MP Nurul Izzah to The Donald–Support Democracy, Justice and Freedom, not Kleptocracy in Malaysia


September 13, 2017

MP Nurul Izzah to The Donald–Support Democracy, Justice and Freedom, not Kleptocracy in Malaysia

by Nurul Izzah Anwar, MP

Nurul Izzah Anwar is a member of the Malaysian Parliament and Vice President of the People’s Justice Party. She is a Graduate of SAIS, John Hopkins University

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/09/11/heres-what-president-trump-should-tell-malaysias-prime-minister/?utm_term=.857897e8f561

Image result for Najib I am not a crookThe Donald is hosting this Malaysian Prime Minister at The White House. A slap in the face of all freedom loving Malaysians–the unintended consequence of his invitation

 

On Tuesday (September 12), President Trump will host Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in the White House. The two men will discuss cooperation on counterterrorism and economic development. But what should be foremost on the agenda is the hatred and fear fueled by Najib’s own party’s support of extremist groups that routinely harass and frighten the country’s significant Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. Any conversation with a purported partner against extremist violence who fails to address these concerns at home is pointless.

As a Malaysian, I am sorry to say that my country faces a desperate situation. For the 60 years since independence, we have been under single-party rule. The corruption scandal surrounding our sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, the largest of its kind ever investigated by the U.S. Justice Department, alleges that Najib’s government routinely pilfers public funds for its own enrichment and the funding of its political survival. Our political leaders are so accustomed to power that they will do anything to keep it. Our elections are routinely corrupted just enough to maintain the ruling status quo. Print and broadcast media are more than 95 percent owned or controlled by the ruling party, and peaceful political protest is routinely a cause for detention under laws meant to fight terrorism.

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I know this from first-hand experience. As an opposition member of Parliament, I was arrested under sedition laws and imprisoned with actual terror suspects simply for daring to raise questions in the legislature about the political imprisonment of my father, detained opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Before he was thrown in jail, my father championed a multi-ethnic and multi-religious opposition movement in Malaysia that garnered 52 percent of the votes in the 2013 parliamentary election — a victory set aside because of gerrymandering. His arbitrary detention has been condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Delegation are staying at Trump International Hotel Washington DC 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC, 20004, United States of America. What a coincidence!

 

All the while, a growing cohort of educated young people facing high unemployment is growing deeply mistrustful of their leaders. These energetic young men and women are frustrated by the absence of democratic institutions. That they may feel compelled to seek recourse for this dissatisfaction outside the political system represents a major threat to Malaysia’s future.

Tensions between different ethnic and religious groups have also reached alarming levels. Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party has not just turned a blind eye to extremism — they have actively encouraged it. Religious extremists are permitted to promulgate their views with impunity, and the government has actually incorporated those views and personalities into its own platform. As if this weren’t astonishing enough, in 2014, Najib himself encouraged his own party followers to emulate “brave” Islamic State fighters.

If Najib’s autocracy and extremist actions are not condemned and resisted, all of us are at risk.

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Yet despite our challenges, I love my country and I know that we have incredible potential. In fact, that is what makes this issue so important. Unlike many autocratic Muslim-majority countries, Malaysia can be a true functioning pluralistic democracy with real economic strength and growth potential. Our coalition of opposition parties follows the leadership of our imprisoned leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in asserting that the only acceptable way forward for Malaysia is as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, democratic and freedom-supporting state.

But to achieve this, the Malaysian people need the help of true friends and partners around the world. Najib must hear from every nation that his actions are a threat to international security and undermine genuine efforts at countering violent extremism.

President Trump has the opportunity to deliver this message. As a former golfing buddy of the prime minister, he has an established rapport with Najib. And Trump set a precedent in his recent recalibration of aid to Egypt, where he laudably recently recognized the opportunity to stress civil society reforms by cutting some U.S. aid to Egypt. The same frankness should be applied when assessing Najib as a potential recipient of anti-terror funding from the United States.

To advance his foreign policy goals and the mission of international security cooperation, Trump must hold Najib to account. Trump must make clear that Washington will no longer be silent when U.S.-Malaysia cooperation on countering violent extremism is undermined by the Malaysian government itself. To start, Najib should immediately cease persecution of journalists and opposition leaders, and release all political prisoners, including my father. Trump must also make clear that the United States does not tolerate partners who harbor and protect terrorists, much less partners who actively encourage such behavior.

