Hello New Naratif readers! It’s almost the start of a new week in Southeast Asia and we are all over it with a look at the Trump-Kim Summit and breaking news of protests in Vietnam. It’s so hectic that we’re going to get straight down to it; we all have homes to go to…
We go first to Singapore which is set to dominate the news in Southeast Asia for a change. Of course it’s the much anticipated Trump-Kim Summit on 12 June. We can’t wait to see how this pans out; we hope it’ll end with a bromance that will end in denuclearisation in North Korea, but Korea expert Robert E. Kelly thinks it’s unlikely.
But the most important thing for Singapore and Singaporeans, according to an op-ed (paywalled unless you register to get the paper’s summit coverage for free) by local broadsheet The Straits Times’ Opinion Editor, is to smile for all the international media that’s flooding into the city-state. It’s also apparently costing a cool $20 million to host the summit so hopefully all the foreign journalists who have parachuted in stock up on souvenirs of Merlions to offset some of the cost.
At the time of writing this column, protests are taking place in cities across Vietnam as citizens demonstrate over the passing of a draft law on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) that would allow for the lease of local land to other countries, including China, for up to 99 years. It also seems that tensions have bubbled over thanks to the new cybersecurity bill which is hugely controversial.
The police have been called in to break up the protests in Hanoi and other cities across the country and things look to be turning nasty as “[a]n AFP correspondent saw plain-clothes police drag around 20 people away and move them into nearby buses”. There are unconfirmed reports on social media of police using Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) to subdue protesters. We imagine that this will be a big story in the coming week and that we’ll find out more about exactly what is happening on the ground in Vietnam now.
Worryingly, it appears from this tweet that Will Nguyen, who contributed an essay to New Naratif, was beaten and arrested by the police. He’d been tweeting from Ho Chi Minh City; we haven’t heard any updates from or about him so far. If you have any news please let us know! We hope he’s all right.
Timor-Leste in general is one to watch in the coming weeks as it takes its first shaky steps on the road to change following the opposition win in the recent elections in May.
With that in mind, we are pleased to publish our first ever piece on Timor-Leste, as our contributor Sophie Raynor takes a look at LGBT activism in the country.
Over in Indonesia we have this weird story of the rise in passengers making bomb jokes on planes, with 10 bomb related quips made in May alone. Why do people do this? It’s a criminal offense and: “As stipulated in Article 437 of Law No. 1/2009 on national flight safety, anyone who makes a false statement that could endanger flight safety faces up to one year in prison.” As this piece in the South China Morning Post asks, “Isn’t it time Indonesian blew its fuse over bomb hoaxes?”
It’s no laughing matter, as our piece on the making of the first female ISIS bomber shows only too well.
This is also the week when everyone goes home for the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan—a fun time of year when some 1.4 million people leave Jakarta. This is thought to be the largest annual human migration on earth after the Chinese New Year celebrations, as around 32 million people (think the combined populations of Australia and Switzerland) will be on the roads. Although it happens every year, the government has been caught by surprise by the holiday and “seems unsure if the new toll road sections will help ease traffic” as the trans-Java toll roads have still not be completed.
Another side effect of the Eid holiday? The cost of curry just got whole lot pricier.
And we end with the shocking and sad news of the death of chef, TV presenter and travel writer, Anthony Bourdain, who died of suicide at the age of just 61 on 9 June.
Whether you liked Bourdain’s work or his politics, it’s fair to say that his work in Southeast Asia opened a door for many writers after him. Were others more worthy of his platform or more talented? Perhaps. But although we may not want to admit it, his shows provided increased visibility and interest in Southeast Asia.
Who can forget his trip to Myanmar at a time when the country was just starting to open its doors once again? Or when he spent a week in an Iban longhouse in Sarawak? Or his poetic musings on the joys of suckling pig in Bali? Or the time he called Vietnam “his first love”?
Anyone who truly knows and loves Southeast Asia would never eat in anything even closely resembling a restaurant. All the good stuff is on the streets, or in places where you don’t dare touch the walls but are likely to get one of the best meals of your life. Bourdain filmed all of that with unflinching candour and, for that, those of us who write about Southeast Asia and call it home should feel a little thankful.
Our contributor Mike Tatarski also wrote this moving tribute to Bourdain here.
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!
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