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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! This column comes to you a day late this week due to illness—it’s like a bit of a theme around here, as different members of our team grapple with various ailments this week! As we all stumble towards the end of the year, some of the drama of the last few months appears to have abated and Southeast Asia is a little quieter and more subdued than usual—for now at least.
Here at New Naratif we started off our coverage last week with this piece on how the internet is being weaponised in Thailand using the Computer Crimes Act. We then followed this with another article about the power of the internet—this time focused on Myanmar’s social media romances and couples who’ve found love on Facebook. This story is also available in Bahasa Indonesia.
This week we also have a special episode of our fortnightly regional podcast, Southeast Asia Dispatches, which features our Chief Editor, Kirsten Han, myself and our Deputy Editor for Bahasa Malaysia, Pauline Wong, talking about what we look for when commissioning stories and our own experiences as women in journalism. Southeast Asia Dispatches is available on Spotify or you can subscribe on iTunes.
Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…
We start this week with West Malaysia and our Deputy Editor Pauline Wong has this news:
This week in Malaysia, the saga of 1Malaysia Development Berhad continues as the Auditor General Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad reveals that the name “Jho Low” was deliberately left out of the 1MDB report. The failed and debt-ridden sovereign investment fund has since long been exposed and Jho Low named “mastermind” behind the fund’s failure, but the revelation by Madinah comes a little “too little, too late”. As the week draws on, it is certain that more revelations will come to light now that former Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has no more clout to penalise his dissenters.
And over in Sabah, our Consulting Editor Jared Abdul Rahman has this news:
Despite Putrajaya’s decision against ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), it seems opposition-led rallies aimed at protesting against the United Nations convention will go ahead regardless. This begs the question of their intent.
Backed by more than a thousand people at one such rally in Kota Kinabalu, the Sabah UMNO Youth Chief is reported to have used the protection of native Sabahans’ privileges as rationale for protest. Given that UMNO stands for “United Malays National Organisation”, perhaps a history lesson is in order.
Timor-Leste, like other smaller countries in Southeast Asia like Brunei, often struggles to make the news—or rather, is ignored by the majority of newsrooms—so it’s always nice to see coverage like this from Lowy Institute which looks at the recent agreement by Timor-Leste’s government to purchase US energy group ConocoPhillips’ 30% stake in the Greater Sunrise syndicate.
From Singapore, our Chief Editor, Kirsten Han, has this update:
The ruling People’s Action Party announced their office-bearers in their new central executive committee this past week. Despite all the speculation over Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing being the top pick as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s successor, it was Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat who was made first assistant secretary-general of the party, putting him on the path to becoming Singapore’s fourth prime minister.
This coincides with an investigation into independent news website The Online Citizen for alleged criminal defamation in an article that they had already been ordered to take down way back in September, plus a defamation lawsuit against The Independent Singapore—another socio-political website—by the government-linked NTUC Foodfare. It’s led people to wonder if this is part of a crackdown during the leadership transition, so we’ll have to wonder, and worry, about what’s going to happen next.
From the Philippines, we are thrilled to finally bring you some coverage which isn’t about Duterte and his big mouth, and instead have this fascinating feature on local “trolley boys” who propel commuters to their destinations on metal carts along segments of the country’s railways.
And last but not least we go to Indonesia—a country that just can’t get a grip when it comes to the LGBT community.
Last week we got the news that the mayor of Padang in West Sumatra has declared that the local police will employ shaman to perform religious exorcisms to rid members of the LGBT of demons—a strange phenomenon that we covered in this piece back in August.
Depressingly, we’re not even surprised, because it seems that it’s constant bad news for the LGBT community in Indonesia at the moment, and the issue is not helped by local media. Our former Consulting Editor for Jakarta and West Papua (and still a contributor), Febriana Firdaus, wrote this excellent piece for Splice Newsroom calling out the Indonesian media for the way in which its struggle to remain “neutral” when reporting on the LGBT community is actually driving bigotry and discrimination.
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!