Visual Story Header - Northeast Asia
Asia Through the Lens
Regional / Global
Visual Story Header - Northeast Asia
Southeast Asia

Global

Policing beyond borders
Southeast Asia

 

24 October 2022This week, China’s abhorrence of dissent reached the streets of Manchester, England, when protesters outside the Chinese Consulate were allegedly dragged and beaten behind its gates. The incident has pushed the British government to call on Chinese authorities to respect peaceful dissent. Will President Xi Jinping heed this advice, or will it only further deteriorate the already-strained relations between the two countries? Recently, Xi reaffirmed his iron grip on the Northeast Asian superpower during the Chinese Communist Party’s congress and clinched a historic third term. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

U.S. - Afghanistan

Women forsaken
Southeast Asia

 

17 October 2022The US has slapped Afghanistan anew with visa sanctions, restricting the mobility of former and current Taliban members, over the extremist group’s brutal treatment of women. Rather than face the violence and humiliation of public punishment — just for leaving their homes — women in Afghanistan are driven to take their own lives. Meanwhile, girls continue to be barred from going to school. While efforts by the international community to hold the Taliban accountable are welcome, they are unlikely to be impactful enough to change ground realities in the country. How many generations of brave women will it take to win back the progress gained before the Taliban returned to power? Image shows Afghan women in front of the British Houses of Parliament protesting against the Taliban. (Photo: Kamil Kaczmarczyk/Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

Asia

Has ASEAN awakened?
Southeast Asia

 

10 October 2022Will the exclusion of Myanmar from the ASEAN Summit resolve the mounting problems of the military-led nation? Junta atrocities have frustrated neighbor nations, who have been at a loss of how to handle the Tatmadaw’s takeover of government, brutal dispersal of protesters and freedom fighters, and executions of political prisoners. The regional bloc has moved to keep Myanmar’s military representatives out of the roundtable, which could be signal that the ASEAN, after more than a year of lethargy, is finally taking concrete steps to help end the crisis in Myanmar? (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

Asia

Calls for climate justice
Southeast Asia

 

3 October 2022After the recent devastation of typhoon Karding (international name: Noru), environmental activists and defenders have called on the Philippine government and world leaders to finally wake up to the climate crisis and take action. This echoes cries across Southeast Asia, where some of the most brutal effects of the climate crisis are felt, despite the region being among the least responsible for irreparable environmental damage. Still, the world’s richest, most exploitative, and most extractive nations continue to play deaf, ignoring the outsized role they’ve played in the planetary meltdown. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia

Too late the hero
Southeast Asia

 

26 September 2022Japan this week turned its back on its controversial training program for Myanmar’s cadets and severed ties with other Burmese institutions. It also sent a stern diplomatic signal by barring Myanmar’s military delegation from Shinzo Abe’s funeral — but is it playing too late the hero? It took the Northeast Asian giant more than a year and the execution of four activists in Myanmar to take action, even if the brutal junta had violently silenced countless other protesters and human rights defenders. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

North and South Korea

Pandemic-pressured peninsula
Southeast Asia

 

12 September 2022Three years into the pandemic, but COVID-19 continues to expose governance gaps across the Korean peninsula. South Korea, despite its early success against the virus, is now struggling to keep it at bay while also having to contend with an impending influenza outbreak. This puts it in a compromised position to help its Northern neighbor, who is only now realizing the value of vaccines in curbing coronavirus spikes. As South Korea continues to curb pandemic restrictions, North Korea, hard-pressed to find vaccines, has little choice but to keep its overly strict movement restrictions. (Photo: Evelyn Jung/Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

U.S. - South Korea

The heavy toll of war
Southeast Asia

 

5 September 2022In a massive show of force, the U.S. and South Korea this week held the largest combined military drills in years. In light of the growing tensions with its northern neighbor, South Korea continues to pump funds into its armed forces, beefing up its defenses. These budget increases for the military come amid a wave of crises that reveal the fraying societal fabric of South Korea. The most recent floods that submerged huge swaths of the country exposed deep social divides, while the current pandemic shows no signs of abating. Can such a battered people still handle the heavy toll of war? (Photo: MaxG Photography/Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

