Given the recent stories about Japan’s turn to nationalism, it is sometimes easy to forget how much Japan is influenced by pacifist sentiments. Indeed, even nationalists such as Abe Shinzo have found it necessary to dress up their policies in the language of pacifism. Thus, it is not surprising that Japan’s first National Security Strategy talks of a more “proactive contribution to peace.”
The Malacañang Palace in Manila—some say its name means “place of the fisherman”—is a rambling white concrete structure on the north bank of the Pasig River in the old district of San Miguel. The former residence of Spanish colonial governors and American generals, it now houses the office of the Philippine president, who lives out back in a smaller building on the palace grounds known as the “House of Dreams.”
At 4:30 PM local time on May 22, 2014, the Thai Army Chief declared a coup d’état—Thailand’s 13th successful coup since 1932—two days after he had imposed martial law nationwide. The move was unsurprising as military interventions in politics are not uncommon in the country. The Army was joined by the Navy, the Armed Forces, and the Police to comprise the “National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC),” which is now the body that has absolute control over the country’s executive duties. The coup leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, suspended the constitution and declared himself acting prime minister. The Senate, courts, and independent agencies, however, are left untouched and still functioning as allowed by the junta.
Despite the staggering impact from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that ravaged across the central Philippines in November 2013 and the 7.2 magnitude Bohol Earthquake just weeks before that, the country managed to sustain its economic momentum as its Growth Domestic Product (GDP) finished the year up by a rate of 7.2 percent. Fully expecting the impact of the severe disasters to be felt more intensely in the year ahead, the Moody’s March 2014 upward revision from a rate of 5.4 to 5.8 percent of annual GDP for the year is a welcome indicator. The solid economic growth trajectory combined with critical domestic reform efforts and energetic diplomacy continues to strengthen the outlook for the Philippines.
Politics in Thailand once again entered a volatile period as the country’s army declared martial law to restore peace and order, citing a 1914 law that gives the army “absolute” authority to intervene during times of crisis.
As India becomes a more powerful player in the global hierarchy and strengthens ties with the United States—despite occasional setbacks—China construes that it is in its best interest to turn towards Pakistan to fend off the Indo-U.S. alliance in South and East Asia.
The Mongolian economy, not long ago the darling of the global investment community, has hit another rough patch—with a bank collapse, slumping commodity exports, a devaluing currency, and a sharp slide in government bond prices all conspiring to produce a string of bad news. Mongolia’s recently re-elected president has reacted with dismay, and financial firms that track Mongolia are sounding alarm bells. Indeed, this October the government called an extraordinary session of parliament, the same month that the World Economic Forum hosted a special session in Ulaanbaatar to discuss possible solutions to Mongolia's economic travails.
Belinda Bow is the international ambassador for a Nepalese organization called 3 Angels, whose objective is to combat human trafficking. She is also the owner of Green Chili Marketing. Diplomatic Courier contributor Anne-Yolande Bilala recently interviewed Bow on the current situation in Nepal.
On December 24, 2013, several Cambodian union groups called for worker strikes throughout the country in response to new minimum wage policies by the Labor Ministry, who had set the minimum wage for 2014 at $95 dollars a month, not the $160 dollars a month that labor leaders had demanded. For ten days, tens of thousands of workers went on strike, marching through the streets of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. At the height of the protests, over 100,000 workers joined the demonstrations on December 29th for new labor laws and improved wages.
Asia is home to the eight of the world’s ten largest megacities—Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Guangzhou, Delhi, Shanghai, Karachi, and Manila—all with over 20 million inhabitants. As Asia’s megacities continue to grow, concern mounts over the ability of states to control them. That control would be tested by natural disasters, civil unrest, infrastructure shortfalls, or epidemics. Indeed, the preparedness of most of Asia’s sprawling megacities is untested.
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