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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"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 31, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
srilanka_humanrights A demonstrator from the Frontline Socialist Party shouts slogans during a protest against Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa's government as they commemorate the International Human Rights Day in Colombo on December 10,2013. Demonstrators from Frontline Socialist Party protest against abductions and murders in the final stage of the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. U.S. envoy to visit Sri Lanka as pressure builds for war crimes inquiry. Three days after the United States announced that it would seek a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council calling for an investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, the U.S. State Department sent Nisha Biswal, assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian affairs, to meet with government officials in the country. The ruling Sri Lankan government has not welcomed investigations into war crimes during the thirty-year civil war against the Tamil Tigers, though the UN Human Rights Council has already passed two resolutions pressing the Sri Lankan government to do so. Read more »

Drip, Drip, Drip: The Impact of Thailand’s Political Chaos on the Thai Economy (and the World)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester walks down an empty road during a rally near the Government Complex in Bangkok on January 24, 2014. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester walks down an empty road during a rally near the Government Complex in Bangkok on January 24, 2014. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

For months now, even as Thailand’s political crisis has escalated from street protests into daily violence, the disintegration of state institutions, and the threat of a coup, most Thai businesspeople, foreign investors, and analysts of the Thai economy have maintained a relatively positive outlook for the Thai economy this year and next. After all, as several long-time investors in Thailand have told me, the country’s economy has over decades proven extraordinarily resilient, surviving nineteen coups and attempted coups, natural disasters, the Indochina wars, and many Bangkok street protests that ended in bloodshed. Read more »

Thailand Endgame

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester (C) negotiates with a local official and police officers regarding the closing of a polling station after protesters blocked its entrance during advance voting for a general election in Bangkok on January 26, 2014. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester (C) negotiates with a local official and police officers regarding the closing of a polling station after protesters blocked its entrance during advance voting for a general election in Bangkok on January 26, 2014. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Thailand’s political crisis moved closer to the ultimate endgame, which is a complete takeover by anti-government forces, both in the street and in institutions in Bangkok. Primarily pro-government Thais came out to polls across the country to vote in advance balloting, which went on without incident in much of the North and Northeast. In these places, one might have thought a normal election was proceeding. In Bangkok and parts of the South, the demonstrators blocked many polling booths, and the level of anger and violence went up a notch, if that was even possible. The Economist this weekend essentially suggests that Thailand is going to break apart. I think that’s extreme, but the situation is deteriorating out of control quite quickly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 24, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Supporters of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent rights advocates, shout slogans near a court where Xu's trial is being held, in Beijing on January 22, 2014. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters) Supporters of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent rights advocates, shout slogans near a court where Xu's trial is being held, in Beijing on January 22, 2014. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Report reveals that several of China’s top leaders hold trillions in offshore accounts. A new report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed nearly 22,000 tax haven clients from Hong Kong and mainland China. Among the confidential files cited, there are details of a real estate company co-owned by President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law, and British Virgin Island companies set up by former Premier Wen Jiabao’s son and son-in-law. The report also states that PricewaterhouseCooper, UBS, and other Western banks have acted as middlemen aiding in setting up the offshore accounts. According to the report, “by some estimates, between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have left the country since 2000.” The ICIJ website is now blocked in China. Read more »

Thai Royalty Becomes More Openly Involved in Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters celebrate under portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit as they enter the area near the Government house in Bangkok on December 3, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters celebrate under portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit as they enter the area near the Government house in Bangkok on December 3, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Despite officially being a constitutional monarchy and supposedly no different than the monarchies of Britain, the Netherlands, or modern-day Japan, Thailand’s royal family has, during the reign of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, always been far more closely involved in Thai politics than any constitutional monarch would be. However, until the past decade, the royal family usually conducted its interventions behind the scenes. The king and his allies normally acted behind at least a veil of deniability, so that in times of crisis, the king could potentially play the role of mediator and neutral-broker. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 17, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Explosions hit protestors in Bangkok. Two explosions hit anti-government protestors in Bangkok, Thailand on January 17, wounding more than two dozen people. Some reports claim the explosion was the result of an explosive device, such as a grenade. Since Monday, protestors have taken to the streets in opposition to the nation’s political system, which they demand be overhauled along with the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they accuse of corruption. The protests, which have gathered around seven main intersection in Bangkok, started with 170,000 protestors on Monday and dropped to 60,000 people on Tuesday. By Friday, only 12,000 protesters were still on the streets. Though generally peaceful, the protest has been marred by small incidences of violence between the protesters and police during this week’s demonstration. Read more »

