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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"

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 »

How To Market A Nation

by Joshua Kurlantzick
joko-widodo-chamber of commerce dinner Indonesian President Joko Widodo speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dinner in Washington on October 26, 2015. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made his first visit to Washington last month as leader of the country with the fourth-largest population in the world and the sixteenth-biggest economy on earth. Indonesia has made a dramatic transition, in just twenty years, from the decades of dictatorship to one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Afghan-protests - 11-13-15 Men carry one of the coffins for the seven people who were killed by unknown militants, during a protest procession in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 10, 2015. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

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

1. Afghans protest beheadings. Thousands of protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday following the beheading of seven Afghans in the southern state of Zabul. The individuals were taken hostage in the central city of Ghazni and relocated as many as fifty-six times before being killed with razor wire. An affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan is believed to have conducted the beheadings, although it has not yet taken responsibility. Read more »

Opposition Landslide in Myanmar Won’t Push the Army Out of Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-elections-2 Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi celebrate as partial results are shown on a television the outside National League for Democracy (NLD) party headquarters in Yangon on November 8, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

This past Sunday, Myanmar men and women voted in their first true national elections in twenty-five years. On Election Day, the mood in many towns and cities was exuberant. The 1990 elections, the last national elections, were essentially annulled by the armed forces, which continued to govern until launching a transition to civilian rule in 2011. Unlike in 1990, this time many Myanmar people believed that the election would be upheld, leading to the country’s first democratically elected government in five decades. Read more »