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Thailand's coup: 'The army chief should know better'

The quote that heads this post is from a hard-hitting and critical editorial in today's Bangkok Post, which really says it all at the broad level of analysis. General Prayuth Chan-ocha was a leading figure in the 2006 coup that ousted the Thaksin Government, yet that coup and the events that

Anzac casts its long shadow over the Army History Unit

  For the last few months, anyone who's been unlucky enough to blunder into my path has been assaulted with the arguments in my book Anzac's Long Shadow: The Cost of our National Obsession. If you're time poor, this review in the Spectator Australia does a great job of capturing them. If you're

Martial law in Thailand: Not quite a coup?

The Thai military announced this morning that it was intervening to impose martial law throughout the country but insisting that its actions did not represent a coup. The statement, signed by the army chief, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, referred to a 1914 law that, it said, gave the military the right

Indonesia bans Vimeo

Video-sharing website Vimeo became the latest casualty of Indonesia's Anti-Pornography Law this week, joining Reddit and Imgur on the country's list of blocked sites. Information and Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring announced the ban on Monday, saying that 'negative or pornographic

Golkar to back Jokowi for president

On Tuesday evening, billionaire businessman Aburizal Bakrie visited Pasar Gembrong, a cramped traditional market in Central Jakarta. He was there to show his support for Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo to become the next president of Indonesia. The governor, better known as Jokowi, had arrived earlier

Budget 2014: The end of an aid era?

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program, and Philippa Brant, a Lowy Institute research associate. The Abbott Government last night brought down the first annual aid budget since the integration of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and AusAID

Defence budget 2014: Heavy weights still in the rack

A favourite analogy of the Australian Treasurer is that the budget he delivered yesterday 'does the heavy lifting'. But like all weights regimes, we're first in for some visualisation and warm ups.  The Treasurer's speech hit the right note by outlining the goal, with the Government recommitting

First look at the Budget: DFAT, aid and defence

So here I am at the budget lockup, deep in the bowels of Treasury, with the idea of getting a much-anticipated preview of the Foreign Affairs and Trade budget for this, the Coalition Government's first federal budget. Only, there is no Portfolio Budget Statement for the Foreign Affairs and Trade

Why is Hong Kong unhappy?

Here in Hong Kong these days, you can't pick up a newspaper (metaphorically speaking) without seeing headlines on two topics: the people-to-people relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China, and Hong Kong's political decision-making process. The two issues appear to run at very different

South China Sea: ASEAN Summit showdown looms

There is a good chance that history will repeat itself at this weekend's ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. This could be bad for ASEAN claims of unity and centrality, and for the fraying credibility of the ASEAN-brokered 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as an

The China-Vietnam standoff: Three key factors

So, another maritime incident between China and one of its neighbours. There are reports from officials in Hanoi that Chinese and Vietnamese vessels collided on at least two separate occasions in the South China Sea on Sunday, in waters 120nm off the Vietnamese coast. The dispute began last

The other income-equality debate

Rock-star economist Thomas Piketty is getting headlines for his book on income distribution,  mainly focused on disparities within advanced economies. This might be the moment to ride the wave of attention and record something of the long-running parallel narrative on emerging economies. If

Tony Blair's Gulf delusion

The Middle East can be a policy graveyard for principled leaders because nowhere is there a more marked tension between, on the one hand, Western notions of tolerance and individual freedom, and on the other, the need for political stability and wealthy trading partners. The popular uprisings

'Timeless Tuvalu' and the role of migration

'Timeless Tuvalu' is the country's branding to the world, or at least to the trickle of visitors that arrive every year to the tiny country of 10,000 people. It does indeed feel timeless as I walk the stretch of Fongafale (the main island, on which the capital is located). As I meander the streets

Labour mobility key to Pacific future

The issue of labour migration and seasonal work is back on the agenda of Pacific island governments and donor agencies. Pacific population is increasing by 177,100 each year and at the present rate the region's population will double in the next 36 years. Disaggregating those statistics makes the

Inequality in Hong Kong: The divorce factor

Hong Kong is famously unequal. The measured Gini coefficient is among the world's highest. It is praised for 'economic freedom' yet also criticised for 'crony capitalism.'  It's well known in political science that, worldwide, folks care less about wealth inequality per se than lack of opportunity

Syria: There's method in Assad's election madness

The Syrian Government's successful effort to re-take the Qalamoun area from opposition forces was designed with two aims in mind: to reassert government control over an area abutting Lebanon that resupplied opposition forces close to Damascus, and to maintain military momentum in advance of

Obama in Asia: Let the spin begin

Later today US President Barack Obama will begin a short tour through Asia, to Japan and South Korea in the north, and to Malaysia and the Philippines in the south. The punditry will be overwhelming and almost entirely self serving. Elites and interests of every stripe will tell Obama what to say,

Australia needs a cyber white paper

The idea of cyberspace as a common global good has yet to find its place in Australia.  Ensuring that sea lanes remain open for navigation throughout the Indo-Pacific was a prominent concern in the last Defence White Paper. Australia's condemnation of the Chinese ADIZ in November 2013 indicates

Solomon Islands flooding and Australian aid

On 5 April, the Solomon Islands was hit by extreme flooding, killing 23 people and leaving an estimated 50,000–60,000 people homeless. Lowy Institute Melanesia experts Jenny Hayward Jones and Tess Newton-Cain got together earlier this week to discuss the impact of Australia's $3 million

Is Indonesia shifting its South China Sea policy?

A Jakarta think-tank intellectual was once asked whether Beijing listens when Jakarta speaks. He responded emphatically: 'Oh yes! The problem is we don't say enough'. In the post-authoritarian era, Indonesian officials, like many of their Southeast Asian counterparts, have tended to self-censor

Skin-tight jeans and triangle ladies: A look inside Iran

Imam mosque, on the southern edge of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, Esfahan. Photo by the author. On the edge of Iran's Dasht e Kavir desert, a young Iranian guy sits by the edge of an old reservoir-turned dirty swimming pool, drinking warm beer and gesticulating wildly as he tells jokes to his friends

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