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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"

Myanmar’s Religious and Ethnic Tensions Begin to Spread Across the Region

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Muslim woman cries in a monastery used to shelter internally displaced people after a riot between Muslims and Buddhists in Lashio township on May 30, 2013. A Muslim woman cries in a monastery used to shelter internally displaced people after a riot between Muslims and Buddhists in Lashio township on May 30, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

For decades, during the rule of the military junta, Myanmar’s numerous internal problems spilled over its borders, sewing chaos along the frontiers with India,Thailand,China, and Bangladesh. Myanmar’s narcotics producers flooded Thailand and other countries with methamphetamines and heroin, Myanmar’s numerous civil wars sent hundreds of thousands of refugees spilling into Thailand and Bangladesh and created a profitable cross-border illegal arms trade in India, and Myanmar’s combination of rape as a weapon of war and massive migration created some of the most virulent strains of HIV/AIDS in Asia, which then spread into China and Thailand. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 31, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Meat products of Shuanghui (Shineway) Group are seen on display on a shelf at a supermarket in Wuhan, Hubei province on May 31, 2013. Meat products of Shuanghui (Shineway) Group are seen on display on a shelf at a supermarket in Wuhan, Hubei province on May 31, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Chinese buy into America’s pork market. Chinese meat giant Shuanghui Group announced that it plans to acquire Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, for $4.7 billion. Both companies would benefit from the deal: Shuanghui would gain a steady and safe supply of pork while Smithfield would gain entry into the expansive Chinese market. If approved—the deal still needs to face the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) process, which assesses national security risks—it would be the largest Chinese acquisition of an American company to date. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 24, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on May 20, 2013. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on May 20, 2013. (Adnan Adibi/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Li wraps up first foreign trip to India and Pakistan. Li Keqiang finished his first foreign trip as Chinese premier, where he visited India and Pakistan. The trip came only weeks after tensions had mounted between China and India over a Chinese military incursion into an Indian-controlled disputed border region in the Himalayas. Li was eager to focus on economic talks, but the governments continue to be wary of each other. Read more »

Thein Sein’s Visit to Washington

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Myanmar's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on May 20, 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Myanmar's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on May 20, 2013. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

On Monday, May 20, Thein Sein visited the White House, the first president of Myanmar to receive the honor in nearly fifty years. In his historic meeting, President Obama lavishly praised Thein Sein’s leadership “in moving Myanmar down a path of both political and economic reform,” before discussing joint projects that U.S. assistance will focus on in Myanmar, such as improving agriculture. Pleased, Thein Sein replied, “ I will take this opportunity to reiterate that Myanmar and I will continue to … move forward so that we will have—we can build a new democratic state—a new Myanmar…” Read more »

Apartheid in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends the opening ceremony of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok on April 29, 2013. Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends the opening ceremony of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok on April 29, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

Next week, Myanmar President Thein Sein will arrive in Washington, DC, for a historic visit and meeting with President Obama. It will be the first visit by a Myanmar president to the United States in nearly fifty years. Only three years earlier, nearly every top Myanmar leader had been barred from entering the United States (and most other leading democracies) due to sanctions on the country’s military-ruled government and on nearly all exports to and imports from the country. U.S. congresspeople regularly castigated Myanmar as one of the most tyrannical societies on earth, and when former president George W. Bush found himself in a room in the mid-2000s, at an Asian summit, with Myanmar’s then-leader, he essentially refused to even acknowledge the other man’s presence. Read more »

Myanmar’s President Gets Peace Award While the Country Burns

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's President Thein Sein talks during a meeting with representatives from civil societies at the Yangon Region Parliament Building in Yangon on January 20, 2013. Myanmar's President Thein Sein talks during a meeting with representatives from civil societies at the Yangon Region Parliament Building in Yangon on January 20, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

On April 22, at a packed, black-tie ceremony in New York City, the Myanmar president, represented by minister Aung Min, accepted an award from the respected global NGO International Crisis Group for the “pursuit of peace.” The award, given annually by the group, is meant to honor someone who promotes change and reform, and helps end violent conflicts, like the ones that have ranged along Myanmar’s borderlands for decades. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 26, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A woman sits with her head down next to a damaged house after Saturday's earthquake hit Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, on April 22, 2013. A woman sits with her head down next to a damaged house after Saturday's earthquake hit Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, on April 22, 2013. (Darley Shen/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Earthquake kills scores, injures thousands in China. A massive earthquake in Ya’an, Sichuan, on Saturday left at least 193 dead, 25 missing, and 12,300 injured. Beijing poured one billion RMB into earthquake relief, but hundreds of victims still protested, claiming they had no shelter or food. Though devastating, the earthquake pales in comparison to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed 70,000. Read more »

Human Rights Watch’s Devastating Myanmar Report

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. (Reuters Staff/Courtesy Reuters)

This week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a detailed, and devastating, report on abuses against Muslim Rohingyas in western Myanmar’s Rakhine (also known as Arakan) State. The report claims that the most heinous of all crimes—crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing—were committed against Rohingya last year. It conclusively shows that, contrary to the Myanmar government’s claims that the violence against Rohingya last year erupted spontaneously, monks and local political parties had been agitating for ethnic cleansing against Rohingya well in advance of last year’s violence, in some cases with local government complicity. Read more »

U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report: 2012 Not as Rosy as It Seemed

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a policy speech in Tokyo, Japan, on April 15, 2013. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a policy speech in Tokyo, Japan, on April 15, 2013. (Paul J. Richards/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past three years, the Arab uprisings have created the idea that the climate, internationally, for democracy and human rights has been improving. As I write in my new book Democracy in Retreat, the Arab uprisings have been essentially canceled out by regression, over the past ten years, in parts of South and Southeast Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe, and Africa. Many other reports have come to similar conclusions, including Freedom House’s annual report and the new Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) study of global democracy, released earlier this month. Read more »

More on Myanmar Unrest

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People carry weapons during riots in Meiktila on March 22, 2013. People carry weapons during riots in Meiktila on March 22, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

On the CFR site, I have an expert brief up on the surge in ethnic and religious unrest in Myanmar. You can read the expert brief here.

The anger seems to be building, despite some efforts by the government, Muslim leaders, and Buddhist leaders to cool tensions. (Aung San Suu Kyi, who had said virtually nothing about the violence for two weeks, did finally step forward and say that Myanmar needs to promote a stronger rule of law to prevent future violent outbreaks, a somewhat mealy-mouthed response.) One of the leading militant monks—a phrase that just sounds bizarre—this week gave an interview to the Irrawaddy in which he was essentially unrepentant about the attacks on Muslims. Read more »