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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 28 Dec 2022

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 28 Dec 2022

This week: Environmental challenges in Cambodia and Japan, more oppression in Tibet, and solutions videos (!) from Bhutan and Myanmar.

Undercovered last week

It’s been a year, now, since a railway opened linking Laos and China. But for locals, the strict Chinese controls and limited space for Lao businesses means there’s been little, if any, benefits for the country (RFA).

Meanwhile, in Tibet, new, Chinese mayors have been appointed in the place of Tibetans, despite it being in violation of the country’s own ethnic autonomy law, another sign that Sinicization – and eliminating Tibetan identity – is the official policy of the occupying Chinese Communist Party now (Tibetan Review).

In Cambodia, Mongabay reports on how locals are being pushed out of their homes on the island of Koh S’Dach, which, until now, has been kept unspoiled. The future: resorts, construction and ecological destruction.

It’s likely that some of those investments, like is common elsewhere in the country, will come from China. A new reports highlights how China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a key driver in the destruction of ocean and coastal ecosystems, and call for change (The Conservation).

On a lighter note, a surprising problem is creating issues in Japana surge in wild boars and attacks on people and property. The reasons: an aging population meaning less hunting, and less control of boar populations (Jay Allen, Unseen Japan).

In Indonesia, the country’s Human Rights Court convened for the first time in years, over a case related to state violence in West Papua. Despite the outcome – which found the defendant not guilty, there is still hope that this system can, in the future, be reformed and address longstanding justice issues in the country (Indonesia at Melbourne)

Worth reading: Dari Mulut ke Mulut (a great Southeast Asia focused newsletter) published a moving and inspiring essay from Audris Candra, a queer Jakartan in their early 20s, about the recent criminal code which, among many other things, targets their community.

That didn’t take long. Already, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a man who didn’t even win his own seat in the last election, is criticizing new Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. In this scathing letter, Rais Hussin call out his hypocrisy and irrelevance at the country’s moves forward (Malaysia Kini).


Several months into his Presidency and Philippines President Marcos Jr’s China position remains unclear. While he has reengaged China on investment, issues around incursions in the West Philippine Sea remains unresolved. Xiangning Wu explores this, and more, for East Asia Forum.

Meanwhile, on its far western border, Mel Gurtov argues that China is under pressure as it struggles to find a middle-ground between support for Russia and its own geopolitical ambitions in Central Asia and Taiwan (Asia-Pacific Journal).

Solutions Stories

Since its the holidays, this week, I’m sharing two solutions videos to watch with friends and family.

The first one is from Bhutan, where journalist Namgay Zam, interviews Tashi Chombal, Miss Bhutan Universe and the country’s first openly gay public figure. Learn more about her, and queer issues in the isolated nation, in her series, Queer Talks Bhutan.

And DVB has chosen a winner for their first Myanmar Peace Documentary, XYZ and then A. It’s beautifully made, shot in a refugee camp along the Thai border, sharing the stories of those who fled the military coup and the numerous wars that have, in particular, affected ethnic minorities like the Karen, Kachin, Rohingya, and Shan, among others.

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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.