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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"

China’s Role in Myanmar’s Dangerous Jade Trade

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Jade-trade-11-2-15 A man checks the quality of a jade stone found in the mine dump piled by major mining companies at a jade mine in Hpakant township in Myanmar's Kachin State, January 10, 2010. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In late October, Global Witness released an important report that systematically explored Myanmar’s jade industry, calling it the “biggest natural resource heist in modern history.” The mining and trade of the gem have been catalogued by journalists, photographers, and authors in the past, but most accounts only mention China’s economic role in driving demand for jade. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 30, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Army soldiers load sacks of food aid on a helicopter to distribute in earthquake-stricken areas in Peshawar, Pakistan, October 27, 2015. (Khuram Parvez/Reuters) Army soldiers load sacks of food aid on a helicopter to distribute in earthquake-stricken areas in Peshawar, Pakistan, October 27, 2015. (Khuram Parvez/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Earthquake survivors in Afghanistan and Pakistan appeal for shelter and supplies. Just six months after a devastating earthquake in Nepal, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake shook geographically vulnerable regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The epicenter was reported 196 kilometers below the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. Although the earthquake occurred much deeper than the Nepal earthquake, close to four hundred people have been reported dead, thousands suffered injuries, and many homes were destroyed by the quake and its aftermath. Read more »

Will Irregularities and Fraud Spoil Myanmar’s Election?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-election-NLD-rally Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech to supporters during her campaign rally for the upcoming general election in her constituency Kawhmu township, Yangon division on October 24, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

On November 8, Myanmar will hold its first free national elections in twenty-five years. If the vote goes smoothly and the results are respected by all actors in the country, Myanmar could have its first democratically elected government since the early 1960s. Yet despite the excitement building over the election, and the vibrant campaigning going on across the country (itself a sign of the freedoms unleashed in Myanmar), the past few weeks have caused some Myanmar politicians and international observers to worry that this election will be fraudulent, and that a large proportion of voters will be denied the chance to call ballots. Read more »

Jokowi’s Short Trip to Washington

by Joshua Kurlantzick
jokowi-visit-obama-meeting U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (L) shake hands after their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on October 26, 2015. Widodo will return earlier than planned from his official trip to the United States due to a haze crisis at home, a palace official said on Monday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to the United States was cut short this week. Jokowi decided to return to Indonesia less than halfway through his trip to America in order to deal with the haze crisis in Indonesia. Parts of Sumatra and Kalimintan have been devastated by the haze, which is closing businesses and causing hundreds of thousands of respiratory ailments. Jokowi will “possibly fly directly to the haze-devastated provinces of South Sumatra or Central Kalimantan…He made the decision [to cut the trip short] after he received news that conditions in these provinces had deteriorated over the last two days,” the Straits Times reported. Read more »

How Jokowi Could Solidify Reforms

by Joshua Kurlantzick
jokowi-economic-reforms Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (L) prepares at the start of cabinet meeting as State-owned enterprises minister Rini Soemarno walks past at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on September 29, 2015. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Since August, when Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reshuffled his cabinet, and then promised a wave of new deregulatory reforms, it has appeared that the president finally was going to embark upon serious policy changes. Jokowi had been criticized by Indonesian commentators, during most of his first term as president, for offering mixed and sometimes directionless policy messages. But his new team of ministers includes a new chief of staff renowned as a corruption-fighter, as well as a respected former central banker as his new head economic minister. Read more »

Najib Faces Trouble on All Fronts

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-parliament Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 19, 2015. Hee Loy Sian, a Malaysian lawmaker in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's People's Justice Party, known by its Malay acronym PKR, has submitted notice for a motion of no confidence against embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Since July, when the Wall Street Journal and other publications broke stories alleging that hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly from a Malaysian state fund, had been deposited into Prime Minister Najib tun Razak’s personal accounts, the prime minister has been struggling to hold onto his job, and to keep more scandals from erupting. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 16, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Ma-Ba-Tha-rally - 10-16-15 Leaders of radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha arrive during a celebration of the recent establishment of four controversial bills decried by rights groups as aimed at discriminating against the country's Muslim minority, at a rally in a stadium at Yangon, October 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Hard-line Buddhist monks sway politics in Myanmar. One of the most influential groups in Myanmar’s upcoming election may not be a political party, but a nationalist Buddhist group called the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion. The group, better known by the acronym Ma Ba Tha, does not officially back any party. However, the controversial monk and Ma Ba Tha member Ashin Wirathu, who was imprisoned for stoking anti-Muslim attacks in 2003, has expressed support for the Union Solidarity and Development Party rather than Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Read more »

President Widodo Comes to Washington

by Joshua Kurlantzick
jokowi-visit Indonesian President Joko Widodo addresses members of parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 14, 2015. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

On October 26, Indonesian President Joko Widodo will arrive in Washington for his first U.S. visit as leader of the largest country in Southeast Asia. In advance of and during the visit, Obama administration officials probably will stress the increasingly close ties between Indonesia and the United States, building on the comprehensive partnership signed by the two nations. But in reality, the U.S.-Indonesia relationship has been more of a disappointment than a triumph over the past seven years. Read more »

China’s Charm Offensive Continues to Sputter in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-protests Riot police protect the entrance to Chinatown from "Red Shirt" demonstrators during a rally to celebrate Malaysia Day and to counter a massive protest held over two days last month that called for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a graft scandal, in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

After a decade, in the 2000s, in which China aggressively pursued warmer relations with many Southeast Asian nations, using a combination of diplomacy, aid, and soft power to woo its neighbors, the past five years have seen a significant chill in China-Southeast Asia relations. First, Beijing’s more aggressive pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea led to heightened tensions between China and other claimants—most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, but also increasingly Indonesia, where the armed forces are trying to rapidly modernize Jakarta’s naval capacity in part out of fear of China’s actions in the South China Sea. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia-fires Residents carry water as they try to extinguish fires near their homes at Pal 7 village in Ogan Ilir district, Indonesia's South Sumatra province, September 3, 2015. (Nova Wahyudi/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Raging flames in Indonesia. Intense forest fires have been burning for the past few months on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, blanketing vast areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand with smoke. Annual but illegal slash-and-burn agricultural practices that spiraled out of control caused the blazes, now amounting to more than 1,000 fire clusters on the islands. Read more »