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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 13 Jan 2022

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 13 Jan 2022

This week: Taiwan's indigenous progress, how Philippines fishers cope with the geopolitics of the South China Sea, and searching for her missing husband in Laos, one decade on.

Undercovered last week

The New Year got off to a horrible start in Hong Kong where the Pillar of Shame, a memorial to the Tiananmen Square massacre, was demolished in the middle of the night.

Worth reading: This piece by Oiwan Lam on how the Chinese app WeChat is a form of techno-nationalism around the world, as its commonly used by Chinese speakers (Global Voices).

Most coverage of the South China Sea focuses on geopolitics or security, but it’s also a region where millions of regular people struggle to make a living. This feature by Raizza Bello focuses on fishers in the Philippines, and how China’s incursions and the failures of the Philippines government, have made their lives harder (Rappler).

Cambodia has assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN, and is already taking steps to undermine diplomatic efforts around the military coup in Myanmar. In this piece published in Prachatai, a group of parliamentarians calls on the rest of the region to stand up to Hun Sen’s pandering.

Wildlife trafficking is still a problem in Vietnam, reports Sherly Lee Tian Tong. One of the key issues is that only one in seven seizures of wildlife results in a conviction, meaning many criminals get away (Mongabay).

Just released: This investigation by The Wire India took two years, and focuses on an app called Tek Fog, which was used by the ruling BJP party in India to automate hate, manipulate trends, and hack opponents on major social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, and Whatsapp.

Electoral Politics

After a year of what William Case calls “political melee” in Malaysia, the former longtime ruling party, UNMO is looking to regain its position atop the political spectrum – which could be damaging for the fragile democratic progress made since the 2018 election (East Asia Forum).

And in Taiwan, in a surprising result, the opposition KMT failed in two recall elections, a surprising and significant victory for the ruling DPP. Here’s some analysis of the elections from Nathan Batto at Frozen Garlic (h/t Ample Road).


50 year ago, after a bloody civil war, Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan. To this day, relations between the two countries are strained, partly because Pakistan refuses to apologize for the violence it inflicted on Bengalis (Asif Muztaba Hassan, The Diplomat).

One of my pet peeves is when issue-focused journalism ignores obvious geopolitical concerns. This is something that pervades environmental reporting in particular, which tries too often to be political agnostic. So I appreciated how this piece by Johan Agustin in Mongabay explores the impacts of Chinese investment in Nepal without ignoring the concerns of Tibetans.

Solutions Stories

Taiwan has, according to I-Fan Lin, seen fruitful progress for indigenous peoples. From the 13 indigenous athletes who competed in the Olympics, the resurrection of indigenous music, to a popular new TV series, awareness and recognition of indigenous culture is growing on the island nation (Global Voices).

For years, Bangladesh has been cited as one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to climate disasters. Yet, so far, its avoided the worst – and its not by accidents, but by design. This wonderful feature in New Humanitarian explores how the country has planned for, and prepared, to deal with disasters, and what remains to be done.

Reporting Done Right

We’ve regularly shared stories on the worrying cases of kidnapped or disappeared layers and activists in Southeast Asia. This piece by Alastair McCready focuses on the story of one woman, Shui-Meng, still searching for her husband, Sombath, kidnapped in Laos back in 2012.

It explores her trauma, the challenges she faces in getting answers, and the long quest for justice. Excellent reporting, and kudos to Vice for running such an important story.

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