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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 "Southeast Asia"

A Worrying Future With Prabowo?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prabowo Subianto-campaign Indonesia's presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on June 22, 2014. Indonesia goes to the polls on July 9 to elect a new president (Courtesy: Reuters).

 

As election day in Indonesia’s presidential election nears, the race seems to be getting closer and closer. While only three months ago Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, universally known as Jokowi, had a twenty to thirty point lead in polls, some recent polling suggests that Jokowi’s lead over Prabowo Subianto has narrowed to less than five points. Prabowo also has picked up a huge range of endorsements and has amassed a broad coalition of support among small parties, including several religious parties that are known for turning out their voters. Of course, some of this narrowing is natural; months ago, Indonesian voters were choosing Jokowi in polls before the real presidential campaign had begun. Read more »

Thailand, Other American Partners Downgraded to Worst Ranking in New Trafficking in Persons Report

by Joshua Kurlantzick
cambodian-migrants-from-thailand Cambodian migrant workers carry their belongings as they walk to cross the border at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaew on June 15, 2014. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that over the past week 100,000 Cambodians have poured over the border, as the military that seized power in a May 22 coup intensifies lax measures to regulate illegal labour. The military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) insists Cambodians are leaving of their own accord and said 60,000 had crossed the border as of Saturday (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

 

In the new State Department 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, officially released this morning by Secretary of State John Kerry, the administration pulls no punches. In previous years, some countries that had deserved being downgraded from a Tier 1 country to a Tier 2 country, signifying deteriorating progress in combating trafficking, or from a Tier 2 to a Tier 3 country, the worst possible rating in the report, had been saved from downgrades. Usually, they were saved due to their close strategic ties with the United States and their effective lobbying of this administration and its predecessors. A ranking in Tier 3, according to the report’s definition, means a country “whose government does not fully comply with the minimum standards [in combating trafficking in persons] and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Countries that fall into Tier 3, the report notes, “may be subject to certain restrictions on bilateral assistance, whereby the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance.…Governments subject to restrictions would also face U.S. opposition to assistance from international financial institutions.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 20, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L), in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam on June 13, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L), in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam on June 13, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China sends more oil rigs to already-tense South China Sea. Two rigs are now stationed between China and the Taiwan-occupied Pratas Islands, and one has been given coordinates to be towed just outside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang asked China to remove the rigs that are in disputed waters. China has been increasingly assertive in its claims to the Paracel and Spratly Islands, all of which are off Vietnam’s coast, and is reportedly moving sand onto reefs and shoals to support buildings and surveillance equipment. Read more »

What Will Thailand’s Post-Coup “Democracy” Look Like?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives before a meeting to discuss the 2015 national budget at the Army Club in Bangkok on June 13, 2014. Prayuth was the head of the junta that seized power in Thailand last month (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

As an excellent piece in the Associated Press notes this week, Thailand’s junta appears to be entrenching itself for the long haul. Junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has named himself to Thailand’s Board of Investment. The junta is putting other cronies at the heads of major state-controlled companies, Prayuth has left the timetable for a total return to civilian rule purposefully vague, and the coup leaders also have refused to say exactly what that civil government will look like, or what Thailand’s next constitution will look like either. (The generals essentially ripped up the previous constitution after launching the coup in May.) Read more »

Podcast: A Conversation with Evan Medeiros

by Adam Segal
Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode. Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

Asia Unbound is proud to announce a new podcast series. Our first guest is Special Advisor to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Evan Medeiros. I spoke with him on U.S. policy in Asia and the Obama administration’s Asia rebalancing strategy on May 30, 2014. Listen to the podcast below. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 13, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Planes are seen near a section of a damaged building (L) at Jinnah International Airport, after Sunday's attack by Taliban militants, in Karachi June 10, 2014. (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters) Planes are seen near a section of a damaged building (L) at Jinnah International Airport, after Sunday's attack by Taliban militants, in Karachi June 10, 2014. (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. After a six month suspension, CIA resumes drone strikes in Pakistan. Two U.S. drones struck Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region this week, killing several militants from Pakistani Taliban-allied factions, including the Haqqani network (which until recently held Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl hostage). The strikes came in the wake of the terrorist attack on the international airport in Karachi last Sunday; more than thirty people were killed including the militants. The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack as retaliation for “the shelling and atrocities of the government.” Peace talks between the TTP and the Pakistani government have foundered and do not appear recoverable, and Pakistan is “mulling a new offensive of its own” against the militants. Although Pakistan has publicly condemned the U.S. drone strikes, anonymous government officials have admitted Islamabad gave the Americans “express approval” to carry out the strikes. Read more »

Jokowi’s Plans?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters). Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters).

Although Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has seen his lead in the polls shrink in the run-up to the July 9 elections, he still remains the overwhelming favorite. Jokowi has lost ground to Prabowo Subianto because of Prabowo’s effective social media and on-the-ground campaign apparatus. Still, Jokowi and his running mate, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, performed well in the first presidential debate, hitting on Prabowo’s highly problematic human rights record and exposing Prabowo’s sharp, even crazy temper. Jokowi seems to have realized that he needs a better get-out-the-vote operation. He also has become more skilled in deflecting concerns that he will just be a tool of his PDI-P party and of party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. Read more »

Thailand’s Tough Coup

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A woman and her child walks past policemen standing guard as anti-coup protesters gather outside the Australian embassy in Bangkok on June 4, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). A woman and her child walks past policemen standing guard as anti-coup protesters gather outside the Australian embassy in Bangkok on June 4, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

As the Thai coup settles into some kind of normality, the outlines of how this junta will act are becoming clear. As Leeds and Columbia University professor Duncan McCargo has written, this coup is proceeding far differently than other recent military takeovers in the kingdom. The timeline for returning power to the people through national elections is long and somewhat indeterminate, the military is cracking down on dissent much harder than it did in 2006 or even in the early post-coup 1990s, and the army seems intent on creating a cult of personality around it this time that has been absent for decades in Thailand. The military is reportedly launching Friday broadcasts to foster “happiness” in the kingdom, it is hauling in hundreds of journalists, academics, and activists for what are essentially old-school re-education sessions, and it even has ideas of trying to control and block social media outlets, including one of the most popular Thai social media outlets. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 6, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters). Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Thousands protest on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tiananmen Square; mainland China ramps up security. Much of the world commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Police presence shot up in Beijing and other major Chinese cities for the anniversary, and many websites, including LinkedIn, censored all mention of the incident. In Hong Kong, where freedom of speech is more protected, approximately 180,000 people converged in Victoria Park, lighting candles and chanting slogans. The White House officially commemorated the anniversary, leaving China “strongly dissatisfied.” Read more »

What Has Gone Wrong in Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-coup-protest A protester, who was briefly detained and then released, walks back toward others protesting against military rule near the Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 24, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

What has gone wrong in Southeast Asia? Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, many countries in the region were viewed by global democracy analysts and Southeast Asians themselves as leading examples of democratization in the developing world.

By the late 2000s, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore all were ranked as “free” or “partly free” by the monitoring organization Freedom House, while Cambodia and, perhaps most surprisingly, Myanmar had both taken sizable steps toward democracy as well. Read more »