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 and welcome to another week in Southeast Asia! This week we have news about the latest Indonesian presidential debate, a high profile arrest in the Philippines and continued drugs busts in Vietnam.
This week over at New Naratif we published the Bahasa Indonesia version of our piece about former governor of Jakarta Ahok’s post-prison agenda. We then published this piece on the death of the Santan River in East Kalimantan due to aggressive coal mining in the region. In the research section, we have this explainer on the origins and challenges of Indonesia’s Ahmadiyya community which is also available in Bahasa Indonesia.
Also new on the site this week is a fresh episode of our fortnightly podcast series, Southeast Asia Dispatches, which features Victoria Milko looking at healthcare in the Naga Self-Administered Zone in Myanmar, Adam Bemma speaking to Hasan Al-Akraa, a refugee in Malaysia who uses social media to provide support to fellow asylum seekers, Mark Tilly with Hanna Guy of sustainable clothing label Dorsu Cambodia and Kirsten Han discussing how the lack of information about the death penalty in Singapore affects accountability and debate. You can follow the show on iTunes or Spotify.
Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…
We start this week with the Philippines and news that Maria Ressa of Rappler has been arrested yet again. Rappler and Ressa are now facing 11 cases against them; this is the seventh time that the veteran journalist has posted bail. It’s widely believed that the legal action against Ressa and Rappler is retaliation from the Duterte adminstration for the site’s criticism of the firebrand leader of the Philippines. For her part, Ressa is taking her most recent arrest in her stride: “You cannot harass and intimidate journalists to silence. We’ll stand up and fight against it“.
We expect to hear more about Ressa’s legal woes in the coming week. In the meantime, we stand with Maria Ressa and Rappler as they #HoldTheLine.
Over in Thailand, the country is still experiencing the fallout from the recent elections, with allegations of corruption and voter fraud abounding. For anyone hoping to get a grip on this electoral quagmire, the Diplomat has a piece on doubts over the results and the role of the election commission in the debacle.
As we all know, it’s election season in Indonesia, and we’re thrilled to announce that we have this election explainer to get everyone up to speed.
Last night also saw the fourth televised presidential debate, with presidential candidates Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto sparring on issues including ideology, security, government and international relations.
In all honesty this was one of the most surreal debates I’ve seen to date and we got to see the candidates arguing on a range of topics such as who loves the Indonesian military the most, who was born from a Christian womb and whether or not there is a chance of impending war in Indonesia. My favourite coverage of the debate has to be this sublime header from the Jakarta Post: ‘My mother was a Christian’: Prabowo denies supporting caliphate. You can also read this analysis courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald which discusses Prabowo’s “darker impulses”.
From Sabah, Consulting Editor for Sabah, Jared Abdul Rahman, has this news:
Sabahans mourn the loss of their Health and People’s Well-Being Minister Datuk Stephen Wong Tien Fatt. The Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sabah chairman and Sandakan MP passed away on 28 March.
Ever-determined to fight for Sabah’s rights, Datuk Stephen was set to speak before the federal parliament on the constitutional amendment to be tabled on 8 and 9 April. Now unable to vote on the matter, the amendment requires two-thirds majority support.
Before then, however, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will launch his party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (or simply “Bersatu”) in Sabah on 6 April. Expected to consist of ex-UMNO members, as well as other political “leap-froggers”, the move to bring Bersatu to Sabah has been received by many with suspicion.
Perfect timing to contest a newly vacant parliamentary seat.
From Peninsular Malaysia, our Deputy Editor for Bahasa Malaysia/Melayu, Adriana Nordin Manan has this news:
Soon after GE14 last year, the five-person Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) was announced by the Pakatan Harapan government. The CEP was presented as a brain trust and consultative council of sorts to facilitate the implementation of government reforms. And now, just under a year later, the government announced that the CEP Report will not be released to the public, and has been placed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). Now that’s a three-letter word that hasn’t been heard in a while. Civil society has not hesitated to make its thoughts known.
From Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski has this news:
Several massive recent drug busts in Ho Chi Minh City have local police concerned that the city has become a major shipment hub for narcotics originating from the Golden Triangle.
On 20 March, hundreds of police raided a building in a suburban district. They confiscated about 300kg of meth, the largest drug haul in the city’s history, in addition to arresting seven people. The group was led by a Chinese national, and the drugs were apparently intended for the Chinese market.
On 22 March, Vietnamese customs officers worked with the Philippines to seize 270kg of meth that had been sent to the latter country from Ho Chi Minh City.
Then, last Wednesday, local police arrested two Taiwanese men and their Vietnamese driver with over 300kg of heroin.
I’m interested to see how authorities respond. Vietnam’s penalties for drug trafficking are harsh, and can include the death penalty, while drug users face social stigmas that make quality treatment and recovery difficult.
From Singapore, our Chief Editor, Kirsten Han, has this:
A year after the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods held open hearings, the Singapore government is now ready to table an anti-fake news bill. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the bill will be tabled on April Fools’ Day (i.e. a day in which “fake news” pranks will be all over the place)—and just to make it even more of a bizarre joke, he announced this at Channel NewsAsia’s 20th anniversary celebration. Ah, Singapore, where a potentially press freedom-wrecking announcement is made at the birthday party of a mainstream media broadcaster…
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!