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I’m going to phone it in on Malaysia this week. First of all, New Mandala is getting ready to launch its GE14 stand-alone coverage so chuck that a follow on Twitter and get ready. Mahathir Mohamad is in the hospital with a chest infection at 92-years-old so, uh, that’s not going to look great in the face of all that criticism. Bersih 2.0 is campaigning against proposed changes to electoral boundaries in Selangor which it says will give Barisan Nasional a decent shot at reclaiming the state. Just announce a date already, Najib!
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I am extremely upset with Indonesia at the moment and this is why. Next week we’ll take a much deeper look, but for now, let me stew on it.
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Out of Myanmar this Reuters investigation dominated Twitter Friday and for good reason. It is extremely difficult reading, telling the stories of ten Rohingya men who were buried in a mass grave. It is not a nice read, but an essential one. Also it’s the investigation which landed Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in prison and I guess now it’s easy to see why the government doesn’t want to hear it. I don’t know, I feel like we’ve all been reading so much horrifying coverage of the crisis for months now and while it’s always a rough read, work like this really drives home that these hundreds of thousands of people are individuals. Myanmar policeman who arrested Reuters reporters tells the court he burned his notes.
Meanwhile, the AP report earlier this year which revealed five more mass graves in Rakhine State is ‘not correct’ and should be apologised for according to Aung Hla Tun, Myanmar deputy minister for information, in this RFA interview.
And Poppy McPherson for the Guardian has a brilliant piece about former Myanmar army officer Nazmul Islam who witnessed his village be destroyed in Tula Toli.
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Singapore, which just recently rugged up in jackets and scarves as the mercury dove to a balmy 20 degrees, has sent its first competitor to the Winter Olympics this week in South Korea. Cheyenne Goh, 18-years-old, will take part in speed-skating events. But it’s not all fun and games, with the government still keeping a firm eye on emerging terror threats in the wake of the deportation of a self-radicalised Malaysian man.
But the most talked about this week comes from the PAP. Firstly, a widely-shared piece from the New Mandala on the party’s succession plans which takes on new importance today on leader PM Lee Hsien Loong’s birthday, giving him just four years until the 70th birthday retirement date he has long touted. It’s a bigger story than mere leadership woes, as the piece notes, as highlighted this week by a scandal after PAP MP Lam Pin Min wrote directly to the courts in an effort to intervene in a case involving a constituent. Party whip Chan Chun Sing was forced to come out and clarify the government’s position in maintaining judicial independence in the embarrassing incident, once again raising questions about what the PAP can get away with due to a lack of meaningful opposition.
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Not much out of Brunei this week, but I am interested in this piece from the Scoop after Brunei’s Law Society launched a legal fund for unprivileged Bruneians in need of representation.
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Yes! I can’t read enough of these pieces because I agree so wholeheartedly: Timor Leste is a model for peace for Asean. We are looking at a May 12 election after the government was dissolved last month.
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Floated minimum wage increases in Laos has factory owners suggesting they’ll be forced to shut up shop. This is a really interesting read and I’m going to look into this more, brb. Government debt is going to be a problem, Al Jazeera reports. Investigations into the red panda trade are continuing.
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Facebook is (again) a battleground in Cambodia with former opposition leader Sam Rainsy filing a legal case in the United States to get Facebook to release information on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s use of the social media platform. Timely, with the Supreme Court upholding a two and a half year jail term for former lawmaker Um Sam An who criticised the government in an FB post. The sexy dancing foreigners are out on bail.
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Vietnam! No one can be too shocked to find Trinh Xuan Thanh, who was allegedly kidnapped from Berlin last year, has been given a second life sentence in a massive embezzlement scandal. This is an interesting one from NAR about Japan producers teaming up with Vietnam rice growers. A fisherman has been jailed for 14 years for protesting against environmental degradation and isn’t it just depressing. Hoang Duc Binh is only 35.
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Is it kind of starting to kick off in Thailand? The bubbling discontent over further delayed elections has seen warrants issued for four activists who organised a demonstration last month. The warrants come after 35 participants reported to police earlier this week. Surely Prawit can’t be sitting too comfortable still and he is now the subject of blatant mockery. Groups have met to plan the election, whenever that will be.
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The Philippines has had a busy one this week, so we’ll focus on two main issues and then an obligatory ‘omg Duterte said WHAT’ link at the end. Firstly, Benham Rise! It’s been a minute since we heard about you. Duterte at the start of the week declared no foreign exploration or research of Benham Rise after a bit of pushback over Chinese research in the area. After a bit of argy-bargy, it became obvious that despite the tough words foreign research in the area was still permissible – as long as they are approved. Which then opened Duterte up to the ‘kowtowing to China’ jibes he is increasingly copping and not wearing well. Benham Rise is for the Philippines, he says. And if you come for it the navy will shoot.
Secondly, the body of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, an OFW, was found in a freezer in Kuwait. She’s believed to have died from either strangulation or torture. Violence against migrant workers, particularly in Gulf states, is a huge priority of the Philippines’ labour and foreign affairs ministries and cases like this are why. The death is just the latest in a string of deaths in Kuwait, one of the top destinations for Filipino workers, and has prompted a call for all workers to be returned home over the coming days. This should be one of the biggest feminist issues in the world, but it’s not. In lieu of that, here’s Duterte asking just what is going on over there.
And here’s your weekly ‘Duterte, why!?’: “You say I'm a dictator, I really am. Because if I will not be a dictator, son of a bitch, nothing will happen to this country.”