Without reforms, the Malaysian government is not a reliable partner on counterterrorism, international security or economic development. A clear message, followed by strong action, is the only way to transform Malaysia from a liability to a credible ally.

 

Trump’s Transactional Foreign Policy: Rogue Leaders like Malaysia’s Prime Minister Matter than Democracy and Human Rights


September 13, 2017

Trump’s Transactional Foreign Policy: Rogue Leaders like Malaysia’s Prime Minister Matter than Democracy and Human Rights

…[f]or many Malaysians, including Najib himself, the most important outcome of the meeting has nothing to do with questions of bilateral policy. Rather, the most significant consequence of the Trump-Najib summit will be to burnish Najib’s reputation while being under active investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.–Trevor Sutton and Brian Harding

http://thediplomat.com/2017/09/najibs-us-visit-sends-a-troubling-message-on-rule-of-law/

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US President Donald Trump tweeted today about Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s visit to the White House.“It was a great honor to welcome Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia and his distinguished delegation to the @WhiteHouse today!” Trump said in his tweet of a video of the Malaysian leader’s visit.–Bernama

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak meeting with President Donald Trump today (September 12) is the first White House visit by a Malaysian head of state since George W. Bush’s first term in office. But while we will hear more about the actual deliverables from the visit, for many Malaysians, including Najib himself, the most important outcome of the meeting has nothing to do with questions of bilateral policy. Rather, the most significant consequence of the Trump-Najib summit will be to burnish Najib’s reputation while being under active investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

For more than two years, Prime Minister Najib has been seeking to contain the fallout from one of the largest corruption scandals in modern history: the theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB, an economic development fund administered by the Malaysian government. Of these billions, around $700 million reportedly found its way into Najib’s own bank accounts. Yet, despite widespread outrage, Najib has deftly used at times draconian legal and administrative instruments to weather the fallout, including a disturbing crackdown on free speech and other civil liberties.

Many Malaysians who take a dim view of Najib’s autocratic drift have placed their hopes in external actors to expose the corruption at the heart of Malaysian politics. Multiple national law enforcement agencies are currently investigating the 1MDB scandal, including the United States Department of Justice, which last year filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking recovery of $1 billion in stolen 1MDB assets laundered through U.S. financial institutions, and is simultaneously conducting a criminal investigation. DOJ’s inquiry has independently concluded that the funds in Najib’s bank accounts were from 1MDB, and not a Saudi donor as Najib has vowed, although the department has not brought charges against Najib to date.

Trump has not spoken publicly about 1MDB or the DOJ investigation, but his ties with Najib predate his presidential campaign, and his decision to receive the Malaysian leader at the White House sends a demoralizing signal to those in Malaysia and across the world who want the United States to stand up for democracy and fight corruption. There has been widespread speculation among Malaysians that Najib will persuade Trump to intervene on his behalf and ensure the DOJ probe does not personally target him or his assets. Although such interference seems unlikely, it is not unimaginable in light of the President’s documented efforts to tamper with law enforcement activities, such as his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and his request to aides that DOJ drop its prosecution of Sheriff Joe Arpaio (whom Trump later pardoned).

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U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to the White House on Tuesday, praising his country for investing in the United States while steering clear of an American investigation into a Malaysian corruption scandal. The visit is important for Najib, who faces elections next year and wants to signal he is still welcome at the White House despite a criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department into a state fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).–Reuters

This apprehension that Trump will seek to spare Najib reflects a widespread belief internationally that President Trump will conduct foreign affairs into a wholly transactional fashion with little regard for human rights, democracy, or rule of law. In our conversations with Southeast Asian elites since last November’s presidential election, we have found many were favorably disposed towards Trump – but for all the wrong reasons. There is a pervasive sense among business and political leaders in the region that the rules of the game have changed and everything is now flexible. In many ways, Southeast Asian leaders like Najib see in Trump an image of themselves – a leader whose instincts favor political survival over institutions and rule of law.

