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!
We get ready for a new week in Southeast Asia and as ever there’s a lot going on. Over in Indonesia we have the ongoing saga of crashed Lion Air flight JT610, while in the Philippines an “anti-Duterte nun” has been expelled from the country. Meanwhile, Malaysia grapples with its newly announced budget, and in Vietnam it’s the Hanoi Grand Prix that’s making the news.
We also aired a new episode of our fortnightly podcast series Southeast Asia Dispatches which takes a look at 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. You can follow this show on Spotify or subscribe on iTunes.
Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…
We start this week in Indonesia—a country that just can’t catch a break at the moment.
Hot on the heels of earthquakes in Lombok in August and an earthquake-induced tsunami in Palu in Central Sulawesi in October, Indonesia is once again in the news following the devastating news of a Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea on Monday, with all 189 lives lost. As I wrote in this piece for Lowy Institute, this is not really a shock—Indonesia has a horrific aviation safety record, and other forms of transport like ferries and buses don’t fare much better. One of our contributors, Stanley Widianto, also wrote this good wrap on Indonesian air security for VOA News.
Unfortunately, it seems that the pings from the second black box voice recorder have now faded, so it may be that answers as to why the plane actually crashed remain elusive. Still, the search for victims and the voice recorder has been extended into the coming week, so this is definitely one to watch to see how the situation pans out.
For something slightly lighter, I wrote this article for VICE Asia on why many plane crashes in Indonesia are often blamed on the supernatural.
Over in Malaysia, our West Malaysia editor Pauline Wong has this news:
This past week, the new Pakatan Harapan government tabled its maiden budget, and it came as no surprise that the focus was heavy on initiatives for the Bottom-40 (B40).
From a monthly pass for public transportation to the continuation of the one-off handouts, the budget certainly focused on balancing national debt with the need to keep the people happy. However, the money to spend has to come from somewhere, so the new taxes and a lift on blanket fuel subsidy has surely ruffled feathers. Replacing the progressive Goods and Services Tax with the regressive Sales and Services Tax has begun to show its weakness as there’s a serious income shortfall in the national budget.
Has the new government done enough to steer the nations’ finances back on track? Or is it repeating the mistakes of the past? We shall see how the books balance out… or if they do at all.
In Myanmar, our contributor Victoria Milko has this report:
The Bangladeshi government announced this week that plans to continue repatriation are going ahead, with over 2,000 of the 650,000+ Rohingya displaced just over the Bangladeshi-Burmese border being sent back to Myanmar in mid-November.
The announcement received strong criticism from international bodies and human rights organisations, who say that conditions for the return are not safe or secure. Questions of citizenship, right to movement, and housing remain unclear, with those returning receiving a form of identity card rather than citizenship cards.
Leaders in the Rohingya camps also voiced their concerns, with many saying they see conditions that they are not willing to return to.
From Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski has this dispatch:
Over the last few months there has been growing speculation that Formula 1 and the Vietnamese government will strike a deal to add a race to the F1 calendar in 2020. That deal is now a reality, as the Hanoi Grand Prix was confirmed late last week. Further details of the race, including the track layout, will be publicly announced on Wednesday. It is believed that most of the race will be held on existing roads, but some infrastructure will need to be built. This is rather surprising, as F1 is not at all popular in Vietnam.
Yesterday VinFast, the automotive company created by Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private conglomerate, opened its electric motorbike manufacturing plant on an island off of Hai Phong. They also announced their first electric motorbike, the Klara, which will go on sale on the 17th. However, no prices have been released, and VinFast doesn’t actually have any physical showrooms yet, so it’s unclear where these bikes will be sold. Nonetheless, this is an impressive turnaround time for VinFast, which hasn’t even been in existence for a year yet.
And we end with this week with the Philippines, where the coverage swerves from the sublime to the ridiculous.
First up, we enjoyed this piece on how Manila’s roads are making love elusive for Filipinos.
In slightly less cheery news, we also have this news wrap on how “anti-Duterte nun” Patricia Fox has been expelled from the country for denouncing his campaign of extra-judicial killings for those suspected of being involved in the drugs trade.
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!