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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 "Burma/Myanmar"

Chemical Weapons in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Reporters hold banners as they march for press freedom in Yangon on January 7, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) Reporters hold banners as they march for press freedom in Yangon on January 7, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

This past week, the Myanmar government detained—and may be arresting—six Burmese journalists who reported that the country may have had a chemical weapons factory under the former military dictatorship. The local journal produced the following report, according to the Irrawaddy: Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 17, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Explosions hit protestors in Bangkok. Two explosions hit anti-government protestors in Bangkok, Thailand on January 17, wounding more than two dozen people. Some reports claim the explosion was the result of an explosive device, such as a grenade. Since Monday, protestors have taken to the streets in opposition to the nation’s political system, which they demand be overhauled along with the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they accuse of corruption. The protests, which have gathered around seven main intersection in Bangkok, started with 170,000 protestors on Monday and dropped to 60,000 people on Tuesday. By Friday, only 12,000 protesters were still on the streets. Though generally peaceful, the protest has been marred by small incidences of violence between the protesters and police during this week’s demonstration. 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 »

Myanmar’s SEA Games Success a Positive Omen

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People take photos as fireworks are released during the opening ceremony of the 27th SEA Games in Naypyitaw December 11, 2013. Myanmar is hosting the games for the first time in over 40 years. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) People take photos as fireworks are released during the opening ceremony of the 27th SEA Games in Naypyitaw December 11, 2013. Myanmar is hosting the games for the first time in over 40 years. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Since December 11, the Southeast Asian Games, a kind of Olympics for Southeast Asia, have been taking place in Myanmar. They go on until December 22, and there have been the kinds of minor hiccups one expects at any international sporting event—the Philippines is protesting a decision to strip one Filipina swimmer of her gold medal—but these are hardly different than the challenges that emerge regularly at the Olympics. Remember Roy Jones Jr. sitting on his chair in the boxing ring in Seoul in 1988, stunned at a clearly partisan judging decision  in the gold medal match that went against him? Other participants in the SEA Games have claimed that Myanmar, which as the host country has considerable sway over what events are included, decided to include an enormous number of obscure sports in order to boost its medal tallies and those of its closest allies, while excluding normal Olympic sports like gymnastics. Read more »

Myanmar on the Edge

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Muslim man searches for his belongings left behind of his burnt home at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A Muslim man searches for his belongings left behind of his burnt home at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two weeks, Myanmar authorities reportedly have arrested several men from Arakan/Rakhine State, claiming that they were planning to bomb mosques across the country. The reported plot, which comes on the heels of other bombings in October, highlights a serious problem.  Myanmar now faces growing insecurity and rising disappointment among citizens that reform has not brought higher standards of living. Interethnic and interreligious unrest now threaten to halt reforms altogether, depress much-needed investment, and even lead to broader regional tensions. Read more »

New Attempted Bombings in Myanmar Could Be Prelude to New Disaster

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Disillusionment in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's Police Chief Zaw Win speaks at a news conference about the recent bomb blasts around the country, at the Yangon Division government office in Yangon on October 18, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) Myanmar's Police Chief Zaw Win speaks at a news conference about the recent bomb blasts around the country, at the Yangon Division government office in Yangon on October 18, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Bombings in Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A policeman stands inside the intensive care unit (ICU) room where a American woman injured during the Traders Hotel bomb blast is receiving treatment at Yangon General Hospital in Yangon on October 15, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters) A policeman stands inside the intensive care unit (ICU) room where a American woman injured during the Traders Hotel bomb blast is receiving treatment at Yangon General Hospital in Yangon on October 15, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past week, a string of unexplained bombings across Myanmar has received considerable media attention, featured prominently in the New York Times, the Guardian, and many Western news wires. In part, this coverage came because one of the devices apparently exploded at the Traders Hotel, a high-end business hotel in the center of Yangon where many Westerners (including myself) often stay, since even during the years of military rule, the Traders always had reliable electricity and comforts. One American apparently was injured in the Traders bombing, and there were bomb blasts, which appeared to be from crude homemade bombs, at many other sites around Yangon. There also this week were several similar explosions in Mandalay. Today, more bombs exploded in northeastern Myanmar, killing at least one person, according to Global Post. Read more »

United States Makes Right Decision to go Slow on Military Cooperation with Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Muslim girl watches from the doorway of her home as soldiers walk by in Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. Security forces raced to contain deadly violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, police said, after mobs torched Muslim homes and Buddhist villagers were attacked in a region plagued by intractable sectarian tensions. (Thandwe/Courtesy Reuters) A Muslim girl watches from the doorway of her home as soldiers walk by in Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. Security forces raced to contain deadly violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, police said, after mobs torched Muslim homes and Buddhist villagers were attacked in a region plagued by intractable sectarian tensions. (Thandwe/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, the Obama administration announced that, despite the rapid warming of ties between the United States and Myanmar, the former military dictatorship would not get any American military assistance in the fiscal year 2014. (Of course, as it stands now, there will be no U.S. budget in the fiscal year 2014!) As the Irrawaddy reports, the administration has taken this step because the Myanmar military allegedly still uses child soldiers, which makes it ineligible for U.S. military aid.

There are many advocates within the Obama administration for moving faster on military-military ties with Myanmar, and indeed several other democracies, like former colonial power Britain, are moving faster than the United States on military-military ties. Yet the use of child soldiers is hardly the only reason why this decision to hold off on military aid is warranted. As an excellent recent Associated Press report notes, one of the major arguments for closer military- military ties does not hold up to scrutiny. Advocates of quickly boosting military-military ties argue that the interaction will help inculcate in the Myanmar military a culture of respect for rights and for the rule of law. This can be accomplished, so the theory goes, by sponsoring leading Myanmar officers to attend training through the U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Yet the AP report notes:

Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 4, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L), Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C), Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd R), and Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera pose for photos during their meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on October 3, 2013. (Koji Sasahara/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L), Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C), Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd R), and Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera pose for photos during their meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on October 3, 2013. (Koji Sasahara/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Obama cancels Asia trip. U.S. President Barack Obama canceled a four-country tour of Asia, including Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines, in which he would have attended meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Indonesia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Brunei. The travel was canceled because of the U.S. government shutdown. Analysts say that canceling the Asia trip, after Obama had previously committed to attending these summits every year, could deal a blow to the administration’s pivot to Asia. Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the U.S. delegation instead. Read more »