Joseph Nye, when writing his seminal work on soft power, defined it as the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. The three pillars of his conception of soft power were political values, culture and foreign policy.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an intergovernmental body comprising 10 countries from the region, is an embodiment of soft power in practice. ASEAN’s consensus-oriented model offers a constructive, if limited, means of managing a membership that shares few obvious commonalities. But despite decent prospects for economic integration, how will this model cope with emerging regional challenges where more binding rules may be demanded?… Seguir leyendo »
What are the implications of the recent terrorist attacks for the country?
The political parties met last week at an all-party conference to try and forge a new security culture in the wake of these attacks. This brought together key players such as current President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe as well as formidable political figures like the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The intent at the moment seems to be to try to present a united front recognizing the scale of the crisis – and one hopes that the enormity of what happened will bring everyone together.
How likely is it that Sri Lankan society will come together to present a united front in response to the attacks?… Seguir leyendo »
In a huge electoral upset, opposition candidate Mahathir Mohamad led the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to victory over Najib Razak’s United Malay National Organisation (UNMO) in Malaysia’s general election, despite an unfair playing field, electoral gerrymandering and lack of access to mainstream media.
The win is clearly an important moment for Malaysia’s democracy: UNMO had been in power since 1957 and led the country for 44 years as a dominant member of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. But it is also a political power play: Mahathir, a former prime minister, turned on his former pupil Najib in favour of his old political opponent Anwar Ibrahim, who Mahathir is now set to pardon from politically motived charges to pave Anwar’s path to the prime minister’s office.… Seguir leyendo »
In the city of Kandy, located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, recent attacks against Muslims by Sinhala Buddhist militants have raised fears of increased communal violence. Social media images have shown the scale of damage to Muslim neighbourhoods, with arson attacks and vandalism of Muslim-owned stores and mosques. In response the government declared a 10-day state of emergency for the first time since the end of the civil war era.
What is clear is that the recent violence is not random or isolated. Just before these current attacks, there had been an earlier attack on a mosque and Muslim businesses in the southeastern town of Ampara.… Seguir leyendo »
After days of tortuous negotiation, the UN Security Council, of which the UK is a permanent member, finally passed a resolution on Syria calling for a month-long ceasefire. Not long after this news, the ceasefire was broken by the Syrian government.
The failure to act promptly in the face of the indiscriminate bombing and shelling taking place in eastern Ghouta is not just egregious but also reflects the complete inability of the international system to address mass atrocities. Inaction is rapidly becoming the norm.
From Yemen, Libya to Syria, Afghanistan to Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis, South Sudan to Democratic Republic of Congo, there are countless examples of mass atrocities (genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity) taking place where no meaningful action is taken.… Seguir leyendo »
After winning a landslide victory in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines immediately fulfilled a campaign promise and instigated a so-called ‘war on drugs.’ He publicly endorsed the arrest and killing of suspected drug users and sellers, even going so far as to promise the police there would be no repercussions for their actions.
International human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, have documented that 3,906 suspected drug users and dealers died at the hands of the police from 1 July 2016 to 26 September 2017 while unidentified gunmen have killed thousands more, bringing the total death toll to more than 12,000.… Seguir leyendo »
On 16 November, Cambodia’s Supreme Court struck a crippling blow to democratic rights in the country when it ordered the dissolution of the main political opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Cambodia is now essentially a one-party state. CNRP will lose all its seats in the National Assembly ensuring there is effectively no organized political opposition to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia People’s Party. This blow to democracy will deeply affect both Cambodia’s people and the country’s external relations.
While this may seem a shocking outcome, in some respects it is entirely unsurprising given the intense crackdown on the political opposition during the last few years.… Seguir leyendo »
Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent speech on the Rohingya crisis was – at best – light on details on how the current situation could be remedied and – at worst – full of easily disproven assertions.
While she does not directly control the military, it is her government that is blocking humanitarian access to the areas affected by the violence. And the Rohingya have faced systemic persecution and discrimination for decades.
Some may argue this is simply realpolitik and that any public support for the Rohingya could mean facing a backlash from the military and a large part of her support base.… Seguir leyendo »