While Najib’s visit this week will no doubt provide ballast to U.S.-Malaysia relations in the near term, whether it serves the relationship well in the long run is a different matter. At a minimum, the visit sends a clear message that the White House should no longer be viewed as an ally in the fight against graft, but rather a friend of kleptocracy. Even if the two leaders avoid the subject of 1MDB, the meeting will be a major victory for Najib and his administration both in Malaysia and on the world stage. On the U.S. side, the visit will mark another chapter in the Trump Administration’s dangerous indifference to foreign corruption.

Southeast Asia remains a strategically important region for the United States, and the White House is right to seek to engage Southeast Asian leaders. Yet that engagement should not involve turning blind eye to graft, authoritarianism and repression. As Trump plans to welcome autocratic leaders from Thailand and the Philippines to the White House later this year, at some point one must ask whether U.S. policy towards Southeast Asia is guided by any broader values or strategic vision. For the moment, the answer to this question is completely unclear, and marginalized democrats across the region are taking note.

Trevor Sutton is a fellow for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP). Brian Harding is director of East and Southeast Asia policy for National Security and International Policy at CAP.

 

Trump appeases an authoritarian Malaysian Prime Minister to The White House


September 13, 2017

Trump appeases an authoritarian Malaysian Prime Minister to the White House

By Editorial Board, The Washington Post

The Post’s View

Opinion

 

Malaysian PM Najib Razak reviews an honour guard at The White House. Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

PRESIDENT TRUMP has made a habit of embracing authoritarian rulers he regards as friendly, without regard for their subversion of democratic norms or gross human rights violations. Yet his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the White House on Tuesday sets a new low. Not only is Mr. Najib known for imprisoning peaceful opponents, silencing critical media and reversing Malaysia’s progress toward democracy. He also is a subject of the largest foreign kleptocracy investigation ever launched by the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. investigators have charged that Mr. Najib and close associates diverted $4.5 billion from a Malaysian government investment fund for their own uses, including $730 million that ended up in accounts controlled by the Prime Minister. Justice first filed civil suits seeking the freezing of some $1.7 billion in assets in the United States, including real estate, artworks and stakes in Hollywood movies; more recently, the department asked that those actions be put on hold while it pursues a criminal investigation. Mr. Najib has not been charged with a crime and denies wrongdoing, but the U.S. investigation prompted speculation in Malaysia that he could be arrested if he set foot on American soil — not good PR for a leader who is obligated to call an election sometime in the next few months.

[Here’s what President Trump should tell Malaysia’s prime minister]

With his White House invitation, Mr. Trump has neatly gotten Mr. Najib off that hook and provided him with what the regime will portray as a tacit pre-election endorsement. Despite his repression, Mr. Najib could use that sort of help: In the last election, in 2013, his party lost the popular vote and retained power only because of the gerrymandering of election districts.

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President Trump and other top American officials, left, met at the White House with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia and his delegation, right .The Post’s Editorial states: “The best way for the United States to build a stronger alliance with Malaysia and bolster its independence from China is to encourage those in the country who support liberal democratic values — while holding Mr. Najib accountable for his human rights violations, as well as any financial crimes he may have committed in the United States”.

If the White House received anything in exchange for that huge political favor, it’s not evident. That’s particularly unfortunate because Mr. Najib’s regime is not only a conspicuous violator of human rights but a relative friend to North Korea. The regime of Kim Jong Un has exported workers to Malaysia to earn hard currency. Kim Jong Un’s estranged half brother was murdered in Kuala Lumpur’s international airport — so far with no consequences for Pyongyang.

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Mr. Trump isn’t the only  U.S. President to pursue a policy of appeasement toward Mr. Najib. Barack Obama was the first appeaser who played golf with and visited the Malaysian Prime Minister in Malaysia.

Mr. Trump isn’t the first U.S. President to pursue a policy of appeasement toward Mr. Najib. President Barack Obama golfed with the Prime Minister and flattered him with the first visit by a U.S. President to Malaysia in nearly half a century. Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump may imagine that courting Mr. Najib is a necessary counter to China, which has hosted him twice in the past year and wooed him with promises of about $100 billion in investments. Yet Mr. Najib’s corruption and disregard for democratic norms mean he will inevitably prefer the values-free patronage of Beijing over alliance with Washington.

