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Showing posts for "Southeast Asia"

A Turn Toward Authoritarianism in the Philippines?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Rodrigo-Duterte Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte raises a clenched fist aboard a truck during election campaigning for May 2016 national elections in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

As I wrote last week, the Philippines’ presidential race is still extremely close, going into the final days before Election Day. But as numerous Philippine polling organizations have reported, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte maintains a slim lead over his closest challenger, Senator Grace Poe, and over the other three major candidates. Since there is no runoff system like that of the French presidential election, which has more than one round, Duterte could win the presidency with a plurality 30 to 35 percent of the total votes. Read more »

How Could the Philippines’ Money Laundering Woes Affect Overseas Workers?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Salud Bautista (R), president of PhilRem Service Corporation, a remittance and money changer company, answers questions from Senators, beside her lawyer, during a Senate hearing of money laundering involving $81 million stolen from Bangladesh's central bank, at the Philippine Senate in Manila April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Salud Bautista (R), president of PhilRem Service Corporation, a remittance and money changing company, answers questions from senators during a hearing at the Philippine Senate in Manila on money laundering involving $81 million stolen from Bangladesh's central bank on April 19, 2016. Greater scrutiny of PhilRem could have implications for other Philippine remittance services around the world. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In February, $81 million stolen from the central bank of Bangladesh’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was laundered through the Philippines. Most observers worried about the security of the institutions involved. But equally if not more important is the potential impact on overseas Filipino workers. Increased scrutiny of vulnerabilities in the Philippines’ anti-money laundering provisions could make it harder for the over ten million Filipinos working abroad to send remittances home, as has occurred in many other developing nations. Globally, the Philippines is the third-highest recipient of remittances, which compromised 10 percent of GDP in 2014. These funds help fuel domestic consumption, and anything that affects the cost or ease of sending money to the nation will have significant economic implications. 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 »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India-drought Buffalos graze in dried-up Chandola Lake in Ahmedabad, India, March 30, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Nearly a quarter of India’s population affected by drought. After two years of weak monsoons, over 330 million Indians are suffering from the debilitating effects of an intense drought. In some locales, forecasts predicted temperatures climbing to over 113 degrees—their highest seasonal levels in over a hundred years—and across the country reservoirs are at 29 percent of their storage capacity. 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 »

Brunei Desperately Looks to Diversify its Economy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Sultan-Hassanal-Bolkiah U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah upon his arrival at Sunnylands for a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuter)

The tiny Southeast Asian nation of Brunei remains almost totally dependent on petroleum for its growth, to provide its lavish social welfare programs—and to help reduce any possible opposition to the ruling sultan. Today, about 95 percent of Brunei’s exports are either oil or in some way related to oil, according to the Diplomat. Brunei’s oil has helped make it the fourth-richest country in the world by GDP per capita. But with low global oil prices, and Brunei’s oil reserves predicted to run out within the next three decades, the sultanate is desperately looking for ways to diversify its economy. Read more »

Troubling Early Signs in Myanmar’s New Government

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-htin-kyaw Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw (L) and National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

The expectations for Myanmar’s new, National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government are almost impossibly high. After five decades under military or quasi-military rule, many Myanmar citizens expect the NLD government to make a decisive break with the country’s authoritarian past, while also promoting greater equality—and reforming the economy enough to foster stable growth that benefits more than just Myanmar’s elites. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Digs In

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 2, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

In Washington last week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure foreign policymakers that Thailand was indeed headed back to democracy next year. Three years after Prayuth launched a coup, he promised, in an interview with Voice of America’s Thai service, the generals would hand over power and hold an election. Read more »

The Islamic State in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic-state Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 14, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

After the attacks in Jakarta in January, in which a group of gunmen, apparently overseen by a man affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State, shot and bombed their way through a downtown neighborhood, Southeast Asian governments began to openly address the threat of Islamic State-linked radicals. The region’s intelligence agencies, and especially Singapore intelligence, had been warning for at least two years that Southeast Asian men and women were traveling to Islamic State-controlled territory for training and inspiration, and that the region’s governments had no effective way to track these militants’ return. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 1, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Kolkata-collapse Firefighters and rescue workers search for victims at the site of an under-construction overpass after it collapsed in Kolkata, India, March 31, 2016. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Anger, grief, and questions linger over debris of collapsed overpass in Kolkata. The collapse of the a major overpass under construction in Kolkata, India, has left officials and citizens scrambling for answers. Located in a densely populated market area, more than one hundred people were crushed by falling debris, and at least twenty-five deaths have been confirmed. Read more »