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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"

Podcast: A Conversation with Evan Medeiros

by Adam Segal
Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode. Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

Asia Unbound is proud to announce a new podcast series. Our first guest is Special Advisor to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Evan Medeiros. I spoke with him on U.S. policy in Asia and the Obama administration’s Asia rebalancing strategy on May 30, 2014. Listen to the podcast below. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 13, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Planes are seen near a section of a damaged building (L) at Jinnah International Airport, after Sunday's attack by Taliban militants, in Karachi June 10, 2014. (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters) Planes are seen near a section of a damaged building (L) at Jinnah International Airport, after Sunday's attack by Taliban militants, in Karachi June 10, 2014. (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. After a six month suspension, CIA resumes drone strikes in Pakistan. Two U.S. drones struck Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region this week, killing several militants from Pakistani Taliban-allied factions, including the Haqqani network (which until recently held Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl hostage). The strikes came in the wake of the terrorist attack on the international airport in Karachi last Sunday; more than thirty people were killed including the militants. The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack as retaliation for “the shelling and atrocities of the government.” Peace talks between the TTP and the Pakistani government have foundered and do not appear recoverable, and Pakistan is “mulling a new offensive of its own” against the militants. Although Pakistan has publicly condemned the U.S. drone strikes, anonymous government officials have admitted Islamabad gave the Americans “express approval” to carry out the strikes. Read more »

Jokowi’s Plans?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters). Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters).

Although Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has seen his lead in the polls shrink in the run-up to the July 9 elections, he still remains the overwhelming favorite. Jokowi has lost ground to Prabowo Subianto because of Prabowo’s effective social media and on-the-ground campaign apparatus. Still, Jokowi and his running mate, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, performed well in the first presidential debate, hitting on Prabowo’s highly problematic human rights record and exposing Prabowo’s sharp, even crazy temper. Jokowi seems to have realized that he needs a better get-out-the-vote operation. He also has become more skilled in deflecting concerns that he will just be a tool of his PDI-P party and of party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. Read more »

Thailand’s Tough Coup

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A woman and her child walks past policemen standing guard as anti-coup protesters gather outside the Australian embassy in Bangkok on June 4, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). A woman and her child walks past policemen standing guard as anti-coup protesters gather outside the Australian embassy in Bangkok on June 4, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

As the Thai coup settles into some kind of normality, the outlines of how this junta will act are becoming clear. As Leeds and Columbia University professor Duncan McCargo has written, this coup is proceeding far differently than other recent military takeovers in the kingdom. The timeline for returning power to the people through national elections is long and somewhat indeterminate, the military is cracking down on dissent much harder than it did in 2006 or even in the early post-coup 1990s, and the army seems intent on creating a cult of personality around it this time that has been absent for decades in Thailand. The military is reportedly launching Friday broadcasts to foster “happiness” in the kingdom, it is hauling in hundreds of journalists, academics, and activists for what are essentially old-school re-education sessions, and it even has ideas of trying to control and block social media outlets, including one of the most popular Thai social media outlets. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 6, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters). Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Thousands protest on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tiananmen Square; mainland China ramps up security. Much of the world commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Police presence shot up in Beijing and other major Chinese cities for the anniversary, and many websites, including LinkedIn, censored all mention of the incident. In Hong Kong, where freedom of speech is more protected, approximately 180,000 people converged in Victoria Park, lighting candles and chanting slogans. The White House officially commemorated the anniversary, leaving China “strongly dissatisfied.” Read more »

What Has Gone Wrong in Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-coup-protest A protester, who was briefly detained and then released, walks back toward others protesting against military rule near the Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 24, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

What has gone wrong in Southeast Asia? Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, many countries in the region were viewed by global democracy analysts and Southeast Asians themselves as leading examples of democratization in the developing world.

By the late 2000s, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore all were ranked as “free” or “partly free” by the monitoring organization Freedom House, while Cambodia and, perhaps most surprisingly, Myanmar had both taken sizable steps toward democracy as well. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 30, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Trucks packed with criminals and suspects are seen during a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, Xinjiang on May 27, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters). Trucks packed with criminals and suspects are seen during a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, Xinjiang on May 27, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. China convicts fifty-five people in Xinjiang mass sentencing. Fifty-five people were sentenced for terrorism, separatism, international homicide, and murder at a stadium of 7,000 onlookers in Yili, Xinjiang. Standing in backs of vehicles surrounded by armed guards, the defendants all appeared to be from the region’s Muslim Uighur community. The rare mass trial, in which three defendants were sentenced to death, is part of Beijing’s hardline response to a recent string of deadly attacks across the country. Human rights advocates criticized the mass sentencing for its failure to address underlying public security problems. Meanwhile, authorities in Xinjiang are hoping to overcome fears of terrorist attacks by offering cash bonuses to tourists to the region from elsewhere in China. Read more »

Thailand’s Coup Just One Sign of Southeast Asia’s Regression From Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-coup-demonstration Demonstrators march as riot police officers and soldiers block a street during a protest against military rule in central of Bangkok on May 24, 2014. Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a "safe place" on Saturday, an aide said, after being held by Thailand's army following its seizure of power this week, as opposition to the coup grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

This past week, the Thai military launched its second coup in a decade, destroying what was left of Thailand’s shaky democratic system. This coup is likely to last longer, and be much harsher than the coup in 2006; already, the Thai armed forces are censoring Thai media and putting journalists and politicians in detention or in jail. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 23, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after a military coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters). Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after a military coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Tumultuous times for Thailand. On Thursday, Thailand’s army chief general Prayuth Chan-ocha declared a military coup, just two days after martial law was instated. The coup d’etat is the latest development in six months of political instability and protests, and follows the May 7 dismissal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. General Chan-ocha has assumed the role until new elections are held. Although Yingluck was elected by popular vote, the Thai establishment (defenders of the monarchy) has historically found ways to invalidate the ballot box when a rival comes into power. Violence between the pro-government “Red Shirts” and anti-government “Yellow Shirts,” with the military now in the mix, is a looming possibility. Read more »

The U.S. Response to Thailand’s Coup

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-coup Soldiers take up position at the Democracy monument after the coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014. Thailand's army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha took control of the government in the coup on Thursday saying the army had to restore order and push through reforms, two days after he declared martial law (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

So, the Thai military has now made real what, in effect, it had already done earlier this week—launched a coup and taken over the powers of government. The armed forces now have posted troops around Bangkok, dispatched ministers from the previous civilian government, abrogated the standing constitution (except for a few articles) and passed harsh new censorship decrees as part of their martial law plan. Most likely, the leaders of the Thai army shortly will appoint a caretaker government, which will be made up of mostly conservative, royalist political figures. Unsurprisingly, the anti-government PDRC protestors who had been demonstrating for months to evict the elected government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and to put democracy on hold now are jubilant. The PDRC protestors have seemingly gotten exactly what they wanted—Yingluck is gone, the Puea Thai party is in disarray, and democracy has been put on hold. Whatever appointed government is put into place by the military likely will launch reforms that, in theory, could help cleanse Thailand’s political system of graft and vote buying but that, in reality, will be designed to try to ensure the Shinawatras and their political base are disempowered once and for all. Read more »