PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A U.N.-backed court in Cambodia has begun its initial hearings into war crimes allegations with mixed success and predictions of a long and bumpy road ahead for a tribunal described by legal experts as more complex than the Nuremberg trials held immediately after World War II. Its importance was underscored by the United States ambassador at large for war crime issues, Stephen Rapp, who called the Khmer Rouge tribunal “the most important trial in the world.” Rapp, in Phnom Penh for the start of the proceedings, drew parallels between the Khmer Rouge tribunal and the trials […]

Khmer Rouge Trial Important Catharsis for Cambodia

The start of a U.N.-backed war crimes trial for the four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge may finally set the stage for Cambodia to bring real closure to the graphic horrors it suffered during the latter half of the 20th century. “The trial is highly important in terms of Cambodian culture,” says Luke Hunt, a World Politics Review contributor and freelance journalist who has covered Cambodia and greater Asia for the past three decades. “I’ve spoken to many Khmers who believe in the total cathartic experience of seeing their tormentors put in the dock and their personalities laid bare […]

Global Insider: India-Myanmar Relations

Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna recently visited Myanmar, the first high-level trip since Myanmar’s military junta installed a nominally civilian government last year. In an email interview, K. Yhome, a research fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, discussed India-Myanmar relations. WPR: What is the recent trajectory of India-Myanmar relations? K. Yhome: India-Myanmar relations have come a long way since New Delhi adopted a pragmatic approach toward Myanmar in the early 1990s. Even as relations began to improve with important initiatives taken to step up security and economic cooperation, such as joint military operations and border-trade measures, the […]

Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Four on Trial

The UN-backed trial of the top surviving members of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime has finally gotten under way in Phnom Penh. The four defendants include the now 84-year-old Nuon Chea, or Brother Number 2, the chief ideologist behind Pol Pot’s “Killing Fields” revolution.

Global Insider: Australia’s Asylum Policy

Last month, the Australian government announced that it would pursue a deal with Malaysia to resettle some Australian-bound asylum seekers. In an email interview, Matthew J. Gibney, an expert in asylum policies at Oxford University, discussed Australia’s “Malaysian Solution.” WPR: How would the Australian government’s “Malaysian Solution” operate? Matthew J. Gibney: The “Malaysian Solution” is a deal, initially outlined on May 7, but yet to be finalized, between Australia and Malaysia, under which up to 800 asylum seekers who land in Australian territories would be transferred to Malaysia. In Malaysia, the asylum seekers would be processed for refugee status by […]

Thailand has enjoyed a relative calm in the past few months. Political demonstrations have been orderly, and a string of bombs that shook the capital toward the end of 2010 did not continue into 2011. This lull, however, could be merely the calm before another storm. In fact, with a general election scheduled for July 3, a distinct lack of fundamental change characterizes Thailand’s faulty democratic system, offering scant hope for a political resolution to the country’s longstanding fault lines in the short-to-medium term. A key prerequisite for any definition of democracy is that elections decide who governs. In Thailand, […]

Against the backdrop of an escalating crisis with Vietnam over territorial claims in the waters off the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, China declared that it would boost its “offshore surveillance capability.” This, a Chinese state media report claimed, was aimed at forestalling any aggressive moves by China’s neighbors in its claimed maritime territories. Though the report did not name any particular nation, the message was seen as being squarely directed at Vietnam, which Beijing has described as being “overtly hostile” in its recent actions and pronouncements. China’s decision to enhance its ocean surveillance capability is not surprising. […]

Since taking office in June 2010, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has pushed through reforms aimed at improving the professionalism of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The drive, however, remains restricted to certain aspects of civil-military relations, and as such is bound to have only limited impact. In general, key prerequisites of democratic oversight of the security sector include civilian control over the political sphere of military issues, such as internal security policy, budgets, reform processes and the upholding of human rights. The military, on the other hand, is expected to enjoy a degree of autonomy in the professional […]

Vietnam’s Live-Fire Drill a Warning to China

Vietnam’s live-fire naval exercises this week may signal a new stage of regional tension over disputed areas of the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea. At a minimum, says Abraham Denmark, a senior adviser at the Center for Naval Analysis in Washington and a World Politics Review contributor, the exercises were designed to send a message to China, which in recent months has become more assertive in its claims of sovereignty over the sea. “It’s fairly clear that Vietnam is signaling its resolve to China that they’re not going to back down on disputed claims in the South China […]

Global Insider: Russia-Vietnam Relations

During a recent visit to Vietnam by Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called for the enhancement of trade and political ties between the two countries. In an email interview, Carlyle A. Thayer, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy, discussed Russia-Vietnam relations. WPR: What is the recent history of Russia-Vietnam relations? Carlyle A. Thayer: When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Moscow pressed Vietnam for repayment of debts totaling $1.7 billion, and the two sides took nearly a decade to negotiate a settlement. In 1994, they […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Largely ignored abroad, a new intelligence reform bill currently being debated by Indonesia’s parliament could have serious repercussions for the archipelagic country’s security and its process of democratization. The long-overdue bill is a step in the right direction, since intelligence operations in Indonesia are currently flimsily regulated by a presidential decree. Still, the proposal currently on the table is hardly ideal. Indonesia faces numerous security threats, including terrorism, human trafficking, weapon proliferations and arms smuggling. A competent intelligence apparatus is thus vital for national as well as regional — if not global — security. The bill aims […]

Global Insider: China-Malaysia Relations

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently made an official state visit to Malaysia. In an email interview, Shee Poon Kim, a visiting professor in the Department of Global Politics and Economics at Tamkang University in Taiwan, discussed China-Malaysia relations. WPR: What is the recent history of China-Malaysia relations? Shee Poon Kim: On May 31, 1974, Malaysia became the first of the five founding ASEAN member states to establish formal diplomatic relations with China. Over the past 37 years, Malaysian relations with China have evolved from mutual hostility (1949-1970) to d├ętente and political accommodation (1970-1981), to economic cooperation alongside political and security […]

Thailand’s call for the repatriation of more than 140,000 refugees from Myanmar is likely aimed at enhancing investment opportunities in the politically isolated country. Bangkok’s insistence that the refugees, who live in nine camps along Thailand’s western border, had become a burden came shortly after a report indicated that China had overtaken Thailand as Myanmar’s leading investor. On Feb. 21, Myanmar’s Weekly Eleven newspaper carried figures released by a Myanmar trade group showing that more than $3 billion in new investment from November 2010 to January 2011 had brought China’s cumulative investment since 1988 to $9.6 billion — slightly higher […]