Skip to content

Category archive for: Asia

Philippines 2016: We Need to Talk About Manny

Written by Pauline Eadie.

Political aspirants in the Philippines routinely trot out religious piety, devotion to family and humble origins as mechanisms to appeal to the masses. These humble origins often turn out to be somewhat exaggerated as in the case of Manny Villar.  If a claim to humble origins is simply not credible then a love of or affinity with the poor will do. This worked well in the case of former President, and now Mayor of Manila, Joseph Estrada who capitalized on his former career as a movie star where he often played the role of defender of the poor.

However one man whose humble origins cannot be disputed is Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao was born in Mindanao in 1978 and dropped out of school aged 12 to support his mother and siblings after his father left the family home for another woman. In due course he travelled the 500 miles to Manila as a stowaway on a boat. Once there he moved from manual labour and living on the streets to professional boxing. Pacquiao went on to win ten different world titles in eight different weight divisions. Manny Pacquaio is the stuff of legends. It is reported that when he fights there is virtually no crime in the Philippines as everything stops for the match. Pacquiao’s appeal is so great that the Philippine Marines and the Moro National Liberation Front were able to put their differences aside and watch the fight against Ricky Hatton together. He is courted by politicians and celebrities, in the hope that some of his magic might rub off on them. Continue reading Philippines 2016: We Need to Talk About Manny

2016 Philippine Presidential Elections: Turning Point for Internal Conflicts?

Written by Joseph Franco.

The 9th February 2016 marks the official start of 90-day campaign period for the Philippine presidential elections. Boisterous and even bordeline slanderous remarks are par for the course as with prior presidential races. Beyond the day-to-day flurry of campaigning lies potential turning points for the different internal conflicts raging across the Philippines.

Political cadres versus fighters: Communists at the crossroads?

The Philippines has played host to one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world—led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). Figures from the Philippine militaryestimate that the NPA is down to 3900 armed fighters in 2016 far below its peak strength of around 26000 during the late President Corazon Aquino’s administration. Continue reading 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections: Turning Point for Internal Conflicts?

What the Philippines 2016 Elections Mean for the Mindanao Peace Process

Written by Pauleen Gorospe.

It has been decades since the armed conflict in Mindanao erupted. Almost 50 years later, the Government of the Philippines (GOP) was able to enter into peace agreements with two secessionist groups: in 1996, with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and, in 2014, with its breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). However, recent developments could be undone by a change in leadership, which makes the May 2016 general elections a critical juncture in the peace process.

The peace process so far

The 1996 final peace agreement between the GOP and the MNLF enabled the expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an autonomous political entity created in 1989 in accordance with a constitutional amendment. Former combatant and MNLF founder Nur Misuari was elected as the ARMM’s third governor. Amidst all this, the armed conflict continued, as breakaway groups, such as the MILF, did not recognize Misuari’s leadership and found anything short of independence unacceptable. In addition, for many years after its establishment, the ARMM remained one of the poorest regions in the country, fueling allegations of corruption against MNLF leadership. The armed conflict also disrupted long-term development, and the lack of progress served as one of the impetuses for the MILF’s campaign. Continue reading What the Philippines 2016 Elections Mean for the Mindanao Peace Process

Philippines 2016 at the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies

Written by Pauline Eadie and Francis Domingo.

Thirty years ago in February 1986 the Philippines saw a bloodless revolution that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos from Malacañang Palace. This revolution was known as the EDSA Revolution and the non-violent tactics of the masses became known as ‘People Power’. These events are embedded in the political psyche of the Philippines. The Philippines has a vibrant civil society and elections are a time of celebration but also violence. The stakes are high as political office at all levels equates to power and control over a chaotic and deeply unequal society. Philippine politics runs on a bicameral system, an arrangement that is hardly surprising given its history as an American tutelage (and a Spanish colony before that). Philippine politics also tends to lack ideology (notwithstanding leftwing or feminist parties such as Bayan Muna or Gabriela respectively) and politicians frequently defect to other parties for personal gain as opposed to ideological commitment.     Continue reading Philippines 2016 at the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies

What can Pakistan do to counter violent campaign against educators?

Written by Katharine Adeney.

The latest attack on a university in Pakistan – this one, in a bitter twist of irony, named after a champion of peace, secularism and non-violence, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who was known as “Frontier Gandhi” – is both symbolic as well as indicative of the continuing struggle within the power structures of Pakistan.

