Even as Vietnam and China continue to conduct tit-for-tat naval maneuvers in the South China Sea, Hanoi has started making direct calls for foreign involvement in the two nations’ maritime territorial dispute. While many commentators saw this as a thinly veiled invitation to the United States, it could also be a precursor to India establishing a permanent presence in Vietnamese waters. India has apparently responded favorably to Vietnam’s offer of permanent berthing rights in Na Thrang port. The move would not only add military heft to India’s “Look East” policy, but is also emblematic of a larger Indian effort to […]
One year after taking office in July 2010, Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s effort to end the country’s decades-long internal conflicts is still stuck in first gear. Aquino has put the highest premium on reaching a political settlement with the Muslim Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and making inroads with the Maoist front led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) — while not forgetting the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), another Muslim rebel group that signed a final, yet shaky, peace agreement in 1996. In fairness, Aquino has made progress. But doubts remain about whether the steps he has […]
More than 1,400 people were arrested in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend during clashes between opposition protesters and government security forces, who reportedly used chemically laced water cannons to deter the crowd. The demonstrations were Malaysia’s most significant since 2007, and the swiftness with which Prime Minister Najib Razak cracked down suggests his government may be edgy ahead of elections to be held by 2013. “I think you’re seeing a lot of defensiveness on the part of the government,” says Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia specialist at Singapore Management University. “To lock down the capital city reflects a certain degree of […]
DENPASAR, Indonesia — The appointment by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of his own brother-in-law as the new chief of the army has highlighted a trend that sees Indonesia’s political leaders keen to maintain personal control of the security apparatus, while remaining averse to pushing for civilian democratic control. Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, the younger brother of first lady Ani Yudhoyono, was sworn in on June 30. Now 56, Pramono graduated at the top of his class at the Indonesian military academy in 1980, and his background includes commanding the Siliwangi Military District in West Java as well as stints […]
Thailand is set to have its first female Prime Minister in Yingluck Shinawatra, younger sister of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Her victory as leader of the opposition Pheu Thai party has raised hopes that women can play a larger role in the country’s male-dominated politics.
Tensions continue to grow over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Some experts contend the long-standing dispute could be resolved by a treaty.
MAE SOT, Thailand — On June 9, deadly clashes broke out in northern Myanmar between the country’s army and the ethnic minority Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The fighting reportedly erupted after Myanmar’s military moved to secure the Tarpein Hydropower Project, a Chinese-built dam that came online in January. The plant, which sits on a tributary of the Irrawaddy River close to rebel-held areas, has since suspended its operations, and the clashes have spread to surrounding regions, pushing Myanmar’s strategic borderlands to the brink of civil war. Rights activists say the Myanmar army’s offensive has brought a range of rights abuses, […]
When the generals in Myanmar orchestrated their pseudo-democratic pageant last November, the exercise was labeled a “sham” by most of the world. Some in the West, however, speculated that despite the deeply flawed elections, the long-ruling junta might still redeem itself and allow real democratic progress in the wake of the polls. So far, however, the optimists are being proven spectacularly wrong. In the months since the vote, the country has marched in the direction of civil war and intensified oppression rather than toward democratic reconciliation and real reform. The election may, in fact, have made matters worse. Myanmar’s new […]