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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 21 Sept 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 21 Sept 2021

This week: A Chinese envoy visits Myanmar, another party joins the President coalition in Indonesia, and a cross-border collaboration on digital sex crimes.

Undercovered last week

When the Taliban marched into Kabul earlier this year, many made comparisons with another time the US fled after a long conflict – the Vietnam War. But Geremie R. Barmé finds another analogy might be more fitting for Afghanistan – 1949 Beijing, when the Communists took power in China (SupChina)

Did you see our latest Breaking News Backgrounder on What the Return of the Taliban Means for Asia?, highlighting regional and local perspectives of last months shocking events.

Worth Reading: One less covered aspect of the Myanmar coup (also the subject of a recent backgrounder) is the situation in Rakhine state, homeland of the persecuted Rohingya. More of the state is now under de-facto control by the Arakan Army, which is making overtures to local Muslims. Kyaw Hsan Hlaing on this, and it means (The Diplomat).

Often lost in these discussions and geopolitical debates are the human stories. In this piece for Reporting ASEAN, Johanna Son interviews Hafsar Tameesuddin, a Rohingya man who has been on the move for nearly a decade, and is now, as 38, finally starting his university studies.

In the Philippines, a nine-year ban on mining permits has been lifted, and the country is evaluating 100 new projects. But there are concerns about environmental and social impacts, as well as whether or not revenues will be shared fairly with locals communities (Carmela Fonbuena, PCIJ).

Another week, another Facebook jailing, this time, a user in Cambodia gets 18 months for mocking the country’s Prime Minister/Dictator, Hun Sen. If only the platform would do more to protect users and their privacy, or pushing back on arrests (Mong Palatino, Global Voices).

Electoral Politics

Another party in Indonesia’s Parliament has joined President Joko Widodo’s governing coalition, giving him more than 80 percent control in the legislature – adding to concerns that there aren’t democratic checks and balances on power anymore (Jakarta Globe).

And in South Korea, which has Presidential elections next year, the new head of the opposition People Power Party is embracing anti-feminism, calling out the current government’s “fixation on a pro-women agenda.” It’s working, with young males, at least (Korea Herald).


An investigation from NDTV has uncovered a racket in human hair trade between India and China, via Myanmar, which is then labeled as Chinese hair and sold abroad, avoiding taxes. It may increase calls for restrictions on Chinese goods in the country.

Perhaps related? A Chinese special envoy made an unannounced visit to Myanmar late last month, reports Frontier Myanmar, which included discussions with the ruling junta – and adds to calls that China is supporting the military and aiding their grip on power.

Solutions Stories

Reporting during the pandemic has been challenging, and investigating cross-border crimes even more-so. Despite this, a collaboration of news outlets in Indonesia, South Korea, and the Philippines were able to publish several stories on digital sex crimes across the region. A model that, I hope, is used more and more (Sarah Karacs, GIJN).

And in Indonesia, a new UNESCO Global Geopark is protecting a karst ecosystem in Java, where local communities are being empowered to lead on eco-tourism and conservation efforts (CIFOR).

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