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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 7 Sept 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 7 Sept 2021

Undercovered last week

The groundwork of for what’s taking place Xinjiang was laid when China’s settler Han colonialists began displacing ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs from their land in the name of eco-tourism. In this piece by ethnic Kazakh Guldana Salimjan for Lausan  shares her experience visiting the manufactured tourist landscape in Bogda Lake in 2015, which reduces local Kazakhs to a mere commodity, and how it was a precursor to today’s dystopian “Camp Land.”

A similar, if different, process of displacement is happening in Hong Kong where evidence is growing that a population exodus is taking place, with perhaps has many as 1.3 million leaving in coming years due to growing repression. Vera Yuen writes on how this will change the city forever (East Asia Forum).

Asia’s landscapes and indigenous people are under threat. In Malaysia, the indigenous Mar Meri, who’ve preserved their coastal land for generations, are at threat of displacement due to a planned eco-resort (sound familiar?), reports Rachel Donald for Mongabay.

Meanwhile, on the nearby Indonesian island of Sumatra, a massive pulp firm seeking to expand a factory on land granted to it by the state, is also threatening the livelihood of local indigenous people (Tonggo Simangunsong, New Naratif).

In Cambodia, its a Chinese-funded Lower Sesan 2 hydroelectric dam that has displaced indigenous groups and ethnic minorities, many of whom were forced to move with little or no compensation nor consent, reports Mong Palatino for Global Voices.

Protests are continuing in Thailand, many of which took place in the neighborhood of Din Baeng in Bangkok, led by a new group, Thalugaz. Reporting Asean has published a fascinating interview with the admin of this group, who they are, how they operate, and more, as the movement becomes increasingly decentralized.

And in Myanmar, the military once again shows its true colors, and may double down on militant Buddhism to remain in power.

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Electoral Politics

As space for democratic expression sinks, even murals that mildly protest President Joko Widodo are being erased in Indonesia and the artists threatened. This crackdown on public criticism has echoes of Suharto’s authoritarian New Order (Indonesia at Melbourne).

In India, some saw hope in a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and local Kashmiri political leaders, that some form of democracy might return to the contested region. Sten Widlalm throws cold water on that argument, stating that its too early for such optimism (East Asia Forum).


For Fulcrum, Quinton Temby explores the cross-border social media power of the Milk Tea Alliance, a grouping of grassroots movements across Southeast and East Asia, which has now also spread to Myanmar, with forces joining to target a common foe – China.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, China’s keystone project, the Gwadar port, remains a long way from its vision as a regional hub for trade, with environmental concerns still at the forefront, reports Zofeen Ebrahim for The Third Pole.

Solutions Stories

Water scarcity – and flooding – are become increasing challenges in India due to climate change. But there are solutions – such as an effort to build 12,000 rainwater harvesting stations in the state of Odhsha, which facilitate water conservation and ground water recharge (Down to Earth).

And it’s bit outdated, but let’s not forget that there was many hopeful and positive signs in Afghanistan prior to the Taleban takeover, including an emerging breakdancing scene, partly as a form of expression from growing up in war (Robyn Huang, The Diplomat).

What I worked on

Once a month, I share a bit of my work or features from Asia.

I’m a core team member of this relatively new entity, the Environmental Reporting Collective, and we’ve just released a multi-newsroom, cross-border investigation, Oceans Inc. It focuses on Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in Asia and the Antarctic, which has caused alarming destruction to marine environments, as well as horrific human rights abuses by the companies involved.

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.