East Asia is at a critical historical juncture as two major geopolitical trends unfold: the strategic rise of China and the impact of China’s rise on the long-standing position of the United States in East Asia.
Thais generally want Thailand to do well anywhere. When it comes to sports, for example, we have even learned the rules of volleyball to support our women’s national team, which has shot up from nowhere to be in the global top 10. But when it comes to diplomacy, where Thailand used to be world-class, local cheering recently has not led to international results.
For the past 10 years drug production in Myanmar has been on the rise. According to the UN, Myanmar now accounts for more than 25 percent of the global area under illegal poppy cultivation, making the country the second-largest producer of illegal opium in the world after Afghanistan.
In the US, a large if perhaps shrinking share of the population wants to elect as president a reality-television star with no apparent interest in learning anything about governing or the world around him. In Britain, a majority of voters chose to exit the European Union despite experts’ warnings of financial chaos and economic damage that so far are being borne out. In these and other democracies, voters are becoming increasingly enamored of protest candidates and populist parties that have no ability or perhaps even intention to live up to their promises.
Last year, roughly one of every six fish sold around the world was caught illegally.
The recent blood-soaked attack by a Muslim militant force on a cafe popular with foreigners in Dhaka is yet another grim reminder that, for some people, political struggle can justify the cruellest violence.
Wherever you look, the American media seems to be decrying Southeast Asia’s political retrogression. According to the headlines, there’s “no end in sight” to the junta in Thailand, “religious tyranny” is on the rise in Malaysia, Filipinos live in fear of their new president and Indonesia is itching to execute foreigners.
In a hugely positive step forward for women’s rights and reproductive health this week, it was announced that free long-acting reversible contraceptives are to be made available through the public health system.
With another year comes another report from the US State Department on trafficking in persons and another shocking account of human rights abuses around the world: Labourers sweat past nightfall in brick kilns for no pay. Girls are trapped in hotel rooms with barred windows and are repeatedly raped by whomever their captors let in the door. Young boys are made to beg for money on the streets – but maimed first to increase profits.