This week, Rohingya fleeing persecution on Myanmar were denied entry by several countries in South East Asia, leaving them stateless and stranded at sea. Indonesia and Malaysia have now announced they will take in a limited number of refugees, but there are still many at sea after being abandoned by people smugglers. There is a history refugee migration by boat in South East Asia, said Elliot Brennan:
The present problem in Myanmar, and the economic migration from Bangladesh, will not be the last irregular migration we see in the Southeast Asia or Europe or anywhere for that matter...We need to set up frameworks and regional responses for the irregular flows of people. If done correctly, this can be a boon and not a burden. That is what history has taught us about boat crises in Southeast Asia. But first, and of greatest and simplest urgency is to rescue the thousands of souls stuck at sea.
That is also what Marie McAuliffe argued for. The region needs a long-term response to this humanitarian crisis, she writes:
Few regional actors are keen to see the displacement continue or escalate, but in the past, equally few have been prepared to help. The Philippines' willingness to provide humanitarian assistance is heartening, not just for the Rohingya stranded at sea but for the region as a whole. As a signatory to the Refugee Convention and a member of ASEAN, the Philippines is well placed to lead on this issue, notwithstanding its own human security, economic, social and political challenges. Its leadership offers other governments a way forward, and creates the possibility for burden sharing.
Two posts this week from from former Australian diplomat Bob Bowker on Syria. First, Bowker wrote on the state of the military conflict itself, and warned that ethnic cleansing is a possibility:
For the first time in the conflict, one side may feel it could lose. For most Alawites, this is an existential conflict for a long-persecuted, mostly illiterate minority. Alawites fought their way to the top of the political system after the chaos of the post-independence period and reversed their historical exploitation at the hands of the northern Syrian Sunni and Christian elite. Alawites led in crushing the resistance of the Sunnis who had lost that contest – culminating in the massacre in Hama in 1982. But their success was always at the risk of dire retribution should their political grip weaken. That prospect now looms large.
Second, Bowker argued that the international community needs to start preparing for a humanitarian disaster in Syria:
The primary and immediate aim of the international response should be to minimise the risk of an additional outflow. In that regard, the UN and Western countries should encourage and influence Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others to urge their client rebel groups to refrain from victimising Alawite populations. They should insist that their partners avoid the use of the imagery of retribution as a weapon to weaken the Assad regime. They should highlight their responsibilities, both religious and under international humanitarian law, to protect civilian lives and property. The rebel forces should be encouraged to see the value of creating a clear distinction between their standards of behaviour and those of the Assad regime.
Phelim Kine from Human Rights Watch pointed out the hypocrisy of the abusive 'virginity tests' that the Indonesian military forces on its female recruits:
Moeldoko and Basry's junk-science validations of a form of gender-based violence reflects entrenched attitudes that extend to other parts of the Indonesian security forces, which are proving stubbornly resistant to change. In November 2014, Human Rights Watch reported on the Indonesian National Police's imposition of 'virginity tests' on thousands of female applicants since 1965, in contravention of National Police principles that recruitment must be both 'nondiscriminatory' and 'humane.'
Hugh White continued a debate this week between him and Michael Cole over deterrence and Taiwan:
Some might hope that China can be convinced that the US is willing to fight, even if it isn't. This is called bluffing, and it's a dangerous and unreliable tactic. And this is precisely why America cannot reliably deter China from attacking Taiwan. As Michael himself acknowledges, there are real doubts that America would be willing to go to war with China. It seems likely that those doubts are shared in Beijing, and they cannot be dispelled simply by rhetorical reaffirmations of the Taiwan Relations Act, because they arise from a quite reasonable assessment of the balance between costs to America of reunification on the one hand, and the costs of war with China on the other.
Morris Jones wrote on the state of the Russian space industry:
Leasing Baikonur is expensive as well as strategically perilous. Relations between Kazakhstan and their former Soviet partners are sometimes difficult. The deterioration of Kazakhstan's economy opens the possibility that they could raise the rent for Baikonur in the future.
