Myanmar cannot afford to pass up reform

A forklift moves containers at Asia World port in Yangon, Myanmar, 02 July 2014. Tapping into the potential benefits of regional integration will depend largely on how the country addresses its poor infrastructure and connectivity, strengthens its industrial and commercial base and enhances its institutional and human resource capacity. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Cyn-Young Park, ADB

Myanmar has embraced greater economic openness since it emerged from decades of economic and political isolation. Reforms so far and re-engagement with the international community have successfully stimulated growth. The economy has sustained GDP growth of more than 7 per cent for two years running, bolstered by rising exports and foreign investment, according to the latest IMF estimates. Read more…

Nationalism, nuclear power and Japans fragile media opposition

Asahi Shimbun CEO and President Tadakazu Kimura bows in apology during a press conference at its head office in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, 11 September 2014. The newspaper admitted that its May article on the so-called Yoshida file concerning the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was incorrect and retracted the article. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tobias Weiss, Zurich University

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, public support for the Democratic Party of Japan vanished. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won a majority in both houses of the Diet. In the absence of an effective political opposition, the liberal media have sought to fulfil this function.

Japan’s big media companies were criticised after the Fukushima incident for underreporting the risks associated with nuclear power. This triggered a surge in investigative journalism. Read more…

Aquino’s reformism hits a dead end

An effigy of Filipino president Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III is displayed as thousands of anti-corruption protesters march on the first year anniversary of an anti-graft street protest at a park in Manila, 25 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mark R. Thompson, City University of Hong Kong

Unlike his scandal-plagued predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — who left office as the most unpopular post-Marcos president — it has long seemed that Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, could do no wrong. Aquino promised to take the ‘straight path’ (matuwid na daan) to clean up corruption. This, he said, would also eradicate poverty. Read more…

Cutting off Australia’s international television arm

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, home of popular characters like the Bananas in Pyjamas, has lost government funding for its international service. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ross Tapsell, ANU

What does the Australia Network’s closure and the launch of Sky News’ Australia Channel mean for Australian soft power?

Since their inception, Australia’s international media organisations have trodden a fine line between promoting Australia’s interests in the Asia Pacific region and upholding the values of the Fourth Estate which sees critical reporting of government as central to its role. Read more…

The two faces of Thai authoritarianism

A Thai soldier is silhouetted against the sky as he guards GOvernment House during the first cabinet meeting of the military junta chief and newly-appointed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak

Thai politics has completed a dramatic turn from electoral authoritarianism under deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001–2006 to a virtual military government under General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These two sides of the authoritarian coin, electoral and military, represent Thailand’s painful learning curve. The most daunting challenge for the country is not to choose one or the other but to create a hybrid that combines electoral sources of legitimacy for democratic rule and some measure of moral authority and integrity often lacked by elected officials. Read more…

Modi connects with the American dream

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India speaks to supporters during a community reception on 28 September 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

Before his election to India’s prime ministership, Narendra Modi was persona non grata in the United States because of his alleged complicity in the ethnic violence in Gujarat of 2002 in which 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died, 2500 people were injured, and 223 more were reported missing. Though a subsequent Indian Supreme Court investigation in 2012 cleared him of complicity in the violence, Modi was still banned from entering the United States Read more…

Obama and Modi must cook up a solution on food subsidies and the WTO

Welfare Society members distribute free food to passers-by at a roadside in Amritsar, India. Modi will meet Obama on Tuesday, hopefully finding a solution to the public food provisioning impasse on the Bali timeline. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The young Narendra Modi government has not covered itself in glory on the international trade policy front.

At the second ministerial meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations in late August, New Delhi proposed a jaw-droppingly low rate of trade liberalisation for industrial goods. Read more…

The Modi show visits the United States

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets people on the streets of New York during a visit to the United States on 26 September, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: C Uday Bhaskar, Society for Policy Studies

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, has begun his maiden visit to the USA this week. He will visit Washington on Monday for his first summit level meeting with US President Barack Obama.

