From me this week: I used my Diplomat column to really sit down and untangle the regional implications of the migrant worker abuse cases in recent weeks.
See you next week,
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As I said last week, Malaysia is getting the special GE14 treatment and you can read my write-up of the last few days here or sign up here to get it straight to your inbox twice a week. Most election-related coverage will go in there unless it’s more widely relevant such as is with the jailing of Fahmi Reza, an artist and vocal critic of the government.
The case of killed Indonesian migrant worker Adelina continues this week. One employer has been charged with her murder while another has been charged with hiring an illegal worker. In Sabah 10 suspects, seven of which are Filipino nationals, have been arrested for helping suspected terrorists enter Southern Philippines. Reporting suggests the group had been looking to set up an Abu Sayyaf wing in Sabah, but as this is still breaking we’ll sit on it for a minute.
I do not understand cryptocurrency but Islamic finance consultancy Amanie Advisors does and it has found GOLDX to be sharia-compliant. Glibness aside, this is actually a very interesting short read and if someone tech/finance wants to deep-dive on it please link me! The fate of 11 Uighurs Muslims is still up in the air but the SCMP has taken a closer look and it isn’t good.
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It has been another one of those weeks in which the Philippines has been popping off left right and centre. Where do we begin! Duterte made a little joke about making the archipelago a part of China. It went down like a lead balloon. Really, this is just bonkers to me. I remember so clearly the UNCLOS ruling and how proud the Philippines was, surely this kind of commentary is a huge risk. The op-eds have begun.
Just as an aside, I know this newsletter has quite a few readers in the Philippines and I’d really like to ask something! Back when Ahok was leading Jakarta, a lot of the complaints against him were that he was brash and quite offensive in the face of Javanese culture. I know there were a few more complications in that case, but I would love to know if there’s a major difference between how things get done in Mindanao versus up north? Is his brashness received differently in Luzon and the Visayas? Please hit the reply button!
A US intelligence report named Duterte a serious threat to democracy. Bullshit, government spokespeople have said – but they have also repeatedly had to say he’s only joking when he lays the ‘revolutionary government’ schtick a bit thick. Government officials are heading to Kuwait in the latest development of the horrible murder of migrant worker Joanne. Duterte could come too if he wants, says Kuwait.
A new week, a new round in Duterte vs. Rappler. Malacanang reporter Pia Ranada rocked up on Wednesday only to be told she no longer has access to the palace and the president made the decision himself. Sounds kind of like a threat to democracy, no? No it isn’t, the president insists, pointing to other ‘anti-administration’ publications who still have access. The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines doesn’t agree.
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Here’s a touch more analysis on Brunei’s recent cabinet reshuffle.
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It’s all maritime borders in Timor Leste until the election kicks off in May. This Interpreter piece from Kim McGrath has some great historical background (as does her book, but we can’t feature that every week!). Agency reports say Timor Leste can expect 80 percent of revenue under the as yet announced deal, but we should know more next month.
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Big questions this week in Vietnam. Why are foreign banks fleeing Vietnam? Will Vietnam’s Communist Party ever change its ways? When will I finally get to visit?
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The family of murdered Cambodian analyst Kem Ley has been granted asylum in Australia — which certainly raises some big questions about why the Australian government resettled asylum seekers there. Still on Australia-Cambodia relations, the emails of Australian national James Ricketson show little to support the case of espionage against him. Constitutional amendments introducing stricter lese majeste laws have passed and the UN isn’t happy about it.
Not everyone in Cambodia is happy with the might of China’s influence, reports FT in this piece on Sihanoukville’s ‘casino boom’. Makes Japan’s donation of 10,000 ballot boxes look a little paltry in comparison. A solid recap of just how dire the media situation is.
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Al Jazeera takes a look at Laos’ Don Sahong dam, which environmentalists say will be damaging and the government says is an absolute necessity. It’s not all teenage lads on gap years, but tourism does need a facelift.
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Thailand, thank you for having me! Such a blessing to be able to actually open Bangkok Post links – and yet I have none this week. Firstly, I’m into this piece about how dissenters and critics are using social media to campaign against Prawit. And it drags on yet. Suthep Thaugsuban is back to throw his support behind a pro-Prayuth coalition if and when an election is called. Stand strong Puea Thai Party, says Thaksin. At least the economy is looking good.
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Where do we begin, Indonesia. Have a read of this analysis of education in the country via Lowy Institute. When 7/11 shut up shop quickly last year many asked what happened to the workers, well they’re still waiting for severance pay. After knocking back an opportunity to appeal his blasphemy conviction, Ahok will now take the justice system up on that offer. Why? No one’s too sure, but I have a private theory – hit that reply button and let’s compare notes. Jakarta Post has a great explainer (do this more JakPo!)
The House has snuck in a law which would criminalise criticising lawmakers, but Jokowi says he’s yet to sign it noting public outrage. As I write this, anti-corruption investigator Novel Baswedan, who lost an eye in an acid attack last year, is on his way back to Jakarta No (English language) stories yet, so will follow up next week. Most importantly though, from our friends at Coconuts: 14-year-old boy lays eggs.
Last week I woke up in a fit when I realised I forgot to include BBC Indonesia’s brilliant coverage of the health crisis in Papua. A huge oversight and just goes to show that in a wrap-up of top stories of the country, Papua isn’t nearly as on the radar as the rest of the country even when the story is huge. Tempo English also had a great cover story over the week, but I can never work out their website.
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Myanmar is in talks with Bangladesh over 5,300 Rohingya refugees who have been trapped at the border. The first civilian to testify in the case against detained Reuters journalists has put a bit of a spanner in the works over where the pair were arrested. Talk about an autonomous region for Rohingya in the country has launched a huge amount of chatter online. The biggest takeaway from that I have gotten is: it undermines the fight for citizenship.
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I made a joke to a friend about how the Singapore budget, announced this week, makes PAP look like a late 2000s Australian Labor government but she didn’t laugh. This is a call-out post. But it’s half true, here comes the carbon pricing! All taxpayers over 21 will receive a cash bonus as well, although it hasn’t been branded as stimulus. This is a weird policy move I think, but I feel a way about it so will probably write an actual thing elsewhere. Stay tuned for next week!
Let’s tide over Singapore this week with one of the best lede’s I’ve read so far this year: ‘A Singaporean man convicted over a high-profile fraud case at a megachurch was caught Wednesday trying to flee in a boat before he was due to start his sentence, police said’.