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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 4 May 2022

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 4 May 2022

This week: Why East Timor's election mattered, a record heat wave in India, and Vietnam's environmental activists under threat.

Undercovered last week

Another undercovered Asian natural disaster: There is a scorching, record heat wave taking place across much of India right now. According to DownToEarth, it’s due to a climate anomaly that could be linked to climate change.

Which begs the question; why isn’t climate, or the economy, a bigger issue in Indian politics? Roshni D’Souza argues that its because of how the ruling BJP government focuses on “Hindu Rashtra,” or Hindu nationalism, a weapon of “mass distraction.” (Madras Courier).

Worth reading: I learned so much from this wonderful piece by Paul Millar on the Khmer Krom monks in Southern Vietnam, a historically Khmer region, and how they have to cross the border, sometimes illegally, to learn about their language and culture in neighboring Cambodia (New Naratif).

There are concerns over Indonesia’s plan to carve up the disputed region of West Papua into five different provinces – which could, according to Hans Nicholas Jong, lead to surge in deforestation, corruption, and harm local peoples rights (Mongabay).

In theory, Vietnam’s environmental activists have the right to enjoy and speak up for clean water and air. In practice, environmentalists are, according to this piece by the 88 Project, regularly subject to harassment, intimation, and even jail.

Electoral Politics

In East Timor’s election earlier this month, former President Jose Ramos Horta returned to power. His victory will have an outsized effect, argue Parker Novak and Jack Mullan for Nikkei Asia, and may open the door to Chinese investment in the country’s natural resource reserves.

There’s, technically, a presidential transition taking place in Turkmenistan, but it’s only the son of the dictator taking over for his father. For The Diplomat, Catherine Putz explores if Serdar Berdimuhamedov will herald any change in a country long ranked among the least free and open in the world.

Also – the Philippines presidential election is approaching, on May 9th. Keep an eye out for a special issue on this very soon!


Increasing droughts are again raising concerns about the lack of cooperation on trans-boundary water issues along the Mekong Basin, which connects Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. For East Asia Forum, Thong Anh Tran explores the challenges, including China’s dams upstream.

The relationship between Japan and India, two of Asia’s largest countries, democracies, and economies, is crucial to creating a counterweight to rising Chinese power. But Russia is getting in way, providing a challenge for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (Eerishika Pankaj, Tokyo Review).

Solutions Stories

We often lump Central Asian nations together, but in reality, people in the region often know little about their neighbors. One group based in Kyrgyzstan is trying to change that, by gathering data on Central Asian public opinion with the goal of better measuring the political, economic and social atmosphere in the region (Filip Noubel, Global Voices).

And this directly connects to the heat wave – the world must work together and provide support for a just green transition for India, one that creates quality jobs and decent work, argues this piece.

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.

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