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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 "Thailand"

Is the Islamic State Making Gains in Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic state Indonesian police stand guard at the site of a militant attack in central Jakarta, Indonesia on January 16, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Over the past three weeks, several events have dramatically highlighted the growing appeal of the Islamic State based in Southeast Asia. First, on January 14, a group of militants reportedly run by an Indonesian man who had traveled to Syria carried out an attack in a busy neighborhood in Jakarta, leading to at least seven deaths. Several weeks before the attack, the Indonesian police had made a string of arrests of other Indonesian cells linked to the Islamic State. Read more »

Eight Predictions for Southeast Asia for 2016: Part 1

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-predictions-2016 Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha smiles as he reviews the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony for Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 18, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

It’s that time again—time for resolutions that last a couple weeks into the new year and bold predictions that (surely) will turn out right this year. Right?

1. Najib tun Razak will be Malaysia’s Prime Minister at the End of 2016

For most of 2015, many Malaysian politicians, observers, and activists wrote Najib off, sure that the in-fighting within the governing coalition, the scandals around the 1MDB state fund, and the torrent of criticism of Najib by former prime minister Mahathir would ultimately force Najib out of office. They were wrong. Read more »

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Investigated for Lèse Majesté

by Joshua Kurlantzick
glyn-davies-thailand U.S. ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies listens to a question from a journalist during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 30, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Last week, in a move that was shocking despite the cooling U.S.-Thailand relationship, the Thai government announced that the U.S. ambassador in Bangkok, Glyn Davies, was being investigated on suspicion of having insulted King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. Ambassador Davies had spoken to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in late November. During his talk, according to the New York Times, Davies criticized the “long prison sentences handed to some of those found guilty of criticizing [the] king” under Thailand’s lèse majesté laws, generally considered the harshest in the world. Read more »

Thailand’s Mounting Trafficking Problem

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thailand-human-trafficking Human trafficking suspects arrive at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 10, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Human trafficking has long been a serious problem in Thailand. For decades, Thailand has been a source country for trafficked people, a transit country, and a destination for trafficked men and women, who come mostly from poorer neighboring states. (By some estimates, at least two million people from Myanmar alone are working in Thailand illegally, and many of these Myanmar citizens were trafficked to Thailand.) Men and women are trafficking to the kingdom to work in Thailand’s construction, sex, seafood, and domestic service industries, among other sectors of the economy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories From the Week of December 11, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Trafficking-camp-malaysia-12-11-15 A cage made of barbed wire and bamboo sticks that Malaysian police said was used to hold migrants is seen at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the jungle close the Thailand border at Bukit Wang Burma in northern Malaysia, May 26, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Human trafficking investigator flees Thailand. Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, a senior Thai police officer leading an investigation on human trafficking in Thailand, has fled the country to seek asylum in Australia. After more than thirty graves, which are believed to contain the remains of trafficked Rohingyas, were discovered near the Malaysian border this summer, Paween had been tasked with investigating the site and the trafficking network responsible. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Seoul-protests - 11-20-2015 A protester reacts as water mixed with tear gas liquid is sprayed by police water canon to disperse protesters during an anti-government rally in central Seoul, South Korea, November 14, 2015. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Antigovernment protests erupt in Seoul. This week, tens of thousands of people filled City Hall plaza in downtown Seoul to protest President Park Geun-hye, demanding her resignation. The protestors wore plastic raincoats to guard against the cannons of water and liquid tear gas fired at them by the police. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Leader Threatens to Stay on “Forever”

by Joshua Kurlantzick
PM-prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures after presiding over Thailand Corporate Excellence Award for Financial Management at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on September 9, 2015. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

As Thailand’s political situation continues to deteriorate, with civilian politicians beginning to push back against army rule, and the deadline for a new constitution and free election delayed again, Thai Prime Minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha seems increasingly frustrated with the debate, compromise, and public scrutiny common in a constitution-drafting process, and a democratic society. The prime minister has become known for his outbursts at the press and other critics, but in recent weeks his speeches have become more vitriolic. Read more »

China’s Charm Offensive Continues to Sputter in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-protests Riot police protect the entrance to Chinatown from "Red Shirt" demonstrators during a rally to celebrate Malaysia Day and to counter a massive protest held over two days last month that called for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a graft scandal, in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

After a decade, in the 2000s, in which China aggressively pursued warmer relations with many Southeast Asian nations, using a combination of diplomacy, aid, and soft power to woo its neighbors, the past five years have seen a significant chill in China-Southeast Asia relations. First, Beijing’s more aggressive pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea led to heightened tensions between China and other claimants—most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, but also increasingly Indonesia, where the armed forces are trying to rapidly modernize Jakarta’s naval capacity in part out of fear of China’s actions in the South China Sea. Read more »

Thailand’s Bombing Case Twists and Turns

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-police-Erawan Shrine bombing Thai national police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang (C) attends a news conference about the Bangkok blast which killed 20 people, including foreigners, as screen shows suspects, at the Royal Thai Police headquarters in central Bangkok, Thailand, on September 28, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

More than a month after the deadly bombing at central Bangkok’s Erawan shrine, the Thai authorities have made two arrests in the case, and issued at least seventeen arrest warrants overall. On Monday, the Thai police announced that one of the men in custody was the person caught on closed circuit television on the day of the bombing in August—the man who appeared to be leaving a bomb at the shrine. But some Thai commentators remain doubtful that the government has gotten closer to actually solving the case. Read more »

Thailand Slashes Its Economic Growth Forecast

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Somkid Jatusripitak_Thailand_economy Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak gestures during an interview with Reuters at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on September 21, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

On Friday, Thailand’s central bank slashed its growth forecast for the Thai economy for 2015, to 2.7 percent. As noted in a summary of the bank’s report in The Diplomat, this was the third time this year that the Bank of Thailand (BoT) has cut its growth forecast, and the BoT’s projected growth for 2015 is about half what it had expected for the Thai economy before the year started. A growth rate of 2.7 percent for the year would almost surely make Thailand the worst performing economy for 2015 in Southeast Asia. Read more »