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"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Afghan-protests - 11-13-15 Men carry one of the coffins for the seven people who were killed by unknown militants, during a protest procession in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 10, 2015. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Afghans protest beheadings. Thousands of protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday following the beheading of seven Afghans in the southern state of Zabul. The individuals were taken hostage in the central city of Ghazni and relocated as many as fifty-six times before being killed with razor wire. An affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan is believed to have conducted the beheadings, although it has not yet taken responsibility. 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 »

Is a Genocide Taking Place in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rohingya-idp-camp Rohingya people pass their time in a damaged shelter in Rohingya IDP camp outside Sittwe, Rakhine state on August 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Since 2011, when Myanmar’s political reforms began, launching a stuttering process of democratization, attacks on Muslim Rohingya in western Myanmar have become common. The violence often has been abetted by paramilitary groups, hard-line Buddhist monks, and Buddhist civilian groups affiliated with the hard-line monks. Since the violence worsened in 2012, neither the government nor the leaders of the National League for Democracy have taken any effective steps to stop anti-Rohingya discrimination, provide suitable accommodations for Rohingya who have left their homes, help Rohingya who were stripped of their Myanmar citizenship regain it, or halt the activities of paramilitary organizations. Read more »

China’s Role in Myanmar’s Dangerous Jade Trade

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Jade-trade-11-2-15 A man checks the quality of a jade stone found in the mine dump piled by major mining companies at a jade mine in Hpakant township in Myanmar's Kachin State, January 10, 2010. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In late October, Global Witness released an important report that systematically explored Myanmar’s jade industry, calling it the “biggest natural resource heist in modern history.” The mining and trade of the gem have been catalogued by journalists, photographers, and authors in the past, but most accounts only mention China’s economic role in driving demand for jade. Read more »

Will Irregularities and Fraud Spoil Myanmar’s Election?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-election-NLD-rally Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech to supporters during her campaign rally for the upcoming general election in her constituency Kawhmu township, Yangon division on October 24, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

On November 8, Myanmar will hold its first free national elections in twenty-five years. If the vote goes smoothly and the results are respected by all actors in the country, Myanmar could have its first democratically elected government since the early 1960s. Yet despite the excitement building over the election, and the vibrant campaigning going on across the country (itself a sign of the freedoms unleashed in Myanmar), the past few weeks have caused some Myanmar politicians and international observers to worry that this election will be fraudulent, and that a large proportion of voters will be denied the chance to call ballots. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 16, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Ma-Ba-Tha-rally - 10-16-15 Leaders of radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha arrive during a celebration of the recent establishment of four controversial bills decried by rights groups as aimed at discriminating against the country's Muslim minority, at a rally in a stadium at Yangon, October 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Hard-line Buddhist monks sway politics in Myanmar. One of the most influential groups in Myanmar’s upcoming election may not be a political party, but a nationalist Buddhist group called the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion. The group, better known by the acronym Ma Ba Tha, does not officially back any party. However, the controversial monk and Ma Ba Tha member Ashin Wirathu, who was imprisoned for stoking anti-Muslim attacks in 2003, has expressed support for the Union Solidarity and Development Party rather than Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Read more »

China’s Charm Offensive Continues to Sputter in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-protests Riot police protect the entrance to Chinatown from "Red Shirt" demonstrators during a rally to celebrate Malaysia Day and to counter a massive protest held over two days last month that called for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a graft scandal, in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

After a decade, in the 2000s, in which China aggressively pursued warmer relations with many Southeast Asian nations, using a combination of diplomacy, aid, and soft power to woo its neighbors, the past five years have seen a significant chill in China-Southeast Asia relations. First, Beijing’s more aggressive pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea led to heightened tensions between China and other claimants—most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, but also increasingly Indonesia, where the armed forces are trying to rapidly modernize Jakarta’s naval capacity in part out of fear of China’s actions in the South China Sea. Read more »

Myanmar’s Cease-Fire Deal Comes up Short

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-General Min Aung Hlaing Myanmar's army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing addresses reporters during a news conference at the Defence Ministry in Naypyitaw on September 21, 2015. (Hla Hla Htay/Reuters)

This past weekend, the Myanmar government announced that it will sign a permanent cease-fire deal with seven or eight of the ethnic armed insurgencies in the country. This will be a permanent peace deal, not a temporary cease-fire like some of those arranged between the insurgencies and the government in the past. As such, it could provide a measure of stability before the upcoming national elections, and it includes some of the longest-fighting insurgent groups, like the Karen National Union. Read more »