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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 24 May 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 24 May 2021

This week: West Papuans declared terrorists, Pakistan cracks down on Uyghur exiles, and another strong cyclone hits India.

Undercovered last week

While the world’s attention is on Gaza, don’t forget Asia’s occupied peoples, too.

In fact, there is increasingly worrying news from West Papua. The Indonesian government has decided that groups advocating for independence are now terrorists, and is ramping up the role of military in cracking down on dissent. In this piece for Indonesia at Melbourne, Ratu Durotun Nafisah, argues that this decision is a “foolish move” that will only prolong the conflict.

This is tragic – under pressure from China, its neighbor and, increasingly, puppet state Pakistan is cracking down on its Uyghur Muslim exile population, reports Brent Huffman for Vice World News. This was at the same time the country was actively supporting Palestinians.

Last week we shared a piece about Hong Kong decline in press freedom. This week, the same story, different country – Malaysia, which has seen its environment for reporting go from bad to worse over the last several years (MalaysiaKini).

The latest crackdown is affecting artists and cartoonist. Two, Fahmi Reza and Zunar, are facing police investigation for their social media posts which criticized political leaders (Mong Palatino, Global Voices).

Worth reading: An investigation from Mongabay finds that a secretive group, Nusantara Fiber, is responsible for most of the orangutan habitat loss in Indonesia. This highlights the challenge in stopping deforestation in a region with little transparency (Hans Nicholas Jong).

On a different note, this piece in Reporting Asean explores the unique challenge facing female photojournalists across Southeast Asia, who account for as few as 1 in 10 in that position.

Last week saw Asia hit by another undercovered climate-connected natural disaster. A monster cyclone Tauktae made landfall in India’s Gujurat state, resulting in the evacuation of hundreds of thousands (Al Jazeera). Why is this especially worrying? It hit the Arabian coast, which, historically, doesn’t see strong tropical storms – but that might be changing (Neha Yadav, Down to Earth).

Did you see last month’s Media Analysis on media coverage of natural and climate-related disasters in Asia?


After several weeks of political turmoil, elections have been called in Nepal, scheduled for November. The main cause is a split between the Communist Party and its Maoist allies. I’ll be following these elections closely, so keep reading Asia Undercovered for updates (Channel News Asia).


As nickel grows in demand due to the scaling up for electric vehicle production globally, Indonesia is using its abundance in the mineral to take a central position in supply chain – including pushing for value added production domestically. An insight into natural resource geopolitics from James Guild for East Asia Forum.

Solutions Stories

For something very different, check out this very enjoyable long read about the needles of Maire’s yew, a tree that only grows in a few regions of Nepal, is picked by locals, and essential for a chemotherapy drug. Full of fascinating details and characters from the remote regions of the country (Saugat Bolakhe, The Xylom)

And from Hien Ngog Nguyen, a piece about how the youth in Vietnam’s central highlands are planting trees to working to manage their forests for future generations (RECOFT).

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.