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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 31 Jan 2023

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 31 Jan 2023

This week: Visualizing the impact of Chinese dams in the upper Mekong, the forgotten Uyghur miners, and how a blind-led radio station is raising awareness of the disabled community in Indonesia.

Undercovered last week

According to Shohret Hoshur with RFA, the fate of 18 mostly Uyghur miners remains uncertain, but many presume that they are dead after being trapped for nearly two weeks.

If you’re wondering why this wasn’t a global headline, I have some thoughts.

Worth reading: The latest investigation from the Gecko Project, in partnership with BBC, focuses on the plasma scheme, meant to include villagers in on the profits from the boom in palm oil. In reality, companies used this system to force communities into long-term, unfair deals, essentially stealing their land.

The car of journalist Dinara Yegeubayeva was the target of an arson attack in Kazakhstan earlier this month. Many believe it was due to this reporting of the 2022 demonstrations and the government crackdown (IPI).

There’s only one coal mine in Bangladesh. According to Kamran Reza Chowdhury, it has swallowed peoples land and polluted local waterways (The Third Pole).

On a similar note, in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, many areas meant to be parks are actually private property, due to the misuse of laws meant to promote urban renewal but in reality have led to the privatization of public land (Chloé Salmon, News Lens).

In Vietnam, nationalist sentiment is growing on social media, reports Jason Nguyen. This rise in what he calls Jingoistic “Little Pinks” is becoming increasingly dangerous as regular people get caught up (The Vietnamese).

Another undercovered natural disaster – floods have devastated parts of Malaysia over the past few months. This piece by Yap Si Err and Mukhriz Hazim goes to a remote region($) to find out how villagers have been impacted, and find that a Durian plantation may be making the situation worse (MalaysiaKini).

We’re nearing the two year anniversary of the coup that deposed a democratically elected government and brought he junta back to power in Myanmar. Amidst ongoing violence and repression, this piece in 9Dashline explores if there is any hope for peace in 2023.

Electoral Politics

Ahead of elections in Cambodia this year, despite holding every seat in Parliament, Hun Sen is adding more barriers to the opposition, saying that even criticism against his Cambodian People’s Party could result in legal or physical reprisals (APHR).


Often, the stories of regular people caught up in geopolitical fights gets lost. That is why I enjoyed this piece by Gafira Qadir on the Kashmiri women, wives of former militants, now trapped in Indian occupied Kashmir, lacking documentation (Kashmir Walla).

Meanwhile, Philippines President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is signing several investment deals with China, despite ongoing encroachments into the country’s fisheries by Chinese militias. Worth watching if anything comes out of these deals, and how it impacts the unity of ASEAN (PhilStar).

Solutions Stories

Do read this great piece by Johanes Nugroho on all-blind radio crew in Surabaya, Indonesia, which, among other things, has highlighted the challenges those with physical impairments face in the city (SCMP).

And Malaysia has several pieces of legislation focused on tobacco control, which, if passed, could help reduce stubbornly high smoking rates and improve public health, argue Mary Assuta and Tan Yen Lian for East Asia Forum.

Reporting Done Right

Kudos to Reuters for publishing this piece by a team of journalists from across the Greater Mekong Region, bring data, visuals, satellite imagery, and stories to show just how upstream dams are impacting the lives of millions along the Mekong Delta.

It’s also an example of how collaboration and well-designed visuals can help tell a complex story well!

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.