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Showing posts for "Cambodia"

Myanmar Facing Massive Inflation Before Economy Really Gets Going

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Toe Aung, deputy head of urban planning, poses for a photo at the Yangon City hall, with the lit Sule Pagoda seen behind him, in Yangon, on September 5, 2013. Toe Aung, a former army major, bears one of the biggest responsibilities in reform-era Myanmar: planning Yangon's unstoppable transformation from a regional backwater into Southeast Asia's next megacity. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) Toe Aung, deputy head of urban planning, poses for a photo at the Yangon City hall, with the lit Sule Pagoda seen behind him, in Yangon, on September 5, 2013. Toe Aung, a former army major, bears one of the biggest responsibilities in reform-era Myanmar: planning Yangon's unstoppable transformation from a regional backwater into Southeast Asia's next megacity. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

A short piece by Agence France-Presse (AFP) run in the Straits Times yesterday, buried amidst the big international stories on Syria and the stand-off in the Philippines and others, caught my attention. The short piece, titled “Poor and Homeless in Costly Yangon” discussed how, because of Myanmar’s political and economic opening, and the lack of quality office and apartment and factory space in Yangon, rents for any decent property have soared through the roof. AFP estimates that land prices in Yangon have risen since 2010, the beginning of Myanmar’s opening, to as much as $700 per square foot now, far more than the price per square foot in Bangkok, which is vastly richer and has twenty-four hour electricity water, and all other modern conveniences. Other articles have suggested that some properties in central Yangon are renting for more than $1000 per square foot, more than rentals in Manhattan. Read more »

Cambodian Opposition Growing Into Powerful Force

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Buddhist monk records the speech of one of the leaders of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) during a rally in Phnom Penh on September 7, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) A Buddhist monk records the speech of one of the leaders of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) during a rally in Phnom Penh on September 7, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Cambodia’s opposition coalition, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), held a large rally in Phnom Penh to protest the national election commission’s ratifying of the results of this summer’s election. The national election commission—which is controlled by the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)—essentially said that all the results of the summer national election were valid, that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP had won 68 seats in Parliament, enough to form a government, as compared to 55 for the CNRP. Of course, 55 seats was an enormous gain for the opposition compared to previous parliaments, but opposition leaders Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha, and others claim that the CNRP really won a majority of the seats, and only has been allotted 55 due to massive irregularities, fraud, and the toothlessness of the national election commission. The opposition brought over 20,000 people to Phnom Penh this weekend to protest the election commission’s ratification of results and to call, once again, for an international inquiry into the election results. Read more »

Why is There a Military Build-up in Phnom Penh?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen as they participate in an East Asia Summit dinner in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen as they participate in an East Asia Summit dinner in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, tanks, armored personnel carriers and other heavy weaponry appeared in the Phnom Penh area, according to reports in the Cambodian press and in Asia Sentinel. Only a few weeks after Cambodia’s national elections, which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) allegedly won in a squeaker and the opposition claims was fraudulent, why are tanks and APCs rolling into Phnom Penh? Cambodia has no battles in the capital; even its border skirmishes with Thailand over the disputed Preah Vihear Temple have calmed down in the past two years. No, the show of force is designed to intimidate opposition supporters, who tend to live in urban areas. Defense Minister Tea Banh of the CPP didn’t mince words. According to the Cambodia Daily, he said, “You don’t have to wonder, they [the weapons] will be used to protect the country, and crack down on anyone who tries to destroy the nation.Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 2, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) speaks to the media as he inspects a bridge construction site in Phnom Penh on July 31, 2013. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters) Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) speaks to the media as he inspects a bridge construction site in Phnom Penh on July 31, 2013. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Cambodian opposition makes historic gains in election. Cambodia held elections last Sunday, with the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) almost doubling the number of seats it holds in the national assembly. The CNRP said on Monday that they rejected the results of the election, hoping to gain a majority in the national assembly, and accused the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of large-scale cheating; a number of monitoring organizations reported voting irregularities. Read more »

