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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 8 March 2023

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 8 March 2023

Undercovered last week

In Hong Kong, the trial for 47 pro-democracy figures – including several former legislators, lawyers, and activists, has begun. They face life sentences for doing no more than their advocacy, including organizing an unofficial primary in 2020 (Arthur Kaukman, China Digital Times).

It’s also now been three years since the death of one person who tried to speak out, and whose digital account remains a window into the hopes and despairs of many in China

There’s been a lot of reporting on the environmental, labor, and social issues around Nickel mining in Indonesia. This piece the local investigative outlet Tempo explores a different angle – how nickel is laundered by officials to sheltering companies, deriving locals of not only their land, but also financial benefits.

This is surprising (in a good way). An Indonesian court not only sentenced a palm oil billionaire to not only 15 years in prison for establishing illegal plantations in Sumatra, but also to pay $2.7 billion in fines – the costliest corruption case in the country’s history (Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay).

Important: remember being shocked when journalist Gauri Lankesh was assassinated in Bangalore, India in 2017 – a sign of, even back then, how bad the situation was for the press under the BJP regime. Forbidden Stories, an outlet that aims to finish the reporting of journalists who’ve been killed or silence, is launching a series on her, starting with what happened the night of her murder, how the killers remain at large, and her reporting on disinformation and the Hindu-far-right.

The shutdown of Cambodian outlet VOD is a huge loss for us at Asia Undercovered, who regularly features their reporting on the increasingly authoritarian country. Engage Media has a good summary of why this is harmful for digital rights, press freedom, and more.

And in Thailand, the hunger strike by activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong has led to the two to admitted to the hospital after 44 days. They are calling for the release of all political prisoners, reform of the judicial system, and for the repeal of the royal defamation and sedition law (Prachatai).

Worth reading: this piece by Marcus Andreopoulus for 9DashLine on the new head of Pakistan’s military, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the political challenge he faces from former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is seeking to return to office after he was deposed last year.

I missed this – in late 2022, there was a peaceful transfer of power in Fiji, a fragile democracy. In this piece for East Asia Forum, Richard Herr explains the key challenges facing the country, and what it will take for democracy to take root.

Anwar Ibrahim has hit the 100-day mark as Prime Minister in Malaysia. Between the Lines explores how he has been faring in this piece. One key takeaway: his focus on confidence-building rather than politicking has led to increased support among Malaysians – and hope for a turn away from the divisive politics of the past.

And we have a date for what is likely the most important election in Southeast Asia this year, and one we’ll be watching very, very closely.

Solutions Stories

Long before trans issues became a buzzword in the west, Shinta Ratri founded an Islamic pesantren school for trans women, providing a lifeline for some of Indonesia’s most marginalized people. She passed away last month, but her legacy will live on, particularly in the Islamic world (Coconuts).

Did you know that Southeast Asian movies are growing share in the regional box office? Learn more about local cinema in this great piece by Nasya Bahfen. focusing on some recent hit films you won’t find on any streaming service. Can’t wait to watch them! (The Conversation)

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.