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. Unfortunately the headlines are already being dominated by more talk of another Trump-Kim Summit somewhere in the region—all we have to say about that is that we hope it’s anywhere but near us. In other news we have more religious intolerance in Indonesia, curfews in Malaysia and a stir about universities in Singapore.
We started the week with this piece about the Lumad community in the Philippines which is speaking out against Duterte’s proposed constitutional changes that would lift restrictions on foreign investment in the country. This was then followed by this piece on the war of words ensuing between the presidential candidates in the lead up to the Indonesian elections in April 2019. You can also read the piece in Bahasa Indonesia here.
Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…
From Singapore, our Chief Editor, Kirsten Han, has this news:
Local news website TODAY did a feature on Singapore’s universities, specifically looking at why academics have been leaving the arts and humanities faculties at both the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Both tertiary institutions rank fairly well in the international rankings, but the problem, academics say, is that they’re too obsessed with rankings and Key Performance Indicators.
That would be a problem in and of itself, but this story then caused a further stir… by disappearing off TODAY‘s website.
Singaporean efficiency: A Jan 6 press report spotlighted concerns about systemic flaws in the nation’s top universities, NUS and NTU. Less than a week later, we can rest easy, because the problem is no more – the report has vanished. https://t.co/RpyGdap0ln @GlobalHigherEd pic.twitter.com/nVbvxNlBxy
— Cherian George (@cheriangeorge) January 10, 2019
Of course everyone assumed that someone fairly high up must have got unhappy and made some calls. The latest, though, is that the article was taken down because of a “legal challenge”. No details yet on what this legal challenge is, so that’s something to watch.
P.S. If you’ve been wondering about the Lee family feud, I did a round-up—with GIFs!—in my weekly newsletter on Singapore.
Indonesia sometimes does nothing to help itself, and one story to watch this week broke late on Sunday following an altercation at the Bethel Indonesia Jemaat Filadelfia Church in Medan, North Sumatra.
It appears that the church is still being built and may or may not have had a permit to operate, and a crowd of local residents apparently stormed the building where Sunday mass was taking place in protest. The videos that have circulated on social media show a heated stand off between various residents, and it seems that more will likely come out this week about exactly what took place. Whatever it was, the footage of a baying mob, which was originally posted on Instagram, is a shocking sight—although not one that is particularly unfamiliar.
Sadly, this is also hardly an isolated incident, and a number of churches have been shuttered across the country over the years as part of Indonesia’s inappropriately named “Religious Harmony Forums” which I wrote about back in August last year. We have also seen similar altercations at churches in other parts of Sumatra, which have been shuttered for allegedly lacking the correct paperwork.
Over in Malaysia our Consulting Editor for Sabah, Jared Abdul Rahman, has this update:
The dusk-to-dawn sea curfew enforced in the Eastern Sabah Security (ESS) Zone, which was supposed to expire on 11 January 2019, was extended for yet another two weeks. Prior to this, the curfew was supposed to expire on 27 December 2018, 12 December 2018, 27 November 2018, 12 November 2018, 28 October 2018, 13 October 2018, 28 September 2018, 13 September 2018… and so on.
The curfew was established 19 July 2014, shortly after the ESS Zone was declared, following a long string of kidnappings and militant activity in the area—the 2013 Lahad Datu standoff being the final straw.
The 2013 Lahad Datu standoff saw the Malaysian armed forces respond by land, sea and air to a group of foreign armed militants who came ashore with the intent to assert their unresolved territorial claim. As such, it has been the perfect excuse for the federal government, and military, to exert their authority this side of the country. Not to mention the never-ending curfew.
Over in Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski has this dispatch:
Last week saw a healthy dose of intense speculation that a second Trump-Kim Summit may be held in Vietnam in the near future. Singapore, Bangkok and Hawaii have also been floated as possible locations, but numerous reports pointed to Hanoi as a top contender for the meeting, though Vietnam reportedly would prefer to host it in Da Nang. Again, this is entirely speculation at this point, but keep an eye on this topic in the coming days. The Vietnamese government wants to be seen as a major player on the global stage, and this would help further that goal.
Vietnam’s newest airline, Bamboo Airways, will launch its first commercial flight on Wednesday, joining a crowded field with domestic competitors Vietnam Air, VietJet Air and Jetstar Pacific. Air Asia also plans to launch a Vietnamese airline in the next year or two. A fast-growing middle class and booming tourism industry have driven demand for flights within the country, but Vietnam’s biggest airports—Noi Bai in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat in Saigon—are operating at or over capacity (Tan Son Nhat is particularly overloaded), so it will be interesting to see how the addition of another airline impacts flight schedules, which are already often delayed. Bamboo is an offshoot of FLC Group, a real estate conglomerate known for developing resorts.
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@example.com !
See you next week!