Expelled Ambassadors and Europe’s Brezhnevization

March 1, 2012 by

The diplomatic ballet between Minsk and the European Union - Minsk expels two European ambassadors, and the EU in response recalls all of its ambassadors to Belarus - is a caricature of what is happening between Europe and the embattled Middle East (Syria, for one), and indeed between Europe and the rest of “non-Western” world. This is a sad example of the EU responding simply because it feels it must.

Burma Release, Ceasefire Hailed by Obama, Rights Groups

January 14, 2012 by

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Friday hailed the release by the Burmese government of hundreds of political prisoners, suggesting that it went far toward satisfying Washington’s conditions for fully normalising ties between the two countries. In a statement released by the White House after the first releases were confirmed, Obama called it a “crucial step in Burma’s democratic transformation and national reconciliation process”.

China in the Background as the US and Myanmar Come Together

December 2, 2011 by

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived Wednesday in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, for a two-day visit amid signs that the Southeast Asian nation is enacting political and economic reforms to shed its pariah status on the international stage. The trip, which is the first by an American secretary of state in 56 years, represents a dramatic change in the geopolitics of the region.

Realpolitik and Rights Compete for Clinton’s Attention

November 30, 2011 by

Hillary Clinton’s historic trip this week to Burma – the first by a U.S. secretary of state since 1955 – will likely mix geo- strategic realpolitik with Washington’s more idealistic interest in promoting economic and political reforms in a country that it has tried to ostracise for most of the past two decades.

Is Burma moving towards a democratic reform?

November 29, 2011 by

The notoriously powerful military junta of Burma is loosening its grip. In an uncharacteristic move, former army general Thein Sein, who came to power in March, thwarted the Chinese-funded $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project in the state of Kachin, relenting to the continuous pressure from the Burmese citizens in that region. The Burmese government has recently released more than 6,000 jailed political prisoners.

The United States and the Asia-Pacific Region

November 26, 2011 by

China’s centralized policymaking continues to be at odds with a world system that strives to observe the principles promoted by the international community. At the Reuters Washington Summit, Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats stated that “There’s competition between the American economic model and the more state-centered economic model of China.”

US ups ante on Myanmar engagement

November 21, 2011 by

By sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Myanmar so soon after its “flickers of progress” appeared, Washington risks criticism that the opening has less to do with human rights and democratic reform than with a need to counter-balance China for America’s “return to Asia”. Naypyidaw has instigated change, but 50 years of military repression can’t be unraveled in a few months.

Cambodia shrugs off aid curb

August 22, 2011 by

Cambodian leaders have shrugged off a World Bank move this month to suspend new lending due to state-sponsored, large-scale evictions to clear land for development projects. While rising access to private Asian capital, particularly from China, has helped Cambodia weather previous Western donor pressure for reform, the socio-economic costs of the latest sanction could be much higher. The World Bank had come under pressure from local and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to take a tough stance against Cambodia’s government in response to well-documented forced evictions of communities.