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Thailand is really going for it this week. It awarded Myanmar’s army chief with a royal decoration, which seems really unnecessary and incendiary but okay. Rallies demanding elections continue, despite threats of arrest. Yingluck Shinawatra is in Hong Kong (no extradition treaty, gotcha!) meanwhile the Pheu Thai Party are worried new election rules are designed to either cut the influence of the Shinawatra dynasty or dissolve it completely. This is fascinating: the popularity of Muay Thai among young boys has doctors aghast.
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Alright, Indonesia. Let’s get the dang criminal code out of the way. You’d be hard-pressed to have missed this and it honestly works my blood pressure up too high so we’ll just focus on the straightforward Reuters piece and the stunning op-ed from friend of the letter Stanley Widianto. My understanding is that the while all factions are on-board, getting everyone to agree to what the actual changes will be is difficult, hopefully, difficult enough to push it off until after the regional elections in June. But, this, of course, doesn’t negate the absolute nightmare that the debate alone is nor the wider implications of legislative overreach. Palate cleanser on my fave mall in Jakarta, Taman Anggrek. The women of Bali’s Kerobokan Prison (‘Hotel K’ to those who like to read books only found in Australian airports) have a new building. The new one has been built too small, which is infuriating, but here’s hoping conditions are much better than before. Bloomberg takes a look at Jokowi and the military and what it all means. And here comes the regionals.
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Malaysia is going to be a big one this week. On Tuesday I started my GE14 newsletter special, lest this entire thing becomes dominated, which can be signed up to here. The plan is a Tuesday and Friday 250-300 word dispatch, likely to change to Monday, Wednesday and Friday once a date is actually announced. But, if you can’t be arsed signing up, fair cop I’ll share the links here anyway: Mahathir Mohamad went to hospital while Chinese New Year vote-grabbing kicked off and the Election Commission has revealed a touch more about the process including Paya Besar not needing a by-election after the shock death of its incumbent earlier in the month.
I can’t read enough of stories about how Malaysia is reacting to the Year of the Dog but it’s important to find the balance. Amrita Malhi took to Twitter to pour a bit of water on some of the more sensational reporting and I’d recommend this CNN piece which is more a story about religious breakdowns in the country. This AFP piece is a must-read.
This piece from the Smithsonian raises the ‘what does ‘discovered’ actually mean?’ question, but is a fascinating story about the language Jedek. And of course, we have to talk about Michelle Yeoh blowing up Twitter.
But it’s not all great memes this week. Adelina, a 21-year-old domestic worker from Medan in North Sumatra, died in Penang earlier this week. Neighbours told media Adelina had been forced to sleep on the porch of the house she worked at for over a month, sleeping near the family dog. The case was reported to local authorities but Adelina was too frightened to respond. Rescuers said she had burn marks on her legs which were clearly leaking pus. The cause of death has been ruled multiple organ failure.
The case immediately prompted furore in Malaysia where, despite strict rules about labour and migrant worker safety, cases of abuses and mistreatment are relatively common. Arrests have begun, with the family of the home arrested as well as two Indonesian recruiters. The Indonesian nationals also face accusations of human trafficking.
Indonesia is furious. Ambassador to Malaysia Rusdi Kirana is calling for a moratorium on Indonesian domestic workers being sent to Malaysia. I would hazard this call would have some legs to it, given the protection of migrant workers has been a major foreign policy priority for the Jokowi government. Importantly, this case is breaking alongside the horrible story from the Philippines about an OFW woman murdered in Kuwait. The Philippines and Indonesia have led initiatives in the region to protect migrant workers, typically with opposition from Malaysia and Singapore, and I imagine this year’s formalisation of the recently adopted Consensus on Migrant Workers at Asean will be more important than ever.
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The Philippines is dealing with the fall-out of its own horrible migrant worker death case after the remains of 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis were repatriated to the country from Kuwait. A ban on Filipinos working in the Middle Eastern country has seen Kuwait hit back, saying its an unnecessary escalation and condemning the move. It gets a bit messy here because it is so hard to tell when Duterte is or isn’t talking nonsense. He has said Demafelis was found ‘roasted like a pig’ and suggested rape and sexual violence at the hands of Arab employers is common.
Local media has reported Demafelis’ former employers have left the country and returned to their native Lebanon, so justice on that front is unlikely. But, for the quarter million other Filipinos working in Kuwait the government is advocating for better working conditions.
Duterte also told troops to shoot Communist women in the vagina.
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The Diplomat has us covered in Brunei this week with pieces looking at how relations with China have impacted the sultanate’s stance on the South China Sea as well as the future of relations with Japan.
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The Vatican versus Timor Leste. ‘East Timor could receive up to 80 percent of revenue from the $50 billion Greater Sunrise oil and gas field in the Timor Sea under a still-secret agreement with Australia, according to a report from the country’s capital of Dili.’
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Detained blogger Mother Mushroom has been moved to a prison on the south-central coast of Vietnam, her family told media. The family was reportedly not notified of the move. My Vietnam Google Alerts are being absolutely hammered by US-centric thinkpieces about the war, but thankfully it did pick up this one from Bennett Murray for Politico which looks at why Vietnam hasn’t indulged the same sort of ‘what does it all mean’ coverage.
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This piece on sexual abuse in Cambodia’s Buddhist pagodas has dominated social media over the week, and with good reason. Two Radio Free Asia journalists are still being held in detention over espionage charges, three months after being arrested for ‘running an unlicensed karaoke’ joint. Splice Newsroom takes a look at Phnom Penh Post’s penchant for rapping the news.
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Last week I said I’d be back with more on the fight to raise the minimum wage in Laos, so here you go.
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That repatriation plan in Myanmar for the Rohingya population has had the arse fall out of it, not that anyone is surprised. New York Times explores the options. ‘Rohingya in Yangon describe a sense of rising persecution and hatred, of vanishing freedoms and opportunities, of Buddhist neighbors and friends suddenly more willing to publicly express sympathies with the military’s destruction of Rohingya villages in Rakhine.’
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Hello, Singapore! I quite like this nice one on the growing number of centenarians in the city-state and why Singapore is such a great place to be if you want to reach 100. The economy isn’t doing quite as well, though.