🇷🇺 Russia and the region
🇹🇱 🇲🇾 🇹🇭 Elections all over the place!
We’ve got two themes today: Russia and elections. Three weeks into the invasion of Ukraine, there have been further developments in the region and some fantastic reporting on them.
Elsewhere, there’s some election news. The BIG election for me is May’s vote in the Philippines which always (always!) has some headlines to be discussed. Stay tuned!
As always: All Asean and Timorese nationals under-30 (and all Burmese nationals of any age!) are welcome to a free sub, so get in touch if that’s you.
See you next week,
🇷🇺 Russia in and out of the region
Wait, and Joshua Kurlantzick will deliver via the CFR blog. He takes a two-part look at Russia’s ties in the region and what factor they have in the current response to the conflict. In the first part, he looks at Russia’s relations with Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos — three countries whose governments, for various reasons, are an almost natural bet for deepening ties and influencing the Asean consensus model. The second parter is very interesting. Kurlantzick notes that Russian arms sales account for almost 30 percent of all sales to the region and are much cheaper (or more flexible) than US producers.
This from Cherian George writing for Academic SG is fantastic. It looks at the dominant views in Singapore: supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do, the fall of Ukraine is inevitable, what about the US etc etc. Cherian ties the nation-defining insecurity of Singapore to the vocal support for Ukraine from the government – if not one of the strongest in the world outside of Europe, certainly the strongest in Southeast Asia.
But, is there something else here? Can many Singaporeans convince themselves the crisis a world away doesn’t matter because, like Syrians and Yemenis and everyone else before them, Ukrainians are, too, ‘forgettable’ people? Read this! I always enjoy Cherian George’s work and learn so much, but this piece was particularly needed by myself.
Twin stories on Indonesia’s response to the invasion appeared on my timeline one after the other, providing a whole lot of context I didn’t know I needed. While the government response was slow, the country has since moved in step with much of the world in condemning the conflict at various UN votes. Still, there’s more to the story. Radityo Dharmaputra for Indonesia at Melbourne documents a phenomenon online where ordinary Indonesians show their support for Russia, often invoking anti-American and anti-Western narratives.
This from Johannes Nugroho for the South China Morning Post takes a look specifically at Chinese-Indonesian circles online which support if not Russia outright, the similar narratives described in Indonesia at Melbourne. “Though further empirical studies are called for, there seems to have been a shift in attitudes among Indonesian Chinese towards the US and its allies since the pandemic began. It coincided with the aggressive narrative put out by China repudiating the charge that it had been the origin of the coronavirus,” Kezia Dewi, an Indonesian doctoral student at Belgian uni KU Leuven studying Chinese-Indonesian communities, told him.
Before I thought of statements and sanctions, the very first thing that came to my brain when the conflict began and what it meant for the region was very specific: what happens to Russian tourists in Phuket and Bali?
Agence France Presse spoke with one woman, whose family has been holidaying in Thailand from Russia as the crisis unfolds, who says she’s worried she may not be able to return home and will have cash flow issues as sanctions crunch. Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) official Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya told the wire over 3,000 Russian nationals are in Phuket, with another 2,000 or so in Samui and others across tourist destinations and Bangkok.
Over in Bali, I was intrigued by this reported piece from Coconuts on how Russian expats there are dealing with the change. It’s complicated — with access to ATMs shuttered, many are turning to cryptocurrency, hoping to convert Russian accounts to crypto and then back to local Indonesian accounts. And there we go, the end of this newsletter’s run on never talking about cryptocurrency. Anyway, you’ve got to read this, it’s fascinating. Including the parts about the new racket set up to help tourist visa-backed visitors get accounts.
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