Akan Datang: Duterte’s new plan, a World Cup bid and #FreeWilly

Hello New Naratif readers! We meet again for a new week in Southeast Asia. As it’s still the tail end of the Eid holiday in many parts of the region, things will probably be off to a rather slow start and, with the excitement of the Trump-Kim Summit behind us, we’re looking at a quieter week than usual.

Speaking of squeaky wheels, our pet peeve over the seemingly neverending bank holiday (here in Indonesia anyway) is the fact that all the banks are closed until 21 June (starting on 9 June)—we look forward to someone publishing a piece on the economic implications of a nationwide banking system grinding to a halt for over a week. If any economists out there want to pitch us, we’d love to hear from you!

Anyway enough of that… let’s get to it!


From Myanmar, our contributor Victoria Milko, who curates this newsletter, brings you the news to look out for this week:

War crimes judges will hold closed-door talks to discuss whether to allow the launch of a probe into the forced exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Only chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will appear before the three judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) hearing on 20 June, presiding judge Peter Kovacs said.

While Myanmar is not part of the ICC, Bensouda has previously asked the court to rule on whether it has jurisdiction over the deportations of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh.


In Cambodia, we have this sad news that Ouk Phalla, the wife of Prince Ranariddh, died in a car accident on Sunday morning. This comes ahead of the election set for 29 July, and we wonder if we’ll hear more of this in the coming week—particularly in the form of wild conspiracy theories. Prince Ranariddh was injured in the crash but is expected to recover.

Also in Cambodia, New Naratif contributor Andrew Nachemson has this fascinating piece in the Asia Times about Hun Sen’s bodyguard and the latest diplomatic salvo between the United States Treasury Department and the Cambodian government relating to a series of human rights abuses that took place in 1997.


In Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski, who writes Vietnam Weekly, recommends these stories:

We start with a look at Vietnam’s new cyber security law which passed last week, and Facebook and Google are happy to store and provide their users’ data in Vietnam.

Moving on, there’s still talk surrounding the protests that swept Vietnam last week, with Human Rights Watch calling for authorities to halt the spate of arrests. The demonstrations were sparked by plans to create Special Economic Zones which could be leased for up to 99 years to other countries. One of those arrested was Will Nguyen who wrote this essay for New Naratif. Read our statement here calling for his release.

Continuing with the theme of activism, we also liked this piece about how Taiwanese and Vietnamese activists are working together to pursue justice for the victims of the Vietnam marine life disaster.


Over in Malaysia, and talking of activism, we published this piece on Fahmi Reza, who uses his art as a tool for political activism and empowerment.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous, we’re currently “gripped” by World Cup fever here in Southeast Asia, and the news that Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam may put in a joint bid to host in 2034, with some help from Malaysia.

Fifa Executive Committee member, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, is confident the region may be able to squeeze in a bid if everyone gets their act together. “We have 16 years, which should be sufficient,” he said, although anyone who‘s tried to get even the most rudimentary paperwork done in Southeast Asia may beg to differ.


In Indonesia, things are unusually quiet as everyone has gone home for the Eid holiday, although unfortunately a woman was eaten by a 23-foot-long python.

We mention this as a story to watch over the next week, as snake-related deaths and injuries are common in Indonesia, so much so that a volunteer group called the Sioux Snake Rescue has formed in Jakarta to tackle the problem—perhaps we’ll see more of these springing up around the country following the latest attack.

In other news, Jakarta has been named the cheapest city in the world to have a suit cleaned, an odd accolade based on a study that presumably nobody asked for.


And over in the Philippines, there’s never a dull moment as President Duterte has a wild new plan—this time to hand out free 42,000 guns to the public, on the proviso that people use them to fight drugs and crime. What could possibly go wrong?


And last but certainly not least, we don’t often feature Laos in this column, but we enjoyed this piece on the lingering French influence in this tiny landlocked country and a look ahead at its future.

And finally…a big thank you to New Naratif readers for all your support this far. It’s been a wild ride! We’ve released our latest report with updates from September 2017 to April 2018 to let you know how things are going and share how we’ve been doing. We also have a number of exciting projects planned for the future that we’ll continue to roll out in the coming months… so watch this space and thanks for reading!

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 [email protected] !

See you next week!

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