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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"

Malaysia’s Institutions Come Unraveled

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Muhyiddin Yassin-Mahathir Mohamad-Malaysia (Seated from L to R) UMNO's Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and member of parliament Razaleigh Hamzah give a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on October 12, 2015. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir and some leaders of the ruling party jointly demanded resolution of the 1MDB state fund scandal on Monday and condemned a crackdown on dissent, signalling a divide within the coalition. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

On Saturday, as the Diplomat reported, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, released a statement on Facebook warning that the country was slipping into dictatorship. Yassin lashed out against Prime Minister Najib tun Razak for overseeing this reversal from democracy. “In the face of public outrage at his leadership, Najib is using all the power that he has to suppress the voice of the opposition and silence his critics,” warned Yassin. “We are really witnessing the collapse of democratic institutions and the emergence of a new dictatorship.” Read more »

Plunging Commodity Prices and the Impact on Malaysia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-budget Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak announces revisions to the fiscal budget in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on January 28, 2016. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Last month, Malaysia cut its 2016 growth forecast and slashed spending plans as the economy continues to suffer from falling oil prices. Oil and commodities are very important to Malaysia’s economy, with palm oil, in particular, being one of its foundations. Gas and rubber are also important sectors. So falling global commodity prices have hurt Malaysia badly. According to an article in the Straits Times, the Malaysian government has said that “each $1 drop in oil prices slashes RM 300 million [roughly $72 million] from its annual revenue.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of February 19, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippines-China-missile-protest A protester from the League of Filipino Students and Kabataan (Youth) Party list group holds an effigy symbolizing a missile during a rally by more than a dozen students outside the Chinese consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district in the Philippines, February 19, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. China puts missiles on disputed island. The Pentagon has claimed that China has deployed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, one of the Paracel Islands disputed in the South China Sea. Based on satellite imagery, China has deployed two batteries of eight HQ-9 missile launchers on the island, which Taiwan and Vietnam also claim. In response, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has accused China of “an increase in militarization” of the South China Sea. Read more »

The U.S.-ASEAN Summit: Final Thoughts

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S.-ASEAN-leaders summit-sunnylands U.S. President Barack Obama (C) is flanked by leaders from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit during a group photo opportunity in Rancho Mirage, California, on February 16, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The U.S.-ASEAN summit earlier this week, held at Sunnylands estate in California, was overshadowed by the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, and the political debate over his possible replacement. Many Southeast Asian leaders, who had looked forward to the summit as a sign of the Obama administration’s interest in the region, as well as a kind of blessing for hardline rulers like Cambodia’s Hun Sen and Thailand’s Prayuth Chan-ocha, were probably disappointed by how little attention the summit got from the U.S. media and from many U.S. politicians and opinion leaders. Read more »

Democratic Regression in Southeast Asia and the Islamic State

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic state-trial An Indonesian policemen stands guard during the trial of Ahmad Junaedi, who is accused of supporting Islamic State, at West Jakarta court in Jakarta, on February 9, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Part 3

Southeast Asia’s decade of democratic regression, which I examined in the previous blog post, reflects a worrying global retrenchment. Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report, which measures the spread or retrenchment of freedom globally, has reported ten straight years of declining global political freedom. In Freedom House’s 2016 edition of Freedom in the World, more than seventy countries registered declines in political freedom as compared to the prior year. Read more »

Thailand’s Universal Eye Screening in Action

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
Three elementary school girls at a primary school in Samutprakan, Thailand. This school was one of the pilot sites for the HITAP program for refractive eye screening. (Courtesy: Ariella Rotenberg) Three elementary school girls at a primary school in Samutprakan, Thailand. This school was one of the pilot sites for the HITAP program for refractive eye screening. (Courtesy: Ariella Rotenberg)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As of January 9, 2016, Thailand has implemented refractive error eye screening in first-grade classrooms nationwide. Additionally, any student that is identified with vision impairment through the refractive error screening, is guaranteed to be seen at the local hospital by an ophthalmologist and provided with glasses to correct for their impaired vision. Under this policy, it is estimated that 260,000 Thai children will be able to access spectacles that they need but may not have otherwise received. With the exceptions of South Korea and Iran, Thailand stands way ahead of the pack among Asian countries in having universal eye screening for children. Last September, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted a meeting focused on promoting universal eye health across the Western Pacific region specifically because the region lags in providing universal vision care.

Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of February 12, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Taiwan-earthquake-collapsed-building Soldiers stand guard in front of seventeen-story apartment building collapsed after an earthquake, on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year at Tainan, Taiwan, February 8, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Developer of collapsed building arrested in Taiwan. After launching an investigation to determine the reasons behind the collapse of a seventeen-story building during a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in the city of Tainan last Saturday, Taiwanese authorities have arrested developer Lin Ming-Hui. The earthquake struck around 4 a.m. local time at the start of the Chinese New Year holiday, compounding the tragedy for some. Read more »

The Elephant in the US-ASEAN Room: Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
US-ASEAN-summit U.S. President Barack Obama (bottom L) participates in a US-ASEAN meeting at the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on November 21, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Next week, at a summit in California, President Obama will meet the ten leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the most important regional group in Asia. The event, the first-ever US-ASEAN summit on American soil, is being touted by the White House as a sign of the importance of Southeast Asia. After all, the Obama administration has made relations with Southeast Asia a centerpiece of “the pivot,” or “rebalance to Asia,” a national security strategy that entails shifting American military, economic, and diplomatic resources to the Pacific Rim. Read more »

Critics of China Vanish Outside China’s Borders

by Joshua Kurlantzick
china-hong kong-disapppearances A policeman on duty during a protest on the disappearance of five booksellers, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China on January 4, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Gui Minhai, by most accounts, appeared quite happy with his life in Pattaya, a seedy seaside report east of Bangkok. The writer and editor, born in China and holding a Swedish passport, had been living in a condo in Pattaya and working on books for Mighty Current, a Hong Kong-based publishing house he founded that specialized in steamy (and possibly untrue) tell-alls about the private lives and political in-fighting of leaders of China’s Communist Party. He swam daily, and apparently wrote at a desk overlooking the blue-green Gulf of Thailand. Read more »

Off-Label Use of Drugs and Access to Medicines for All: A Thailand Example

by Yanzhong Huang
A worker makes his way on a bridge at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plant. Roche is the manufacturer of Avastin, a cancer medication used for off-label treatment for macular disease in place of the more expensive Lucentis. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters) A worker makes his way on a bridge at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plant. Roche is the manufacturer of Avastin, a cancer medication used for off-label treatment for macular disease in place of the more expensive Lucentis. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Several years ago an Indonesian girl named Widya posted a message on my blog. She asked where she could obtain the drug Sorafenib for her father, who was terminally ill with liver cancer. Her family had already spent a significant sum on her father’s healthcare and could not afford further treatment. I forwarded the message to a pharmaceutical executive in Jakarta, who responded that Sorafenib was available in Indonesia but a month’s dosage would cost around $4,500 (the average monthly salary in Jakarta is about $1,180). “I hope the patient has health insurance coverage, otherwise the family will have to pay out of pocket,” he said.

Read more »