🇲🇲 Locked up but not giving up
🇻🇳 A new president rises
Thank you so much for the wonderful response to Monday’s email! I have been overwhelmed by the support and am working my way through my inbox to get back to everyone. It’s very heartening to know so many readers are in my corner in this weirdo time.
And thank you, especially, to all the readers who took the plunge and upgraded to paid. It is always deeply appreciated but even more so now. Join us here:
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Thanks so much and see you tomorrow for a special Philippines update.
🇲🇲 How the Tatmadaw became like this
The newest episode of my new podcast on books about and from the region, Buku, is live! I had a great chat with former Frontier Myanmar journalist Oliver Slow about his new book Return of the Junta. We chatted about the process of writing a book about the influence of the Myanmar military in the country throughout generations – and what happens when a coup hits.
I loved this book. Learnt so much about the history of the Tatmadaw and the wider country, but also about long-running conflicts in key states and how the military has cobbled education and healthcare for its own ends at a terrible cost to the people of Myanmar. Pick it up now from Bloomsbury.
The Tatmadaw hasn’t stopped with the horrendous assault against the people. In a guest column for the Irrawaddy this week, analyst Matthew Arnold laid it out well: “Myanmar’s military does not do military strategy. What it does is atrocity campaigns against civilians, with the expectation that armed resistance will seek accommodation with it following pressure from a brutalized public.”
It’s backed up by new figures released from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners which report the junta has jailed nearly 2,400 people in February alone — 1,274 on February 13. The friend of one 20-year-old jailed on spurious terrorism charges told RFA: “Giving such a prison term to a young man of only 20 years is stupid, it’s an act of bullying to those who blindly rely on weapons.”
Amnesty International, Global Witness and advocacy group Burma Campaign UK pointed at companies in Asia and Europe keeping the military fuelled up for air bombing campaigns. “We have traced new shipments of aviation fuel that have likely ended up in the hands of Myanmar’s military, which has consistently conducted unlawful air strikes,” Montse Ferrer of Amnesty International said in a statement. Al Jazeera has more on the companies involved here.
Stick together and keep up the spirit, Aung San Suu Kyi told Myanmar’s youth via NLD member Maung Maung Swe. “She praised all the young people involved in the revolution and urged us to cooperate with and help them… She told us to collaborate with them constructively,” he said, via Myanmar Now.
🇻🇳 It’s Vo Van Thuong
It’s a new day in Hanoi! Vo Van Thuong, at 52 the youngest member of the Politburo, was elected early today. Le Hong Hiep at ISEAS told Al Jazeera yesterday that rumours had erupted over an imminent nomination and many assumed Vo Van Thuong as the pick. In fact, Le Hong Hiep was so across this he published a piece in Fulcrum earlier this week. This just goes to show the importance of checking everything, every day!
This piece is worth reading in full, but this paragraph stood out to me: “However, the decision to elevate Thuong earlier than expected seems to have been shaped by some other considerations. The Party may have wanted to restore the norm of having balanced regional representation in the top four positions, namely CPV general secretary, state president, prime minister, and National Assembly chair. Since April 2021, there has been no southern politician in the top four positions.”
A damning column here from Anjani Trivedi at Bloomberg. The promise of Vietnam’s crucial part in global supply chains may be fading. She lays out why.
🇰🇭 Questions linger over bird flu
What do we do now about Cambodia! Is it linking tweets from the indefatigable Mech Dara?
The hole left by the forced closure of VOD is immense. I know it’s the point, but that just makes it worse, no? This close to elections!
Bird flu is under control, the government said after the death of an 11-year-old girl in Prey Veng province. Her father also tested positive for bird flu but has since recovered. The pair had “been infected from poultry at their village, and there is no indication or evidence that there was infection from father to daughter,” the Health Ministry said.
AP spoke with Erik Karlsson of the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, who was part of a team testing samples from the girl, played down fears and said that while it’s not known why the virus jumped to her there may be a simpler explanation: “a lot of global changes in agricultural practices owing to the COVID-19 pandemic that could have created the conditions for a spillover.”
What, exactly, will a Hun Manet leadership look like? That’s unclear but Charles Dunst for East Asia Forum has some thoughts.
🇹🇭 Cashed up Russians change Phuket
“Over 90% [of our clients] are Russians. In November, when it was the peak of people coming in, people were buying everything,” Phuket real estate agent Amin Ettayeb told VOA. He lays out some shocking numbers — “villas that once went for less than $9,000 per month now go for more than $28,000” — that shows clearly how much the Russian exodus to Thailand has upset the market. “Not many people want to permanently leave Russia, they just want to make sure they don’t have to go to war. When things go back to normal, they will most likely go back,” he said. Oof.
In the north, tour operators are concerned terrible air pollution may see would-be travellers “postpone their travel to Thailand, or worse, choose instead to go to a different country with cleaner air.” Efforts to curb air pollution have been stymied by big business concerned about the impact regulations will have on production.
Also in the north, a series of small bombs along the Mae Sai border in Chiang Rai have spooked. Thai authorities pointed to clashes between Myanmar’s People’s Defence Forces and the Tatmadaw. The Mae Sai bridge connecting the two countries was recently reopened after closing at the start of the pandemic but was not damaged.
Cute! Two labradors from the UK have been trained by London police to sniff out pangolins in an attempt to crack down on the illegal trade of the animal.