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Asia Undercovered 22 Dec 2020

Asia Undercovered 22 Dec 2020

Undercovered this week

Remember when The Philippines got hit by a series of successive typhoons earlier this month? (It got nearly no attention in US media). The government’s lackluster response has been heavily criticized, and has led to protests in Universities around the country, reports Karlo Mongaya for Global Voices.

Worth reading: This in-depth piece by Abha Lal on how Nepal’s Constitution, which was enacted only five years ago, discriminates against women through restrictive, gender-based citizenship laws (Himal South Asian).

In Uzbekistan, there is push-back from journalists over the government revoking media licenses over critical coverage, which has increased concerns of a return to strongman rule in a country only just emerging from 27 years of repression under former leader Islam Karimov (VOA).

Kontinentalist has just published this immersive, audio-centric story focused on several Rohingya and their desperate journeys to escape repression in Myanmar. Put on your headphones for this one – an example of how journalism can humanize victims.

This is worrying. Sri Lanka has used a regulative move to downgrade huge swaths of the country’s forests and put them in line for deforestation and development. Another sign that as Asia emerges from the economic impacts of the pandemic, the environment will – again – suffer (Malaka Rodrigo, Mongabay).

I had no idea that Japan designates a Kanji of the year every year. This year’s character – “Mitsu” – reflects the unique local characteristics of social distancing in the densely populated country (Japan Times).

Good news from Bhutan. Lawmakers have decided to decriminalize same-sex relations, the first step towards, hopefully, legalizing gay marriage (Channel News Asia).

And lastly, if you have time, read this long, in-depth, deeply investigated story in ChinaFile that details how a for-profit industry in China helps the state manage public opinion in its favor. It’s fascinating and explores how private companies play a role in digital censorship and how the authorities manage anger and discontent.

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Following in the footsteps of Thailand and Indonesia, Malaysia also has a new, youth-led political party seeking to disrupt status-quo politics – the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance. In this piece for East Asia Forum, Piya Raj Sukhani explores the chances for them to turn the country’s youth into a political force.

On Indonesia, it’s been a year now since President Joko Widodo began his second term, and its been rough. Protests, a pandemic and a recession have all played a role in his popularity falling significantly. What does the future hold for the embattled leader of Southeast Asia’s largest country? (The Conversation).


This piece by Qaisar Rashid asks a simple but fascinating question – what is the future of Pakistan as it fall ever-more into the China model of governance, starting with the story of what happened to a senior journalist and critic of the government (Future Directions).

Solutions Stories

First, a fascinating piece by Deepti Asthana on the Siddi – an African tribe that has been in India for more than a millennium. It explores their struggles, challenges, and growing hope as they slowly gain a foothold in the country (ArianaLife).

And in Assam, India, Mubina Akhtar writes about how a program aimed at conserving the landscape of endangered duck species requires greater wetlands protection – and better governance  – to succeed (NeNow).

Asia Undercovered: In-depth round-ups and analysis of the news, events, trends and            people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.