Supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party during a campaign rally ahead of local elections, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 28, 2017 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

Cambodia will hold local elections Sunday, but the political opposition has already taken a beating in a campaign that is viewed as a precursor to the country’s 2018 general elections. Twelve political parties are technically in the race, with nearly 90,000 candidates competing to represent 1,646 communes, or clusters of villages, across Cambodia. However, the election is mainly a contest between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which Prime Minister Hun Sen has led for three decades, and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country’s main opposition group. Instead of being an indicator of a thriving democracy, observers say […]

An official tasked with enforcing Shariah strikes one of two men convicted of gay sex during a public caning, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, May 23, 2017 (AP photo by Heri Juanda).

Indonesia has witnessed a wide-ranging crackdown on LGBT people in recent months. In March, vigilantes in Aceh province raided the apartment of two men in their 20s who were later put on trial and sentenced to a public caning—a sentence that was administered on May 23. In Jakarta, the capital, more than 100 men were detained during a police raid on a sauna on May 21 and accused of hosting a sex party. And police in West Java province have announced plans for an anti-gay task force. In an email interview, Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, discusses […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the annual rally on revising Japan's constitution organized by ruling party lawmakers, Tokyo, May 1, 2017 (AP photo by Shizuo Kambayashi).

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe staked his line in the sand on his controversial plans to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution by 2020. The timing of Abe’s announcement, on Japan’s Constitution Day, was no coincidence, as this year marked the 70th anniversary of the country’s charter, which was enacted during the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II. Abe’s push for constitutional change is divisive in Japan since it focuses on a clause in Article 9 that “renounces war” completely as a means to settle international disputes. Specifically, Abe wants to include a reference to Japan’s military, known […]

Members of the honor guard during a welcome ceremony for the Belt and Road Forum, Beijing, May 13, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Earlier this month, China hosted more than 100 leaders and diplomats for a summit devoted to its ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR), which President Xi Jinping described as the “project of the century.” The summit was an opportunity to assess whether OBOR, which was formally announced in 2013, is living up to Xi’s rhetoric. In an email interview, Salvatore Babones, associate professor at the University […]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during an arrival honor at Manila's international airport, Philippines, May 24, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

This past week, Southeast Asia observers have been buzzing over a leaked transcript of a phone call, made in April, between U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. In the call, the two men spoke of each other warmly, with Trump praising Duterte’s brutal drug war in the Philippines. Trump told Duterte he was “doing an unbelievable job on the drug problem,” and invited him to the White House. Trump also seemed to ask Duterte, hardly a specialist on Northeast Asia, for advice on how to deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his nuclear and […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Argentine President Mauricio Macri review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, May 17, 2017 (Pool photo by Nicolas Asfouri via AP).

Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, was in Beijing last week to attend China’s enormous One Belt, One Road summit and sign several agreements with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. Nearly 30 heads of state and senior representatives of at least 20 other countries attended the summit, where Chinese officials presented their vision for building massive infrastructure projects in many parts of the globe. The agreements between Macri and Xi covered more than $30 billion of Chinese investments in Argentina on everything from energy and agriculture to transportation and mining, capped by a Chinese plan to build two nuclear power plants at […]

Dinh La Thang, who was recently dismissed from Vietnam’s Politburo, greets former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jan. 13, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Vietnam’s campaign against corruption notched a significant victory earlier this month with the removal of a top Politburo official for “very serious mistakes and violations” while he was chair of PetroVietnam, the state-owned oil and gas company. But analysts say that there is a more complicated story behind the rare Politburo sacking—just the fourth in Vietnam’s history and the first for corruption—that involves personal and factional maneuverings at the top levels of the ruling Communist Party. Dinh La Thang, once a rising star in Vietnam’s government, was dismissed from the 19-member Politburo, Vietnam’s top decision-making body, on May 7. Three […]

North Korean factory workers at the Pyongyang 326 Electric Wire Factory, Jan. 10, 2017, Pyongyang, North Korea (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

The world is currently trying to figure out what China might be doing, saying and thinking about North Korea. Observers looks for signs in Chinese state media that Beijing might finally cut Pyongyang off financially and politically. They scrutinize shipping traffic to parse whether the flow of oil and coal between North Korea and China might be diminishing, with potentially disastrous results for Kim Jong Un’s regime. With a new president in South Korea, debates will continue about how Seoul can convince China to use its leverage on Pyongyang to get it to freeze its nuclear weapons program. There should […]

A Taiwan military honor guard marches during National Day celebrations, Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

