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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 13 July 2022

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 13 July 2022

Undercovered last week

Another arrest of an environmental defender in the Philippines – a country with an horrific record.

Sadly, its not just the Philippines – all across Asia, excuses are being used to suppress people’s rights.

A rare case of police accountability in Thailand, where officers were sentenced to life in prison for suffocating and killing a suspect in their custody (Prachatai).

In the Mekong, giant stingrays, which live in the deepest, darkest waters, can grow as big as 181 kilos, the size of a recent one released into the wild. This illuminating piece by Johanna Son for Reporting ASEAN tells us about these fascinating creatures, and the threats they face from development in the many countries the mighty river flows through.

After facing widespread criticism for his male-dominated cabinet, new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol added two women members – and claims he now understands the importance of gender equality and the limits of a meritocracy-only approach. Let’s see if his actions match his words (Kang Hyun-kyung, Korea Times).

Worth reading: this in-depth piece by Saugat Bolakhe, which includes beautiful visuals on on how climate change is impacting Himalayan laboreres in Nepal, including those delivering goods to trekkers visiting some of the world’s highest mountains (Xylom).

This investigation in MalaysiaKini uncovers how logging companies are bribing indigenous villages in Malaysia – and pitting them against one another – in order to log protected, ancestral lads.

Electoral Politics

Coming up soon: Cambodia’s national assembly elections, on July 23 – though its highly unlikely to be either competitive, or fair.

Looking further ahead: There’s a surprising frontrunner for Indonesia’s 2023 Presidential election – Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, who is leading early polls. One reason? His use of social media, writes Yvette Tanamal for Jakarta Post.


Every year, China “bans” fishing in the South China Sea. While it is framed as an environmental practice, in reality, it’s not all about the fish, writes Mahbi Maulaya, but territorial expansion, as it includes waters beyond its Exclusive Economic Zone (Asia Policy Forum).

Solutions Stories

Bhutan has long been rich in hydropower resources. Now, it’s ramping up solar ambitions as the nation aims to further its position as a leading, carbon negative, green economy (Nidup Gyeltshen, The Third Pole).

A fight is brewing over the future of two mangrove-covered islands off the coast of Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi. One side wants to develop it. The other wants to protect it, and the city, from climate and future typhoons. A great piece by Sana Ali for Climate Tracker.

What I wrote

I spent over a month reporting this in-depth investigation for The Wire China on the social auditing industry, which is used by companies to verify that their supply chains in China and elsewhere meet their labor standards.

It’s failed to address issues around Uyghur forced labor, and a worsening political environment in China may mean it is becoming a less useful tool as the space for civil society, press, and even accountability shrinks.

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.