Is the EU losing the fight for human rights in Asia?

Brussels is seeking to build influence in Southeast Asia. But the European Union's habit of criticizing governments over human rights doesn't go down too well in the region.

The EU aims to be “more proactive, innovative and creative when it comes to human rights” in 2023, according to its top diplomat Josep Borrell. However, analysts warn the EU is likely to struggle with this agenda in Southeast Asia, a region of growing geopolitical importance to Brussels. And this year is shaping up to be especially tough.

General elections in Cambodia and Thailand in the summer will be highly contested, and likely marred by irregularities. Brussels has already imposed some sanctions on Cambodia over its democratic deterioration in recent years.

Myanmar’s military junta that wrestled power away from a democratically-elected government almost two years ago also plans to hold elections this year, even though it controls a fraction of the country’s territory.

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