Can Indonesia not catch a break this year? I’d hoped we’d be able to reach 2019 without another devastating natural disaster but it wasn’t to be. The Sunda Strait tsunami is still very fresh, so I won’t go into it until later in the week when we have a clearer idea of damage as well as where we can send some of our dollars to help out.
This month we have a lot more stories about the Southeast Asia diaspora in the US than usual being published as the Trump administration moves to ramp up deportations. Doesn’t it all just feel so hopeless. Merry Christmas!
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See you later in the week,
‘Why don’t we like eating the food we grow?’ - Southeast Asia Globe
Let’s start in Timor-Leste. This looks at the efforts to preserve foods and traditional techniques in Timor following centuries of environmental destruction and forced food policies. It’s not just about strengthening cultural links, it’s also a necessity. Up to 85 percent of rural communities move along the line of subsistence and small time market farmers. This could be a game changer. I was lucky enough to meet Safira Guterres and some of her colleagues at the brilliant Ubud Food Festival earlier this year, I can’t wait to finally get over there and see (and taste!) it for myself.
A Facebook Page Is Leading the Way In Thailand's #MeToo Conversation - VICE Asia
Thaiconsent gets straight the point with its name. The Facebook page set up by 26-year-old activist/artist Wipaphan Wongsawang “focuses on educating people what is consent, so that they won’t violate others." The posts, written in Thai and with cute lil drawings, look at all aspects of sexual harassment and sexism in Thailand and has prompted a conversation about laws. Harassment officially became an offence in 1998 but there’s a gulf between being on the books and actually protecting women. There’s similar pages popping up across the region and I love it. So smart! Driven by young women to empower their own communities. Yes, ladies!
The Struggle to Save Teen 'Love Huts' in Cambodia - VICE Asia
Young women of Cambodia’s Kreung ethnic minority once spent their adolescent years in ‘love huts,’ built by boys in the villages. There they would host their friends, spend some time alone or meet boys in the village. The young women could take boyfriends, dump boyfriends. Do your thing, ladies. They could live there as long as they wanted. But it’s not like that anymore. "They sleep together early — then they have to marry. It's not like before. Mothers and fathers don't know much about their children, and they don't have ways to restrain them."
The Trump Administration Wants to Deport Vietnamese Refugees Back to Their 'Home Country.' But the U.S. Is Our Home Now - Elle
Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen’s father was studying in the US in 1975. And then Saigon fell and the Americans said he would either need to get out or claim asylum. Asylum it was, but it left him with few options. He fared better than some of his friends who chose to return only to be placed in ‘re-education camps’ — at least one died there. Her father saw the US the way American movies want us to: the land of opportunity. Now, decades later, the Trump administration has dumped an agreement allowing refugees to stay. Who gets to decide what is home after forty years?
A Cambodian Refugee with a Decades-Old Conviction and a Pregnant Wife Fights Deportation - The New Yorker
It’s not just Vietnamese-Americans facing deportation, so are Cambodian-Americans. Changes to refugee legislation mean refugees who arrived during the Khmer Rouge days can now be booted back if they’ve committed crimes. Sear Un is one such man. He is now 41-years-old and has lived in California since he was seven. He was arrested by ICE back in September over a felony burglary charge laid two decades ago which was eventually expunged. This is his story as told to Daniel Gross and it will absolutely make your blood boil. I’m trying to find an update!
Finding an asylum from Duterte’s drug war - CNN Philippines
Rico Cruz has been a journalist in Manila. He never did the night shift — the infamous shift whose journalists have been famously dubbed ‘nightcrawlers’ — but he knew well enough how damaging the raging war on drugs had been. So when he met Christian during his final project of a year long study scholarship in the US, he knew what to do. Christian was granted asylum in the US after authorities agreed the war constituted enough of a threat to him. But while he can now live and work there, he can never go home. And because he has a record he can never get citizenship. This is his life as captured by Rico.
When they killed dad - OZY
OZY’s True Story section is full of weird and wonderful and moving stories. This month it published a piece from Filipina writer Tammy Danan on her father’s murder. ‘It took me weeks to cry real tears. It took me eight years to let go of his belongings. Since his death, our front door has had three locks and a peephole. I have learned to memorize the sound at night — the different insects, the cat walking on the corrugated tin roof, the water dripping from the broken gutter. I have learned to master the way the shadows change, depending on the moonlight.’
In a Muslim lawyer’s murder, Myanmar’s shattered dream - Reuters
Reuters really have been doing some brilliant work in Myanmar these last few years. Beyond the work of jailed journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the consistently brilliant investigative pieces coming out of there are stunning. The shocking daylight murder of lawyer Ko Ni back in 2017 came after months of death threats. He was a prominent Muslim in a country notoriously intolerant of the minority and had been an advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi. His death is believed to be at the hands of former military officers and is now viewed as the moment we should’ve known Myanmar isn’t going to become a ballast of democracy.
2018 moments when Duterte made us ask, 'Is he serious?' - Rappler
What’s your favourite mental thing President Rodrigo Duterte said this year? I think my pick is probably when he said he loves to smoke weed and then back-pedalled after everyone said it was revolting. He spent this weekend saying some pretty bonkers stuff about how military officers should kill themselves rather than let the NPA take them — he’s a fan of telling the AFP to die instead of be taken hostage — but that just missed the cut-off for this list. Rappler has some of the hmm quirkier takes from the year.
Instagram will now censor hate speech in Bahasa Indonesia - Asia Times
This one comes care of our friends at Splice Newsroom and their weekly Shorts email. Facebook has had one hell of a messy year here in our region (and um everywhere) after being named as perpetuating hate speech in Myanmar. With Indonesia’s massive presidential election coming up quickly next year, it isn’t taking any chances with its Instagram app. New machine learning tech will be rolled out to counter hate speech in Bahasa Indonesian. Good, but what about all the times I reported the sexualisation of children on the meme accounts and they said it was all cool?