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Showing posts for "Burma/Myanmar"

What Does the Future Hold for the Rohingya?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rohingya-camp A boy walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar on May 3, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Of all the ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in the world, wrote the Economist last year, the Rohingya may well be the most persecuted people on the planet. Today nearly two million Rohingya live in western Myanmar and in Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar they have no formal status, and they face the constant threat of violence from paramilitary groups egged on by nationalist Buddhist monks while security forces look the other way. Since 2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burnt entire Rohingya neighborhoods, butchering the populace with knives, sticks, and machetes. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 3, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A man points to water and soil which turned red after being contaminated by industrial waste from a closed dye factory, amid heavy rainfall at a mountain in Ruyang county, Henan province September 15, 2014. According to the local government, the dye factory was operating without proper licenses and was shut down by the authority last year after an explosion which caused dye leakage and polluted the underground water. Picture taken September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer A man points to water and soil which turned red after being contaminated by industrial waste from a closed dye factory, amid heavy rainfall at a mountain in Ruyang county, Henan province on September 15, 2014. According to the local government, the dye factory was operating without proper licenses and was shut down by the authority last year after an explosion which caused dye leakage and polluted the underground water. The Chinese government released a new action plan to address soil pollution this week (Stringer/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. China releases ambitious plan to clean up polluted soil. In 2014, the Chinese government disclosed that approximately 20 percent of its arable land was contaminated, primarily with heavy metals and agricultural chemicals from industry and farming. This Tuesday, the central government released a long-awaited action plan as a first major step to control and remedy the widespread problem, known as the last of the “three big campaigns” in Chinese environmental protection along with air and water pollution. The plan aims to stabilize and improve soil quality so that 90 percent of contaminated sites are safe for use by 2020, and 95 percent by 2030. Read more »

China’s Surprising New Refugee Debate

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders waiting to cross into Jordan, walk at a camp, after a group of them crossed into Jordanian territory, near the town of Ruwaished, at the Hadalat area, east of the capital Amman, May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed Syrian refugees walk at a camp as they wait to cross into Jordan on May 4, 2016. In a new survey from Amnesty International, Chinese respondents were the most willing to personally host refugees, suggesting that perhaps China could resettle more Syrian refugees. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

China ranks first in many things – population, greenhouse gas emissions, foreign treasury holdings – but openness toward refugees is one arena in which it has not traditionally been considered a leader. It therefore came as surprise when China ranked first in Amnesty International’s recently released “Refugees Welcome Index,” a survey that polled over 27,000 people in twenty-seven nations on their attitudes toward refugees. This put it ahead of nations such as Germany and Canada that have already taken in thousands of Syrian refugees. Read more »

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 »