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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"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 8, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Security forces and rescue workers inspect an abandoned camp at a rubber plantation near a mountain in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 7, 2015 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters). Security forces and rescue workers inspect an abandoned camp at a rubber plantation near a mountain in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 7, 2015 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Mass graves of human trafficking camp unearthed in Thailand. Police exhumed twenty-six bodies at a mass grave located in the jungles of Songkhla province this week. Most of the migrants once held at the now abandoned site were Rohingya Muslim refugees from western Myanmar and Bangladesh. According to reports, this camp was made up of “bamboo cages, watchtowers and what Thai police described as a torture room.” Even as the grave was discovered, more than fifty Thai police officers were punished over suspected links to human trafficking networks. The mass grave was hardly the first indicator that Thailand has a booming human trafficking business and it remains to be seen if the Thai government can successfully undertake steps necessary to combat human trafficking. Read more »

The Coup One Year On: Why Has Thai Democracy Regressed?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-coup-protests Soldiers take position along roads blocked around the Victory Monument, where anti-coup protesters were gathering on previous days, in Bangkok on May 30, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

On a hot spring afternoon in 1999 at the investigative reporting section of the Bangkok Post, one of Thailand’s two English-language dailies, the section’s editor marked off a long list of stories on a white board. The section had plenty of targets in its sights—police corruption, Thailand’s drug trade and many other subjects. Read more »

Is the Mass Grave a “Turning Point” for Thai Policy on Trafficking?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-Songkhla A member of the security forces is seen at an abandoned camp in a jungle some three hundred meters from the border with Malaysia, in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 2, 2015. (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters)

Last Friday, Thai police discovered a mass grave near the country’s southern border with Malaysia. Twenty-six bodies have been exhumed from the grave thus far. According to a report in the New York Times, the mass grave was located in an abandoned detention camp that was likely used by human smugglers. These camps, primarily for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, are common in southern Thailand. This one, the Times reported, was “made up of bamboo cages, watchtowers and what the Thai police described as a ‘torture room,’ without giving more details.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 24, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 April 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from 19 to 24 April 2015. REUTERS/Mast Irham/POOL Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 22, 2015 (Mast Irham/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Xi Jinping visits Indonesia and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and Indonesia this week. In Pakistan, he signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of the new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land and maritime economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East. Pakistan will invest part of the money in infrastructure proejcts, including a deepwater port at Gwadar and railroads from Baluchistan into western China. In Indonesia, Xi attended the Asian-African Conference. Xi Jinping and  Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss investments in Indonesian development. This pledge came on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank. At the conference, Xi spoke about the importance of developed countries investing in the developing world “with no political strings attached,” while Jokowi, in his keynote address, called for a new world order not dominated by Western-controlled financial institutions. Xi also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a speech by Abe in which he warned against powerful nations imposing on the weak. Read more »

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 »