This is your last ever free weekly wrap-up! As of next week they will all be behind the paywall. Didn’t that go quickly?
I thought next month would mark the two-year anniversary of launching this project and so that would be nice and timely, but the anniversary was actually March and I missed it. This started off as a monthly wrap of the best in longform from the region (a lot of Manny Pacquiao profiles) but quickly morphed into what we have today.
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I can never work out where Equanimity stories go (clearly 1MDB linked, but Indonesia has the power here!) so let’s just get this out of the way from the top: an Indonesian court had declared the seizure of the superyacht ‘baseless.’
The big one out of Singapore this week is, weirdly, an op-ed from PM Lee Hsien Loong on trade amid the US-China trade war, or would be war? I have repeatedly said I reckon SG is beautifully placed to broker peace or at least quiet in this space and I think I’m going to have to sit down and think about it more. I’m in Singapore next week to catch up with people, go to Nando’s and complain about smoking restrictions, see you soon SG!
This from SCMP on Laos’ clandestine wildlife trade is a stunner. Laos ‘has an estimated 700 tigers in farms and hundreds more smuggled from Thailand and other countries to be slaughtered and exported to China.’
Thailand’s rabies crisis isn’t just scary as hell, it points to much deeper failings of the political and bureaucratic systems. Funny business in an already stinky story with two Russians on immigration charges in Pattaya saying it is US sources who want them detained, not Russia like previously suggested. Alibaba is pouring investment in despite heady politics. For more see me in the Diplomat!
Indonesia, let’s just do a whip-around. I think it would be very sad if no one contests the election besides Jokowi, but it’s looking possible. A weakening of environmental protections is allowing the illegal wildlife trade to flourish, critics tell Mongabay. The unionisation of online app drivers looks increasingly on the cards and tell you what, stronger together! This is a thrill to read: the incoming anti-narcotics agency head is not interested in islands surrounded by hungry crocodiles or dead bodies in the streets. Rehabilitation and education is on the cards. The latest round of public caning in Aceh took place today.
The Philippines! Okay, Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun, was detained this week after an investigation into her human rights activities including protesting against the war on drugs. I ordered it, says Duterte, and I’m not sorry! Well, someone’s sorry. The EU has again called for an end to the killings. Leila De Lima isn’t going down quietly, reaffirming her vow to fight the Duterte administration from behind bars. Two PLA aircraft have been spotted on the manmade Mischief Reef islands, which lie in Philippines’ territory of the South China Sea, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has said China will be asked to explain. Okay, and then what? I am EXTREMELY cynical on this administration doing anything in that water especially after all the best friends business at the Boao Forum last week. An important follow-up on what divorce would mean for women in the Philippines.
Joe Freeman’s account of visiting Rakhine State under the watchful eye of the Tatmadaw blew up Myanmar twitter earlier this week. Across the border in the Bangladesh camps the race is on to limit damage from the approaching monsoon season. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stepped up calls for assistance to the international community telling an audience in London “Myanmar says they are ready to take back the Rohingya, but they are not taking the initiative.” Happy new year to the 900 prisoners granted amnesty by the new president!
See here for more on Malaysia’s general election: Mahathir Mohamad is definitely running for Langkawi and it’s all about GST! It’s mostly election coverage but it’s important to highlight this story. Thanabalan Subramaniam was arrested the end of last month under the controversial Security Offences legislation. His family were unable to visit him in detention because of the extreme restrictions surrounding the act. Instead, they received a phone call to say he had died of an apparent heart attack this week. A post-mortem has not proved conclusive but does say his body showed no sign of abuse. So what, local MP G Manivannan says, no matter what killed him we need to look into it.
Cambodia’s former opposition leader Sam Rainsy continues his tour trying to drum up outrage at restrictions on democracy back home, stopping into Jakarta to encourage Indonesia and Asean to take a stand. Journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin will remain jailed on espionage charges after a court knocked back their appeal.
Vietnam and Indonesia are set to sort out fishing violations in the South China Sea once and for all. Reports of Vietnamese refugees being deported back to Vietnam have been horrible, here’s Reuters with a deeper look at what life is like once they arrive. How socialist is socialist Vietnam? Pairs well with this one from David Hutt.
Brunei is REALLY pushing to be totally plastic bag free, but new research shows just 20% of the population regularly uses reusable bags.
Timor-Leste’s former president Jose Ramos-Horta has kicked off the campaign season condemning the government for failing poverty eradication, saying that if he’d had a decade in office things would look a lot different now.