The best way for the United States to build a stronger alliance with Malaysia and bolster its independence from China is to encourage those in the country who support liberal democratic values — while holding Mr. Najib accountable for his human rights violations, as well as any financial crimes he may have committed in the United States. If Mr. Trump makes a start at that on Tuesday, he could begin to mitigate the error of inviting Mr. Najib to the White House.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trump-welcomes-an-authoritarian-to-the-white-house/2017/09/11/9d19f51c-9707-11e7-b569-3360011663b4_story.html?utm_term=.e59f606520a0

Addressing the Root Causes of Conflict-Driven Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia


September 13, 2017

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Number 396 | September 12, 2017
ANALYSIS

Addressing the Root Causes of Conflict-Driven Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia

by Ruji Auethavornpipat

On July 19, 2017, Thailand witnessed its largest human trafficking trial. This court case involved 102 defendants and resulted in 62 convictions for crimes committed against migrant asylum seekers mostly from Myanmar (Burma). While this is a high-profile case signaling Thailand’s serious commitment to combatting human trafficking, the conversation is still missing a discussion about the root cause of trafficking in the region – conflict in Myanmar. More attention is needed to alleviate and inhibit circumstances that drive migrant populations in Myanmar to use smuggling networks, where they are vulnerable to trafficking.

The aftermath of the largest human trafficking trial in Thailand

The trial took place following the May 2015 discovery of mass graves in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border. Human Rights Watch reports that at least 30 bodies were found and that the victims – mostly migrants identified as ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladesh – lost their lives due to inadequate food and disease while traffickers were waiting to receive ransoms from the families before smuggling them into Malaysia.

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The unearthing of mass graves occurred one week prior to the humanitarian “boat crisis” that took place in May of 2015, during which regional governments pushed back the boats carrying Rohingya migrants, leaving them stranded at sea. The development also came at the height of international criticism on the prevalence of human trafficking in Thailand. The US government downgraded Thailand to Tier 3 – the lowest tier – in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in 2014 and again in 2015 for not complying with the US standards for the elimination of human trafficking. While Thailand’s anti-trafficking efforts are assessed based on the “3P” approach (prosecution, protection, prevention), the issue of official complicity is among those consistently raised by the United States. Most recently, the 2017 TIP Report, published before the July 2017 trafficking trial, states that Thailand “did not aggressively prosecute and convict officials complicit in trafficking crimes, and official complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts.”

Meanwhile, from the Thai government’s perspective, progress has been made against official complicity in human trafficking. For example, the discovery of the mass grave in 2015 was followed by an investigation by senior police officer Paween Pongsirin, which implicated “influential figures” in the Thai government, military, and police in human trafficking. Subsequently, due to the fear for his life after the investigation, Paween left for Australia to claim political asylum. Then, in 2016, the government reported increasing numbers of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.

In July 2017, the court delivered the 500-page verdict which took over 12 hours to read. Many of the 62 defendants were found guilty on charges of forcible detention leading to death, trafficking, rape, and membership in transnational organized criminal networks. Moreover, the jail sentences for the convicted officials range from 27 to 78 years and those convicted of human trafficking are also required to pay 4.4 million baht or approximately USD $132,000 to 58 victims.

The severe punishment of perpetrators has been welcomed not only by civil society but also foreign governments such as that of the United States. Lengthy prison terms are undoubtedly imposing higher risks for the “business” of trafficking, and sending a strong message to traffickers that human trafficking is a heinous crime. It also illustrates that state officials no longer have impunity. Prosecution consequently seems to serve its purpose of deterring or at least disrupting future trafficking activities.

Image result for the rohingya's of myanmarBangladeshi villagers covered the bodies of Rohingya women and children who died when the boats in which they were fleeing violence in western Myanmar

 

Although these developments are rightly regarded as a step forward, it is questionable whether the root cause of trafficking, among the Rohingya migrants in this case, is being effectively addressed. This thus casts doubts as to whether the emphasis on prosecution can effectively eradicate human trafficking.

Conflict in Rakhine State and the roots of trafficking

The trafficking of the Rohingya is clearly driven by violent conflicts in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Without tackling this root cause, human trafficking networks may continue to operate in the shadows.

