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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 29 June 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 29 June 2021

This week: The impacts of Cyclone Amphan, a year later, how China is  winning a divided SE Asia, and a 4000 year old sport goes global.

Uyghur genocide update

More evidence has emerged about China’s plans for Xinjiang, the homeland of the Uyghurs – long-term birth decline, more inbound migration of Han Chinese, and, with time, the end of the Uyghur people.

Meanwhile, satellite imagery and analysis shows that across the entire region, Mosques and Uyghur cultural landmakes are being destroyed at an unprecedented scale. Here’s a visualization of this destruction by deVolkskrant.

Meanwhile, in Tibet, similar efforts are underway to erode Tibetan language use, religious freedom, and ethnic identity, reports Joseph Brouwer for China Digital Times.

Also undercovered last week

A year ago, Cyclone Amphan made landfall, killing hundreds and impacting millions in South Asia. In Bangladesh, as many as 500,000 are still struggling to recover from the destruction it left. Rafiqul Islam Montu on the forgotten victims of a natural disaster that few outside the region ever knew about (Trust).

This is a sign of things to come, as climate-induced environmental hazards are getting more frequent. Of the 100 cities worldwide most vulnerable, 99 are in Asia, with Indonesia’s capital Jakarta topping the list, reports Marlowe Hood for Phys.

An investigation from Newstapa uncovered shell companies setup by ex-Samsung employees operating as proxies for the former Prime Minister of Mongolia, Sukhbaatar Batbold in a shocking case of transnational laundering.

In Myanmar, as hopes for peaceful opposition fade, more civilians are joining ethnic militias and taking up arms to fight the military junta. It seems likely that violence will get much worse before it gets better (Emily Fishbein, Thang Deih Tuang, Nu Nu Lusan, Al Jazeera).

In the last issue, I highlighted how a burning cargo ship off the shore of Sri Lanka is creating an environmental disaster. Now, Mongabayreports that the toxic payload is coming ashore – oil, chemicals, and millions of plastic beads, which could cause great damage to sensitive marine ecosystems.

In Malaysia, women lack the right to automatically confer citizenship to offspring born abroad. This means thousands of children are innocent victims of sexist, outdated laws. In this immersive piece for MalaysiaKini, Ran Amand shares the stories of those unjustly impacted.

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One term of President Rodrigo Duterte has imperiled 30+ years of Philippines democracy. He can’t run for re-election – but he’s already working to anoint his successor and create a “Duterte dynasty” that could undo what remains of the country’s freedoms (East Asia Forum).

Democratic legal reform may be dead in Indonesia, as 51 employees of the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission – a highly popular organization – were dismissed for, absurdly, failing a “vision test.” In this piece for Indonesia at Melbourne, Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir and Rafiqa Qurrata A'yun look into the deeper social issues that underpin corruption in Southeast Asia’s largest country.


China made an undeclared entry into Malaysian air in late May, the latest in a series of provocations against many its neighbors. In this piece for The Diplomat, Moez Hayat and Ryan Ashley explore why China would take this action against a fairly loyal partner, and what it means for Malaysian security going forward.

ASEAN, the EU-like entity that aims to connect 10 Southeast Asia nations, has been, according to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, become inert due to how China has taken advantage of divisions, via an increasing investment portfolio, and both mask and vaccine diplomacy (The Irrawaddy).

Solutions Stories

Learn about the ancient game of Kabaddi, played by the Buddha, with 4000 years of history, popular across South Asia today, and, according to Ayushi Kalyani, now becoming a global sport (Madras Courier).

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.