🇮🇩 Farewell to a legend in Indonesia
🇵🇭 Look who's back!
Before we crack in, I’d like to introduce my new project Buku. It’s a fortnightly podcast looking at books from and about the region and chatting to authors about what their work can tell us about Southeast Asia and the world.
I’m so excited to have started with Joshua Kurlantzick from the CFR whose new book Beijing’s Global Media Offensive lays out how China uses its media outlets to win favour — or undermine aspects of press freedoms — around the world.
It’s fascinating in its scope and I especially loved his coverage of Cambodia’s media, which, as we know, has been under threat for years by Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as the impact on Singapore’s Chinese-language media ecosystem. Listen here on Spotify or here on Apple!
See you soon,
🇮🇩 Indonesia tries a different move in Myanmar
Activist and LGBTQ rights pioneer Shinta Ratri died yesterday at 60. Visiting Shinta Ratri at her Islamic boarding school catering to transwomen in Yogyakarta was for some time a rite of passage for foreign journalists. And for good reason — she was an amazing woman who did some very hard work. During the pandemic, her team also put together hampers of necessities for some of the city’s most in need, showing just how wide her activism reached.
There are a lot of beautiful obituaries around but I think this from Coconuts’ says it all: “Shinta Ratri will forever be missed as somebody who fought for religious inclusivity on behalf of those who may have felt deserted and alone.”
We’re now officially less than a fortnight away from the relaunch of my Indonesia election newsletter Ayolah — and one year off the enormous voting — so I’ll spare you the scramble for candidates and power-brokering. But if you, too, are very keen to see how the world’s third-largest democracy gets it done, join us here! It’s a free read so no excuses really.
Indonesia will send a military general to speak with counterparts in Myanmar to discuss Indonesia’s own transition to democracy. “This is a matter of approach. We have the experience, here in Indonesia, the situation was the same. This experience can be addressed, how Indonesia began its democracy,” President Joko Widodo told Reuters this week.
Unpicking this statement and the plans are worthy of an 800-word analysis piece on its own by someone far more familiar with the era. It’s a tricky proposition. On the surface, of course, Jokowi is correct. But it’s nearly 30 years since the fall of Suharto now and many of that time’s military names are still around with more power than ever. Which is a world away from Myanmar’s current situation, so does it matter? Still! I consider it a welcome move. Nothing else has stuck, there could be some value here.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi extended an invitation to Myanmar to send a ‘non-political’ representative to Asean’s retreat this weekend in Jakarta. As she notes, this offer has been made in the past to Myanmar but it, as yet, has not been taken up. The Foreign Minister also gave a brief nod to Timor-Leste’s status in the comments: “An unoccupied table does not mean Asean will become a nine-member [group]. Asean still comprises of ten members, and in fact, will have eleven members with Timor Leste joining in principle.”
Elsewhere, Indonesia has joined the cacophony of protests in the Muslim world after a Swedish far-right figure burnt a Quran at the Turkey embassy in Stockholm.