Malaysians Participate in 14th General Election - New Naratif

Akan Datang: A stunning election, terrorism and that Trump-Kim summit

Hello New Naratif readers! Welcome to our first instalment of a new weekly column. One piece of feedback that we receive regularly is that you would like us to publish more often; while we continue to publish twice-weekly in order to keep our editorial standards high, we wanted to offer something else that would add value. So we thought this would be helpful: a weekly look-ahead at the stories to watch in Southeast Asia, curated by our North Sumatra editor with commentary from our contributors around the region. We hope you enjoy it!

(For the non-Bahasa speakers among us, “akan datang” means “upcoming”.)


It’s been a rough few weeks for Indonesia which has experienced five bombings in two days, including three churches in Surabaya, East Java on Sunday and Surabaya police headquarters this morning. The church attacks were particularly heinous as they involved a family of six, including two girls, aged 9 and 12, who had bombs strapped to them which were detonated along with a bomb strapped to their mother. This IPAC report from 2017 entitled From Mother to Bombers: The Evolution of Indonesian Women Extremists offers some excellent analysis of the rise of female terrorists in Indonesia. There is also talk of Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo changing the anti-terrorism laws in the coming weeks to make it easier for police to arrest and hold terror suspects—so watch this space.


Singapore has hit the headlines after it was announced as the host of the summit between dynamic duo Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. The BBC has a good analysis piece of why Singapore was chosen and we can’t wait for all the “hot takes” that are likely to come out this week trotting out the usual tropes including “Disneyland with the death penalty” and Singapore’s well-known hatred of chewing gum. As our editor-in-chief Kirsten Han points out however, chewing gum is not actually illegal and “has been reduced to a trope that doesn’t provide any actual insight into Singapore”. We’re also wondering if Trump and Kim will get their own orchids, following in the tradition of Rodrigo Duterte, David Cameron, Yingluck Shinawatra and Thein Sein.


Our Vietnam coverage this week comes courtesy of our contributor Mike Tatarski who also writes Vietnam Weekly:

Vietnam’s anti-corruption drive has been one of the biggest stories here this year, and while it’s impossible to predict who else will fall in any given week, we can expect to see more arrests in the coming days. Just last week two officials at a subsidiary of PetroVietnam, the state-owned oil and gas monopoly, were arrested on financial charges. Reuters has some good background on the anti-corruption crackdown sweeping the nation here. Meanwhile more news on Dinh La Thang and Trinh Xuan Thanh, two of the highest-profile arrests in the anti-corruption drive yet, will likely come forth. Dinh La Thang’s appeal to set aside his 13-year prison sentence was just rejected today; Trinh Xuan Thanh’s is still ongoing, even though he failed to appear at his hearing last week.

Timor Leste

Often overlooked in the region, Timor Leste is one to watch this week following elections on May 12, 2018. According to Asia Times, it now looks as if the opposition coalition fronted by Xanana Gusmao and Taur Matan Ruak has sealed the deal at the polls, and The Diplomat has some analysis of potential outcomes for the future. Keep an eye on New Naratif for some on-the-ground reporting from Timor Leste on the implications of the opposition win.


We could write a whole column based solely on Malaysia following the shock elections last week which saw the indefatigable former “dictator” (his words) Mahathir Mohamad, once the fourth prime minister of Malaysia, also become its seventh at the tender age of 92. The big story to watch this week however is whether outgoing PM Najib Razak is going to try to skip the country again after his plans to “go on holiday” to Indonesia were thwarted by immigration. Karma really is a bitch it seems and, as Bloomberg explains, we may see Najib facing the music over the 1MDB scandal sooner rather than later. The authorities are already looking into a deluxe apartment block where members of Najib’s family might be staying following a complaint that luxury goods had been delivered there for his wife Rosmah. Either way, Tun Mahathir says Najib isn’t going anywhere. And according to his daugher Nurul Izzah, Anwar Ibrahim will be pardoned and released from prison on Tuesday. If you missed our piece on Wan Azizah, Anwar’s wife and the first woman to become deputy prime minister of Malaysia, then you can read it here.


Meanwhile over in Myanmar our contributor Victoria Milko (who curates this newsletter on the country’s news) has this take on the week ahead:

Local and international human rights organisations continue to call for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The calls come after the UNSC visited Bangladesh and Myanmar at the end of April/start of May. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has made preliminary inquiries as to whether or not the ICC could have jurisdiction to prosecute Myanmar under deportation charges, as Myanmar is a non-signatory of the Rome Statute and thus cannot be tried for crimes that happened within Myanmar’s borders. It’s yet to be seen what the final decision of the court will be, but the heat is certainly on the UNSC to take action, despite the assumption that China or Russia will veto any potential resolutions. Human Rights Watch has some information on the case and we hope to see some action this week. Also, in case you missed it, we featured Rohingya refugee Mohammad Noyeem back in March, discussing the dire situation that forced him and his family to flee Myanmar.

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, send it to us via [email protected]. See you next week!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to join our movement to create space for research, conversation, and action in Southeast Asia, please subscribe to New Naratif—it’s just US$52/year (US$1/week)!

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