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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 "Malaysia"

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 23, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
indonesia-forest-fire A resident tries to put out a bush fire with a tree branch in Pekanbaru, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia, August 23, 2016. (Rony Muharrman/Antara Foto/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Samir Kumar, Gabriella Meltzer, and David O’Connor look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Deadly forest fires exact major toll on Southeast Asia. A study published this week in Environmental Research Letters by public health and atmospheric modeling experts at Harvard University and Columbia University reveals the severe public-health ramifications of forest fires that engulfed Indonesia in 2015. The researchers estimated that fires deliberately set to clear land for agricultural purposes caused the premature deaths of 91,600 people in Indonesia, and 6,500 and 2,200 deaths in Malaysia and Singapore, respectively. Read more »

What is Duterte’s Strategy Toward the Abu Sayyaf?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
duterte-abu-sayyaf Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao after Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group in Jolo, Sulu in southern Philippines on September 18, 2016. (Lean Daval Jr/Reuters)

Having already launched a grim, brutal war on drugs that has reportedly led to thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of arrests, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is now turning his eye to southern Philippines, where a collection of insurgent groups/terrorist organizations/bandits have wreaked havoc for decades. (Southeast Asia is also now home to more piracy attacks than any other region of the world, and the waters of the southern Philippines are part of this massive piracy problem.) Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 9, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
kim-jong-un-nuclear-test KRT bulletin shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in this still image taken from video on September 9, 2016. North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test on Friday and said it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile, ratcheting up a threat that its rivals and the United Nations have been powerless to contain. (KRT via Reuters)

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

1. North Korea conducts fifth nuclear test. Pyongyang celebrated the sixty-eighth anniversary of the country’s founding today by conducting its fifth and largest nuclear test. The Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK claims that the nuclear warhead “has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets,” and that the DPRK can now produce “a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of July 22, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Loretta-1MDB U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington, July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

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

1. Justice Department announces action against 1MDB. The ongoing scandal surrounding Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB took a dramatic turn this week when the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to seize $1 billion in assets as part of an investigation into money laundering and funds improperly taken from 1MDB. While the fund was intended to boost Malaysia’s development, some of the money appears to have instead gone toward enriching Prime Minister Najib Razak, his stepson, and other associates. Read more »

The Impact of the U.S. Justice Department 1MDB Announcement on Malaysian Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington on July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters) U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington on July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

I could write a six hundred word blog before getting to the point here, but I will get right to it: The 1MDB asset seizure is likely to have minimal impact on Malaysian domestic politics. To recap … the U.S. Justice Department this morning announced it was filing “civil-forfeiture complaints against more than $1 billion of assets allegedly acquired using funds misappropriated from a Malaysian economic development fund,” known as 1MDB, according to the Wall Street Journal, which has extensively covered the 1MDB saga. 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 »

Podcast: How State Capitalism is Transforming the World

by Elizabeth C. Economy
State-Capitalism-Kurlantzick

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with Joshua Kurlantzick, CFR’s senior fellow for Southeast Asia, about his new book, State Capitalism: How the Return of Statism is Transforming the World. Kurlantzick explains that although state capitalism has been around for more than two decades, it has entered a new era of popularity. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of May 6, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Supporters chant slogans as the motorcade of presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte passes by during election campaigning in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro Supporters chant slogans as the motorcade of presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte passes by during election campaigning in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, and Gabriella Meltzer look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Duterte ahead in Philippine pre-election polls. Leading candidate Rodrigo Duterte is currently the mayor of Davao city on the southern island of Mindanao, where he is considered to have effectively cracked down on crime and improved the local economy. Duterte has pledged to do the same for the nation if elected and and to act decisively as president. He leads in current opinion polls with roughly 32 percent of the vote, and is trailed by Senator Grace Poe with 25 percent, and Interior Minister Mar Roxas with 22 percent. 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 »

How Has the Rebalance Affected Security Assistance to Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ash-carter-philippines U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter walks past honor guards at Camp Aguinaldo to attend the closing ceremony of a U.S.-Philippine military exercise dubbed "Balikatan" (shoulder to shoulder) in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on April 15, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited the Philippines, an increasingly important U.S. security partner. In the Philippines, where he observed the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises, Carter made several important announcements. He revealed that the United States and the Philippines are, and will be, conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea. Carter also offered specifics on new U.S. assistance to the Philippines as part of the new U.S. Maritime Security Initiative for Southeast Asia, a program conceived by the Senate Armed Services Committee and designed to provide U.S. aid to Southeast Asian nations to bolster their maritime capabilities. Read more »