2 min read

Asia Undercovered 4 June 2020

Asia Undercovered 4 June 2020

This week: An increasingly silent Tiananmen Anniversary, Chinese influence across the region, and the indigenous communities building an alternative model for conservation in Myanmar.

Undercovered this week

There’s little attention being given to the fact that this weeks marks the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the first in which there will no commemorative vigil in Hong Kong, banned by the police under the veil of Covid-19. I attended last year, and remember many telling me that they feared it would be the last one, due the then just announced extradition law. They were right. Now, we must #NeverForget. Here’s a photo gallery that shows what happened 31 years ago from HKFP.

And it’s not just Hong Kong. Thailand, too has banned a Tiananmen commemoration. Is it due to growing ties with China? (Prachatai)

In Myanmar, farmers in Shan state are upset about potatoes being smuggled in from China, undercutting their spuds, and are asking for the state to intervene (RFA).

Here’s an interesting agriculture story from South Korea, on the revival and continued use of traditional farming techniques, which could be useful in combating food insecurity and climate change (Latoya Abulu, Mongabay)


There is rising violence against perceived left-wing parties and supporters in Indonesia, with direct connection to the 1965 anti-communist purge. Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir explores what’s behind this, and why this violence is so persistent (The Conversation).

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed has been removed from Bersatu, the party he founded, for sitting with the opposition during a one day parliamentary sitting. There still hasn’t been a vote testing new Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin supposed majority (Shannon Teoh, Straits Times)

Remember the political turmoil in East Timor? It seems to be – for now – resolved, as a new alignment of parties has emerged, reports Michael Leach for Inside Story.


Tension is flaring between Indonesia and China, following a January incident in the North Natuna Sea, part of which China claims historic rights. Aristyo Rizka Darmawan contends in East Asia Forum that China’s claims on traditional fishing rights in the region are misconstrued.

Contrary to perceptions, Chinese financing of global energy has actually been declining since 2017 – and a rebound this year is unlikely, which could have broad repercussions for coal plants in particular (Panda Paw Dragon Claw).

In this thought piece, Jürgen Rüland explores the geopolitical competition between the United States and China through the lens of connectivity and infrastructure – and the pitfalls as donors chase speed over reliability, ignoring social and environmental impacts (East Asia Forum).

Solutions Story

Just one this week, but it’s a great one – a feature by Jack Jenkins Hill in Frontier Myanmar on how a group of indigenous people in Tanintharyi are preserving one of the largest remaining expanses of intact low-elevation evergreen forest in Southeast Asia using a traditional knowledge drive, bottom-up approach and building interconnections between other communities.

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.