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iseas

Jokowi’s First Months: Compromise Cabinet, Subsidy Cuts, and Corrupt Coalition

By Ulla Fionna

5 February 2015

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

• President Jokowi’s first months have been dominated by important policies on liftingfuel subsidies, and choosing his cabinet as well as strategic appointments. Althoughthe cabinet demonstrated a number of ‘compromise and reward’ appointments, itsministers are nevertheless under pressure to perform.

• Jokowi’s weak position in the parliament has been improved by leadership crises inthe opposition. The success in retaining direct local elections (pilkada) should alsobring some confidence to the minority government.

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yingluck

Junta's agenda clearer after Yingluck verdict

By Michael Montesano

29 January 2015

In impeaching a prime minister who left office more than eight months earlier, Thailand's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) may have made legal history.

But this curious exercise was not so much about Ms Yingluck Shinawatra's impeachment for running a botched rice subsidy programme as it was about stripping her of her political rights for five years.

With their verdict, the soldiers and civilians, whom the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta appointed to the NLA, have sidelined a woman who emerged during her premiership of almost three years as a popular and rather effective politician in her own right.

Against all expectations, that is, she became more than a mere proxy for her older brother Thaksin. This may explain the NCPO's determination to ban her from politics. It may also explain the further criminal charges, also relating to her government's rice policies, now pending against Ms Yingluck.

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YUN

Korea and Europe: Natural partners rediscover each other

By Byung-se Yun

23 January 2015

South Korea | Seoul: The 2015 is a year with anniversaries that resonate for many countries. Europe and Asia will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. For Koreans, it means the 70th year of the liberation, as well as division, of the Korean peninsula. 

During these decades, the world has undergone dramatic transformations. Europe rose from the ashes of war and then tore down the wall of division to become a more integrated and prosperous region. Korea has achieved political democracy and economic growth, with a trade volume topping one trillion US dollars. 

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Eu-Asia Centre

Syria Calling: Radicalisation in Central Asia

By International Crisis Group

20 January 2015

Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to theMiddle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL orISIS). Prompted in part by political marginalisation and bleak economic prospectsthat characterise their post-Soviet region, 2,000-4,000 have in the past three yearsturned their back on their secular states to seek a radical alternative. IS beckons notonly to those who seek combat experience, but also to those who envision a moredevout, purposeful, fundamentalist religious life. This presents a complex problemto the governments of Central Asia. They are tempted to exploit the phenomenon tocrack down on dissent. The more promising solution, however, requires addressingmultiple political and administrative failures, revising discriminatory laws and policies,implementing outreach programs for both men and women and creating jobs athome for disadvantaged youths, as well as ensuring better coordination betweensecurity services. 

Full report please see here 

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iseas

EAST ASIA IN TRANSITION

By Bilahari Kausikan

8 January 2015

ISEAS held its flagship annual conference on Thursday 8 January 2015 at the Shangri-La Hotel,Singapore. Executive summary please see here.  Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Ambassador-at-Large and Policy Advisor,Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore gave the keynote speech. 

In his analysis of East Asia in transition, Mr Bilahari Kausikan assessed the changing equilibrium inthe U.S.-China relationship to be the central strategic issue of our times. While the United Statesinitially created the conditions that facilitated growth in East Asia following World War II, there isnow a consensus across the region that the United States will remain a necessary but insufficientplayer for a stable regional architecture. The current regional order needs to be supplemented by anew architecture. Mr Kausikan stressed that in their process of finding a new equilibrium, conflictbetween the United States and China is not inevitable. While China is rising, the United States isnot in obvious decline. The changes in the distribution of power that are occurring are thereforerelative, not absolute. Both the United States and China face serious challenges but neither country should be underestimated. Mr Kausikan emphasized that the United States, China and Japan are all substantial powers and will remain so in the future.

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Bending Adversity – Japan and the Art of Survival

Book Review:Bending Adversity – Japan and the Art of Survival

By Fraser Cameron, Director

15 December 2014

David Pilling’s Bending Adversity – Japan and the Art of Survival is a masterful account of how the nation that was about to take over the world in the 1990s slipped into a semi-permanent recession and how it copes with this relative decline in living standards. During his six years (2002-08) as the bureau chief of the Financial Times in Tokyo, Pilling immersed himself in Japanese culture and politics. He makes the point that Japan still counts in the world with 8% of global output compared to less than 4% for the UK. It is the world’s biggest creditor and has the second highest holding of foreign exchange.

