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Showing posts for "Cambodia"

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 »

The Death of King Sihanouk

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Mourners gather to pay respects to the late former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh October 16, 2012. Mourners gather to pay respects to the late former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh October 16, 2012 (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters).

Of the major figures from the Indochina Wars of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, there are now very few left. Vo Nguyen Giap, military commander for the People’s Army of Vietnam, is still alive, though over one hundred years old. Some of the wartime leaders from Laos remain alive. A few mid-level figures from the American side are still around, though the senior army and civilian leaders are all gone.

On Monday, Beijing time, the biggest figure still alive from that period, former King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, passed away. Read more »

Cambodia and China: No Strings Attached?

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick
China's Vice President Xi Jinping toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) after signing an agreement on cooperation at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009. China's Vice President Xi Jinping toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) after signing an agreement on cooperation at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009 (Chor Sokunthea/Courtesy Reuters).

Laura Speyer is an intern for Southeast Asian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Just three years ago, Chinese vice president Xi Jinping claimed that “Sino-Cambodian relations are a model of friendly cooperation.” This week, Vice President Xi may have reason to reassess Cambodia’s willingness to “cooperate” with—some might say “obey”—its powerful neighbor. The issue highlighting power dynamics between the two countries is the extradition of Patrick Devillers, a French citizen allegedly involved in the increasingly bizarre imbroglio surrounding Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai, who is suspected of murder. Read more »

Another Judge Quits Khmer Rouge Tribunal

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Former Khmer Rouge leader "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea (C) sits in the court room at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, December 5, 2011. Former Khmer Rouge leader "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea (C) sits in the court room at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, December 5, 2011. (Nhet Sokheng/ECCC/Courtesy Reuters)

Earlier this week, another of the foreign judges on the Khmer Rouge (KR) tribunal quit: Laurent Kaspar-Ansermet from Switzerland. According to press reports and his own statement, he quit because of continuing interference in the tribunal by his Cambodian counterpart, Judge You Bunleng, who apparently was trying to block the tribunal from investigating and possibly prosecuting any more KR suspects beyond the tiny handful of top leaders already charged.

The KR tribunal is going from bad to worse. Read more »

Who Will Win as China’s Economy Changes?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A worker stands inside the shell of a wind turbine tower in the assembly workshop of the Guodian United Power Technology Company in Baoding, China. Courtesy Reuters/David Gray.

My latest “DC Diary” column in India’s financial daily, the Business Standard, focuses on Asia’s new geography of manufacturing:

China has unsettled its neighbors with naval displays and diplomatic spats. But could erstwhile Asian strategic rivals end up as big winners from China’s economic success?

In one sense, at least, Asian economies are already winning from Chinese growth: slack global demand has meant that China increasingly powers the growth of nearly every major economy in Asia.

But the question increasingly matters in another sense, as well: Chinese leaders are committed to rebalancing at least some elements of their country’s economy. And while that, in time, will mean a more competitive and powerful China, it will also create new opportunities for those countries in Asia that get manufacturing and investment policies right.

Read more »

Cambodia’s Curse

by Joshua Kurlantzick
UN peacekeepers from Indonesia patrol the streets of Phnom Penh in an armoured personel carrier on August 27, amid the morning rush hour traffic

UN peacekeepers from Indonesia patrol the streets of Phnom Penh in an armoured personel carrier on August 27, 1993, amid the morning rush hour traffic. (STR New/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two decades, Cambodia has served as a kind of test case of humanitarian intervention. At the end of its civil war in the early 1990s, the United Nations launched its largest ever (to that point) rebuilding effort in Cambodia, which was followed by enormous contributions by other Western donors and aid organizations.

Has it worked? In the new book Cambodia’s Curse, veteran journalist Joel Brinkely gives a decisive answer: No. He also effectively sketches out some of the lessons for any future interventions of such size.

In this month’s issue of the Washington Monthly, I have a long review of the book.

Read more »