This year has been a big one for lil Dari Mulut ke Mulut. I monetised, flexed on a few frenemies about it and then kinda hit a safe plateau with the project. Next year though is an electoral mess. I cannot wait! We’ve got election, on election, on election. And that doesn’t even touch on the amazing social progress (and regress) and movements which have sprouted and grown this year across the whole region.
So instead of a big old 2,000 word slog at the end of every week, we’re going 1,000 (or so!) every Tuesday and Friday. I really want to focus more on the local stuff and those developments are often much faster than a weekly release can cope with — although the bigger picture/regional stuff will remain — and include more context. I’m also doing a bunch of nerd stuff on my end to be heaps more legit like fixing up the website and doing a cute style guide (AP but with SGD conversions, FYI).
For this week while I’m getting that together, both briefs will be open to all subscribers before going back to the usual premium vs. free next week. You can sign up now for $5 a month or $50 a year here:
And if you’re a student from an Asean member state, get in touch! You get a free membership in exchange for telling all your pals to sign up too.
See you Friday,
Let’s start in Indonesia. Sunday marked the second year anniversary of the anti-Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama rallies, known as 212. As usual, figures on the turn out vary wildly but among them were Prabowo Subianto and the Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan. President Jokowi was pointedly not invited. Is the Indonesian Solidarity Party’s Grace Natalie the next target? She is not having sharia law or unfair influence of one religion over others and it’s not going down well. She has been reported to the police.
Attacks on the LGBT community have been increasing again over recent months and Pariaman in West Sumatra is really going for it. The city has introduced a Rp 1 million (SG$95) fine for gay and transgender residents on account of disturbing ‘public order’. "At a minimum, we're trying to prevent the population from increasing," deputy mayor Mardison Mahyudin told AFP. Sense doesn’t work here, so there’s no point hashing out the multiple ways in the which this is dumb as all hell.
“The campaign has lasted three months and I am still called Pak Anies,” says poor Sandiaga Uno, formerly Anies Baswedan’s vice governor. It’s been awhile since a prison break, but Banda Aceh is ready. The Law and Human Rights Ministry confirmed 113 prisoners escaped on Thursday. As of Friday afternoon 26 had been located. Indonesia is super prone to prison outbreaks with lacking facilities and rife over-population. Back during the Palu disaster over 1,200 inmates escaped from three different facilities but were given time to return home to assist family. Would love an update though!
Malaysia is not saying never to reopening the search into MH370, just days after relatives of the victims said they’ll never stop looking. “We are open to possibilities, but we must have credible leads before we decide,” Minister of Transport Anthony Loke Siew Fook said Friday, as reported by Bloomberg. The US Fed is coming for you, Goldman, as part of the 1MDB investigation. It’s going to be taught in schools now. Malaysia’s mad because CNN said cendol is from Singapore, but tell you what — I reckon it’s from Central Java.
Singapore is looking towards the next leader — Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat remains the top pick — while the soon to be outgoing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warns Singaporeans better get ready for more mess globally. He WILL lead the PAP to the next election though.
All quiet in Brunei.
I am FURIOUS about this news out of the Philippines today. President Rodrigo Duterte admits he ingests marijuana (that’s such a nerd way to say but I can’t tell from his comments what he actually means sooo) to help him stay awake (weird). Thousands on thousands of Filipinos have died in his war on drugs but HE is allowed to smoke a lil weed when he feels like it? Filth. He walked back on it, saying it was another one of his cracker gags but one of those headlines is going to make much bigger news. Not that he cares about image. He’s keen to create his own Death Squad, modelled on the Marcos-era Sparrow Unit, to hunt down communist cells. We’re probably looking at a Mindanao martial law expansion come the end of the month, but it’s not locked in yet .
It’s a big one for Maria Ressa. The Rappler CEO/bona fide Southeast Asia journalism legend has turned herself in on charges of evading tax, widely seen as a stitch up to shut down the critical publication. This has been a long-running case, and Manuel Quezon for Splice Newsroom handily prepared a look at what happened all the way back in January.
A bit quiet in Timor-Leste this weekend!
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has absolutely lost it over the criticisms of the freshly redrawn electoral map. Detractors say it favours pro-junta parties, Prayut had a spray for the journalists. Show us the policies! Decentralisation of the education system looks like it’ll be on the cards. We’ve got a bit more information about Australia-based Bahraini refugee Hakeem Al Araibi, who is now in immigration detention in Bangkok.
Two senior Vietnamese police have been found guilty of “running an underground online gambling ring which raised millions of dollars”, Reuters reported. The ring racked up an impressive SG$574 million. The pair got off lightly compared to nine people convicted for selling meth and heroin who have been sentenced to death. And finally, activist Huynh Thuc Vy has been sentenced to prison for 33 months after being found guilty of daubing white paint onto national flags. She is currently pregnant, so won’t be jailed until the child turns three. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho came to town, but we’re not allowed to know what he talked about with local counterparts. Vietnam is supposed to be a model for North Korea if and when it wants to open up, so it’s assumed it’s about all that. Bennett Murray for SCMP has more.
And then over in Laos, it’s all South Korea! This from Tae-jun Kang at the Diplomat looks at the numerous ways in which the two countries are connected. Villages in the Sangthong district of Vientiane have been warned off bathing or eating fish caught in a local stream after a foreign banana farm dumped chemicals into a river.
Down in Cambodia, coverage of the Khmer Rouge tribunal and what happens next continues. Seth Mydans has covered Cambodia and the tribunal for an age, so I found this piece for the NYT very illuminating on how the legacy of those decades has changed and continues to shape the country. Chinese development is rooting Sihanoukville, still. The European Union tariffs have put the fear into rice exporters who say it’s the general dudness of Euro rice which hurts the market, not imports from Cambodia — completely missing the point of the tariffs. I’m keen to read Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back by Katya Cengel.
This one from Reuters’ Myanmar team did NUMBERS this weekend. Activist Thinzar Shun Lei Yi was once a huge fan of Aung San Suu Kyi, but now she’s not having it. “I lost my idol, I’m confused, frustrated and lost,” she said. She’s certainly not in the majority of millennials but isn’t it nice to hear! Bangladesh isn’t keen to waste any more time on failing repatriation plans, putting pressure on Yangon last week to resolve all the concerns. “Dhaka is waiting for the reply, they said, stressing that living up to the pledges has never been Myanmar’s strong point,” reports the Dhaka Tribune. Azeem Ibrahim, who wrote The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar's Hidden Genocide a couple years back, says this is what needs to happen next. Keep an eye on Kachin State, says Al Jazeera with a report about the 33rd Light Infantry Division (LID).