Akan Datang: our contributors’ take on the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week, curated by Regional Editor Aisyah Llewellyn.
Hello New Naratif readers!
Another new week looms on the horizon and we have all the news you need to watch. We have a high profile death in Thailand, demonstrations sweeping across Indonesia, and the weaponisation of technology against the LGBTQ community in Malaysia. Over in Singapore, last week was one of the deadliest weeks in recent memory, as the country executed four men in a single week.
Over at New Naratif, we started the week with this piece on the rise and fall of print media in Thailand, and then followed up with this article on Singapore’s urban poor. On the topic of Singapore, we also have a new episode of fortnightly podcast series Political Agenda which takes a look at Singapore’s hawker centres.
We also have a new episode of our current affairs podcast, Southeast Asia Dispatches, coming out on Monday which features an examination of the palm oil industry in Malaysia; a profile of up-and-coming hip-hop stars who rap about life in Thailand’s slums; an interview with an artist sent to jail for his performance art piece in Singapore; and an op-ed from one of our contributors who co-wrote this story on Indonesia’s notorious blasphemy law. So keep an eye out for it: you can follow the show on Spotify or subscribe on iTunes.
Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…
We start this week in Malaysia, and our West Malaysia editor Pauline Wong has this update:
This week, we’re delving into technology in Malaysia. As the world takes great leaps forward in using technology for the betterment of humanity, Malaysia decides to use mankind’s greatest invention to… cure gay people?
The minister in charge of Islamic Affairs, Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa, announced in Parliament that the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim) published an e-book aimed at aiding homosexual Muslims to “return to the right path”.
The e-book is conspicuously titled “Penghijrahan Diri Menuju Jalan Yang Benar—Strategi Untuk Mengatasi Masalah Homoseks“, or translated to English as “Journey Towards the Right Path—A Strategy to Overcome the Problem of Homosexuality.”
This is not the Malaysian government’s first (nor we suspect, the last) attempt to rehabilitate the LGBT community from their “ways”.
Some years ago, the government attempted to publish a helpful “guide” to identifying gay men which includes the donning of v-neck t-shirts and carrying handbags.
Perhaps the government should publish an e-book for the rehabilitation of corrupt officials, instead.
I could be wrong, but I strongly suspect that may be a far more beneficial use of technology.
Although this didn’t actually happen in Thailand, there’s some sad news emerging that Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a prominent Thai businessman, is believed to have died in a helicopter crash in the United Kingdom. Srivaddhanaprabha, the chairman of Leicester City Football Club, is thought to have been aboard the helicopter when it took off from King Power Stadium following a match on Saturday evening.
According to the Guardian, “Srivaddhanaprabha began his business journey by opening a duty free shop in Bangkok in 1989. His retail company, King Power, grew to prominence in Thailand and he is ranked as the fifth richest person in the country, with an empire worth £3.8bn.”
We expect to hear more about this story, and the cause of the crash, in the coming week.
Over in Indonesia, we’ve seen a number of demonstrations across the country in the last few days over the burning of a flag belonging to banned Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) by members of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama. While the group is banned and thought to want to establish a Muslim caliphate in Indonesia which would bring the country under sharia law, the “problem” is that the flag features the shahada which is the declaration of belief in Islam, Allah and the Prophet Muhammad.
Protests have stretched from Aceh in North Sumatra down through the provincial capital of Medan and into Java, with a demonstration in Jakarta thought to have been attended by thousands of protesters. As ever, the issue is that burning a tauhid flag could be seen as blasphemous, and Indonesia has seen a number of high profile blasphemy cases sweeping the nation lately.
I feel like this story hasn’t really received much of the international attention it deserves, but perhaps we will see more discussion on this in the coming week, and possible punishments for the perpetrators of the flag burning. One to watch!
And finally, while sometimes the news can seem like it’s all doom and gloom in Southeast Asia, here’s a link to the work of Indonesian artist Fransdita Muafidin who “publishes a series of photomontages with kittens and fat adult cats among the urban landscapes from around the world.”
Why tho? (Note from Kirsten Han, Chief Editor: “Why not? Everything is better with cats.”)
In Singapore, we have this from Chief Editor Kirsten Han:
Singapore has executed the same number of death row inmates in the past week as it did in the entire year of 2016. A total of four men were executed between 24–26 October. Anti-death penalty activists like myself find it really difficult to track and document executions as they are often neither officially announced beforehand or confirmed after, but if all the reports are correct, then seven men have been executed this month, bringing it to about nine hangings this year.
There hasn’t been coverage of the executions in the local mainstream media this week, although international publications have carried stories. This morning, the brother of Prabu N Pathmanathan—who was executed on Friday—said that Prabu would have been happy about the media coverage, as he had wanted people to see his photograph and know about his story, so he could pass on the message to people to not get involved in drugs.
The increase in executions is worrying, and we’re going to have to keep an eye out for more hangings moving forward. Let’s hope the authorities are going to give it a rest.
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!