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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"

What to Expect at Aung San Suu Kyi’s Peace Conference

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-xi-jinping Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping (R) poses for the media before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on August 19, 2016. (Rolex Dela Pena/Reuters)

Next week, Aung San Suu Kyi and a host of other dignitaries, including United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, will preside over a major peace conference in Naypyidaw. The conference is billed as a kind of sequel to the Panglong conference, held in February 1947, and presided over by Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San. At the original Panglong, Aung San, then essentially interim head of the government, and many ethnic minority leaders agreed to work together in a national government. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of August 19, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia-destroys-fishing-boats Four of eight confiscated Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed in Mempawah Regency, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, February 22, 2016. (Antara Foto/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indonesia sinks illegal fishing boats. In a move intended to assert sovereignty over resource-rich waters surrounding the Natuna Islands off the Borneo coast, Indonesia sank sixty boats impounded for illegal fishing. Read more »

Cambodia’s Democratic Transition Has Collapsed, With Dangerous Consequences

by Joshua Kurlantzick
cambodia Tens of thousands of people attend a funeral procession to carry the body of Kem Ley, an anti-government figure and the head of a grassroots advocacy group, "Khmer for Khmer" who was shot dead on July 10, to his hometown, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on July 24, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

As Cambodia prepares for national elections in two years, its politics have veered dangerously out of control. Even though young Cambodians are demanding political alternatives and accessing more information outside of state media, the country’s transition toward two-party politics has collapsed. The government’s brutal tactics of the 1990s and early 2000s, when political activists were routinely murdered and opposition parties nearly put out of business, have returned. Young Cambodians may be left with no outlet for their grievances, creating a potentially explosive situation, especially given the promise of reform and dialogue just a few years ago. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of August 12, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A Thai electoral worker starts counting ballots at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand August 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kerek Wongsa A Thai electoral worker starts counting ballots at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand on August 7, 2016. (Kerek Wongsa/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, and Gabriella Meltzer look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. New Thai constitution passed in referendum. In their first opportunity to vote since the 2014 military coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically-elected government, the Thai people gave a resounding “yes” to the new military-drafted constitution. The results, with over 61 percent voting in favor, may not have been surprising given that the junta did its all to drown out the opposition, arresting and detaining dozens of activists and politicians in the lead-up to the vote. Experts were also quick to point out that approval did not equal widespread endorsement of the junta, as most people had never even seen a draft of the document and merely wanted a return to political normalcy. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Year: Meet the New Boss…

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-referendum Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha casts his ballot at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand on August 7, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

After the junta-managed referendum was approved by voters earlier this week, Thailand plans to hold elections in November 2017, according to the military regime. As I wrote earlier, the charter contained numerous provisions that seem designed to weaken the power of the two biggest political parties, the Democrat Party and Puea Thai. The new charter will potentially make the lower house of parliament nearly unmanageable, and possibly pave the way for the unelected upper house, the judiciary, the military, and the bureaucracy to wield the real levers of power in the kingdom. Read more »

What Happens After Thailand’s Referendum?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thai-protestor-referendum A student activist is detained during a silent protest in Bangkok after Thailand’s election commission filed charges against a group for posting “foul and strong” comments online criticizing a military-backed draft constitution, April 27, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

On August 7, Thais hold a national referendum on a new charter. As I noted in my previous blog post, Thailand has had twenty different constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Constitutions have been shredded by military governments after coups, rewritten during times of political upheaval, and even (as in the mid-1990s) written with thought and considerable public input and implemented under elected governments. Now, the junta, which took power in May 2014, has stage managed the drafting of a new proposed charter. Read more »

Thailand’s August 7 Referendum: Some Background

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thai-student-elephants-referendum A Thai student holds posters in front of elephants during a campaign ahead of the August 7 referendum in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, August 1, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

On August 7, Thailand will hold an up or down national referendum on a proposed new constitution. Drafting new charters are hardly unusual in the kingdom, which has had twenty constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. (One famous Thai joke told to me by many friends involves a Thai student visiting a library to read a copy of the current constitution, only to be told to check in the periodicals section.) This charter has been drafted by a group of pro-military/royalist former officials, and stage managed by the junta, which took power in May 2014 after months of destabilizing street protests against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government. Read more »

Q&A on Cambodia with Sophal Ear

by Joshua Kurlantzick
hun-sen-cambodia A Cambodian Muslim supporter takes a selfie with President of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen (C), after a ceremony at the party headquarters to mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the party in Phnom Penh on June 28, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Last week, I spoke via email with Sophal Ear, Associate Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs at Occidental College, and author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, about the current crisis in Cambodian politics. After a brief truce following elections in 2013, in which the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) shocked the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) by nearly winning control of the National Assembly, any semblance of détente has broken down. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Loretta-1MDB U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington, July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Justice Department announces action against 1MDB. The ongoing scandal surrounding Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB took a dramatic turn this week when the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to seize $1 billion in assets as part of an investigation into money laundering and funds improperly taken from 1MDB. While the fund was intended to boost Malaysia’s development, some of the money appears to have instead gone toward enriching Prime Minister Najib Razak, his stepson, and other associates. Read more »

The Impact of the U.S. Justice Department 1MDB Announcement on Malaysian Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington on July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters) U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington on July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

I could write a six hundred word blog before getting to the point here, but I will get right to it: The 1MDB asset seizure is likely to have minimal impact on Malaysian domestic politics. To recap … the U.S. Justice Department this morning announced it was filing “civil-forfeiture complaints against more than $1 billion of assets allegedly acquired using funds misappropriated from a Malaysian economic development fund,” known as 1MDB, according to the Wall Street Journal, which has extensively covered the 1MDB saga. Read more »