CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Burma/Myanmar"

Further Signs of Southeast Asia’s Political Regression

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha looks on before a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 26, 2016. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Three new annual reports, from the U.S. State Department, Freedom House, and Reporters without Borders, add further evidence to worries that much of Southeast Asia is experiencing an authoritarian revival. Released this week, Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report (for which I served as a consultant for several Southeast Asia chapters) reveals that in nearly all the ten ASEAN nations, press freedom regressed significantly last year. Freedom House’s findings are similar those of Reporters Without Borders annual Press Freedom Index, which was released earlier this month. Read more »

Troubling Early Signs in Myanmar’s New Government

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-htin-kyaw Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw (L) and National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

The expectations for Myanmar’s new, National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government are almost impossibly high. After five decades under military or quasi-military rule, many Myanmar citizens expect the NLD government to make a decisive break with the country’s authoritarian past, while also promoting greater equality—and reforming the economy enough to foster stable growth that benefits more than just Myanmar’s elites. Read more »

Assessing Myanmar’s New Cabinet

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-nld-cabinet National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the parliament building after a meeting with members of her party in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on March 28, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Myanmar announced the first Cabinet proposed by its NLD-dominated government. Although a handful of important ministries, like defense, were reserved for the armed forces, the NLD took most of the other important posts. In fact, Suu Kyi herself decided to take four ministerial posts, including the foreign ministry. Read more »

Myanmar’s Transition and the U.S. Role

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-democratic transition Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (L), Myanmar's commander-in-chief, shakes hands with National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi before their meeting in Hlaing's office at Naypyitaw on December 2, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last November, Myanmar held its first truly free national elections in twenty-five years. In the months leading up to the vote, members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), foreign diplomats, and many Myanmar voters worried that, no matter who actually received the most votes, the results would somehow be invalidated. After all, Myanmar’s military had ruled the country since 1962, when it first took power in a coup, and had only given way, in the early 2010s, to a civilian government that was led by a former top general, President Thein Sein. Read more »

Who is Htin Kyaw, Myanmar’s Presumptive President?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Htin Kyaw-myanmar Htin Kyaw (C), the National League for Democracy (NLD) nominated presidential candidate for the lower house of parliament, arrives at Parliament in Naypyitaw on February 1, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Htin Kyaw, who is almost surely going to be the new president of Myanmar, was so unknown to the international media that when he was nominated last week for president by the National League for Democracy (NLD), stories about him were riddled with mistakes. Some news reports suggested that he had attended Oxford University (his father actually attended Oxford, while Htin Kyaw studied at the defunct University of London Institute of Computer Science), while other reports suggested he had been Suu Kyi’s chauffeur, a rumor strenuously denied by NLD spokespeople. Read more »

Is Myanmar the Model for Cuba’s Reforms?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Obama-Myanmar U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a YSEALI (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative) Town Hall at Yangon University in Yangon on November 14, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Over the past six months, the Obama White House has rapidly bolstered diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba. Last month, Washington and Havana signed a deal restoring commercial flights between the two countries for first time in over fifty years; the deal, one of many agreements recently reached, came at the same time as Washington allowed a U.S. factory to set up in Cuba. The outreach to the island is an attempt, according to deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, to ensure that the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement is nearly irreversible by the time that Obama leaves office. Read more »

Democratic Regression in Southeast Asia and the Islamic State

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic state-trial An Indonesian policemen stands guard during the trial of Ahmad Junaedi, who is accused of supporting Islamic State, at West Jakarta court in Jakarta, on February 9, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Part 3

Southeast Asia’s decade of democratic regression, which I examined in the previous blog post, reflects a worrying global retrenchment. Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report, which measures the spread or retrenchment of freedom globally, has reported ten straight years of declining global political freedom. In Freedom House’s 2016 edition of Freedom in the World, more than seventy countries registered declines in political freedom as compared to the prior year. Read more »

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 »

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)

Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here Read more »