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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"

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 »

The Implications of Thura Shwe Mann’s Removal

by Joshua Kurlantzick
shwe-mann-parliament Shwe Mann, speaker of Union Parliament, attends a parliament meeting at Union Parliament in Naypyitaw on August 18, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) party leader Thura Shwe Mann, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, was abruptly removed as party chief, only months before Myanmar’s much-awaited national elections. The USDP is the party of President Thein Sein and is currently in control of government, although it is expected to suffer massive losses in the November election, provided the polls are held freely and fairly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 14, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters) Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson,  Lauren Dickey, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China’s central bank allows currency to devalue. The renminbi (RMB) declined by more than 4 percent this week as the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the currency’s daily benchmark lower for several days in a row. The drop may help strengthen the domestic economy, which has faltered in recent months; the PBOC’s willingness to allow the currency’s market rate to drop may suggest that the Chinese economy is doing even worse than some indicators suggest, which could spell trouble for countries that rely on China’s commodity imports. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 24, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese nationals, believed to be involved in illegal logging, arrive at a court in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State in the north of Myanmar, July 22, 2015. China has lodged a diplomatic protest with Myanmar after a court in the southeast Asian nation sentenced 153 Chinese nationals to life imprisonment for illegal logging. The Myitkyina court handed down sentences to 155 Chinese citizens on Wednesday. Two of those convicted escaped life sentences and got 10-year prison terms. All will have a chance to appeal against the rulings, said a court official, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media. Picture taken July 22, 2015. (Stringer/REUTERS) Chinese nationals, believed to be involved in illegal logging, arrive at a court in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State in the north of Myanmar, July 22, 2015. (Stringer/Reuters)

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

1. Former Hu Jintao aide arrested on corruption charges. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo announced on Monday that Ling Jihua, a former high-ranking official in the Hu administration, had been expelled from the party and placed under arrest. He awaits trial on charges of giving and receiving bribes, illegally obtaining state secrets, and violating party discipline rules. State media also noted that Ling “traded power for sex” and “should bear major responsibility for his family members” using his position to personally profit—although that hasn’t spared his relatives from also coming under investigation. Read more »

What to Expect From Myanmar’s Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-elections Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for her door-to-door visits for voter education campaign at Warheinkha village in her constituency town Khawhmu, outside Yangon on July 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Myanmar announced that its much-anticipated elections, the first free national election in twenty-five years, would be held on November 8 of this year. With the election’s date finally set, after months of rumors, the country’s political parties—and there are more than eighty of them that may run in the election—can begin campaigning in earnest. Read more »