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Showing posts for "Burma/Myanmar"

Myanmar’s Rights Record Deteriorates in 2014

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-rohingya-protests Buddhist monks and other people take part in a protest to demand the revocation of the right of holders of temporary identification cards, known as white cards, to vote, in Yangon on February 11, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

This week, Amnesty International released its assessment of Myanmar’s 2014 human rights record. Although Myanmar’s bumpy road to reform had been well-documented, the report is even more negative than I had expected. Program toward improvement in political and civil rights in Myanmar “stalled” and went into reverse in 2014, Amnesty reported in the Myanmar chapter of its annual global assessment of freedom. Read more »

Is Myanmar’s Peace Process Unraveling?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-kochin-region-clash An MI-35M military helicopter flies over a Christian church in Lashio on February 19, 2015. Fighting broke out on February 9 between the army and a rebel force in the Kokang region of northeast Myanmar, on the border with China, called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy:Reuters)

Over the last three weeks, fighting has broken out in Myanmar’s northeast between the military and several ethnic minority militias, including the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and, allegedly, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA is one of the most powerful insurgent groups in Myanmar. At least 30,000 civilians have fled across the border into China, and the fighting has killed at least 130 people. The Myanmar military has attacked rebel groups with air strikes, and the fighting shows no sign of letting up. 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 »

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 »

New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia (Part 2)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
petronas Motorists queue to fill up on natural gas at a Petronas station, with the company's headquarters at the landmark Petronas Twin Towers visible in the background, in Kuala Lumpur in this file photo from July 30, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy: Reuters).

Following up from last week, I am now counting down my top five predictions for 2015. Read more »

New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the National League for Democracy Party's central committee meeting at a restaurant in Yangon on December 13, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

It’s that time of year again. Since I will be away between Christmas and the end of the year, this is the week for boldly making predictions about 2015 in Southeast Asia. At the end of 2015, just like this year, we can look back and see how many of my fearless predictions were right, and how many missed the mark. Read more »

How the Pivot Is Adding to Democracy’s Woes in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-may-protest-3 A protester against military rule holds a sign in front of soldiers deployed to the Victory monument in Bangkok where protesters gathered on May 26, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Throughout much of the 1990s and early 2000s, Southeast Asia was one of the world’s bright spots for democracy. Even Myanmar, long one of the most repressive nations in the world, seemed to be changing. In 2010 and 2011, the xenophobic leadership of the Myanmar army, which had ruled the country since 1962, began a transition to civilian government by holding elections that ultimately helped create a partially civilian parliament. The country seemed poised for free elections in 2015 that would solidify its democratic change. Since the early 2010s, however, Southeast Asia’s democratization has stalled and, in some of the region’s most economically and strategically important nations, it has even reversed. Over the past decade, Thailand has undergone a rapid and severe democratic regression and Malaysia’s democratic institutions and culture have regressed as well. While less drastic, there have also been troubling developments in a number of other countries. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China?s President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra November 17, 2014. China and Australia on Monday signed a declaration of intent on a landmark free trade deal more than a decade in the making, opening up markets worth billions to Australia and loosening restrictions on Chinese investment. Xi is on a three-day official visit to Australia following the G20 leaders summit which was held in Brisbane over the weekend. REUTERS/David Gray (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) China's President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra on November 17, 2014. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Japan slips into recession, dissolves lower house. New economic data released Monday morning showed that Japan had lapsed into recession, striking yet another serious blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vaunted economic recovery policy and leading some to ask if this is the end of Abenomics. In a bid to win popular mandate for his economic policies, Abe announced he would delay a planned increase to the national sales tax and dissolve the lower house of Japan’s parliament. On Friday afternoon, lawmakers in the house of representatives chanted “Banzai!” as they disbanded. Snap elections are expected to take place in mid-December, and while Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party may lose a number of seats, they are overwhelmingly expected to maintain their majority and could potentially increase their power. Read more »

Obama’s Visit to Myanmar: A Mixed Result

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

During President Obama’s visit to Myanmar last week, for the East Asia Summit, the president said some of the right things about Myanmar’s faltering political reform process. He noted the ongoing discrimination – some would say outright ethnic cleansing – against Rohingya in western Myanmar, as well as the precarious rule of law in much of the country. He expressed concern about the challenges of Myanmar’s elections next year, which will be held under a constitution designed to bar Aung San Suu Kyi from taking the presidency and which still reserves enormous powers for the military. The constitution, as it stands, will pose a danger to any future Myanmar civilian government, even if Suu Kyi’s party, as expected, wins control of Parliament next year. And much of the press coverage of the Myanmar visit focused on the president’s remarks about Myanmar’s political challenges. Indeed, Obama’s aides clearly briefed reporters covering the trip to emphasize that the visit was focused on pressuring the Myanmar leadership to reform, since several news articles picked up this theme. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing on November 10, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Obama and Xi strike deals at APEC summit. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum proved remarkably productive for U.S.-China relations this week. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced commitments to cut carbon emissions, and agreed to a reduction in tariffs on a range of technology products, to greater communication between their militaries in the Pacific, and to extend the duration of visas. Though these agreements are certainly a welcome change from years of stagnating relations, underlying issues still remain. China and the United States have fundamentally different visions of Asia’s security and trade architecture that are not easily reconciled. Read more »