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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 13 April 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 13 April 2021
This week: Flash floods in SE Asia, South Korea's mayoral election surprise, and how old media is empowering communities in Laos and Indonesia.

Undercovered this week

Flash floods and landslides have killed dozens in Indonesia and East Timor,  and many expect the death toll to rise. The lack of coverage is, sadly,  a common pattern – natural disasters in Asia get far less attention  compared to ones that hit the US or Europe (DW).

It’s also a sign of things to come, as this piece from T.V. Padma in The Third Pole highlight – glacial melt and climate change are increasing flood risk across the Himalayas and beyond, in South Asia.

In Kazakhstan, China’s  influence has resulted in the widespread suppression attempts to raise  awareness about what’s happening across the border in Xinjiang. But  while activism is broken, Aigerim Toleukhanova argues that it’s not yet dead, highlighting the protesters enduring, often on behalf of loved ones (Radio Liberty).

Cambodia has experienced some of the highest rates of deforestation in Asia. This piece by the GI-TOC Asia Pacific Observatory  explores how this has impacted the Prey Land and Prey Preah Roka  wildlife sactuaries, and the role of organized crime and corruption.

And, though it’s getting less attention, the use of violence by the military in Myanmar is growing. This includes targeting of journalists. In this piece, Ko Thet Paing paints a worrying picture  about how dangerous the act of doing journalism has gotten, with 57  arrested, and many more injured. Despite this, they continue to report (Reporting Asean).

Did you see this week’s Breaking News Backgrounder giving attention to local reporting on the ongoing conflict and military repression in Myanmar? I made it free for everyone – click here to read it.

Social media expression under is threat again in Thailand. This time, a 22 year old vendor has been arrested and accused of royal defamation and is reportedly being held in inhumane conditions (Prachatai).


Vietnam has a new Prime Minister, with the dark-horse candidate Pham Minh Chinh being chosen. While he is seen as a potential reformer, Ban Pham argues in SCMP that it won’t herald a change in approach with regards to the US and China.

What a different a year makes. Then, it was South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in’s liberal party winning an unprecedented majority in Parliament. Now, they’ve lost their hold on mayoral seats in the country’s two largest cities, Seoul and Busan – a worrying sign ahead of next year’s Presidential election (Nikkei Asia).

Ahead of elections scheduled in Japan for later this year (keep an eye out for some special issues then) here’s an worthwile backgrounder  by Shunji Fueki that explores the surprising resilience of the Liberal  Democratic Party, which has ruled with minimal interruption since  democracy was restored (IAAS).


March 18 was the 100th celebration of Mongolia’s independence from China (though it was under de-facto Soviet control until 1992). This piece by Jargalsaikhan Mendee looks at the delicate balance the modern military must play, defending a country that neighbors two great military powers (East Asia Forum).

Solutions Stories

This week, we go old school, or, more accurately, old media, with two pieces that focus on the use of radio to empower communities. The first piece is by Vannaphone Sitthirath for Reporting Asean and profiles Bounheng Southichak, managing director and founder of Laos Youth Radio, focusing on the station as envolved to provide people information during the pandemic.

And for Internews, Gerson Merari reports on how the indigenous Mentewai people of western Indonesia are using community radio as a venue to organize against corporate land grabs and other violations of their rights.

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.