CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Thailand"

A New Approach to Thailand’s Insurgency

by Joshua Kurlantzick
insurgnency-southern-thailand A view of the scene of a car bomb attack in Thailand's Narathiwat province, south of Bangkok on August 11, 2010. (Stringer/Reuters)

The three southernmost provinces of Thailand, near the Malaysian border, have been battered by an insurgency dating, in its current iteration, to 2001. More than 6,500 people have died as the insurgents’ actions have become increasingly brutal: setting off bombs near hospitals, beheading victims, and murdering families and children. Since August 2016, the Thai insurgents also have begun trying to strike with bombing attacks nationwide, threatening a large-scale civil conflict in the kingdom. Read more »

Thailand’s New Uncertainty

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People display portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thai baht notes as they wait on the roadside while his body is being moved from the Bangkok hospital where he died to the Grand Palace, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters) People display portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thai baht notes as they wait on the roadside while his body is being moved from the Bangkok hospital where he died to the Grand Palace, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Thai King Bhumibhol Adulyadej’s death was long anticipated, but it still came as a profound shock to Thailand. When it was announced, vast crowds gathered in towns and cities to weep and pay homage to their monarch, who had reigned for seven decades. Read more »

Insight into the (Probable) Next Thai King

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn waves to well-wishers who had gathered to see King Bhumibol Adulyadej before he departed to the Grand Palace from Siriraj Hospital to take part in his coronation anniversary ceremonies in Bangkok, Thailand May 5, 2010. (Sukree Sukplang/Reuters) Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn waves to well-wishers who had gathered to see King Bhumibol Adulyadej before he departed to the Grand Palace from Siriraj Hospital to take part in his coronation anniversary ceremonies in Bangkok, Thailand May 5, 2010. (Sukree Sukplang/Reuters)

As Thailand mourns the death of King Bhumibol, the ninth king of his line, the ruling junta has announced that the crown prince will eventually be enthroned as Rama X. However, it also announced that there will be a transitional period in which the monarchy is run by a regent, rather than the crown prince. The junta has announced that the regent will be 96-year-old former prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the former king’s council and an archroyalist. Read more »

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 »

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 »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A Thai electoral worker starts counting ballots at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand August 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kerek Wongsa A Thai electoral worker starts counting ballots at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand on August 7, 2016. (Kerek Wongsa/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, and Gabriella Meltzer look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. New Thai constitution passed in referendum. In their first opportunity to vote since the 2014 military coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically-elected government, the Thai people gave a resounding “yes” to the new military-drafted constitution. The results, with over 61 percent voting in favor, may not have been surprising given that the junta did its all to drown out the opposition, arresting and detaining dozens of activists and politicians in the lead-up to the vote. Experts were also quick to point out that approval did not equal widespread endorsement of the junta, as most people had never even seen a draft of the document and merely wanted a return to political normalcy. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Year: Meet the New Boss…

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-referendum Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha casts his ballot at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand on August 7, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

After the junta-managed referendum was approved by voters earlier this week, Thailand plans to hold elections in November 2017, according to the military regime. As I wrote earlier, the charter contained numerous provisions that seem designed to weaken the power of the two biggest political parties, the Democrat Party and Puea Thai. The new charter will potentially make the lower house of parliament nearly unmanageable, and possibly pave the way for the unelected upper house, the judiciary, the military, and the bureaucracy to wield the real levers of power in the kingdom. Read more »

What Happens After Thailand’s Referendum?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thai-protestor-referendum A student activist is detained during a silent protest in Bangkok after Thailand’s election commission filed charges against a group for posting “foul and strong” comments online criticizing a military-backed draft constitution, April 27, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

On August 7, Thais hold a national referendum on a new charter. As I noted in my previous blog post, Thailand has had twenty different constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Constitutions have been shredded by military governments after coups, rewritten during times of political upheaval, and even (as in the mid-1990s) written with thought and considerable public input and implemented under elected governments. Now, the junta, which took power in May 2014, has stage managed the drafting of a new proposed charter. Read more »

Thailand’s August 7 Referendum: Some Background

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thai-student-elephants-referendum A Thai student holds posters in front of elephants during a campaign ahead of the August 7 referendum in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, August 1, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

On August 7, Thailand will hold an up or down national referendum on a proposed new constitution. Drafting new charters are hardly unusual in the kingdom, which has had twenty constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. (One famous Thai joke told to me by many friends involves a Thai student visiting a library to read a copy of the current constitution, only to be told to check in the periodicals section.) This charter has been drafted by a group of pro-military/royalist former officials, and stage managed by the junta, which took power in May 2014 after months of destabilizing street protests against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of July 1, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A family member pays homage to the body of a Nepali national who was killed when a suicide bomber struck a minibus in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 22, 2016. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters) A family member pays homage to the body of a Nepali national who was killed when a suicide bomber struck a minibus in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 22, 2016. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, and Gabriella Meltzer look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Nepalis seeking employment in Afghanistan face severe risks. Faced with a faltering economy and few job opportunities following the devastating April 2015 earthquake, thousands of Nepalis have sought employment in Afghanistan as security contractors at foreign missions, military bases, and embassies. Read more »