Party-Pooper Prabowo

Hi everyone!

A bit of a late one this week, with the Ubud Food Festival messing up my schedule. What a delicious way to be messed up! I’m not a food person at all. In fact I think there’s a handful of people in Melbourne who wouldn’t believe that I ate spiced duck confit, wood ear mushroom noodles, kluwak duck jus and grated cured duck heart last night (via Locavore and the Asli Food Project, of course). An expert in the Kingsley’s Chicken manager’s deals and not much else.

But I’m thrilled with this program! I’m becoming obsessed with food as soft power and that point where Indonesia falls short compared to other neighbours, even though I’m sure we all know Indonesia has the best food (right??). The program looks at this from many different angles, as well as lots of panels and speakers on the brilliant people setting up sustainable practices, reinvigorating life into local ingredients which have fallen out of fashion and where Indonesian food is heading next. LOVING IT. I’m a convert to the food way of life. Definitely helps that there’s whole panels dedicated to sambal and salted egg, I’m sold.

Thank you to everyone who has already popped over onto the PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION. I’m so stoked that this project of mine has turned into something which provides such utility to people that they are willing to pay! If you’re a student from an Asean member country (or Timor-Leste) and would like to continue your subscription just send me an email including what institution you’re at and what you’re studying and I’ll sort you out. For everyone else hit this subscribe button

A big one from Indonesia this week! Usually I feel low-key burnt out on Indonesia news by the end of the week so I feel like I’ve made up for it.

Erin Cook

Let’s start in Indonesia with the biggest take away of the week: pump the brakes on Prabowo, pal! Prabowo Subianto, 2014 challenger and, jeeze, how do you even explain him, has been lurking around the edges of the 2019 election virtually since Jokowi’s inauguration. Earlier this month he said to cool your jets, he won’t announce anything one way or another in April but remarks made this week in Hambalang, West Java, have the punters, as we say back home, absolutely frothing. There’s a lot of great pieces pouring cold water on the idea that it is a guaranteed run, but Liam Gammon’s at New Mandala is the most comprehensive.

This one from the Conversation on the role of activists within governance spread like wildfire this week and with good reason. To me, Indonesia seems like quite the regional outlier on this front but there are still deep problems with pushing the reforms demanded by reformasi-era activism. Last year’s court ruling allowing some local religions to be noted on identification cards has been really interesting to watch and VOA digs deeper into what it all means.

What distinguishes Indonesia is its nuanced relationship with China,’ says Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan in an op-ed for SCMP. There’s a lot to unpack here and I’d be interested in reading analysis on it if anyone has spotted something! Still at SCMP, one on the regional elections, looking at ‘33-year-old deputy gubernatorial candidate Emil Dardak, the regent of Trenggalek.’ While we’re on politics, there’s a LOT of deaths from bootleg alcohol recently.

Not sure how, but last week I totally forgot the massive oil spill! Which probably just goes to show easy it is to get sucked into the Jakarta-centricness of it all. Apologies, everyone, this is a vital story and I dropped the ball. Thankfully, here’s Lowy’s Interpreter and Kate Walton on the case. And while you’re there, here’s me on my favourite icon of Jakarta’s balancing act of nostalgia and moving forward – the Bajaj Qute!  

Across the street in Singapore there’s a couple of big stories which do nothing for it’s Gotham City reputation. Our friends at New Naratif have been knocked back from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority who say the excellent outlet is ‘being used by foreigners to pursue a political activity in Singapore’. Consider subscribing to NN today as a show of support. The government is floating a program to establish 100,000 CCTVs across the city to monitor the population. With neither the government nor the opposition having much in the way of clear succession plans, what happens next?

Here we gooooo Malaysia! Here’s what you need to know about the date and why people are so mad about it and why is Mahathir saying this will be the dirtiest election yet?

Here’s more on Brunei turning to China as oil prices stay down. Which I think may be the Brunei story for the next few years, so expect to read a lot on this.

This stunning piece from NYT shows the extent of destruction in the Philippines’ recently ‘liberated’ Marawi City. Holy hell. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte really doesn’t want her dad to sit back down at the table for peace talks with the NDFP. My excitement about Duterte swinging over Rohingya was short-lived – he’s apologised to ASSK, telling reporters: ‘I will apologise to you, but if you have noticed my statement was almost a satire.’ Yes, good gag. He’s also ramped up his vitriol against the ICC, saying they will be arrested if a delegation tries to get into the country.

I forgot to actually link my Diplomat piece last week about the vice-presidential recount so catch up now. There hasn’t been much development just yet, but the Supreme Court is not stoked with Leni Robredo vying for a change to what is considered a valid vote.

Cynicism that the Boracay shutdown has more to do with the development of a casino and less to do with environmentalism is building. Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo has been forced to distance the government from the plans saying Duterte was not that interested when the proposal was made in December. Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano spoke with SCMP about China links.

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Terrible updates out of Myanmar this week with a judge refusing to drop the case against the Reuters journalists. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been investigating reports Tatmadaw officers killed ten Rohingya Muslims last year. VOA takes a closer look at the fate of the pair while seven soldiers have now been jailed for 10 years. Reuters published the definitive piece on the case this week.

Thailand is all over the place again. It’s Songkran, so hopefully next week all we have to do is check out brilliant photo essays! But for now it’s not quite as festive. One thing I’ve learnt after being in Indonesia is to take stories about changing fashion, particularly anything that is traditional, as a sign of rising whatever-the-issue-de-jour with a grain of salt, but this one from Reuters is compelling.

Am I misunderstanding this, or is there a low but growing hum of students being absolutely fed up with the political situation? There’s been a few stories like this recently of students laying into the junta. A favourite target has been noted watch aficionado/vice president Prawit who is now on medical leave. Meanwhile, Southern Thailand has arced up again with three bombs in Pattani injuring four, police killed two suspected insurgents the following day.

What do we do, Cambodia? I’ve been interested recently in relations between Hun Sen and Japan’s Shinzo Abe which you can check out here. The National Election Committee is very unhappy with a movement encouraging the boycotting of July’s vote. A whole bunch of employees at the US Embassy have been fired for sharing porno, some of underage individuals.

I just met some brilliant young women from Timor-Leste today and I will be back asap with a story because honestly, the world needs to know about what they’re doing (but no one can pinch my pitch!!).

My Vietnam Google Alert has been absolutely smashed by crypto stories this week and I’m SORRY but I just don’t understand it all (and there ends my dream of finance journalism). The former US ambassador to Vietnam said he resigned from the posting over the Trump administration’s ‘plan to deport more than 8,000 Vietnamese people, most of whom are refugees’. Vietnam-China relations continue to fascinate and confuse me with a report the government is funding a ‘fishing boat militia’ as the pair talk South China Sea.

I missed this one earlier in the month about women leading Laos’ interest in rugby. I bet they’d beat Canberra’s Brumbies no worries.