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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!
We’re ready for a new week in Southeast Asia, and it looks set to be an eventful one. Over in Myanmar we have journalists in the dock once again, while in Malaysia we’re still gripped by election fever. Meanwhile Vietnam is getting ready for a new president, and in Indonesia we are baffled by allegations of Israeli cyber-spyware being used to bring down dissidents.
Over at New Naratif, we started the week with this personal essay from the Philippines on Typhoon Mangkhut and the different effects it had on local communities. We then published this piece from Indonesia on the military’s vested interests in the concealment of human rights issues. Also new on the site this week, the Chinese version of our piece on undocumented migrant workers in Thailand.
Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…
From Myanmar, our contributor Victoria Milko has this report:
Earlier this month three Myanmar journalists from local outlet Eleven Media had an official complaint lodged against them by Yangon regional government. The complaint claimed that a story the publication wrote about the mismanagement of government funds was false, and that the story would result in “disaffection to government by the public and distrust which leads to inducing people to commit offences against government.” The journalists were then arrested under 501(b) of the Penal Code.
The trio appeared in court this past Wednesday, where their lawyer said he expects the trial to go on for at least six months.
But in a twist of events Myanmar’s President gave a direct order to the Yangon regional government to file a complaint to the Myanmar Press Council, as is dictated by Section 22 of Press Council Law, which states the complaints against the media should first be debated with the Press Council, and then go to the court if an agreement is not reached. Some have cited this as grounds for dismissal of the case.
The next court date is schedule for Friday, 26 October, so this is definitely one to watch this week.
It’s been an interesting week in Indonesia with the release of a new report from the Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) on the Surabaya bombings and the future of ISIS in Indonesia. If you don’t want to read the full document, then the Jakarta Post has some edited highlights which include the mastermind of the bombings believing that the world was about to end.
There was also this news of a foiled terrorist attack on Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra by members of local terrorist group Jamaah Anshar Daulah (JAD). New Naratif contributor Stanley Widianto and I wrote about Tanjung Balai and the razing of Buddhist temples across the city in this piece back in September, but we may hear more about further raids on terrorist cells in Tanjung Balai this week.
And from terrorism to espionage, and this odd report claims that the Israeli cyber-spy industry has been operating in Indonesia to target dissidents and minority groups including the LGBT community. Hmmmm. One of the main issues for me, is that the report only has a small section on Indonesia, but almost all of the basic information contained in it is wrong. For example, it claims that blasphemy in Indonesia is punishable by the death penalty, when actually the maximum sentence is five years in prison.
Is there really a story here about Israeli spyware taking down political figures, activists and dissidents in Indonesia? Maybe… but I’m not convinced, despite the attention the report has garnered on Twitter. Still, I would expect to see a number of follow ups to the report—or some official denials—in the coming week.
From Malaysia, New Naratif’s West Malaysia Editor, Pauline Wong, has this dispatch:
The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) elections is in full swing, but while on the surface it appears to be a run-of-the-mill party elections, it is proving quite the contrary. With two rivals facing off for the deputy president post—Economics Minister Azmin Ali and former MP Rafizi Ramli—the polls have been anything but boring. What makes this elections the one to watch is that the winner will greatly determine Anwar Ibrahim’s path back to Prime Minister.
Rafizi and Azmin could be said to be Anwar-loyalists, but while Azmin is doing very well for himself in the new Pakatan Harapan government under Tun Mahathir Mohamad, less so for Rafizi. Azmin’s tune has changed of late, calling for a “tried-and-tested” leader while Rafizi sings about “reform” and being the man to make clear Anwar’s journey to Prime Minister.
The elections will continue until 10 November for the 800,000 or so members of the party.
In Vietnam, our contributor Mike Tatarski has this news:
Tomorrow, the National Assembly is expected to elect Nguyen Phu Trong as Vietnam’s president. The legislative body’s latest session begins in the morning, and Trong should be confirmed by the end of the day. He will replace Tran Dai Quang, who died in office late last month after battling a serious illness.
Trong, 74, is currently the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and once he becomes President he will be the first individual to hold both positions since Ho Chi Minh, the CPV’s founding father. Such an arrangement has led to comparisons with Xi Jinping, who heads China’s Communist Party and serves as President, but power in Vietnam is much more dispersed, with the Prime Minister and National Assembly Chairperson also holding important roles. Trong, an ideological hardliner who has spearheaded a high-level anti-corruption campaign over the last two years, will serve as president until 2021.
In trade news, the European Commission has presented the massive EU-Vietnam trade agreement for approval by the European Parliament. This deal will eliminate over 99% of customs duties placed on goods traded between the two parties, paving the way for further export growth by Vietnam.
This deal is moving ahead despite lingering tensions over the brazen kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanh, a wanted Vietnamese businessman who was snatched in central Berlin last fall. Just last week, Slovakia threatened to freeze relations with Vietnam, as it has not received an explanation of the incident. It is believed that Vietnamese security forces drove Thanh from Berlin to Slovakia, and then flew him from there back to Hanoi on a government plane.
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!