* Malaysia: Najib Razak has been sworn in as Malaysia’s new Prime Minister. As his first act in power, he freed 13 people held under indefinite detention under the tough Internal Security Act, criticized by opponents as a tool to silence opponents; he also lifted a recent ban on two opposition newspapers. These are welcome first steps in a developing modern country that is infamous for its authoritarian tendencies.
* Thaland: The former PM in exile Thaksin, ousted in a coup several years ago, is asserting his power by backing the anti-government protests, and it is giving him influence in disrupting civil society in Thailand. He has also rejected any talks as a way to resolve the crisis, probably thinking he has nothing to lose by pursuing a return to power.
* Cambodia: The army is defending against Thai troops crossing into Cambodian territory along a disputed border, the government rejects wider Khmer Rouge court trials, and cosmetic surgery is booming in Cambodia, despite the general poverty and concerns about quality and safety.
* Burma/Myanmar: Secretary of State Clinton made headlines in February when she said in Tokyo that the Obama administration is reviewing Burma policy. We now see this coming to fruition — as part of Barack Obama’s softening up to the thugs of the world, the US is giving food aid to Myanmar, and Washington is considering lifting sanctions. As the Myanmar military junta and Beijing have close ties, some think this may be part of containing China.