Longs: Dead Dogs, Rice and YouTube

Hello friends,

This is the first of a new addition to the Dari Mulut ke Mulut stable. At the end of each month expect a round-up of the best longreads from/about the region that for whatever reason don’t exactly fit in to the regular weekly news wrap.

Don’t forget to sign up for Shorts, a project with Splice Newsroom taking a closer look at one story every week or so. And of course sign up for weekly blasts at $5 a month or $50 a year (whoa, bargain). Get 50% off you first month until August 7.

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See you in August!

Erin Cook

Aung San Suu Kyi: The inside story - SBS Dateline
This longread on Aung San Suu Kyi doesn’t really touch on anything new, even for the most casual of Myanmar watches, but does lay out a very compelling case for how exactly she fell from grace. It smashes the weird (although it has trailed off) narrative that somehow ASSK is not to blame for the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar as she is only the de facto leader and the military still wields so much power. Those two points are certainly true, but she is not a woman accidentally led astray – she is very much involved.

Vietnam’s Model Would Spell the End of Kim Jong Un - Foreign Policy
This is hardly a controversial take, but I’m going to say it anyway: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn’t strike me as particularly good at his job. He was over in this region this month and did manage to get two things right – overseeing the repatriation of (probable) US GI remains and assisting Will Nguyen – and suggested Kim Jong Un ought to look at Vietnam as a model for reform. Is doi moi a good fit for North Korea? Probably not, says this Foreign Policy piece, pointing out the stark differences between the two countries.

A New Model for Ho Chi Minh City’s Sidewalks - New Naratif
An initiative to clear sidewalks in Ho Chi Minh City threatens to sweep away what makes the city iconic – it’s brill street food, duh! At first, everyone was happy for the local government to crackdown on crowded sidewalks when it involved clearing makeshift motorcycle parking and intrusive private signage. But then they came for the vendors. Viral footage enraged, prompting a reassessment of the program and the rolling of heads. Now, how’s it going? Kinda good, kinda not so good. I’m gagging for a banh mi, though.

How One Chef Used YouTube to Reconnect to Her Cambodian Roots - Grub Street
Chinchakriya Un is a chef in Brooklyn and I think I love her. She hosts a pop up restaurant in bars and venues across New York called Kreung. “Kreung is an expression of my heritage, my culture, of the things that I love and respect,” she says here. She arrived in the US as a baby and grew up learning all those Euro techniques. This is a story of how she learnt to make Khmer cuisine –  “I follow a lot of Cambodian YouTube moms” – and why she does it.

Being LGBTQ in Brunei - New Naratif
Finding news out of Brunei is tough, finding anything about the LGBT community there is even harder. Thank the Lord for New Naratif! ‘It’s technically not illegal to be gay in Brunei, but many LGBTQ individuals are fearful of expressing their sexuality,’ the piece says before exploring the blend of colonial-era laws and Shariah. Brunei isn’t typically a country known for its outspoken activism and it’s hard to get much traction on LGBT rights or indeed any human rights. Still, some won’t give up even if they are forced underground.

Indonesian Migrant Workers are Using YouTube to Challenge Negative Stereotypes - VICE
Indonesia’s migrant workers are finding their own voice on YouTube. Here, online, workers can call bullshit on some of the more disturbing claims made about them, particularly back home. It’s become big business quickly with vloggers now producing content aimed at newly arrived workers, complete with sponsorship deals. As this story points out, these videos are a refreshing welcome among the done-to-death luxury vloggers popular among Indonesian viewers. "We’re trying to show that we’re not like people think we are. Not all of us become prostitutes here. People look down on migrant workers, they say, ‘why would you be a foreigner’s doormat?’” Putri says.

How Postcards Solved The Problem Of Disappearing Rice - NPR
Raskin, Indonesia’s rice for the poor program, is no joke. Set up after the Asian Financial Crisis in the 90s as part of a slew of reforms, the program makes sure no one goes without. Or it’s supposed to at least. It’s had its problems with corruption and mismanagement – ‘it was spending $1.5 billion a year on the program but less than half the rice was actually reaching the intended recipients.’ Whoa. Here’s how one group of researchers managed to solve the confusion without having to deal with Jakarta.

'I Felt Disgusted': Inside Indonesia's Fake Twitter Account Factories - The Guardian
Kate Lamb has been smashing the way social media has changed campaigning (and rarely for the better) in elections here for the Guardian for awhile now. This latest piece looks at the Jakarta gubernatorial election and the dark arts of fake accounts. This time though it was for posts in favour of Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, which just goes to show everyone gets into it when the going gets tough. ‘On Facebook they even made a few accounts using profile pictures of famous foreign actresses, who inexplicably appeared to be die-hard Ahok fans.’

Pet Cremation: Seeking ‘Good Afterlife’ for Bangkok’s Pampered Dogs - NYT
Bangkok isn’t a great place for pets, but it’s a great place for dead pets. ‘At the Krathum Suea Pla Wat, where Friendly the husky was cremated, employees fold hundreds of ornate paper flowers each day to decorate the animal corpses. Piles of fresh blooms and golden paper await the bereaved.’ But, like most things in the Buddhist country it is an industry ripe for gaudy consumerism. Packages including urns and monks who will pray for your deceased pet are required purchases at some such crematoriums. Gives me the willies.

Hunting the Con Queen of Hollywood: Who's the "Crazy Evil Genius" Behind a Global Racket? - Hollywood Reporter
I think everyone read this, right? ‘Six months and $65,000 later, the photographer, who has requested anonymity out of concern for his safety, has come to understand that he was duped by one of the most elaborate scams to ever hit Hollywood. The woman he'd spoken to several times a day for weeks on end wasn't Pascal, but a sophisticated imposter who took him for a colossal financial and emotional ride.’ Keep reading.

Defending Land and Environmental Rights Has Become An Increasingly Deadly Endeavour - The Intercept
Deaths of Indigenous peoples and environmentalists in the Philippine island of Mindanao have quietly gone under the radar as the world focuses on Marawi City and the war on drugs. This from the Intercept explores how we got here. ‘The Philippines witnessed a 71 percent increase in the number of land and environmental defenders killed between 2016 and 2017. The 2-year-old regime of President Rodrigo Duterte has already developed a reputation for violence. Last year, Duterte pledged 1.6 million hectares of Philippine land for agribusiness use, mainly in Mindanao, which is rich in natural resources. He declared martial law on the island, restricting the ability of activists to organize. At the same time, he has criminalized the Indigenous people there, calling them terrorists and communists, and mobilizing his forces against them.’