The United Nations (UN) describes the Rohingya population as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. As of 2014, there were estimated to be 1 to 1.5 million Rohingya Muslims and 2 million Rakhine Buddhists in Rakhine. The waves of communal violence since 2012 have resulted in numerous cases of injury and death, the destruction of property, and the displacement of 140,000 people. The escalation of conflict in October 2016 saw unidentified militants attack three local police posts, killing nine officers. This incident led the Myanmar military to initiate a four-month “clearance operation” to uproot the suspected Rohingya militants. The upsurge of violence led the UN to call for an investigation into allegations of abuses committed against Rohingya civilians. In the midst of the crackdown, hundreds tried to flee to Bangladesh, with many reportedly being gunned down, and those arriving by boat being pushed back by border guards or stranded at sea. At least an additional 92,000 people have been displaced.

These circumstances further exacerbate the risk that the Rohingya will be exploited by smugglers and traffickers during their journey. Addressing trafficking problems entails the prevention of conflict and reconciliation among various groups of people in the Rakhine State. The conflict cannot be perceived simply as an ethno-religious one, but local contexts such as years of armed conflict, deep-seated grievances of the locals, economic impoverishment, and authoritarian rule should be taken into account. While there is tremendous work to be done to protect the stateless Rohingya population, it should also be noted that one major concern among Rakhine people is that international attention has heavily focused on assisting the Rohingya to the detriment of the Rakhine people.

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Her apparent indifference could lead to a return of military dictatorship in Myanmar. 

Rakhine is one of the least developed states in Myanmar with the highest poverty rate of 78 percent and years of inter-communal violence deteriorating the socio-economic development. Moreover, the International Crisis Group indicates that the whole Rakhine community tends to be viewed as violent extremists and as such ignores the fact that the Rakhine themselves are “a long-oppressed minority.” There is also an insufficient attempt to understand the diversity of Rakhine community concerns. Similar to other ethnic minorities, the Rakhine grievances are caused by discriminatory practices, economic stagnation, a lack of political power, and constraints on language and cultural expression.

The conflict in the Rakhine state is complicated and has no easy solution. However, a more balanced conversation that acknowledges the grievances of different stakeholders could play a crucial role in creating a constructive dialogue that not only addresses peacebuilding, but also prevents the vulnerable and stateless Rohingya from falling into the hands of human traffickers.

About the Author

Ruji Auethavornpipat is a Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and a PhD Candidate in the Department of International Relations of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at Australia National University. He can be contacted at ruji.auethavornpipat@anu.edu.au.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

 

Opportunities and Challenges of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and US Policy and Pakistan


September 10, 2017

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Number 395 | September 7, 2017

ANALYSIS

Opportunities and Challenges of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Implications for US Policy and Pakistan

by Lin Wang

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China and Pakistan have long maintained diplomatic and military ties. However, close economic cooperation is a more recent development. The flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – is expected to provide $40 billion in Chinese investments to Pakistan. CPEC is not only a strong economic boon for Pakistan’s economic growth in the next three to five years, but also an opportunity for Pakistan to stabilize its society and reshape its image from a fragile state to an emerging economy in Asia. From a geopolitical perspective, CPEC is also regarded as a game-changing project in South and Central Asia. The prospect is promising, although the detailed opportunities and challenges CPEC faces still need to be carefully evaluated. Although CPEC is a bilateral project between China and Pakistan, it has already drawn interest and  worry from other stakeholders in the region, including the United States and India.

Pakistan is important not only for the stability of South Asia, but for US national interests (including Afghanistan policy), China’s regional interests, global counter-terrorism, and the stability of the Muslim world as well. CPEC acts as a game-changing opportunity for Pakistan’s development and its future role in the region. With the implementation of CPEC and the emerging commercial attractiveness of Pakistan and the South Asia region, Chinese and US economic and security interests in Pakistan and the region are converging.

Pakistan has about 200 million people and is the second-most-populous Muslim-majority country in the world. It shares borders with India, China, Afghanistan, and Iran, which are all important players to the stability of the region and the world. As a nuclear country, Pakistan’s influence should not be underestimated. The country has a number of extremist groups and global terrorist organizations, and has sacrificed soldiers, civilians, and treasure fighting terrorism. Pakistan is still a fragile and internally divided state with a promising yet troubled economy.

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Pakistan? Where the Hell is this messy China controlled Place? 

