Hello New Naratif readers! Here we are ready for another week in Southeast Asia, with big news in the region such as the cyber-attack in Singapore which is said to have targeted some 1.5 million people. In addition to the hacking scandal, we also have news on the Suharto dynasty in Indonesia, floods in Vietnam and some illuminated manuscripts from Malaysia.
Let’s dive straight in!
We start this week with Indonesia and the news that Tommy Suharto, the son of former president Muhammad Suharto, has listed himself as a legislative candidate in the 2019 general elections in, of all places, Papua Province. Tommy will run on the Berkarya party ticket, and everything should be just fine as the party secretary, Priyo Budi Santoso, gushed that, “The enthusiasm of people in rural areas were outstanding, they welcomed (Tommy) with the spirit and memories of President Suharto’s administration.”
Presumably this is a reference to the halcyon days of Suharto’s 32-year rule of Indonesia which lasted from the 1960s through to 1998, although it’s a bit of a stretch by anyone’s standards. As our contributor, Nithin Coca, wrote in this piece for The Diplomat last year, “The 1970s and 1980s were a dark time for many West Papuans, who were forced to face a relentless military presence and the massive influx of migrants from wealthier East Indonesia.”
On a related note, many of the issues from this period related to the mining industry in Papua, and we also have the story that Rio Tinto have sold their stake in the Grasberg copper mine in Freeport to the Indonesian government. If you’re interested in the sale and whether or not it’s legally binding at the moment, then Market Realist has some good information on the legalities in this series of articles.
To learn more about Suharto’s time in power and the final few years of his presidency, you can read my new piece on Suharto, Clinton and the Asian Financial Crisis that ravaged Indonesia.
We now move to Brunei, and the news that the Indonesian government invited Brunei’s businessmen to invest in its ill-conceived “10 New Balis” project as part of the Indonesia-Brunei Darussalam Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) junket.
On offer to the Bruneians is the chance to invest in the development of the Tanjung Lesung special economic zone in Banten, West Java. Why they would want to do that, though, is beyond me, as it looks doubtful that tourist droves are suddenly going to start holidaying in Banten rather than Bali but stranger things have happened, I guess.
As this piece in The Diplomat from May 2018 explains, Indonesia seems to be making a big effort to get closer to Brunei, following a rather tense relationship in days gone by. This includes the sale of weaponry and military training between the two nations—so watch this space to see how that continues to play out.
Our Chief Editor Kirsten Han on the news to watch in Singapore this week:
The government had some bad news on 20 July: SingHealth—Singapore’s largest group of healthcare institutions—has been hit by an “unprecedented” cyber-attack, resulting in the theft of 1.5 million patients’ personal data. Another 160,000 also had their outpatient prescriptions stolen. Among those affected were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, and almost every one of my friends I’ve asked so far. (To give you some perspective, 1.5 million is about 26.7% of the country’s population.) As of 21 July, SingHealth has had to send over 700,000 text messages to Singaporeans—those without mobile phones will get letters—informing them that they’ve been affected. Cyber-security experts told The Straits Times that signs point to state-sponsored hackers as the culprits. There’s going to be a Committee of Inquiry, so keep an eye on this story for (hopefully) more answers.
This makes it as good a time as any to share this piece on Singapore’s data privacy regime that we published last month.
Over in Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski has this news:
The big international headline from Vietnam last week was William Nguyen’s release from detention on Friday. He was deported from the country shortly afterwards. While this is excellent news for Will and his family, it’s important to remember that a number of Vietnamese nationals have already been sentenced to jail for taking part in last month’s anti-China protests, and more could be punished this coming week. I wrapped up Will’s one-day trial for The Guardian.
Meanwhile, parts of northern and central Vietnam are facing severe flooding following the arrival of a tropical storm last week. Local media reports that 20 people have been killed by flooding and landslides, while 16 remain missing and another 14 have been injured. Typhoon season is heating up in the East Sea, meaning more weather-related misery can be expected in the coming months. Many streets in Hanoi were turned into rivers by the heavy rain.
We also published this piece this week on Will Nguyen’s case and the issues around freedom of assembly in Vietnam.
Our contributor, Andrew Nachemson, has this from Cambodia:
This week in Cambodia kicks off with another controversial espionage trial Monday, as imprisoned journalists Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin appeal the rejection of their bail request. The pair were arrested in November for allegedly setting up a studio to continue reporting after their employer Radio Free Asia shuttered operations. Their arrest is the greatest casualty in Cambodia’s war on free press, and I personally find it disappointing that their case hasn’t received the same attention as the arrest of the Reuters reporters in Malaysia for example. Given that RFA is funded by the US, I also believe the American government has an obligation to do more. I wrote about their arrests, my own brief detention, and the destruction of Cambodia’s free press here for New Naratif.
Meanwhile Cambodia’s sham election continues with 20 parties holding rallies across the country, excluding the kingdom’s largest opposition party which was forcibly disbanded. Campaigning will continue until Saturday when the pre-election ban on political demonstrations (and alcohol) goes into affect prior to Sunday’s polls.
In Malaysia, while not news as such, I wanted to include a shout out to this blog from the British Library in London, which has posts by the lead curator for Southeast Asia, Annabel Gallop, and is a treasure trove of information on on all things Southeast Asia and literature related.
I particularly liked this post on Malay “eye candy” and illuminated literary manuscripts which is perhaps rather niche but fascinating nonetheless.
In the Philippines, we take a break from bringing you the latest ramblings from Duterte, and focus instead on something more important instead. International Crisis Group has put together this report on the never-ending saga of Marawi, which still lies in ruins a year after the five-month jihadist takeover in 2017, and ongoing efforts to rebuild the city and counter jihadist ideology.
And that’s a wrap on this week in Southeast Asia! If you have a tip on a news story you would like to see featured in Akan Datang, then send it to us via firstname.lastname@example.org!
See you next week!