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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"

The Mixed Legacy of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

by Joshua Kurlantzick
king-bhumibol Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit wave to well-wishers on the 60th anniversary of the king's coronation in Bangkok on June 9, 2006. (Reuters/Stringer)

To an outsider, an obituary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej might read like one of Queen Elizabeth II, another long-reigning monarch who became a symbol of her country, especially during times of massive political and economic transition. During his staggering seven-decades-long rule, Thailand’s economy boomed and achieved middle-income status, the country took fragile steps toward democracy, and a treaty alliance was cemented with the United States. Read more »

Review of “The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam” by Christopher Goscha

by Joshua Kurlantzick
vietnam-a-modern-history Tourists visit the Victory Monument in Dien Bien Phu city on May 26, 2011. The Dien Bien Phu siege lasted for 56 days in 1954 and is considered one of the great battles of the 20th century. The French defeat led to the signing of the Geneva Accords on July 21, 1954. (Kham/Reuters)

In forty years, the relationship between the United States and Vietnam has swung about as widely as is possible. In 1975, the United States cut diplomatic ties with the country after the end of the Vietnam War—or, more formally, the Second Indochina War. Now, though Hanoi remains a repressive, one-party, nominally communist state, it has become one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Indeed, Vietnam, which fears China’s growing maritime power, is perhaps the closest U.S. strategic partner in its region, other than Singapore. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of October 7, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
joshua-wong-thai-expulsion Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong shows a notice of expulsion offered by Thai immigration besides Demosisto Chairman Nathan Law (L), after Wong arrived at Hong Kong Airport in Hong Kong, October 5, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, David O’Connor, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Thailand detains Hong Kong democracy activist. Thai authorities detained Occupy Central organizer Joshua Wong for twelve hours earlier this week and denied him entry to the country. Wong, who is nineteen, was visiting Thailand to address students in Bangkok. Following his return to Hong Kong, Wong claimed that the Thai government had detained him because it had been directed to do so by the Chinese government. Read more »

How Much Damage Can Duterte Do to the U.S.-Philippine Relationship?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
duterte-us-philippines Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (C) clenches fist with members of the Philippine Army during his visit at the army headquarters in Taguig city, metro Manila, Philippines on October 4, 2016. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Over the past decade, the United States and the Philippines have bolstered what was already a strong strategic and diplomatic relationship with deep historical roots and a 65-year treaty alliance. During the George W. Bush administration, after 9/11, the U.S. launched a training and assistance program for the Philippine armed forces, designed to help combat terrorist networks based in the southern Philippines, especially Abu Sayyaf. For a time, a significant detachment of U.S. Special Forces was based there, training Philippine soldiers. Read more »

South and Southeast Asia—The Islamic State’s New Front?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic-state Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 14, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Over the past year, as the Islamic State (ISIS) has suffered multiple losses in Syria and Iraq, the group has clearly been looking to widen its impact, taking the fight to countries outside of the Middle East. Increasingly, ISIS leaders have used social media to call on Islamic radicals to stage attacks in countries in the West like France and the United States, where the Orlando gunman, the San Bernardino gunmen, and the Nice attacker, among others, have publicly identified themselves with ISIS. Read more »

Duterte Shakes Up Philippine Foreign Policy

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick
duterte-foreign-policy-2 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao city, southern Philippines on August 21, 2016. (Lean Daval Jr/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila, and, most recently, the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The U.S., China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

The Philippines’ controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, has once again grabbed global headlines with his inflammatory statements. This time, he reportedly invoked Hitler to underscore his commitment to continuing a ‘shock and awe’ campaign against illegal drugs, which has provoked global outcry. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 30, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
pyongyang-womencrossdmz Female activists from around the world representing the group WomenCrossDMZ arrive at Pyongyang airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken and released by Kyodo, May 19, 2015. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Samir Kumar, Gabriella Meltzer, David O’Connor, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Women activists urge Ban Ki-moon to formally end Korean War. Over 100 women activists from thirty-eight countries are putting pressure on United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to formally end the Korean War prior to the end of his tenure on December 31, 2016. Read more »

Malaysia’s Parties Prepare for 2018 Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick
mahathir-ibrahim Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (center L) meets with jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (center R) in a high court in Kuala Lumpur on September 5, 2016. (Lawyers for Liberty/Handout via Reuters)

Two days ago, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak told reporters that he would not call national elections until 2018, when his parliament’s term runs out. As The Diplomat recently reported, some Malaysian observers thought that Najib would hold elections earlier—even as early as the middle of next year—because his party’s grip on power will wane in the face of a newly emboldened opposition. As The Diplomat noted, “The idea of holding early elections rests on the idea that Najib and his supporters perceive his political position as being stronger now than it will be within the next year or two.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 23, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
indonesia-forest-fire A resident tries to put out a bush fire with a tree branch in Pekanbaru, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia, August 23, 2016. (Rony Muharrman/Antara Foto/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Samir Kumar, Gabriella Meltzer, and David O’Connor look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Deadly forest fires exact major toll on Southeast Asia. A study published this week in Environmental Research Letters by public health and atmospheric modeling experts at Harvard University and Columbia University reveals the severe public-health ramifications of forest fires that engulfed Indonesia in 2015. The researchers estimated that fires deliberately set to clear land for agricultural purposes caused the premature deaths of 91,600 people in Indonesia, and 6,500 and 2,200 deaths in Malaysia and Singapore, respectively. Read more »

Podcast: Myanmar’s “Democratic” Reform

by Elizabeth C. Economy
nld-rally Supporters of Myanmar’s pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Earlier this week, as the latest stop on an historic visit to the United States, Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi made her first official appearance before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Last week she met with U.S. President Barack Obama, who announced plans to lift sanctions on Myanmar to ensure that “the people of Burma see rewards from a new way of doing business and a new government.” But are Myanmar’s citizens really experiencing a “new government,” and is Aung San Suu Kyi’s political performance measuring up to her renown as a symbol for democratic change?

Read more »