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"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 17, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Explosions hit protestors in Bangkok. Two explosions hit anti-government protestors in Bangkok, Thailand on January 17, wounding more than two dozen people. Some reports claim the explosion was the result of an explosive device, such as a grenade. Since Monday, protestors have taken to the streets in opposition to the nation’s political system, which they demand be overhauled along with the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they accuse of corruption. The protests, which have gathered around seven main intersection in Bangkok, started with 170,000 protestors on Monday and dropped to 60,000 people on Tuesday. By Friday, only 12,000 protesters were still on the streets. Though generally peaceful, the protest has been marred by small incidences of violence between the protesters and police during this week’s demonstration. Read more »

Smiles Conceal Simmering Tension in Bangkok

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters block a major intersection in Bangkok's shopping district on January 13, 2014. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters occupied parts of central Bangkok on Monday, ratcheting up a two-month agitation to force the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and meeting no resistance. (Kerek Wongsa/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters block a major intersection in Bangkok's shopping district on January 13, 2014. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters occupied parts of central Bangkok on Monday, ratcheting up a two-month agitation to force the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and meeting no resistance. (Kerek Wongsa/Courtesy Reuters)

The first day of the Thai anti-government protesters’ Bangkok shutdown, which is now planned to go on indefinitely, went off relatively quietly, at least by recent standards in Thailand. The protesters massed at major intersections, blew whistles, held almost festival-like cheers, and generally gathered peacefully. Although many Bangkok residents were annoyed by the chaos created on the streets, business districts, and public transportation, a significant percentage of Bangkokians support the general aims of the protest movement; and, the relatively peaceful nature of the first day of the shutdown allowed some people in the capital to briefly exhale. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 10, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks during a media conference in Dhaka on January 6, 2014. (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters) Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks during a media conference in Dhaka on January 6, 2014. (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Bangladesh’s governing party wins vote despite unrest. Bangladesh’s Awami League won 232 of 300 seats in the country’s new Parliament, with nearly half of the seats uncontested due to a boycott from the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which labeled the election a sham. The government declared the average turnout to be 39.8 percent, though the opposition leader, Khaleda Zia, said that the turnout was closer to 10 percent. Twenty-two protesters were killed on Sunday, and seven were killed on Monday; the government also arrested seven high-ranking BNP leaders this week, including a close aide to Zia. The government has also demanded that the BNP cut ties with the banned Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami. Read more »

No Going Back Now for Thailand: Coup Coming?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A man holds up a poster during an anti-violence campaign in central Bangkok on January 10, 2014.(Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A man holds up a poster during an anti-violence campaign in central Bangkok on January 10, 2014.(Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

The planned shutdown for Bangkok on Monday Thai time, which is supposed to paralyze the capital, is but the latest in a series of anti-government protests held around the capital. But as I wrote earlier this week, all sides now are becoming more extreme, and I see no reason to think that this week will be peaceful. Instead, both the hard-core of the protest movement and some officers among the pro-red shirt police force are itching for an open conflict in the streets. This, I think, is likely to occur next week, and I expect both some of the protesters and many of the most aggressive—and, frankly, stupid—police to break out weaponry, including potentially even live ammunition. Read more »

Predictions for 2014

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Chinese sailors stand at attention on the helipad of the Chinese frigate Yancheng docked at Limassol port on January 4, 2014. (Andreas Manolis/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese sailors stand at attention on the helipad of the Chinese frigate Yancheng docked at Limassol port on January 4, 2014. (Andreas Manolis/Courtesy Reuters)

Just as in 2013, the new year promises to be a year of enormous dynamism and change in Asia. The region is now not only the biggest engine of global growth but also the center of multilateral free trade negotiations, the real heart of a democracy “spring” in developing nations–and the home of the rawest, most dangerous power politics in the world. After all, only in Asia do great powers with great stocks of nuclear weapons still face each other down, Cold War-style. In a new piece for Bloomberg, I offer my predictions for the region for 2014. Read it here.

