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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"

The Elephant in the US-ASEAN Room: Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
US-ASEAN-summit U.S. President Barack Obama (bottom L) participates in a US-ASEAN meeting at the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on November 21, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Next week, at a summit in California, President Obama will meet the ten leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the most important regional group in Asia. The event, the first-ever US-ASEAN summit on American soil, is being touted by the White House as a sign of the importance of Southeast Asia. After all, the Obama administration has made relations with Southeast Asia a centerpiece of “the pivot,” or “rebalance to Asia,” a national security strategy that entails shifting American military, economic, and diplomatic resources to the Pacific Rim. Read more »

Critics of China Vanish Outside China’s Borders

by Joshua Kurlantzick
china-hong kong-disapppearances A policeman on duty during a protest on the disappearance of five booksellers, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China on January 4, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Gui Minhai, by most accounts, appeared quite happy with his life in Pattaya, a seedy seaside report east of Bangkok. The writer and editor, born in China and holding a Swedish passport, had been living in a condo in Pattaya and working on books for Mighty Current, a Hong Kong-based publishing house he founded that specialized in steamy (and possibly untrue) tell-alls about the private lives and political in-fighting of leaders of China’s Communist Party. He swam daily, and apparently wrote at a desk overlooking the blue-green Gulf of Thailand. Read more »

Off-Label Use of Drugs and Access to Medicines for All: A Thailand Example

by Yanzhong Huang
A worker makes his way on a bridge at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plant. Roche is the manufacturer of Avastin, a cancer medication used for off-label treatment for macular disease in place of the more expensive Lucentis. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters) A worker makes his way on a bridge at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plant. Roche is the manufacturer of Avastin, a cancer medication used for off-label treatment for macular disease in place of the more expensive Lucentis. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Several years ago an Indonesian girl named Widya posted a message on my blog. She asked where she could obtain the drug Sorafenib for her father, who was terminally ill with liver cancer. Her family had already spent a significant sum on her father’s healthcare and could not afford further treatment. I forwarded the message to a pharmaceutical executive in Jakarta, who responded that Sorafenib was available in Indonesia but a month’s dosage would cost around $4,500 (the average monthly salary in Jakarta is about $1,180). “I hope the patient has health insurance coverage, otherwise the family will have to pay out of pocket,” he said.

Read more »

Democratic Regression and the Rise of Islamic State-Linked Militants in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-terrorism-southeast asia Indonesia Muslim youth salute during the ceremony of defending the country against terrorism, radicalism and drug in Jakarta, on January 17, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

Read Part 1 here

Part 2

After Jakarta’s initial successes against militants such as those from Jemaah Islamiah, a new generation of Islamists began to emerge in Southeast Asia in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Some had been students in schools set up, in the 1990s and 2000s, by earlier generations of radicals, while others had taken part in plots and attacks in the 1990s and 2000s and had survived the region-wide crackdown on Jemaah Islamiah and other militants. Read more »

Southeast Asia’s Democratic Regression and the Rise of Islamic State-Linked Militants

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic state Antiterror police walk as one carries a box with items retrieved from the house of a suspected militant involved in an attack in Jakarta, in Sampit, Indonesia Central Kalimantan province, on January 16, 2016. (Norjani/Antara Foto/Reuters)

Part 1

On January 14, militants struck in one of Jakarta’s busiest shopping and office districts. At around 11 am, one attacker blew up a suicide bomb at a Starbucks. Then, a group of attackers grabbed foreigners from the area, started firing wildly into the street, and drove a motorcycle toward a nearby police station and attacked that. The surviving militants then engaged in a running gun and bomb battle with Indonesian police, leaving a total of eight people dead, including five of the attackers. After the attacks, it quickly emerged that the purported ringleader, an Indonesian man named Bahrun Naim, had been living in the Islamic State’s “capital,” Raqqa, where he had reportedly organized the Jakarta violence. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 29, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Rajib-speech Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers a speech at the opening of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, November 21, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Malaysian prime minister evades corruption charges. Malaysia’s attorney general announced Tuesday that Prime Minister Najib Razak did not commit a crime in accepting a $680 million donation from the Saudi royal family in 2013. Najib has been under investigation for corruption since July, when investigative journalists unearthed documents alleging the prime minister had taken $680 million from a state development fund he had created. Read more »

Violence Flares in Laos

by Joshua Kurlantzick
laos-violence-2016 Officials attend the Communist Party Congress in Vientiane, Laos January 21, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

Despite its reputation for placidity, and its popularity as a backpacker tourist destination, Laos remains one of the most repressive and politically opaque countries in the world. It is consistently ranked as “not free” by Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World Index, and unlike neighboring Thailand, Cambodia, or even Myanmar during junta rule, Laos has no organized opposition party. In fact, even small public protests in Laos are quickly suppressed, their leaders going missing for years afterward. Read more »

Is the Islamic State Making Gains in Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic state Indonesian police stand guard at the site of a militant attack in central Jakarta, Indonesia on January 16, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Over the past three weeks, several events have dramatically highlighted the growing appeal of the Islamic State based in Southeast Asia. First, on January 14, a group of militants reportedly run by an Indonesian man who had traveled to Syria carried out an attack in a busy neighborhood in Jakarta, leading to at least seven deaths. Several weeks before the attack, the Indonesian police had made a string of arrests of other Indonesian cells linked to the Islamic State. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 22, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bacha-Khan-protest Civil society members take part in protest against the attack on Bacha Khan University at a demonstration in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 21, 2016. (Khuram Parvez/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Terrorists kill twenty-one in attack on Pakistani university. On Wednesday, gunmen stormed Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Charsadda district, killing twenty-one people and injuring dozens more. Four attackers were killed in an hours-long gun battle with security guards, local police, and the army in the attempt to secure the campus. Read more »

Can Suu Kyi Break Myanmar’s Ceasefire Deadlock?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-negotiations-speech Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech during talks between the government, army and representatives of ethnic armed groups over a ceasefire to end insurgencies, in Naypyitaw on January 12, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party will control Myanmar’s next parliament, participated for the first time in the government’s ongoing peace negotiations with ethnic minority insurgencies. As the Associated Press reported, Suu Kyi declared that she would push for a complete peace accord, one that includes the insurgent groups that did not sign an initial peace framework last autumn. Read more »