Hello New Naratif readers! We’re ready for another week in Southeast Asia, following a turbulent few weeks that seem to have left everyone exhausted. Coming off the back of the shock elections in Malaysia, Indonesia has been rocked by several terrorist attacks which caused a skittish start to the Holy Month of Ramadan on 16 May. The week did end on a high note however with the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle—which has nothing to do with Southeast Asia but… well… we liked it (ed: Aisyah liked it).
Here’s hoping for a calmer and quieter week in the region this week!
We start this week with Malaysia and Najib is upset about the raids on his home and those of his children. A particular sore point, according to a lawyer speaking on behalf of the former PM is the “cavalier and irresponsible” manner in which the raids were conducted, which we originally misread as “caviar” because apparently, “[…] police personnel helped themselves to food and chocolates in the refrigerator.”
Najib is appearing before the anti-corruption commission on Tuesday so we consider this the biggest story of the week in Malaysia.
Indonesia has had a hard time of it lately. Following the terrorist attacks in Surabaya last week, we also saw an attack on a police station in Riau in Sumatra where masked men stormed the police HQ with Samurai swords. This was followed by a string of arrests across Indonesia, including Medan, but we sadly doubt that this is the end of it—expect more news of attacks, arrests and changes to the anti-terrorism laws to dominate the headlines in the coming week.
To make sure you are all caught up, Coconuts has an interview with the artist of one of the most powerful pieces of artwork we’ve seen about the attacks and The Guardian has this look at the terrorist family in Surabaya, The Bombers Next Door.
Over in Myanmar this week our contributor Victoria Milko, who curates this newsletter, has this dispatch.
This past week International Crisis Group released its latest report, taking a look at the long-term prospects for the refugee Rohingya population in Bangladesh. The outlook is grim and sure to be on the news docket for some time to come.
As monsoon season looms in the distance the international relief community has projected devastating results for the camps. The few storms that have already swept through the camps have resulted in one girl dying from a storm-induced landslide. Looking further down the line, the report discusses the potential waning support from local hosts and the international community, as well as the repercussions of the pending Bangladeshi elections.
The report also turns its attention to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)—who have seemingly been dormant for the past several months—but are expected to gain support as the crisis continues. Watch this space.
It’s all about the environment over in Cambodia this week. We start with this piece from the AFP which details how a “Chinese-backed plan for Cambodia to build the Mekong River’s biggest dam would destroy fisheries that feed millions and worsen tensions with Vietnam”.
This was followed by news of a gold mine which is said to be the source of a spate of poisonings in the country, although this has been disputed by the authorities who blamed the deaths on home-made wine—which sounds very much like the piece we published on methanol poisoning deaths in Indonesia. Will we find out exactly what happened in the coming week?
Over in Singapore the public is looking to see if criminal charges will be filed after the death of another serviceman who was found dead in a pump well. The law minister has said it’s a near certainty. The tragic death of Kok Yuen Chin follows closely on the heels of the passing of Dave Lee from heat injuries late last month—these two losses have directed the public’s attention to “ragging culture”, as well as infamous “tekan (punishment) sessions”. All able-bodied Singaporean males are required to do National Service when they’re 18, which is why these deaths have struck a chord—everyone has friends, boyfriends, brothers, sons who will serve, have served or are serving NS. But not all agree that the “tekan sessions” have to go.
From Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski, who writes Vietnam Weekly, has this projection for the coming week:
New developments in the East Sea will likely make headlines this week, but an important story to keep an eye on is the Vietnamese government’s ongoing effort to reign in the country’s hugely popular social networks, especially Facebook and YouTube. Both platforms have massive user bases here, a fact which causes headaches for a government which prefers to control the flow of information. Activists and dissidents frequently use these sites to spread their messages.
Between now and the end of the month the National Assembly is expected to vote on a controversial regulation that would, in theory, force foreign tech firms such as Facebook and Google to establish offices inside Vietnam and store their information on local servers. Currently the two giants operate in Vietnam through their Singapore offices. Many businesses and experts, both foreign and domestic, have pushed back hard against this draft bill as it would give authorities much greater control over the country’s internet.
Meanwhile, the local media reported that the Minister of Information and Communication hopes to create an online code of conduct. The minister said that this would ensure that Vietnam’s online space is safe and humane, but it doesn’t require much imagination to see this as another path to stricter internet control. It remains to be seen whether this initiative will lead to concrete regulations. New Naratif covered Vietnam’s social media battle earlier this year.
And we end with this piece in Foreign Policy, Sexpat Journalists Are Ruining Asia Coverage, about sexual harassment in newsrooms in Asia. As journalists, we are often so busy telling other people’s stories that we forget to focus on our own, which is why articles like this are so important. That’s also why we published this piece on the struggles faced by freelance journalists reporting in Asia for World Press Freedom Day this year.
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!
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