US strategy and policies towards Pakistan need to be reoriented and reshaped. Pakistan and South Asia have long posed a challenge for US leaders, and that challenge has become one of the priorities of the Trump administration, as evidenced in the newly-announced strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

Opportunities

CPEC offers a number of opportunities, the first of which is economic development. The large influx of investments will work as a strong economic incentive for Pakistan’s government and social sectors to improve the business environment and enhance commercial attractiveness for more foreign investments, which will not only benefit Chinese investors engaged in CPEC, but will also benefit all foreign investors in Pakistan, including the United States. Industrialization in Pakistan will also help to create jobs for the country’s large, under-employed population, turning a social and fiscal burden into an economic and developmental driver.

A second opportunity that CPEC could provide is stabilization and improved security. With planned infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing investments, CPEC will create more private-sector opportunities and offer a realistic pathway out of poverty for Pakistan’s people, especially those extremely poor who otherwise may be tempted to fight as mercenaries for the Taliban or ISIS. Economic development will help to maintain domestic stability and enhance security in Pakistan for the medium to long term. Combined with strengthened governance and improved capacity, Pakistan will have greater political willingness and capability to fulfill its security commitment and responsibilities for global counter-terrorism.

Finally, CPEC could contribute to the further integration of South Asia. The core vision of CPEC is to improve infrastructure to facilitate inter-connectivity. The project is expected to connect China, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asian countries together, integrating a market of two billion people and stabilizing the region. CPEC will empower South Asia to enjoy the full benefits of region-wide trade, stretching from Iran to China.

Challenges

 

Despite the many opportunities that CPEC potentially affords, clearly there are challenges too. First, CPEC could be an opportunity to enhance governance, but for CPEC to succeed in the first place Pakistan’s political and social governance is vital. By the end of 2016, almost all of Pakistan’s political parties as well as the different provincial governments formed a political consensus in support of CPEC. But, with the large amount of foreign investments expected, there must be the fair and efficient allocation of development benefits. This will be a test of Pakistan’s political and social governance capabilities.

Second, security will remain a challenge. For now, the Pakistani government and military have arranged more than 10,000 security forces to protect the people and projects of CPEC while a long-term and sustainable security mechanism is built.

Finally, there is geopolitics. The complaints that China’s promotion of CPEC blurs the distinction between political strategy and commercial interests demonstrate that the other main players in the region like India may try to contain CPEC and dismiss the potential cooperation opportunities brought by the project. With the concern that an empowered Pakistan will threaten India, India may provoke Pakistan, trapping the two states in traditional hostilities and losing the focus on economic development.

“US support for CPEC, or simply no containment of China’s engagement in Pakistan and the region, will also reduce the trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States.”

CPEC is intended to strengthen and diversify Pakistan’s role in South Asia, activate Pakistan’s role in the global value chain and to integrate the whole South Asia region. The project also works as a benchmark or complementary project for existing US cooperation programs with Pakistan. China, the United States, and the global community should make full use of their respective resources to stabilize Pakistan and support its economic development as a new emerging economy in Asia. US support for CPEC, or simply no containment of China’s engagement in Pakistan and the region, will also reduce the trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States.

Moreover, the US government can also encourage or facilitate US companies’ entry and business in Pakistan, helping them to create a better business environment. With such facilitation, American high-end manufacturing companies like GE, Caterpillar, and top consulting firms like McKinsey will be able to seize the emerging commercial opportunities with CPEC in infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, and other industries and become beneficiaries of CPEC-driven business opportunities in Pakistan.

About the Author

Lin Wang is a Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington, Research Fellow at the China Business News Research Institute, and Senior Journalist at China Business News. She can be contacted at WangL@EastWestCenter.org.

Image result for east west center logo
The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington

APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

Jihadist Terrorism back in Southeast Asia


August 21, 2017

Jihadist Terrorism back in Southeast Asia

by Zachary Abuza, US National War College

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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Within any Salafi-jihadist organisation there lies a debate over strategy: should the organisation target the enemy at home or the one further afield, like Western backers of the government? In Southeast Asia this debate has erupted in recent years. 

The Al Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) spent years engaging in sectarian domestic conflict before taking up a larger-scale international approach with the 2002 Bali bombings. But that attack was largely at the impetus of Al Qaeda, and from 2003–09 JI only managed to perpetrate roughly one major attack against a Western tourist venue annually. And with each attack, more of the organisation was dismantled.

