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Myanmar allowed a U.N. human rights envoy to visit the country for the first time in more than a year this week, prompting reports that President Thein Sein may be seeking a new era of dialogue with the international community — particularly those critical of the country’s repeated bloody crackdowns on democracy advocates. Western rights organizations and governments have long called for the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar, and, according to Renaud Egreteau, a political scientist and Myanmar specialist at the University of Hong Kong, “Thein Sein now aims to reconnect with regional players.” Egreteau, who […]

Amid the anxiety and devastation of the London riots, there was one brief comic interlude, when the government of Iran urged British authorities to use restraint in dealing with protesters. The appeal was bitterly amusing, of course, because of the brutal tactics Tehran used to put down protests in 2009. Police in London managed to end the rioting using traditional crowd-control methods. But then, in the wake of a public outcry over the disturbances and the disappointing performance of the police, British Prime Minister David Cameron made a highly controversial proposal: Next time, he suggested, the government might choke off […]

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Many Somalis, starving and searching for safety, are risking their lives, crossing into Kenya and taking up residence in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. This video by no comment TV shows images from inside the camp.

As massive protests shook Iran in June 2009 following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s widely contested re-election, Arab leaders around the region watched the unfolding events with a mix of wariness and satisfaction. Unnerved by the Obama administration’s overtures of rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, many had a keen sense that Iran would emerge from the crisis weakened and more isolated internationally. They were largely correct. Some two years later, it is the Iranians who are closely following the slew of uprisings — and violent crackdowns — that have rocked the Arab world. While initially reticent to weigh in, Tehran could not […]

BEIJING — China’s social contract revolves around the Communist Party delivering the benefits of modernization to the country’s citizenry, and not, as Western observers might hope, around the transition to multi-party democracy. Consequently, technocratic failure presents the greatest risk to the party’s domestic credibility, something emphatically highlighted by the ongoing wave of public anger over the Wenzhou high-speed rail crash. Moreover, unlike recent high-profile political cases, the Wenzhou crash might very well turn out to be the moment China’s emerging public sphere came of age. Beyond loss of life, perhaps the most profound source of public anger regarding the crash […]

The new Middle East is very much a work in progress, but there is little question that the latest developments in that pivotal part of the world are making the stirring picture of freedom, democracy and secularism that so many had envisioned in the early days of the Arab Spring look more like a glassy mirage masking anti-liberal, anti-Western sentiment. As spring has given way to a boiling summer, most of the region’s revolutions have either stalled or moved in a direction that bears little resemblance to what progressive forces had initially hoped for. Not only have Arab liberals experienced […]

Weeks after the Malaysian government cracked down on pro-reform protesters gathered under the banner of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, or Bersih, uncertainty is still thick in Kuala Lumpur. Bersih, which literally means “clean” in Malay, estimates that 50,000 people showed up at the July 9 rally to protest in favor of electoral reforms, clean politics and anti-corruption measures as stated in an 8-point manifesto. The police, who fired tear gas and water cannons at the demonstrators, claim that only a few thousand were present. In the end, some 1,700 people were arrested, while several were injured, and […]

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Recent violence in the China’s western Xinjiang province has resulted in more than a dozen deaths and prompted an aggressive security response by Chinese authorities, who assert the unrest is being driven by Muslim separatists trained in Pakistan. The accusation, leaked to China’s state media Monday, came as the head of Pakistani intelligence was making a visit to Beijing and exposed a potential sticking-point in the oft-celebrated alliance between the two countries. According to Kerry Brown, who heads the Asia program at Chatham House in London, it also shed light on the delicate balance that characterizes the three-way relationship between […]

The Western news media has made much over the recent decision by Egypt’s transitional government to ban foreign election monitors from the country’s upcoming parliamentary polls. The more important story, however, has been buried: The transitional regime, which includes no women, has scrapped quotas for women in the national legislature, while retaining them for farmers and workers. In the previous legislature, Egypt’s mandatory quota system allowed women to hold approximately 13 percent of the seats — 64 out of 445. Now, the only protection for women will apply to the half of the new parliament’s seats that will be elected […]