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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 "Yingluck Shinawatra"

Thailand Endgame

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester (C) negotiates with a local official and police officers regarding the closing of a polling station after protesters blocked its entrance during advance voting for a general election in Bangkok on January 26, 2014. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester (C) negotiates with a local official and police officers regarding the closing of a polling station after protesters blocked its entrance during advance voting for a general election in Bangkok on January 26, 2014. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Thailand’s political crisis moved closer to the ultimate endgame, which is a complete takeover by anti-government forces, both in the street and in institutions in Bangkok. Primarily pro-government Thais came out to polls across the country to vote in advance balloting, which went on without incident in much of the North and Northeast. In these places, one might have thought a normal election was proceeding. In Bangkok and parts of the South, the demonstrators blocked many polling booths, and the level of anger and violence went up a notch, if that was even possible. The Economist this weekend essentially suggests that Thailand is going to break apart. I think that’s extreme, but the situation is deteriorating out of control quite quickly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 24, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Supporters of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent rights advocates, shout slogans near a court where Xu's trial is being held, in Beijing on January 22, 2014. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters) Supporters of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent rights advocates, shout slogans near a court where Xu's trial is being held, in Beijing on January 22, 2014. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Report reveals that several of China’s top leaders hold trillions in offshore accounts. A new report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed nearly 22,000 tax haven clients from Hong Kong and mainland China. Among the confidential files cited, there are details of a real estate company co-owned by President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law, and British Virgin Island companies set up by former Premier Wen Jiabao’s son and son-in-law. The report also states that PricewaterhouseCooper, UBS, and other Western banks have acted as middlemen aiding in setting up the offshore accounts. According to the report, “by some estimates, between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have left the country since 2000.” The ICIJ website is now blocked in China. 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 »

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 »

Why Is Thailand Allergic to Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters sweep the street around the Democracy Monument after weeks of protesting and days of clashes with police in Bangkok's city centre on December 4, 2013. (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters sweep the street around the Democracy Monument after weeks of protesting and days of clashes with police in Bangkok's city centre on December 4, 2013. (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past week, Thailand’s political unrest has descended into serious, chaotic violence. On Monday and Tuesday, protesters entered the grounds of both police headquarters and Government House, having already occupied other ministries. Despite a short truce to observe the king’s 86th birthday on December 5, the conflict is likely to start up again, since protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has vowed to keep on, and the deep divides in Thai society remain. Read more »

The U.S. Response to Thailand’s Unrest

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Thai Buddhist monk puts on a gas mask as riot police use water cannon and tear gas while anti-government protesters attempt to remove barricades outside Government House in Bangkok on December 2, 2013. (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters) A Thai Buddhist monk puts on a gas mask as riot police use water cannon and tear gas while anti-government protesters attempt to remove barricades outside Government House in Bangkok on December 2, 2013. (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Thailand’s political unrest, which was already sliding downhill last week, took a turn for the worse. Clashes between anti-government demonstrators, pro-government demonstrators, police, and unidentified thugs resulted in four dead and dozens wounded over the weekend, and the police’s use of force was a blow to the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s promise to use non-violent measures to disperse protests. (The police have used tear gas, some other kind of burning gas, and, according to some media reports, rubber bullets.) The demonstrators show no sign of backing down, even following a meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck and the main protest leader, former Democrat Party politician Suthep Thaugsuban. Suthep has given the government a two-day ultimatum to hand over power. Demonstrators have ignored calls by the government to stay indoors at night and to call off their strikes. It is likely that, whatever kind of head is going to come to this conflict, it will come before December 5, the birthday of Thailand’s revered king. What’s more, the fact that Thailand’s military already has become involved in the crisis, trying to mediate between politicians and moving out to points around the city, is not a good sign for a peaceful resolution by civilians. Read more »

Thailand Heads Over the Cliff

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An injured anti-government protester is carried by comrades during clashes with police near the Government house in Bangkok on December 2, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) An injured anti-government protester is carried by comrades during clashes with police near the Government house in Bangkok on December 2, 2013. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Thailand’s unrest, centered in Bangkok, only went from bad to worse, with at least four people killed over the weekend, the anti-government demonstrations showing no sign of ending, and the country lurching closer to riots or a military intervention. In a piece for BloombergBusinessweek, I analyze why Thailand seems stuck in a perpetual cycle of political unrest, with no apparent solutions. Read the whole piece here.

Left With No Bad Moves to Make, Yingluck Makes the Right One

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A protester holds a banner as thousands gather against the amnesty bill in Bangkok's central business district on November 6, 2013. The Thai Senate will likely reject an amnesty bill critics say is aimed at bringing back convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra from exile, the Senate Speaker said on Wednesday, a move that could defuse rising tension on the streets of Bangkok. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) A protester holds a banner as thousands gather against the amnesty bill in Bangkok's central business district on November 6, 2013. The Thai Senate will likely reject an amnesty bill critics say is aimed at bringing back convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra from exile, the Senate Speaker said on Wednesday, a move that could defuse rising tension on the streets of Bangkok. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Today Thailand time, after not only the opposition Democrats but also many members of her own coalition expressed fury at Thailand’s proposed amnesty bill, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government finally abandoned the legislation. The government announced that it will not seek to keep the bill alive if Thailand’s Senate rejects it later this week, as is now expected. Many senators already have come out and said they will reject the controversial amnesty bill, making it likely a majority of the Senate will vote it down—a shocking turn of events, since Yingluck normally has de facto control of the upper house and most analysts (including me) expected she would be able to ram the bill through the Senate. Read more »