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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"

Bangkok Bombing Investigation Becomes Even Murkier

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-Erawan Shrine Thai police stand guard at Erawan Shrine, the site of the recent bomb blast, in Bangkok on August 30, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Over the past five days, Thai police have both made arrests in Erawan Shrine bombing case and publicly identified other suspects still at large for whom the police are hunting. Although after the bombing there were many theories about the culprits, both the two men arrested and the suspects identified could have some link to Turkey or to the Uighurs. Read more »

Cambodia’s Political Truce Breaks Down

by Joshua Kurlantzick
hun sen-sam-rainsy Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) and Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), smile after a plenary session at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on April 9, 2015. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

An excellent article in this month’s Foreign Affairs, by Stephanie Giry, outlines the strategies Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has used to stay in power. Now the longest-serving nonroyal ruler in Asia and the seventh-longest serving nonroyal ruler in the world, Hun Sen remains the ultimate survivor. Read more »

One Week after the Bangkok Bombing, What do We Know?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
erawan-shrine A police officer stands in front of the Erawan shrine, the site of a deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, on August 18, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

A week after the bombing at central Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine that killed twenty people, wounded at least 125 more, and set off a massive manhunt for a suspect identified in CCTV video, a man who apparently left a backpack at the shrine shortly before the explosion, no one has been arrested. In fact, amidst a constant swirl of rumors about possible leads, the Thai authorities appear no closer to solving the case. Read more »

Malaysia’s Economy Faces Severe Strain

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-economy A woman walks past a money exchange shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 25, 2015. The Malaysian ringgit hit a fresh pre-peg 17-year low on Monday as sustained worries about China's economy dented global risk appetite with European and Wall Street stocks suffering their largest one-day drop in nearly four years. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Like any Southeast Asian economy whose trade with China is a major foundation of growth, Malaysia was bound to suffer as the Chinese economy staggered and Chinese stock markets plunged. Malaysia is China’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia-China two-way trade topped $100 billion in 2014. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 21, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bangkok-bombing People pray at the Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 20, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

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

1. Bombing in Bangkok. On Monday evening a bomb exploded within the popular Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, killing at least twenty people and injuring over 120 more. Thai authorities are investigating a suspect identified as a foreigner, who was caught on CCTV footage leaving a large backpack near the shrine, in connection with the blast. Read more »

The Implications of Thura Shwe Mann’s Removal

by Joshua Kurlantzick
shwe-mann-parliament Shwe Mann, speaker of Union Parliament, attends a parliament meeting at Union Parliament in Naypyitaw on August 18, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) party leader Thura Shwe Mann, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, was abruptly removed as party chief, only months before Myanmar’s much-awaited national elections. The USDP is the party of President Thein Sein and is currently in control of government, although it is expected to suffer massive losses in the November election, provided the polls are held freely and fairly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 14, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters) Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson,  Lauren Dickey, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China’s central bank allows currency to devalue. The renminbi (RMB) declined by more than 4 percent this week as the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the currency’s daily benchmark lower for several days in a row. The drop may help strengthen the domestic economy, which has faltered in recent months; the PBOC’s willingness to allow the currency’s market rate to drop may suggest that the Chinese economy is doing even worse than some indicators suggest, which could spell trouble for countries that rely on China’s commodity imports. Read more »

Malaysia’s Leadership Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-1MDB scandal Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at the 48th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 4, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Since early July, when the Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report, an investigative website focusing on Malaysia, both reported that embattled Malaysian state fund 1MDB had allegedly transferred funds into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak, Malaysia’s normally placid politics have exploded. Along with a battle within the ruling coalition between the prime minister and supports of longtime former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Najib is now apparently fending off challenges from some top leaders within the governing coalition. Read more »

Southeast Asia Summer Reading

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-beach-fishing A fishing boat is seen against the setting sun on Maungmagan beach near the town of Dawei in southern Myanmar on November 19, 2011. (Staff/Reuters)

Summer is winding down. In the Washington area, the brick oven heat of late July and early August is giving way to that late August feeling of merely living in a sauna. School forms are due. And it is time to review the Southeast Asia books I had a chance to read this summer. Read more »

Malaysia’s Political Crisis Deepens

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-1MDB Men walk past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 1, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

This past week, the crisis in Malaysia’s governing coalition has only grown deeper, with the sacking of several prominent ministers in a scene that could remind one of the Nixon administration’s October, 1973 Saturday Night Massacre. As stories continued to emerge alleging improprieties in Malaysia’s state 1MDB fund, including the alleged deposit of funds into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak, sentiment in the governing coalition about Najib appeared to be split. Read more »