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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 21, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Thai Junta Leader Appointed PM

Thai general Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the country's May 22 coup against the populist government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, was appointed prime minister on Thursday by a hand-picked legislature (Reuters). The appointment paves the way for the establishment of an interim government in the coming weeks, although power will remain definitively in the hands of the junta (NYT). Thailand's army seized power in a bloodless coup after six months of street protests that cumulated in the ousting of Shinawatra, whose government was opposed by Bangkok's royalist establishment (FT).


"A power arrangement seen in the 1980s and 90s, with a mix of strong, army-backed unelected authority and weak electoral rule, may be what the current coup-makers have in mind as they move forward. Yet after decades of economic development, voters are unlikely to tolerate a blatant military dictatorship without a semblance of democratic rule," writes Thitinan Pongsudhirak for the Bangkok Post.

"It is heartening that the junta has shown some concern to bring about a reconciliation, however unlikely, between the pro-Thaksin "red shirts" and their opponents, who paralysed Bangkok in giant protests from late last year. But that does not necessarily mean the army will allow Thaksinite politicians to take part in drafting the new constitution, let alone run in the proposed election," writes the Economist.

"Gradually, the political interests of Thailand and Myanmar seem to converge. With the backing of China, the two largest states in mainland Southeast Asia have increasingly emerged as a large dark hole that could threaten democracy in the region," writes Pavin Chachavalpongpun for the Diplomat.



Indonesian Court to Rule on Presidency

Indonesia's Constitutional Court is expected on Thursday to deliver a ruling that will finally deliver the presidency to Joko Widodo, governer of Jakarta. Supporters of rival candidate Prabowo Subianto, former son-in-law of ousted president Suharto, attempted to attack the court on Thursday (SMH).

Indonesia's Jokowi needs world's backing, writes CFR's Karen Brooks.



Pakistani Officials Hold Talks

The Pakistani government said it held preliminary talks with two opposition groups whose supporters have been besieging the parliament (AP). The announcement marked an easing of tensions in Islamabad, where opposition supporters have demanded the prime minister's resignation over alleged election fraud.

INDIA: Indian officials said a forensic probe into the murder and alleged gang rape of two teenage cousins concluded that they were not sexually assaulted (FinancialExpress), contradicting an initial post-mortem examination.

This CFR Backgrounder delves into women's rights in India, which has faced intense scrutiny in recent years.



Senior Hamas Leaders Killed

Three senior leaders of Hamas' military wing were killed by an Israeli airstrike on Thursday (al-Jazeera) in what will likely be a large blow to the organization's morale following the breakdown of Egypt-mediated talks in Cairo. The attack follows an apparent assassination attempt on Wednesday of Hamas' military chief, Mohammed Deif.

IRAQ: The United States continued to conduct airstrikes in Iraq as the Pentagon announced that a recent elite U.S. military mission in Syria to rescue U.S. journalist James Foley had failed (Guardian).

Long-term stability in Iraq will require political concessions from all factions, explains expert Ned Parker in this new CFR Interview.



Violence Erupts in Liberia

Clashes erupted in the Liberian capital of Monrovia when security forces sealed off a seaside slum in an effort to halt the spread of Ebola (LATimes). Residents angered about the placement of an Ebola screening center in Monrovia's West Point slum looted the facility over the weekend, chasing away sick patients.

SUDAN: At least sixty-three people died in clashes between rival Arab groups in the Darfur region (BBC), which has seen more than a decade of unrest and increased inter-ethnic rivalry.



Germany, Italy Agree to Arm Iraq

Germany and Italy joined Britain and France on Wednesday in support of sending arms to Kurdish security forces fighting ISIS militants in northern Iraq, saying they would provide humanitarian aid, military equipment, and weapons (Reuters). The move marks a significant departure from Germany's post-war tradition.

IRELAND: Albert Reynolds, Ireland's former prime minister, died at the age of eighty-one (IrishTimes). Reynolds had played a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process, including the 1994 IRA ceasefire.



Brazil Names Silva as Candidate

Brazil's Socialist Party chose environmentalist Marina Silva as its new presidential candidate (DW) to replace her predecessor Eduardo Campos, who died in a plane crash last week. Silva, who served as an environment minister, could prove a tricky challenger for incumbent Dilma Rousseff.

UNITED STATES: Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday, promising residents that the U.S. Justice Department would conduct a thorough investigation of the police shooting of Michael Brown (WSJ).



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