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Asia Undercovered #17 – Asia’s elections are heating up

Asia Undercovered #17 – Asia’s elections are heating up

This week in Asia Undercovered: another date set in Thailand, Whatsapp being used to divide Indians by caste, a postmortem, and a big misstep by Jokowi in Indonesia.

Undercovered this week

I really enjoyed this piece by Than Toe Aung on what it was like to grow up Muslim just outside Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, illuminating how religious nationalism has been used by the former ruling military junta and, sadly, even today by Aung San Suu Kyi (Frontier Myanmar).

Last year, a damn collapsed in Laos, killing dozens. Mongabay reports that in the aftermath of the disaster, which displaced thousands, there has been a dramatic increase in deforestation.

#MustRead: Rian Thum, who I’ve featured before, wrote this thread on how far too much mainstream reporting on the human rights catastrophe in Xinjiang often furthers China’s propaganda efforts. (Full thread)

Also from Xinjiang: A sad piece on the death sentence of Tashpolat Tiyip, who was formally the president of Xinjiang University and, importantly, a member of the Communist Party. That wasn’t enough to protect him from his “crime” - being Uyghur (Living Otherwise).

Bloomberg dropped a huge story on the police state in Kashgar. If you want to see what technological and social dystopia looks like, then read Peter Martin's excellent reporting from Xinjiang.


A big mistake by incumbent and front-runner Joko Widodo in Indonesia when he made the controversial decision to release firebrand, convicted extremist cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir...and then changed his mind. Yet to be seen: if this changes the dynamics of the race at all (Lowy Interpretor).

A forceful argument from Pavin Chachavalpongpun: another delay could destroy Thailand’s democracy. Right now, the new date is March 24th. (ForSEA).

And an election reflection. Winston Chu looks back at Taiwan’s recent referendum and finds that voters were often ill-informed about the choices they had, which may have influenced the results. But how do you create a genuinely informed electorate? (Global Voices).

Whatsapp is being used by the ruling BJP to fuel fake news in India. A bombshell from Time. While Whatsapp’s move to limit forwarding got a lot of attention, it would do little to address fake news spreading in groups.

And lastly, a thoughtful geopolitics read

The influence of China’s rise on the West got a lot of attention. But what about the impacts on its neighbors? Great read from The Third Pole on what those along China’s 22,000 kilometer border feel about the giant that they are, increasingly, more and more dependent on.

Until next week,

Nithin Coca

Asia Undercovered: Journalist Nithin Coca's weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.