2 min read

Asia Undercovered #56

This week: A little known central Asian “republic” see’s protests, how the world’s longest serving leader stays in power, and restoring the Jewish heritage of Afghanistan.

Undercovered this week

First, a story from unknown Asia – The Republic of Kalmykia is part of Asian Russia, but predominantly Buddhist. Over the past few weeks, the region has seen widespread protests due to the appointment of an unpopular politician as mayor of the capital Elista (Badma Biurchiev, Open Democracy).

He’s the longest serving leader in Southeast Asia, and now, the world. Cambodia’s Hun Sen has been in power for 35 years, since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. This piece by David Hutt for SEA Globe explores how he has been able to maintain power for so long, using the power of the state to promote his family brand.

Little Timor-Leste is facing a political crisis due to the failure to pass a budget. Michael Leach reports on what this means for Asia’s youngest country and democracy (Lowy Intepreter).

Worth spending some time going through this in-depth longread from TNI on how the rapid growth of Chinese businesses has transformed trade and diplomacy.

Rape has long been a tool of oppression. In China, authorities have used it in Tibet, and now, growing evidence that its a tool against minority Muslims in Xinjiang concentration camps too, reports Massino Introvinge for Bitter Winter.

New to Asia Undercovered? Sign up for free weekly updates here.


State elections were held in Delhi, India’s capital. For the third straight regional election, the ruling BJP lost. Another sign that the country is tiring of Modi’s authoritarianism? Here’s one good take from Deepanshu Mohan at The Wire.


Earlier this month, I shared a piece on low water levels in Tonle Sap in Cambodia. In fact, that is just one many rivers in South and Southeast Asia facing challenges due to development in China and Chinese-occupied Tibet.With news that the controversial western route of the South-to-North Water Diversion project could go forward, it might only get worse. Gao Baiyu reports on this, and more, for The Third Pole.

NEW: Solutions Stories

From now on, I’ll highlight, ever week, a few solutions stories that explain how and why responses are working, or not working, every week. Not necessarily positive news, but stories focused on the responses to social issues as well as the problems themselves.

Firstly, I really loved this visual narrative story by Ruchi Kumar about the restoration of the Jewish heritage in Herat, a historical city in Afghanistan. Perhaps, someday, the community can return home to a peaceful, multicultural country again (Al Jazeera).

Laos get far less attention than its larger SE Asian neighbors. This piece in New Bloomexplores some of the contradictions in the narratives of this small, communist, Buddhist country, and “Muay” Houayheuang Xayabouly, who was charged with defamation for criticizing the government.

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.