Kim Kardashian - New Naratif

Akan Datang: How many big-ticket presents did Jho Low buy?!

Hello New Naratif readers!  Another week is almost upon us in Southeast Asia and we have a treasure trove of coverage from the region. In the news this week: the region braces for a typhoon, a former Indonesian president threatens to sue the media, and Kim Kardashian brings some Hollywood sparkle to the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia.

Over at New Naratif, we started the week with a research piece about Kristang which provides a fascinating anatomy of this unique Malaysian language. We then followed this with an article on Indonesia’s struggle with halal plastic—something I didn’t even realise was a big issue in the country. You can read the Bahasa Indonesia version of the piece here, and we also have our research piece about why men die younger in Kelantan and Terengganu in Malay here.

New for you on Monday this week, we have the latest episode of our fortnightly podcast series Southeast Asia Dispatches. This week, we speak to a Syrian refugee stuck in the transit lounge of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, visit churches in Yangon trying to keep ethnic languages alive, talk about online freedom and the cybersecurity law in Vietnam and hear from our writer Teguh Harahap on his experience of writing this story on LGBT “exorcisms”. Watch out for it tomorrow—you can find it on Spotify and iTunes.

Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…

The Philippines

We start this week with the Philippines, and the bad news that Typhoon Mangkhut hit the north of the country, and is now bearing down on Hong Kong and Macau. As the Guardian reports, parts of the country have been “completely wiped out” after having been directly hit by the mega-storm.


On the topic of Typhoon Mangkhut, our contributor Mike Tatarski, has this dispatch:

On its current path, the massive storm is expected to impact Vietnam’s mountainous far north, likely causing landslides and flooding in one of the country’s poorest regions. These provinces have already experienced several storms this year and are prone to disasters. So this is definitely one to watch in the coming days.

Elsewhere, social media will be a top headline here through the rest of the year. The Vietnamese government has repeated its call for Facebook to set up an office in the country by the end of the year, as a controversial Cybersecurity Bill comes into effect on 1 January. This bill will, in theory, require foreign tech companies like Facebook and Google to establish offices and servers inside Vietnam. It remains unclear what these companies plan to do, so keep an eye on this as the remaining months of 2018 wind down.


Over in Myanmar, our contributor Victoria Milko, has this report:

On Tuesday this week the members of the UN independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar will be answering questions from the media regarding the report that was partially released last week. The report, of which the long version will be available this week, called for Myanmar’s top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, to be investigated and prosecuted for “genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States.”


In Singapore, the debate over the anti-LGBT law Section 377A continues in the run-up to a review of the Singapore Penal Code, in which 377A has been explicitly excluded. Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung triggered unhappiness after he made the claim that there’s “no discrimination” against LGBT Singaporeans. LGBT Singaporeans swiftly came out on social media to point out that, hey, anti-LGBT discrimination is definitely a thing. The 377A debate rages on.

We also have this piece on the tragic death of national serviceman Corporal (CPL) Kok Yuen Chin, who was pushed into the pump well at Tuas View Fire Station by a colleague, according to a report by a Board of Inquiry. This is one to watch as Kok’s death has shone a light on ragging culture in the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and the board has made recommendations on how to improve the situation.


On the same topic, we also have this piece on brutality in military camps in Thailand as yet another conscript, Private Khacha Pacha, died after being beaten—although the details of what happened exactly remain murky.

It certainly appears as if SEA has a problem within its military establishments which allows these incidents to continue to happen—and this story is one to watch in the coming week to see if any changes are made to ensure these tragic deaths stop happening.

“To ensure transparency, military units should be able to describe how each incident occurred to the public. Let’s see if there was really no excessive use of violence,” says Cross Cultural Foundation director, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet.


In Indonesia, the big story to watch this week is the furore over an article in Asia Sentinel which alleged a “vast criminal conspiracy” in former Indonesia president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government. Apparently, a whopping USD12 billion may have been stolen from Indonesian taxpayers.

This was swiftly followed up with a threat to sue the publication and the writer of the piece by Yudhoyono’s party and, interestingly, the article has now been taken down. Asia Sentinel issued this statement: “We are confident that we can defend what we have written. We temporarily took down the article because we are preparing a follow up on the events of the past two days. It will be up within 24 hours. We stand by our reporting.”

This seems an odd editorial decision—if you stand by your reporting then why take the piece down? It also seems there was an updated article posted on the site but, at the time of writing Akan Datang, that too is unavailable. It seems as if the whole website is offline; if you can access this report, please let us know!

Curiouser and curiouser…


And finally… talking of alleged corruption, we have a little dash of Hollywood sparkle to add to our SEA coverage this week, as it appears that fugitive Malaysian businessman, Low Taek Jho, gave none other than reality TV star, Kim Kardashian, a white Ferrari as a wedding gift when she married Kris Humphries (they’re now divorced).

According to the article, “The Department of Justice (DoJ) has gone after other celebrities who received gifts from the star-struck Low. Leo DiCaprio turned over Picasso and Basquiat paintings. Miranda Kerr parted with $8mil (RM33.16mil) in diamond jewellery.”

Jho Low is wanted for money laundering in connection with the 1MDB scandal that also involves former Malaysian PM, Najib Razak, and we end with this amazing burn about just how far Jho Low’s “generosity” really stretched.

“There are many other celebs, including Swizz Beatz, Pras Michél and Nicole Scherzinger, who received less valuable gifts,” Page Six reported.


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 ping it over to [email protected]!

See you next week!

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