Can Thailand Move Forward in 2014?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Riot policemen wears gas masks as they stand guard at the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok on December 26, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters) Riot policemen wears gas masks as they stand guard at the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok on December 26, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

Having just returned from Thailand, where the anti-government protest movement continues in force, and plans to shut down Bangkok again in two weeks, I can’t say I am optimistic about the Kingdom’s prospects for 2014. Although I do not think the anti-government protests planned for January 13 will draw as many people as those in December, simply because it is hard to continue to turn out such large numbers, the core of the demonstrators have become more and more willing to use aggressive, violent tactics. The increasing hard-line nature of the protests hardly bodes well for January. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 27, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
abe-visits-yasukuni-shrine Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe follows a Shinto priest during a visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on December 26, 2013. Abe’s visit to the shrine for war dead has angered China and South Korea (Toru Hanai/Courtesy: Reuters).

Darcie Draudt, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Japanese prime minister pays his respects to Yasukuni Shrine. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid his respects at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including over a dozen “Class A” war criminals. It was the first visit to the Shinto shrine by a serving prime minister since 2006, when Junichiro Koizumi went. Abe tried to play down the visit, saying it was an anti-war gesture, but Abe’s actions were widely and swiftly condemned; the Yasukuni Shrine is seen by the region as a symbol of Imperial Japanese aggression. China called the visit “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people”; South Korea expressed “regret and anger”; and the U.S. embassy in Tokyo said in a statement that it was “disappointed” and the prime minister’s actions would “exacerbate tensions” with Japan’s neighbors. Read more »

Thailand’s Political Crisis—Not so Unique

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester holds a placard as she gathers with others during a rally at a major business district in Bangkok on December 19, 2013. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester holds a placard as she gathers with others during a rally at a major business district in Bangkok on December 19, 2013. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters)

As Thailand heads into the new year, which will mark four months of political crisis, one of the most persistent—and dangerous—concepts in Thai politics remains this idea that Thailand is somehow unique. According to this popular theory, Thailand’s history, politics, and potential political solutions are completely unique, untethered from the experiences of any other developing nations. This Thailand-as-unique narrative clearly comes across in the rhetoric of the anti-government protest movement and its quest for rule by a few good men, in the weakness of studies of comparative politics in the kingdom, and in the denunciation of foreign academics and journalists who write about Thailand. Read more »

Demise of the Democrat Party in Thailand

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester waves a Thai national flag during a rally at the Royal Plaza near the Government House in Bangkok on December 9, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester waves a Thai national flag during a rally at the Royal Plaza near the Government House in Bangkok on December 9, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

When I first moved to Thailand, in 1998, the Democrat Party, the oldest continuously-operating party in the kingdom, was in control of the government and was navigating Thailand through the economic reforms necessitated by the Asian financial crisis, which started in Thailand the previous year with the collapse of the baht. Although some of the reforms were unpopular, and the country was hurting badly from the baht’s fall, the collapse of many financial institutions, and the sudden halt in construction, I admired then-Democrat Party leaders like Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai for their willingness to take on hard economic reforms. I also admired many of them for championing Thailand’s 1997 constitution, the most reformist in the kingdom’s history, a landmark document that enshrined a wide range of rights. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 6, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 4, 2013. (Lintao Zhang/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 4, 2013. (Lintao Zhang/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. White House declares China’s East China Sea air defense zone (ADIZ) “unacceptable.” The White House called China’s new air defense zone “unacceptable” on Thursday but stopped short of calling for China to rescind the declaration. Imposed on November 23, the ADIZ means that all aircraft must report flight plans to Chinese authorities and reply promptly to identification inquiries. The United States, Japan, and South Korea have all sent military aircraft through the zone without informing Beijing since it was first imposed. U.S. vice president Joe Biden said that he had “very direct” talks about U.S. concerns over the ADIZ while meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping this week. Read more »