Watershed Election in Cambodia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) makes a point as he addresses reporters at his party's headquarters in Phnom Penh on July 29, 2013. Cambodia's main opposition party CNRP rejected election results given by the government, which said long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen's party had won, and called for an inquiry into what it called massive manipulation of electoral rolls. (Pring Samrang/Courtesy Reuters) Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) makes a point as he addresses reporters at his party's headquarters in Phnom Penh on July 29, 2013. Cambodia's main opposition party CNRP rejected election results given by the government, which said long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen's party had won, and called for an inquiry into what it called massive manipulation of electoral rolls. (Pring Samrang/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, in advance of Cambodia’s national elections, I noted that the election was a foregone conclusion, given that the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party, led by increasingly autocratic prime minister Hun Sen, had awarded itself so many advantages in advance of the actual voting day. The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party managed to overcome many of these obstacles, and the tally of fifty out of 120 parliamentary seats that it has won—the tally of CNRP seats that the government’s spokesman admitted the opposition won—is shockingly high, given the huge barriers placed in its way. These barriers included possible CNRP voters simply being turned away from registering to vote, hundreds of thousands of people deleted from the voter rolls, state media devoting almost no time to anyone but the CPP in the run-up to the election,  attacks on CNRP supporters, and much more thuggery. Read more »

Will Cambodia’s Elections Matter?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany (R) arrive at an election campaign area in Phnom Penh on June 27, 2013. (Pring Samrang/Courtesy Reuters) Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany (R) arrive at an election campaign area in Phnom Penh on June 27, 2013. (Pring Samrang/Courtesy Reuters)

Until the past week, Cambodia’s national elections, which will be held on July 28, 2013, looked utterly unexciting. The Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) of the increasingly autocratic Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled the country in various positions, for nearly three decades, seemed destined to win an almost-total victory. The CPP, which has increased its share of parliamentary seats in each of the past three elections, had used various autocratic tools to ensure that the July 28th elections bore no resemblance to free and fair polls. Members of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, which holds a small minority of seats in parliament, were harassed and served with a buffet of civil and criminal complaints. Their supporters, particularly in rural areas, were attacked by pro-CPP thugs, while the state media, which dominates the country, has been used almost exclusively to promote Hun Sen and his allies, according to Human Rights Watch. Read more »

Presidential Inbox: Balancing the Pivot with Supporting Human Rights

by Joshua Kurlantzick
President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term as President of the United States in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, DC January 20, 2013. President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term as President of the United States in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, DC January 20, 2013 (Brendan Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters).

Mr. President, as you start your second term, you have made clear that you will continue the “pivot” to Asia, which includes moving military assets to the Asian theater, bolstering relations with Asian partners, and generally re-establishing the United States as the major Pacific presence. Your new secretary of state, John Kerry, is a longtime advocate of closer ties with mainland Southeast Asia. Within the State Department and Pacific Command, support for the “pivot” is strong as well. Read more »

The Moral Blindspot in Obama’s Pivot

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta walks alongside U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William Todd and U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden as he tours Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia November 16, 2012. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta walks alongside U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William Todd and U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden as he tours Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia November 16, 2012 (Saul Loeb/Courtesy Reuters).

While much has been written about President Obama’s recent tour of Southeast Asia, less attention has been paid to the simultaneous visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to the region.  On November 15, during a stopover in Bangkok, Panetta reaffirmed the United States longstanding military ties with Thailand with a new agreement, the 2012 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance. The next day, the United States also reiterated its military ties with Cambodia during a meeting between Secretary Penetta and Cambodia’s defense minister, General Tea Banh. Read more »

Obama Announces Aid Package to Myanmar

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. president Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University of Yangon November 19, 2012. U.S. president Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University of Yangon November 19, 2012.

Nathan LaGrave is an intern for the Southeast Asia studies program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Last week, during his historic trip to Myanmar, President Obama demonstrated the United States’ continued commitment to the country’s transition with the announcement of a $170 million aid package. The announcement coincides with the reestablishment of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Myanmar, which was suspended for twenty-four years during the brutal reign of the former military regime. Now comes the critical time in which Chris Milligan, the newly-appointed USAID mission director in Myanmar, must develop a strategy for the distribution of these dollars. It is vital that the United States recognize those hazards which can potentially surround the offering of aid and tread cautiously, understanding the issues that could stall a successful transition in Myanmar and negate the positive effects of aid. Read more »

Obama Heads to Southeast Asia Amid Regional Tensions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
President Barack Obama waves at the door of Air Force One; The U.S. president will travel to Southeast Asia November 16-21, 2012. President Barack Obama waves at the door of Air Force One; The U.S. president will travel to Southeast Asia November 16-21, 2012 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

As President Barack Obama sets off this weekend for a historic trip to Southeast Asia, he arrives at a high point for himself —and a low point for the region. Obama, making his first trip since winning re-election at the polls, will be the first sitting American president to visit Myanmar. The country has undoubtedly embarked upon historic reforms, yet is also embroiled in brutal ethnic violence. Thailand, another stop on Obama’s trip, is bracing for what could be a hugely disruptive leadership succession fight. In Cambodia, he will attend the East Asia Summit, as well as the Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization in the throes of a crisis. Read more »