting process and the possible rollback of democratic institutions in the next constitution. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund, with Shanghai's Pudong financial district in the background, January 6, 2015. Chinese state media and the public criticised the government and police on Friday for failing to prevent the stampede in Shanghai that killed 36 people and dented the city's image as modern China's global financial hub. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS) A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund on January 6, 2015 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. New  Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai. A deadly stampede broke out among the hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Shanghai’s Huangpu River waterfront on New Year’s Eve, resulting in thirty-six deaths and forty-nine hospitalizations. This past Wednesday, grieving loved ones gathered in memorial of those lost. Ahead of the festivities, the government feared overcrowding and went so far as to cancel a planned light show along the Bund; predicting smaller crowds than in previous years, five thousand fewer officers were posted during the celebration, and those on duty were unable to control the crowds.  Read more »

Where the Pivot Went Wrong – And How To Fix It

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pivot and SE Asia President Barack Obama joins hands with leaders, including Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Myanmar President Thein Sein, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, during a group photo for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Naypyitaw on November 13, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

Since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States has pursued a policy of rebuilding ties with Southeast Asia. By 2011 this regional focus had become part of a broader strategy toward Asia called the “pivot,” or rebalance. This approach includes shifting economic, diplomatic, and military resources to the region from other parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, a central part of the pivot involves building relations with countries in mainland Southeast Asia once shunned by Washington because of their autocratic governments, and reviving close U.S. links to Thailand and Malaysia. The Obama administration has also upgraded defense partnerships throughout the region, followed through on promises to send high-level officials to Southeast Asian regional meetings, and increased port calls to and basing of combat ships in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Reforming Indonesia’s Aviation Safety Procedures

by Joshua Kurlantzick
airasia search A crew member of an Indonesian Air Force NAS 332 Super Puma helicopter looks out a window during a flight with Muslim clerics to offer prayers for the victims of AirAsia flight QZ 8501, over the Java Sea off Pangkalan Bun on January 6, 2015. (Achmad Ibrahim/Courtesy: Reuters)

The crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, though tragic, was not an enormous surprise to anyone who follows aviation in Indonesia, or who has flown repeatedly in Indonesia. This is not to say that AirAsia has a poor safety record; the airline had never had a fatal accident prior to this one, and AirAsia management has responded admirably to the crash. Senior management, including AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, have reached out to families of the survivors, trying to keep them updated about information on the search and rescue operations and personally consoling relatives of people who were on Flight 8501. Read more »