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Akan Datang: Singapore and Malaysia are having a spat (again)

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! ’Tis the season to be jolly and all… and this week we have a mixed bag of news from the region. On the one hand we have feel good stories in the form of football madness in Vietnam, mixed with madness of a different kind from the likes of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey who had some extremely ill-advised comments on Myanmar. We just don’t know which way to look…

We had a busy week over at New Naratif this week as we started off our coverage with this piece on West Papua which looks at the challenges journalists face when reporting on the region. You can also read the Bahasa Indonesia version of the piece here. Throughout the month of December New Naratif is publishing a series of pieces on Papua and, in case you missed it, we have this explainer on the region in both English and Bahasa Indonesia. We also published this piece on the human cost of Myanmar’s jade mines as well as the Bahasa Indonesia version of our piece from Singapore on being poor in the land of Crazy Rich Asians.

We also aired the latest episode of our fortnightly podcast series focused on Singapore, Political Agenda which looks at Singapore’s gloriously ageing population. You can also subscribe to the show on Spotify or on iTunes.

New on the site this week, we have a new episode of fortnightly podcast series Southeast Asia Dispatches which features a report on the anniversary of Timor-Leste’s Santa Cruz Massacre; a feature on Kuda Lumping dance seances in Indonesia; an interview with a Malaysian MP; and a piece looking at violence against women in Myanmar. Southeast Asia Dispatches is available on Spotify or you can subscribe on iTunes.

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


We start this week with Myanmar—a country in Southeast Asia that is no stranger to controversy. Or at least one would think. It’s always amazing, however, when the perfect storm of politics and social media comes together, and this week we have a veritable Arctic blizzard courtesy of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who ham-fistedly decided that it would be a good idea to promote Myanmar as a tourist destination as part of his birthday celebrations, claiming that it’s “[…] an absolutely beautiful country,” and that “The people are full of joy”.

One assumes that this wasn’t a reference to the Rohingya, 700,000 of whom have had to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape a state-sponsored genocide, and Jack has been roundly and deservedly branded “tone deaf” for his spate of frankly delusional tweets. In case you missed it, we published this first-hand account of the situation in Myanmar back in March 2018.

Also over in Myanmar our contributor Victoria Milko has this news:

This coming week marks the one-year anniversary of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo being arrested. I’m guessing there will be a lot of pieces around it coming out, but I also wrote a piece for New Naratif taking a look at press freedom in Myanmar these days.


We start this week with Malaysia and this dispatch from our Sabah Consulting Editor Jared Abdul Rahman:

Under the new Public Service Obligation (PSO) Agreement between MASwings and the Ministry of Transport, the regional airline has announced that it will cease its operations of eight domestic routes within and between Sabah and Sarawak. Previously determined to be the responsibility of MASwings, as the government-subsidised provider of non-economical aviation services to otherwise isolated rural communities, these routes have now been deemed commercially viable, and therefore no longer falling under the PSO Agreement.

While this means that the government and MASwings can focus its resources towards communities that actually need it, this also means that AirAsia can do what it likes for these discontinued routes. Whatever they wish to call themselves, the people haven’t forgotten about Fly Asian Xpress (FAX).


Over in Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski has this update:

Vietnam has truly gone football mad, with the men’s national team advancing to the finals of the AFF Cup 2018 after beating the Philippines 2-1 in both semifinal matches. Millions of people took to the streets nationwide after Thursday’s clinching victory, and more of the same can be expected if the team performs well against Malaysia, their opponent in the finals. Vietnamese carriers have even added flights to Malaysia that will make thousands of extra seats available for those wanting to attend the match. The squads face off on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur and Saturday in Hanoi under the tournament’s two-leg system. Vietnam last won the AFF Cup in 2008.


Indonesia is a country that’s no stranger to issues of tolerance or, more usually, rising intolerance, and with that in mind it’s always illuminating to see the annual Tolerant Cities Index compiled by Setara Institute.

It’s unlikely that this will get much attention, but it does speak volumes about issues of tolerance across the archipelago and how these play out geographically. This year the most tolerant city in Indonesia is Singkawang in Kalimantan, while the least tolerant on the index is Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra—which comes as no surprise as we reported one of the most shocking blasphemy cases to rock Indonesia in recent years which set off riots and attacks on Buddhist temples across the city back in September.


From Singapore, our Chief Editor, Kirsten Han, has this update:

Singapore is unhappy with neighbouring Malaysia this week, as the government says that changes to Malaysia’s port limits means that Malaysian vessels have been intruding into Singapore’s territorial waters over the past two weeks. The Singapore government has said they won’t hesitate to take “firm actions”, but there has also been call for calm. Both sides are still pretty testy, though—a senior member of Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia said that all Singapore will get for a hard stance on this issue is “pain by a thousand cuts”. Which led Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to post this on Facebook:

Ho Ching - New Naratif

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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