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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"

Why Malaysia Will Say Almost Nothing About the Missing Flight

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-flight Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman looks on during a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters).

With an international team of investigators still seemingly baffled about what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared over the weekend, relatives of the passengers and diplomats from countries touched by the mishap have vented their frustration with the Malaysian government. For days, it seems, Malaysian officials and the state-owned carrier have released almost no information about the flight or working theories of why it vanished. Malaysia Airlines did not even inform relatives for fifteen hours that the plane had disappeared, sending the distraught families to a hotel in Beijing to wait, and Kuala Lumpur’s envoys still have mostly kept the relatives in the dark days later. Read more »

Should Thailand be Downgraded to Tier 3 in Trafficking in Persons Report?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Rohingya-Thailand-detention-center Rohingya Muslims gather at the Immigration Detention Center during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Kanchanaburi province in July 2013. The stateless people arrived in Thailand in early 2013 after fleeing a bloody conflict between the Buddhist and Muslims in Myanmar's western Rakhine State. A Reuters report claims Thailand has clandestinely been removing Rohingya migrants from detention centers to deliver them to human traffickers (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report likely will be released in June. Despite warranting a lower rating, Thailand has barely escaped being downgraded to Tier 3, the lowest possible rating in the report, for five years now. Although Thailand almost certainly has deserved to be put in the lowest tier, because of the massive amount of human trafficking routed through Thailand and the complicity of Thai government officials. Thailand has been exempted from the downgrade for years because of close ties between the United States and the kingdom, including cooperation on many other issues. Washington basically did not want to offend Thailand’s government by lumping it in at the bottom of the report, in Tier 3, alongside countries like Congo (DRC), Mauritania, and Sudan. Countries in Tier 3 are states “whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards [on combating trafficking in persons] and are not making significant efforts to do so,” according to the definition provided by the TIP report. Read more »

Ukraine’s Lessons for Asia

by Alyssa Ayres
A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Adnan Abidi). A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Elizabeth Economy and Sheila Smith.

The most significant international crisis in recent years—Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine—has left global and western institutions scrambling to respond. What lessons do these events offer thus far for Asia? Read more »

Doctors without Borders Kicked out of Rakhine State; Hatred Rising

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A nurse walks past as a child sitting at Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland's clinic in Yangon on March 3, 2014. (Minzayar Minzayar/Courtesy Reuters) A nurse walks past as a child sitting at Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland's clinic in Yangon on March 3, 2014. (Minzayar Minzayar/Courtesy Reuters)

News this past weekend that the Myanmar government appears to have kicked Doctors without Borders/Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) out of Arakan/Rakhine State is just another disturbing piece of news suggesting that inter-religious hatred in the country is rising, and the Myanmar government continues to deny this powder keg is close to exploding. Doctors without Borders had been working across Arakan/Rakhine State,  where it has treated thousands of people. The organization has been working in Myanmar for two decades and, in addition to its work in Arakan/Rakhine State, where over 100,000 people have become refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the past three years, Doctors without Borders also has been a central part of Myanmar’s anti-HIV strategy and treatment for years. Read more »

Thailand Headed for a Violent Ending

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thayakorn Yosubon, the father of a pair of siblings killed in Sunday's bomb blast near an anti-government protest site, mourns as he hold a photograph of his children during their funeral at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on February 24, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters) Thayakorn Yosubon, the father of a pair of siblings killed in Sunday's bomb blast near an anti-government protest site, mourns as he hold a photograph of his children during their funeral at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on February 24, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters)

Clashes in Thailand between anti-government protestors and security forces have intensified. This past weekend, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at anti-government protestors in eastern Thailand and killed a five-year-old girl, and someone apparently launched two grenade attacks in Bangkok. Since this current round of demonstrations started last November, 21 people have been killed and hundreds injured in Thailand. The country has basically functioned without an effective government now for months, the once-teflon economy is sputtering, and Thais are preparing for the violence to get worse. Read more »

Behind Pattern of Global Unrest, a Middle Class in Revolt

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Policemen hold their weapons ready as they pull back during clashes with anti-government protesters near the Government House in Bangkok on February 18, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) Policemen hold their weapons ready as they pull back during clashes with anti-government protesters near the Government House in Bangkok on February 18, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

For months now, protesters have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all of these places, protesters are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all of these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won elections in relatively free polls. And in nearly all of these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities. The streets seem to be filled with very people one might expect to support democracy rather than put more nails in its coffin. Read more »

Assessing John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this weekend (U.S. time) to Jakarta was brief, packed into his whirlwind Asia trip. His short stay in Jakarta was understandable—I think Kerry, despite criticism that he has focused too much on the Middle East, has put in enough of the face time in Asia to justify his claim that he has continued the administration’s policy of re-engagement with Southeast Asia. The fact that Kerry chose to give a speech in front of an audience of students at a cultural center highlighted some of the American embassy in Jakarta’s soft power efforts in the archipelago. And I certainly would agree with most of what Kerry said in his speech on climate change and the threat of global warming—that climate change is a near-apocalyptic threat to the world, that the science about global warming is settled, that Indonesia is one of the developing nations most likely to be affected by climate change, that global warming could prove a death blow to many parts of the archipelago. Read more »

John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

At the end of his current trip to Asia, Secretary of State John Kerry will be stopping in Jakarta and meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. Although his visit in Jakarta will be short, Kerry will undoubtedly emphasize the same themes he is hitting throughout the visit, including pushing to restart talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and prodding China to work more seriously with Southeast Asian nations on a real code of conduct for the South China Sea. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, traveling with Kerry, has a thorough summary of the trip’s agenda here. Read more »

Chemical Weapons in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Reporters hold banners as they march for press freedom in Yangon on January 7, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) Reporters hold banners as they march for press freedom in Yangon on January 7, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

This past week, the Myanmar government detained—and may be arresting—six Burmese journalists who reported that the country may have had a chemical weapons factory under the former military dictatorship. The local journal produced the following report, according to the Irrawaddy: Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Maulana Sami ul-Haq, one of the Taliban negotiators, and government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui (L) smile before a news conference in Islamabad on February 6, 2014. (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters) Maulana Sami ul-Haq, one of the Taliban negotiators, and government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui (L) smile before a news conference in Islamabad on February 6, 2014. (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Pakistan begins official peace talks with the Taliban. Pakistani government officials and Taliban representatives began formal talks on Thursday. The government delegation has requested an immediate cease-fire and that the talks to be limited to areas where the insurgency is strongest. The Taliban negotiators initially agreed to work within the framework of Pakistan’s constitution. However, one of the Taliban’s negotiators pulled out on Friday because he wanted the agenda included an imposition of Islamic law. Read more »