So Russia is building a new launch site in south-east Russia as a replacement. The project must have Kazakh officials quietly laughing. The Vostochny Cosmodrome is well behind schedule, and some construction workers have apparently not received pay for months. Nobody knows when this project will finally be completed, but it seems certain that Russia will not be able to withdraw from Baikonur for years.
How did the global financial crisis begin? Leon Berkelmans thinks new research might offer some clues:
I always thought that claim was odd, but I had not seen proof that he was wrong. I certainly lack the accounting expertise to find out myself. That is why a recent paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives by Robert McDonald and Anna Paulson is really helpful (I've confessed my love for the journal before). These researchers (and others) have done the hard work so you and I don't have to. And the findings are grim. So far, those securities that the CDSs were written against have lost at least $10 billion.
Robert Kelly wrote on the internal dynamics of South Korea's relationship with Japan:
But even there, one can see the 'enemy image' at work: Abe's trip to the US, which is fairly traditional diplomatic activity that had little to do with Korea, is described as an 'icy blast from Japan.' The US-Japan summit, by two democracies whose assistance in managing the North Korea threat is crucial, is described as a 'shock,' that sent Korea 'reeling.' That South Korean diplomats could somehow not stop the Abe-Obama bonhomie means they are 'inept,' 'silent,' 'cowardly,' and so on. There have even been calls for the foreign minister to resign over the successful Abe summit with Obama.
This zero-sum, if-Japan-is-up-we-must-be-down mentality is deeply ingrained.
News broke this week that several foreign fighters want to return to Australia. Rodger Shanahan questioned some of their accounts and said that any returning fighters must be held responsible for their actions:
The Guardian has written an unquestioning account of Brookman's time in Syria. There are many holes left unexplored in his story. We're told he met an unnamed Australian 'humanitarian worker' in Turkey who somehow had the expertise to infiltrate him into Syria; that he had his passport stolen; that he only drove ambulances in Aleppo and treated injured people; that his wounds were caused by a Syrian regime bombing of the medical clinic where he was working, and that he was transported unconscious to an ISIS-controlled area. The only cliché missing is that he worked in an orphanage with sick children. Readers would be well advised to treat such accounts sceptically, as should the journalists who question such people.
What does the fall of Ramadi last week mean for Iraq? Lauren Williams:
Less than two weeks ago, media reports cited Sunni tribesmen pledging to unite in the fight against 'ISIS rats' and calling for swifter support from the Government to do so. They say their calls fell on deaf ears. When Iraq's undersupplied and poorly managed security forces collapsed on Sunday, Abadi called for the Shiite militias to join the battle. Videos surfaced (see above) of the army making a hasty withdrawal from the city on Sunday from a battle that left an estimated 500 people dead and forced some 25,00 people to flee the city of roughly 1 million.
Jenny Hayward-Jones reported from PNG on the diplimatic row over the Australian consulate on Bougainville:
The Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship has depth and is bolstered by strong business links. The fact that the Papua New Guinea Government's retaliatory measures were aimed only at restricting the travel of Australians to Bougainville suggests there is no desire to harm the wider relationship. Indeed, Prime Minister O'Neill declared in his speech to the Lowy Institute last week that the relationship was in better shape than at any time since independence. On Monday this week I watched the Prime Minister give another positive speech about the bilateral trade and investment relationship alongside the visiting Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb at the Australia-PNG Business Forum in Lae, and the two had a friendly meeting afterwards.
Catriona Croft-Cusworth wrote on a new monument unveiled last week in Jakarta dedicated to the memory of those who died in the violence that erupted across Indonesia in 1998:
Yet victims and their families are far from seeing justice for the perpetrators. President Jokowi made a campaign pledge last year to reopen investigations into the riots and push for legal resolution of the human rights violations that occurred. A bill on forming a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is due to be deliberated by the Government this year, though relatives of victims have demanded an ad hoc tribunal.
The unveiling of the May '98 Memorial is a small step towards facing the events of the past, but it is a significant one.