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What Should the NLD’s Priorities Be in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-elections-2 National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for Myanmar's first parliament meeting after November 8's general elections, at the Lower House of Parliament in Naypyitaw on November 16, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Having won a decisive victory in last week’s national elections, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which will have an absolute majority in the next parliament, now will have to set its priorities for the next few months. The next months could be an extremely turbulent time in Myanmar, as the party proposes a compromise choice for president, the current USDP ruling party comes to terms with its massive loss, the military tries to ensure that it remains the most powerful force in the country, and the NLD negotiates with various ethnic minority leaders to ensure the next government is broadly representative of Myanmar’s people. Read more »

Opposition Landslide in Myanmar Won’t Push the Army Out of Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-2 Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi celebrate as partial results are shown on a television the outside National League for Democracy (NLD) party headquarters in Yangon on November 8, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

This past Sunday, Myanmar men and women voted in their first true national elections in twenty-five years. On Election Day, the mood in many towns and cities was exuberant. The 1990 elections, the last national elections, were essentially annulled by the armed forces, which continued to govern until launching a transition to civilian rule in 2011. Unlike in 1990, this time many Myanmar people believed that the election would be upheld, leading to the country’s first democratically elected government in five decades. Read more »

What to Expect After Myanmar’s Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-1 Supporters of Myanmar's pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, on November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

On November 8, Myanmar held general elections, a milestone in the promised process of democratization and political reform. Early results indicate a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party led by former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Read more »

What Will Happen in Rakhine State after Myanmar’s Election?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-Rakhine Supporters react as Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech during her campaign rally for the upcoming general elections in Toungup, Rakhine state, on October 16, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Myanmar’s election last Sunday has been hailed, by the world, as a major step forward for the country’s young democracy. The excitement on the ground in Myanmar in the days leading up to the election, and on Election Day, was intense—Myanmar residents reported a kind of giddy feeling in many cities and towns, as people thrilled to the idea of voting in a real national election for the first time in twenty-five years. On the campaign trail, Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders drew enormous and often jubilant crowds, similar to the situation before the 1990 national elections. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 12, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, stands between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015. According to CCTV, Zhou was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday, deprived of his political rights for life and his personal assets confiscated, for accepting bribes, abusing power and deliberately disclosing state secrets, the Tianjin Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled in its first instance. Zhou pleaded guilty and will not appeal. REUTERS/China Central Television via REUTERS TV Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, stands between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015 (CCTV/Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China’s ex-domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang to serve life sentence. The former Politburo Standing Committee member was convicted of abuse of power, accepting bribes, and revealing state secrets and sentenced to life in prison Thursday, just shy of a year after his arrest. While officials initially suggested Zhou’s trial would be open and transparent, it wasn’t, with Xinhua adopting the amusing terminology “non-public open trial” (in Chinese) to describe the proceedings. Zhou is the most senior Chinese official to be convicted of graft in PRC history, but this isn’t likely to be the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign (tigers beware!). Read more »

Small Steps Forward on the Rohingya Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-myanmar-aung san suu kyi An Indonesian student holds a poster of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest against what they say is the killing of Muslims in Myanmar, as police stand guard in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 29, 2015. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

For more than three years, as Rohingya in western Myanmar have faced violent attacks, seizure of their homes, and a growing climate of intolerance in public discourse, leaders across the Myanmar political spectrum have either remained silent or actually encouraged discrimination. The Myanmar government surely deserves much of the blame for this environment. Thein Sein’s government participated in last month’s regional crisis meeting in Bangkok on migration only reluctantly, and only after the scope of the meeting was publicly changed so that it addressed migration generally and not the Rohingya. 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 »

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 »

Doctors without Borders Kicked out of Rakhine State; Hatred Rising

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A nurse walks past as a child sitting at Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland's clinic in Yangon on March 3, 2014. (Minzayar Minzayar/Courtesy Reuters) A nurse walks past as a child sitting at Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland's clinic in Yangon on March 3, 2014. (Minzayar Minzayar/Courtesy Reuters)

News this past weekend that the Myanmar government appears to have kicked Doctors without Borders/Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) out of Arakan/Rakhine State is just another disturbing piece of news suggesting that inter-religious hatred in the country is rising, and the Myanmar government continues to deny this powder keg is close to exploding. Doctors without Borders had been working across Arakan/Rakhine State,  where it has treated thousands of people. The organization has been working in Myanmar for two decades and, in addition to its work in Arakan/Rakhine State, where over 100,000 people have become refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the past three years, Doctors without Borders also has been a central part of Myanmar’s anti-HIV strategy and treatment for years. Read more »

Suu Kyi Faces Growing Criticism

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she leads a news conference at the foreign ministry in Rome on October 28, 2013. (Max Rossi/Courtesy Reuters) Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she leads a news conference at the foreign ministry in Rome on October 28, 2013. (Max Rossi/Courtesy Reuters)

Just a short blog item to think about over your holiday season; Asia Unbound will be back in force in the new year.

Over the past two years, as Buddhist-Muslim violence in Myanmar has spread from western Arakan/Rakhine State to other areas across the country, few leading Burman Buddhist politicians have been willing to criticize the Buddhist paramilitary groups responsible for starting most of the violence. President Thein Sein, to his credit, has on occasion condemned the violence, though his government has done little to address the root causes of the unrest. But Aung San Suu Kyi has, over the past two years, been even more reticent to comment on the unrest than Thein Sein or other top government officials. Read more »