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"

What Does Thailand’s Article 44 Mean for Thailand’s International Relations?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-medvedev Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (R) speak during a news conference at the Government House in Bangkok on April 8, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy: Reuters)

Thailand’s ruling junta now has replaced martial law, which had been in force since the coup in May 2014, with legislation under Article 44 of the interim constitution. This shift has been heavily criticized by human rights organizations, many foreign countries, and some Thai media outlets. Human Rights Watch has called the shift to operating under Article 44 an attempt to give Prayuth “unlimited powers without safeguards against human rights violations.” Read more »

Is There Such Thing As a Thai-Style Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prayuth-Chan-ocha-Thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pays respect in front of Buddhist monks as he attends the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

This past week, Thai prime minister—and junta leader—General Prayuth Chan-ocha ended martial law, which had been in place since the May 2014 coup, and replaced it by invoking an article of the interim constitution that gives him nearly-absolute powers. This shift did not necessarily mean Thailand is moving any closer to a return to democracy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 3, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters) Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Thailand lifts martial law and puts in place a “new security order.” Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej approved a request from the country’s junta to lift martial law on Wednesday and trade it for a so-called new security order. Most experts agree this choice was a cosmetic one, not substantive, that was an attempt to improve the appearance of Thailand to the outside world while maintaining absolute power for the junta. Read more »

Will Thailand’s Prime Minister Amass Even More Power?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prayuth-Chan-ocha Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C) gestures in a traditional greeting after a speech at the Stock Exchange of Thailand in Bangkok on February 26, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Over the past month, the Thai press has repeatedly suggested that the junta-installed government will soon remove martial law. Martial law has been in place since the May 2014 coup. (Some provinces in the south had martial law long before 2014.) And indeed, this week the Thai government does appear ready to lift martial law. Coup leader-turned prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government may be making this move since many foreign governments and rights organizations have specifically criticized martial law, holding it up as a sign of serious restrictions on rights and freedoms. Read more »

Thailand’s Teflon Economy Finally Seems to Be Cracking

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-tourism-campaign Performers take part in a parade during the "2015 Discover Thainess" campaign, an event held to promote tourism, in Bangkok on January 14, 2015. (Chaiwat Subprasom /Courtesy: Reuters)

For nearly fifteen years in the 2000s and early 2010s, Thailand’s economy, once one of the fastest-growing in the world, survived the effects of near-constant political turmoil, natural disasters, and worries about the country’s future in the wake of a looming royal succession. Even after the massive floods in the monsoon season of 2011 that destroyed much of the industrial estates north of Bangkok, home to auto parts, disk drive, and other key manufacturing plants, Thailand’s economy rebounded strongly. Read more »

Thai Junta Seems Ready to Put Elections Off Longer

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Prayuth Chan-ocha-thailand-elections Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha toasts during a luncheon organized by Keidanren, Japan Business Federation, in Tokyo on February 9, 2015. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a recent letter to the Washington Post, Thailand’s new ambassador to the United States insisted that despite the May 2014 coup, continued martial law, crackdowns on activists of all types, and an unclear path to election, Thailand remains a democracy. “Thailand has not wavered in its commitment to democracy…progress is being made,” the ambassador insisted. His letter was written in response to a Washington Post editorial entitled “Thailand’s Ineffective Rule by Force,” which argued that the generals are holding hundreds of political prisoners, have mismanaged the Thai economy, have failed to bring stability to the country, and are trying to “permanently hobble democracy” in Thailand. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing, February 18, 2015. The Chinese Lunar New Year on Feb. 19 will welcome the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram). REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing on February 18, 2015 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy of Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Myanmar declares martial law in Kokang. President Thein Sein announced a state of emergency and three months of martial law in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, on the border with China, after a series of clashes between the Myanmar army and armed Kokang rebels. Under martial law, administrative and judicial power has been granted to the army’s commander in chief; the imposition of martial law is aimed at securing a ceasefire and political dialogue well in advance of general elections later this year. The conflict is a setback for Myanmar’s semi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after nearly fifty years of military rule. Myanmar is turning to neighboring China for help even as tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing into Yunnan province from Kokang. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Constitution Becomes Clearer

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai military Thai soldiers stand guard at the police boat T813 tsunami memorial in Khao Lak, Phang Nga province on December 25, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Although much of the negotiations within Thailand’s constitutional drafting committee, hand picked by the Thai military, will go on without public input, the outlines of the next constitution are becoming clearer as the drafting committee has begun to meet. In recent weeks, some aspects of the drafting have been covered – and even occasionally criticized – by the Thai media, and it is clear that, despite being picked by the military, a few drafters have concerns about the opaque drafting process and the possible rollback of democratic institutions in the next constitution. Read more »

Where the Pivot Went Wrong – And How To Fix It

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pivot and SE Asia President Barack Obama joins hands with leaders, including Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Myanmar President Thein Sein, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, during a group photo for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Naypyitaw on November 13, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

Since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States has pursued a policy of rebuilding ties with Southeast Asia. By 2011 this regional focus had become part of a broader strategy toward Asia called the “pivot,” or rebalance. This approach includes shifting economic, diplomatic, and military resources to the region from other parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, a central part of the pivot involves building relations with countries in mainland Southeast Asia once shunned by Washington because of their autocratic governments, and reviving close U.S. links to Thailand and Malaysia. The Obama administration has also upgraded defense partnerships throughout the region, followed through on promises to send high-level officials to Southeast Asian regional meetings, and increased port calls to and basing of combat ships in Southeast Asia. Read more »

New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia (Part 2)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
petronas Motorists queue to fill up on natural gas at a Petronas station, with the company's headquarters at the landmark Petronas Twin Towers visible in the background, in Kuala Lumpur in this file photo from July 30, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy: Reuters).

Following up from last week, I am now counting down my top five predictions for 2015. Read more »