Indonesia’s Upcoming Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Jakarta's Governor Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, is surrounded by residents during his visit to inspect the aftermath of a slum fire area in west Jakarta on April 9, 2013. (Enny Nuraheni/Courtesy Reuters) Jakarta's Governor Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, is surrounded by residents during his visit to inspect the aftermath of a slum fire area in west Jakarta on April 9, 2013. (Enny Nuraheni/Courtesy Reuters)

Indonesia’s presidential elections, scheduled to be held in July, will be crucial to cementing Indonesia’s democratic reforms. As many developing nations around the world, like neighboring Thailand, actually have regressed from democracy in recent years, Indonesia has stood out as one of the clearest recent examples of successful democratization. In the late 1990s, as Indonesian politics began to open up, the archipelago was convulsed with violence, and at that time it was unclear whether the country would even survive intact. Battered by the Asian financial crisis, the Indonesian economy shrank by thirteen percent in 1998, and an additional ten percent of Indonesians fell into poverty between 1998 and 2000. The government of longtime dictator Suharto collapsed, and political authority crumbled in many regions. Read more »

Smiles Conceal Simmering Tension in Bangkok

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters block a major intersection in Bangkok's shopping district on January 13, 2014. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters occupied parts of central Bangkok on Monday, ratcheting up a two-month agitation to force the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and meeting no resistance. (Kerek Wongsa/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters block a major intersection in Bangkok's shopping district on January 13, 2014. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters occupied parts of central Bangkok on Monday, ratcheting up a two-month agitation to force the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and meeting no resistance. (Kerek Wongsa/Courtesy Reuters)

The first day of the Thai anti-government protesters’ Bangkok shutdown, which is now planned to go on indefinitely, went off relatively quietly, at least by recent standards in Thailand. The protesters massed at major intersections, blew whistles, held almost festival-like cheers, and generally gathered peacefully. Although many Bangkok residents were annoyed by the chaos created on the streets, business districts, and public transportation, a significant percentage of Bangkokians support the general aims of the protest movement; and, the relatively peaceful nature of the first day of the shutdown allowed some people in the capital to briefly exhale. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 10, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks during a media conference in Dhaka on January 6, 2014. (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters) Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks during a media conference in Dhaka on January 6, 2014. (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Bangladesh’s governing party wins vote despite unrest. Bangladesh’s Awami League won 232 of 300 seats in the country’s new Parliament, with nearly half of the seats uncontested due to a boycott from the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which labeled the election a sham. The government declared the average turnout to be 39.8 percent, though the opposition leader, Khaleda Zia, said that the turnout was closer to 10 percent. Twenty-two protesters were killed on Sunday, and seven were killed on Monday; the government also arrested seven high-ranking BNP leaders this week, including a close aide to Zia. The government has also demanded that the BNP cut ties with the banned Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami. Read more »

No Going Back Now for Thailand: Coup Coming?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A man holds up a poster during an anti-violence campaign in central Bangkok on January 10, 2014.(Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A man holds up a poster during an anti-violence campaign in central Bangkok on January 10, 2014.(Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

The planned shutdown for Bangkok on Monday Thai time, which is supposed to paralyze the capital, is but the latest in a series of anti-government protests held around the capital. But as I wrote earlier this week, all sides now are becoming more extreme, and I see no reason to think that this week will be peaceful. Instead, both the hard-core of the protest movement and some officers among the pro-red shirt police force are itching for an open conflict in the streets. This, I think, is likely to occur next week, and I expect both some of the protesters and many of the most aggressive—and, frankly, stupid—police to break out weaponry, including potentially even live ammunition. Read more »