 

This provoked a debate within JI between advocates of the Al Qaeda line and proponents of a sectarian conflict-based strategy. Neither side prevailed. Despite attempts to bridge the divide and establish a training camp in Aceh, JI splintered in 2010, and became a more or less defunct organisation which was incapable of military operations.

The 2014 emergence of the so-called Islamic State (IS) revitalised terrorist networks in Southeast Asia. Since 2014, a number of IS-inspired attacks and plots have been perpetrated following recruitment efforts by Indonesian and Malaysian leaders in Raqqa. But the majority of militants from the region still remain preoccupied with the far enemy and with joining IS. An estimated 1000 Southeast Asians have traveled to Iraq and Syria. Indeed, the fact that many traveled with their families, or ceremoniously burned their passports, suggests they had no intention of ever returning.

Many wanted to be part of the caliphate, attracted by IS promises and slick propaganda. Some simply saw themselves as being too weak at present to take on their government back home. Others perceived fighting with IS as a way to burnish their jihadi credentials and gain military skills before returning home to focus on the domestic enemy.

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Groups and cells across Southeast Asia declared ‘bay’ah’ — an oath of allegiance — to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But IS did not recognise any Southeast Asian cell or group until January 2016, when IS referred to Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf as ‘sheikh’, and called on other groups that had pledged ‘bay’ah’ to IS to fall under his leadership. That recognition allowed militants in the region to once again re-orient themselves towards the domestic enemy as they sought to establish a ‘wiliyat’ — a province of the caliphate.

This movement escalated following a mid-2016 video produced by IS central media that called on Southeast Asian recruits to travel to Mindanao or to engage in operations in the region if they could not travel to Syria. The trip to Syria has become more perilous with greater international cooperation among security forces. Hundreds of Southeast Asian recruits had been turned back by Turkish authorities, including 430 Indonesians alone.

The recent success of IS-pledged militants in tying down the Armed Forces of the Philippines for over two months will further attract followers and recruits. Sieging cities on two occasions, they have proven themselves as committed jihadists, willing to take the fight to the Philippine government. Marawi demonstrated the utility of targeting the domestic enemy. That in itself will attract foreign fighters from Southeast Asia and further afield. And with the Philippine military weak and spread thin, more attacks make both tactical and strategic sense.

The pogroms from Myanmar will also provide a new pool of talent to recruit from and networks to penetrate. The ongoing sectarian cleansing against the 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar has led to the deaths of over 600 and the displacement of over 75,000. The situation is growing more dire by the day with some 140,000 living in squalid internally displaced person camps, and over 40,000 others currently displaced by pogroms, much of which have been caused by Myanmar’s security forces.

Indonesian authorities have now broken up two terrorist plots to blow up the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta. Recently, an armed militant group, the Harakat al-Islamiyah (HAY), has begun operations against Myanmar’s security forces, at the same time that IS has begun to reference the Rohingya in its (albeit diminished) media. There are signs that HAY is trying to recruit from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, with a surge in arrests of Bangladeshi nationals across the region.

The July 2017 decision by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to ban Hizbut Tahrir is also likely to inflame the anger of Islamist militants in Indonesia. While Widodo is rightfully concerned about conveyor groups — such as Hizbut Tahrir — the ban is likely to put the Indonesian government back in the cross hairs. The Indonesian government’s threat to ban the messaging app Telegram, resulted in the company removing 55 IS channels, another thing likely to incur the wrath of militants in the region and get them to refocus their energies towards the domestic government.

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Further, there are several hundred terrorism suspects in Southeast Asian prisons, including over 200 in Indonesia alone. Most will be released in the coming years, and they will be unlikely to travel. And though Indonesia touts its de-radicalisation program, it is not compulsory and its prisons have long been key nodes of recruitment and indoctrination.

The loss of the caliphate has led to a shift in attention back to the domestic enemy in Southeast Asia. Until a militant Salafist group emerges from the embers of IS, the more distant enemies will recede in the strategic thinking of Southeast Asian militants.

 

Zachary Abuza is Professor of National Security Strategy at the US National War College. The views expressed here are his own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Department of Defense, National Defense University, or the National War College. Follow him @ZachAbuza.