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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"

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Investigated for Lèse Majesté

by Joshua Kurlantzick
glyn-davies-thailand U.S. ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies listens to a question from a journalist during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 30, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Last week, in a move that was shocking despite the cooling U.S.-Thailand relationship, the Thai government announced that the U.S. ambassador in Bangkok, Glyn Davies, was being investigated on suspicion of having insulted King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. Ambassador Davies had spoken to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in late November. During his talk, according to the New York Times, Davies criticized the “long prison sentences handed to some of those found guilty of criticizing [the] king” under Thailand’s lèse majesté laws, generally considered the harshest in the world. Read more »

Thailand’s Mounting Trafficking Problem

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-human-trafficking Human trafficking suspects arrive at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 10, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Human trafficking has long been a serious problem in Thailand. For decades, Thailand has been a source country for trafficked people, a transit country, and a destination for trafficked men and women, who come mostly from poorer neighboring states. (By some estimates, at least two million people from Myanmar alone are working in Thailand illegally, and many of these Myanmar citizens were trafficked to Thailand.) Men and women are trafficking to the kingdom to work in Thailand’s construction, sex, seafood, and domestic service industries, among other sectors of the economy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories From the Week of December 11, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Trafficking-camp-malaysia-12-11-15 A cage made of barbed wire and bamboo sticks that Malaysian police said was used to hold migrants is seen at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the jungle close the Thailand border at Bukit Wang Burma in northern Malaysia, May 26, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Human trafficking investigator flees Thailand. Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, a senior Thai police officer leading an investigation on human trafficking in Thailand, has fled the country to seek asylum in Australia. After more than thirty graves, which are believed to contain the remains of trafficked Rohingyas, were discovered near the Malaysian border this summer, Paween had been tasked with investigating the site and the trafficking network responsible. Read more »

Najib Stays in Power as UMNO Meets

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-unmo meeting Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at a session of the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, on November 21, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

This past summer, as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak faced an explosion of news articles about alleged irregularities in the 1MDB state fund and about the appearance of over $600 million in Najib’s personal bank account, many Malaysian politicians believed that Najib would not survive as prime minister through the end of the year. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, still one of the most influential figures in Malaysia, had unleashed a steady stream of online invective at Najib, repeatedly calling on him to resign. Read more »

The Year in Democracy in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-3 Supporters of Myanmar's pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, on November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

In the weeks since Myanmar’s national elections in November, the country’s potential as a democratic success story seems clearer and clearer. As I have noted, there are many remaining obstacles to Myanmar’s transition, including the continuing influence of the military in politics, the ongoing ethnic insurgencies, and the National League for Democracy’s inexperience in governing. Still, Myanmar’s free and fair elections, and the ruling party’s apparent willingness to step down, mark a major milestone for that country and surely are the high points for democracy in Southeast Asia in 2015. Read more »

Lessons From Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Obama-ASEAN summit U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of his ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit (EAS) meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 22, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Although President Obama’s Asia trip earlier this month was overshadowed by the international response to the Paris attacks and debates in the United States about refugee policy, the president’s visit to Malaysia and the Philippines did offer several lessons about U.S. relations with Southeast Asia. The Obama visits to Southeast Asia, part of a longer trip that included the G-20 summit in Turkey, were intended to demonstrate the administration’s commitment to the pivot in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 4, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India-coal - 12-4-15 Laborers load coal on trucks at Bari Brahamina on the outskirts of Jammu, India, March 16, 2012. (Mukesh Gupta/Reuters)

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

1. India’s embrace of coal complicates ambitious renewable energy targets. India brings a unique position to the climate negotiations underway in Paris as a huge developing country with grand economic plans that is also disproportionately facing the consequences of climate change. Read more »

ASEAN’s New Community—Only a Small Step

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ASEAN-community-signing Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) shakes hands with Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Le Luong Minh during a signing ceremony at the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the Asean Community at the 27th ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on November 22, 2015. (Goh Seng Chong /Reuters)

At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit last week, Southeast Asian leaders signed an agreement creating an “ASEAN Community.” The Diplomat reports that the “Community,” much discussed by Southeast Asian media and leaders in recent years, will be “a step towards realizing the idea of a three-pillared community to deepen regional integration first proposed in 2003 comprising an ASEAN Political and Security Community; an ASEAN Economic Community; and an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.” All the specifics of what these communities will entail have not been finalized, despite long “blueprints” proposed by ASEAN for each of the communities. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Seoul-protests - 11-20-2015 A protester reacts as water mixed with tear gas liquid is sprayed by police water canon to disperse protesters during an anti-government rally in central Seoul, South Korea, November 14, 2015. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Antigovernment protests erupt in Seoul. This week, tens of thousands of people filled City Hall plaza in downtown Seoul to protest President Park Geun-hye, demanding her resignation. The protestors wore plastic raincoats to guard against the cannons of water and liquid tear gas fired at them by the police. Read more »

What Should the NLD’s Priorities Be in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-elections-2 National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for Myanmar's first parliament meeting after November 8's general elections, at the Lower House of Parliament in Naypyitaw on November 16, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Having won a decisive victory in last week’s national elections, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which will have an absolute majority in the next parliament, now will have to set its priorities for the next few months. The next months could be an extremely turbulent time in Myanmar, as the party proposes a compromise choice for president, the current USDP ruling party comes to terms with its massive loss, the military tries to ensure that it remains the most powerful force in the country, and the NLD negotiates with various ethnic minority leaders to ensure the next government is broadly representative of Myanmar’s people. Read more »