Just after 9am Pakistani time (4.14am GMT) on January 20, four men wearing suicide vests attacked the university in Charsadda, about 40km from Peshawar in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly known as North-West Frontier Province). The death toll has topped 30 people but is expected to rise, perhaps to as high as 70. Scores were also injured. Soldiers were quickly deployed to the scene. The army formally announced that the attack was over five-and-a-half hours later at 10.38 GMT – and also announced the deaths of the four attackers. Continue reading What can Pakistan do to counter violent campaign against educators?

Jakarta attacks: is Islamic State’s presence in South-East Asia overstated?

Written by Scott Edwards.

A series of deadly suicide bombings and shootings in Jakarta have killed at least seven people, and been claimed by Islamic State (IS).

At first glance, this seems to confirm that long-held worries of a full-blown IS campaign in South-East Asia were well-founded – but viewed in context, the picture looks rather different.

IS is undeniably active to some extent in Indonesia and South-East Asia more broadly, and it is known to have recruited fighters from the region. It was recently reported that two suicide bombers who mounted attacks in Syria and Iraq were from Malaysia. South-East Asia has an enormous Muslim population, and its states have long had trouble with separatist or terrorist Islamist organisations such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf. That makes the prospect of a domestic struggle with IS in Indonesia all the more alarming. Continue reading Jakarta attacks: is Islamic State’s presence in South-East Asia overstated?

Japan’s government has politicised a generation with its constitutional reforms

Written by Oana Burcu.

As the Japanese government continues to press ahead with controversial changes to its “peaceful constitution”, it continues to fuel domestic protests and fails to get full endorsement from the members of its own ruling party. Prioritising foreign policy while dismissing domestic opposition is hardly a wise course, and Shinzo Abe’s government seems not to have fully anticipated the political risks.

Trouble has been brewing for a while, but rose to a new level in the summer of 2014 when a man self-immolated in Tokyo in June 2014 to protest the reinterpretation of Article 9, which was intended to renounce war permanently. Continue reading Japan’s government has politicised a generation with its constitutional reforms

Is Bangladesh descending into lawlessness?

Written by Palash Kamruzzaman.

An Italian priest has been wounded by gunmen in Bangladesh, the latest in a wave of attacks on foreigners there. Only weeks before, an Italian citizen working with a development organisation was shot in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone – one of the most heavily guarded places in the country. A few days later, a Japanese citizen was murdered in northern Bangladesh in a similar style.

The motives for these murders are not yet clear, but political leaders have rushed to suggest who could be behind these killings without presenting any credible and concrete evidence. Another spin-off of these events is to create an atmosphere of panic, which has been greatly heightened by Islamic State (IS) apparently claiming responsibilityfor these incidents – including the bombing of a Shia procession on 24 October 2015. Continue reading Is Bangladesh descending into lawlessness?

The NLD wins the Myanmar elections

Written by Marie Lall.

On Sunday 8th November 2015 Myanmar went to the polls. More than 90 parties contested seats for the two houses of parliament as well as the 14 state and regional assemblies.  Despite the large number of parties, all eyes were on the opposition NLD and the regime USDP. The official declaration is still outstanding, however the Union Election Commission has to date awarded the NLD 348 seats in the bicameral parliament, giving the party an outright majority. In order to control the government the NLD needed 67% of the seats (or 329 seats), as 25% are held by appointed military MPs. Crossing this threshold means that Myanmar can become a very different country. The losing USDP has been bitterly disappointed with the result. Nevertheless the outgoing MPs have congratulated the NLD and the regime party has shown great dignity. Continue reading The NLD wins the Myanmar elections

Aung San Suu Kyi victory will test commitment to human rights in Myanmar

Written by Andrew Fagan.

Myanmar has taken a potentially momentous step away from dictatorship and towards democracy. More than 6,000 candidates from 91 political parties competed for the votes of 33m registered voters on November 8 in the country’s first credible elections since 1960.

The precise outcome won’t be known for days, but Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is claiming to have gained at least 70% of the votes cast. Senior figures in the ruling party are conceding defeat.

No one should underestimate the significance of power changing hands in Myanmar via the ballot box. However, this will only finally occur in March 2016, when the newly-elected MPs vote for a new president and a new government will be formed. Continue reading Aung San Suu Kyi victory will test commitment to human rights in Myanmar