Following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear reactor, Pilling made several visits to Japan to assess how the country coped with the disaster. His account is a sympathetic portrait of a country that is less open to outside influences than any other major Asian country. There is a Japanese way of doing everything, from making tea to bowing to one’s colleagues.

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without you there is no us

Book Review:‘Without You, There Is No Us’

By Fraser Cameron, Director

10 December 2014

Suki Kim’s ‘Without You, There Is No Us’ is a fascinating account of teaching at the exclusive English language high school for Pyongyang’s elite. Part of a Christian faculty of English-language teachers, the Korean born Kim recounts a boring daily grind, rising at 5am, lessons for 12 hours six days a week, and in bed by 8pm as there is no power or heating. Her students have never travelled outside the DPRK, have never heard of the Internet and are imbued with the constant propaganda of the regime. Television and radio only cover the speeches and appearances of the Great Leader. Many subjects in class are off limits such as the American way of life, the Bible, or questions about the Great Leader. Students have no idea about life outside, whether fashion, pop culture or even the Pyramids. Kim describes the amazing ability of the students to brazenly lie about everyday life in the DPRK. Outside the classroom contact is limited to stilted conversation in the cafeteria.

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thai military leader

A Coup Ordained? Thailand’s Prospects for Stability

By International Crisis Group

3 December 2014

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 

On 22 May, for the twelfth time in Thailand’s history, the army seized power after months of political turbulence. This is not simply more of the same. The past decade has seen an intensifying cycle of election, protest and government downfall, whether at the hands of the courts or military, revealing deepening societal cleavages and elite rivalries, highlighting competing notions of legitimate authority. A looming royal succession, prohibited by law from being openly discussed, adds to the urgency. A failure to fix this dysfunction risks greater turmoil. The military’s apparent prescription – gelding elected leaders in favour of unelected institutions – is more likely to bring conflict than cohesion, given a recent history of a newly empowered electorate. For the army, buyer’s remorse is not an option, nor is open-ended autocracy; rather its legacy, and Thailand’s stability, depend on its success in forging a path – thus far elusive – both respectful of majoritarian politics and in which all Thais can see their concerns acknowledged.

please refer to the full report here

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Eu-Asia Centre

Baluchistan – Briefing Paper

By EU-Asia Centre

30 November 2014

Baluchistan is one of the poorest parts of south Asia and riven by conflict. The term ‘Baluchistan’ refers to two different areas - Pakistan’s largest and poorest province; and the wider geographic area that is regarded by Baluch nationalists as Baluchistan. The latter includes the Baluchistan province in the Southwest of Pakistan, the Sistan and Baluchestan province of south-eastern Iran, and the small Afghan region of Baluchistan. The great majority of the region’s inhabitants are Sunni Muslims. The biggest part of the Baluchistan region is in Pakistan (the province of Baluchistan) and its capital is Quetta. The section of Baluchistan that lies in Afghanistan includes the Chahar Burjak District of Nimruz province as well as the Registan desert in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces. These parts have been part of Afghanistan since 1747. The governors of Nimruz and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan both are ethnic Baluch.

The focus of this background briefing is on Baluchistan as a province in Pakistan and political groups located there demanding different degrees of autonomy for the province or greater Baluchistan. However, it also includes some information about Sistan and Baluchestan, and, to a lesser degree, about the Baluch in Afghanistan.

For details of this briefing paper, please refer to the .pdf below

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ABE

Why the Election Mr Abe?

By Fraser Cameron, Director

24 November 2014

Few Japanese understand why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election for 14 December when he still had a clear majority in the Lower House and two years before he had to go to the polls. The reason given, that he wanted a fresh mandate for his economic policies, seems strange and unconvincing to most Japanese.

Abenomics, as the PM’s policies have become known, promised to move Japan out of its decade-long stagnation. But so far the results have been mixed. This year Japan fell back into recession with GDP shrinking 1.6% in the third quarter.  It had fallen 7.3% in the second, but that followed the April sales tax hike from 6 to 8%.  The surprise was that there was no third-quarter bounce-back. The news was so grim that Prime Minister Abe said he would delay by 18 months the final tax hike (to 10%) set for next October, and promised to increase government spending.  

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