CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Southeast Asia"

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 »

Thailand’s Election Day: Overall, the Voters Win, But Chaos Ahead

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Election commission officials display ballot papers to the media while counting votes at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy Reuters) Election commission officials display ballot papers to the media while counting votes at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy Reuters)

Despite protesters blocking voting in southern provinces and many parts of Bangkok, and despite several serious incidents of violence in Bangkok, including a gunfight in the streets, the Sunday election actually was somewhat more peaceful than expected, and turnout slightly higher than expected. The relatively high turnout, the lack of widespread violence that protest leaders surely hoped would erupt, and the fact that heads of the armed forces quietly voted, suggests that overall, Sunday was a net loss for the anti-government PDRC, though hardly a sign that the Thai government is now in the clear. Read more »

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 »