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Asia Undercovered Weekly Updates: 10 March 2021

Asia Undercovered Weekly Updates: 10 March 2021

Undercovered this week

Feb 28th was a terrible day in Asia, with a mass arrests in Hong Kong and the most violent day yet in the Myanmar coup crackdown. And its a day with a dark history too.

In India, conspiracy theories can result in legislation now, apparently. The BJP is pushing laws to clampdown on “love jihad,” or the baseless belief that Muslims are seeking to deceive and marry Hindu women with the goal of converting them (sumit Ganguly, Madras Courier).

Ramesh Bhushal reports for Nepal Times on the Budi Gandaki project, which would be Nepal’s largest hydropower dam. He calls it a mirage, because it’s been in various planning stages for a decade, delayed by politics and compensation issues, and now, the Chinese contractor is incommunicado.

Banana Island is a 312 hectrare large, just off the red river by Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, the last vestige of green near the center of a growing megacity and one that is, amazingly, not facing any immediate threats of development. Explore this unique community through Ashley Lampard’s excellent piece for SEA Globe.

On a more worrying note, further south, by the Mekong Delta – one of the most densely populated regions of the world, the construction of dams by China upstream are impacting agriculture, land fertility, and water availability, leaving local communities fearful for their future (Sen Nguyen, SCMP).

It’s not getting much attention, but protests in India by farmers are continuing, even as they are facing increased repression from the central government. In this piece, Anita Makri explores what these farmers want, featuring researcher Poonal Pandey (Wordwise).

Meanwhile, farmers across the border in Pakistan are gearing up to begin protesting too, calling for demands related to their ability to survive as farmers. A sign of cross-border solidarity even among countries that are traditionally enemies (Kundar Shahid, The Diplomat).

Sad news from Bangladesh. Writer and commentator Mushtaq Ahmed has died in jail under suspicious circumstances. CPJ and allies are calling for an immediate investigation.

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece by Indonesian author Okky Madasari about her travels with East Timor independence hero Jose Ramos Horta, a man she describes as neither Che Guevara nor Sukarno, but a realistic leader who has experienced, endured and overcome many things (Jakarta Post).


Not much in election news this week, but I did want to share this piece about the ongoing political transition inside Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party. Despite the holding of power by conservatives, Alexander L Vuving argues that it’s only a matter of time before more a new generation take control (East Asia Forum).


Water is becoming more scarce in South Asia, and as climate change results in less rain, the demand for it will become an ever growing issue across the region (T.V. Padma, The Third Pole).

Worth watching: China’s military footprint is expanding across Central Asia. The recent incident in Afghanistan, where Chinese intelligence were trying to create a fake Uyghur cell to draw in militant Uyghurs, may be a sign of increased willingness to flex, argues Rafaello Pantucci in Carnegie Moscow).

Could Indonesia play a role in rallying a regional response to the Myanmar coup? With Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi traveling to the ASEAN neighbor, Jarryd de Haan asks what realistically can be done (Future Directions).

Solutions Stories

On a much lighter, but fun note, did you know that Malaysia has become a center for cartoon content production in Asia? This piece by Li Mei Foong for The Ken illuminates the people, companies, and challenges facing the country’s animators.

And in Cambodia, RECOFT shares a story about how villagers in O Taneung have been able to protect 613 acres of forest and turn it into a laboratory for sustainable development through conservation.

What I Reported

Upon request and despite my distaste for self-promotion, starting from this issue, once a month, I’ll share links to some of my reporting from Asia.

Asia Undercovered: In-depth round-ups and analysis of the news, events, trends and                 people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.