Taiwan is like no other place on Earth. That’s not a line from a promotional video or tourist brochure. It’s a simple fact of history, politics and international relations. Taiwan, with its population of nearly 24 million, is a vibrant liberal democracy and a major node in global value chains. Without components designed in Taiwan and produced in Taiwanese-managed factories in China and Southeast Asia, many of the devices people use every day simply wouldn’t work. Taiwan is an indispensable part of 21st-century life. But it is not a member of the United Nations and only has diplomatic relations with […]

Thai soldiers guard an overpass to prevent an anti-coup demonstration, Bangkok, Thailand, June 1, 2014 (AP photo by Wason Wanichakorn).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Three years after the coup that brought the junta led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-och to power in Thailand, China remains a staunch ally, declining to weigh in on Thailand’s domestic affairs. In an email interview, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor of political science at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, describes the bilateral relationship as well as the role Thailand might play in China’s One Belt, […]

Indian Muslims carry an effigy of an Islamic State fighter during a protest, Mumbai, India, Nov. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Rafiq Maqbool).

As India tries to stem the flow of citizens joining the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the state of Kerala, on the southern coast, has emerged as an area of special concern. According to government statistics, more citizens have been arrested for Islamic State ties in Kerala than in any other state. In an email interview, Animesh Roul, executive director of the New Delhi-based Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, describes what could be making Kerala—and India more generally—fertile ground for Islamic State recruiters, and how the government is trying to crack down on the problem. WPR: How widespread is […]

Supporters of Jakarta's former governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, display a poster that reads "Free Ahok" during a rally outside the court where his sentencing hearing was held, Jakarta, May 9, 2017 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

Last month in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama—the Christian and ethnically Chinese governor of Jakarta popularly known as Ahok—lost his re-election bid. The election was ugly, as Ahok was simultaneously on trial for blasphemy and the target of a perceived smear campaign by hard-line Islamists. Ahok’s defeat in the runoff by Anies Baswedan, a former education minister, was followed last week by the court handing him a two-year jail sentence, which has sparked fears about the growth of religious radicalism in Indonesia. But the blasphemy conviction has also prompted questions about the re-election prospects of Indonesian […]

Delegates from the People's Liberation Army Navy arrive at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, March 4, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the upcoming summit for China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, and how China is positioning itself to take advantage of the United States’ shifting approaches to international trade and global engagement. For the Report, Richard A. Bitzinger talks with Peter Dörrie about China’s naval buildup and global security ambitions. If you’d like to support our free podcast through patron pledges, Patreon is an online service that will allow you to do so. To find out about the benefits you can get through pledging as […]

A U.S. soldier mans a gun aboard the helicopter carrying U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 24, 2017 (Pool photo by Jonathan Ernst via AP)

Earlier this week, Pentagon officials confirmed that Abdul Hasib Logari, the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, had been killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation in eastern Afghanistan on April 27. That operation, in which two U.S. Army Rangers were also killed, followed an airstrike by U.S. forces in Afghanistan that dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, or “MOAB,” on an Islamic State tunnel complex. The bomb is one of the largest conventional weapons in the U.S. arsenal and represented a dramatic escalation of American operations against the Islamic State affiliate, known as the Khorasan Province. […]

South Koreans hold cardboard letters reading "NO THAAD" during a rally near the U.S. Embassy, Seoul, South Korea, April 28, 2017 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

During South Korea’s presidential election, Moon Jae-in—who emerged as the winner on Tuesday—criticized the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system known as THAAD, saying it had been rushed. China has also made clear its objections to the system, even deploying children as young as 7 in a series of anti-THAAD boycotts and rallies. In an email interview, Joshua Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review and senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, explains what THAAD does and why it is controversial. WPR: What are THAAD missile defense systems designed to defend against, and why […]

Chinese navy officers stand on deck upon arrival at Thilawa International Port, Yangon, Myanmar, Sept. 30, 2016 (AP photo by Thein Zaw).

About a decade ago, it was all the fashion to speak of China’s “string of pearls”: a chain of bases, ports and even airfields stretching from the South China Sea, through the Singapore-Malacca Straits, across the Indian Ocean and to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. If not directly owned or controlled by China, this network-of-access would permit the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the naval arm of the Chinese military, to become a more or less permanent presence in the Indian Ocean. As a result, the PLAN could secure China’s access to some of its most important sea-lanes […]

Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, reviews an honor guard during a welcome ceremony, Beijing, Nov. 1, 2016 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. For more than two decades, Malaysia’s political leaders have viewed China as an essential engine of economic growth. Close cooperation under current Prime Minister Najib Razak has included a number of projects falling under the One Belt, One Road initiative. In an email interview, David Han, research analyst with the Malaysia Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, […]

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