The trip offers the chance for Modi to project himself as a global leader with a distinctive vision and clear objectives. Read more…

Protecting pluralism in India’s media market

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Authors: Suzanne Rab and Alison Sprague, London

Competition and diversity in media and communications are fundamental to a healthy economy and democracy. This has been clear in India in recent years. In May 2014 the Indian Law Commission — seeking to tighten media ownership regulation — issued a consultation paper to resurrect controversial reform proposals of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). In India and internationally there is no consensus on the exact manner and scope of interventions that are appropriate to protect competition and pluralism in media markets. Read more…

The ASEAN Economic Community’s labour policy needs work

Indonesian workers at a construction site in Jakarta, 03 September 2014. A recent publication by the International Labour Organization and the Asian Development Bank on six ASEAN countries found that, with the AEC in place, jobs in agriculture; trade; transportation; and construction would increase in all six countries by 2025.(Photo: AAP).

Author: Sanchita Basu Das, ISEAS

Driven by the looming 2015 deadline, discussion is heating up about the impact ASEAN’s Economic Community (AEC) will have on employment. Set to begin on 31 December 2015, the AEC envisions ASEAN as a single market and production base characterised by the free flow of goods, services, investments and the freer flow of capital and skills. Read more…

Japan may not be such an easy pushover on nuclear deal with India

Author: David Brewster, ANU

In recent weeks we have seen the ‘bromance’ between India and Japan reach new heights. Earlier this month, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Tokyo amid media hype of a special relationship, and even a de facto alliance, between the two countries. There is talk of a special ‘personal chemistry’ between Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and much was made of the claim that Modi was one of only three people that Abe follows on Twitter. Read more…

Indonesia and Malaysia need to focus on a ‘soft’ approach to tackle IS support on social media

A government worker removes ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flags painted on to walls near Veteran Street in Surakarta City, Indonesia, in an attempt to discourage the promotion of the jihadist group in the region, 5 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Stefanie Kam and Robi Sugara, RSIS

In response to the rise in Indonesian and Malaysian fighters joining the extremist Islamic State (IS) group, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have taken action to criminalise membership. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the nation’s top Muslim clerical body, also released a statement that it was haram, or forbidden, for Muslims to participate in IS activities. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has also issued a strongly worded statement condemning IS for its actions, which ‘run counter to Islamic faith, culture and to common humanity’. Read more…

Inflation fears blurring Modi’s ‘Made in India’ vision

Author: Ranjit Goswami, IMT Nagpur

On 15 August 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his inaugural Independence Day speech. At 80 minutes, it was the longest speech by an Indian Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru’s time. The speech touched upon the various challenges that the world’s largest democracy faces, from female feticide to sanitation. He talked about the need for a new institution in the place of the Planning Commission, created back in 1950, and the need for girls’ toilets at every school, to tackle the high drop-out rates of girls. Read more…

Beijing’s growing influence over Hong Kong

Students protesting for greater democratic rights march in Hong Kong on 24 September 2014. Striking students marched on Hong Kong's financial district, taking their protest to the city's commercial centre for the first time. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Stephan Ortmann, City University of Hong Kong

On 31 August, when Beijing’s offer of universal suffrage to Hong Kong came with an extremely restrictive framework allowing for only two to three establishment candidates, it was just another sign of the Chinese government taking greater control over its special administrative region. Read more…

The ghost of historical revisionism in contemporary Japan

Japanese lawmakers visit the Yasukuni Shrine on the day of the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II, Tokyo, 15 August 2014. At least two Japanese Cabinet ministers paid respects at the Tokyo shrine that honours the war dead including convicted criminals, a move that may outrage China and South Korea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Koichi Nakano, Sophia University

The politics of historical memory is a key factor shaping the international relations of East Asia today. Controversy surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine and the ‘comfort women’ (sex slaves) issue has had far-reaching foreign policy implications for Japan’s relations with its East Asian neighbours. Read more…