Cambodia – Vietnam

The scourge of trafficking
Southeast Asia

 

29 August 2022Cambodia and Vietnam may have recently bolstered their diplomatic relationships — in part by sprucing friendship monuments between the two countries. But beneath the sheen of closer ties are cross-border problems that give the lie to appearances of diplomatic progress. A video that went viral last week showed dozens of Vietnamese workers escaping from a casino due to its abusive labor practices. Despite continued efforts between the governments of both countries, the human trafficking situation in the region is only getting worse, pushing authorities from another neighboring country, Thailand, to issue a warning against job offers in Cambodia that were too good to be true.

Southeast Asia

Malaysia – Thailand

Malaysia mulls medical marijuana
Southeast Asia

 

22 August 2022 — In a country where mere possession of cannabis can be met with the death sentence, Malaysia is now studying legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses, putting it in the running to be the second country in the region to remove weed from its narcotic list. Malaysian Public Health Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin is keen to study Thailand’s cannabis policy during the 75th World Health Assembly in May, paying particular focus to the glitches and pitfalls, which have led to the hospitalization of many for weed overuse.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia – Thailand – Myanmar

Cross-boundary solidarity
Southeast Asia

 

15 August 2022Artists and activists from Thailand and Myanmar showed their leaders what the word unity meant. Despite the clear and obvious atrocities of the Myanmar junta, governments under the ASEAN have been spineless and lukewarm in their condemnation. But on Aug. 8, in commemoration of the 34th anniversary of Myanmar’s 8888 uprising, Thai and Burmese activists gathered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to condemn General Min Aung Hlaing and his ruthless rule — as well as to pay tribute to democracy fighters executed by the junta. Demonstrators also slammed the ASEAN’s inaction and called for greater international recognition of and action on their plight. (Photo: Adirach Toumlamoon/Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

China – Taiwan – Japan – U.S.

Defying China
Southeast Asia

 

8 August 2022U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan has triggered much military posturing from China, in turn raising alarm bells for the international community. While formal U.S. policy continues to be ambiguous, Pelosi has been an outspoken critic of China and supporter of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Aside from the intensified defense drills, which global powers such as the U.S. and Japan have condemned, China has also terminated some channels of formal communication with the U.S. following Pelosi’s trip. These include high-level climate and military talks, further imperiling global cooperations and escalating geopolitical tensions.

Southeast Asia

Myanmar – ASEAN

Spineless ASEAN
Southeast Asia

 

1 August 2022Despite much objection from the international community, Myanmar’s military junta has executed four pro-democracy activists. This highlights the colossal and continued failure of the ASEAN, chaired by Cambodia, to resolve the crisis, and help restore democracy, in the war-torn country. The regional bloc has previously come up with a Five-Point consensus in an attempt to put an immediate end to the violence of the junta — but this proven to be completely toothless. Many activists continue to languish in Myanmar’s jails, while thousands more remain in fear of arrest and assault. (Photo: R. Bociaga/Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

Global

A slow red alert
Southeast Asia

 

25 July 2022Alarmed that some 25 million children had missed their scheduled immunizations, the WHO and UNICEF declared a “red alert for child health. This announcement appears to be a more reactive than proactive measure, given that it comes nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged health systems worldwide. Developing countries — often the last to receive vaccine shipments from their wealthy counterparts — have always struggled to maintain good immunization coverage. Despite this handicap, however, many Asian nations such as India and Pakistan are ramping up vaccination drives and have even successfully arrested their backslides.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia – Bangladesh

Helping the helpless
Southeast Asia

 

18 July 2022To celebrate five decades of diplomatic relations, Bangladesh and Indonesia are reaffirming both of their commitments to alleviate the plight of Rohingya refugees. This time around, the partnership is seeking the cooperation of the ASEAN, too. After all, before they were denied their citizenship, the Rohingya were originally from Myanmar, a member state of the regional bloc. In the meantime, Indonesia has granted refuge to more than 900 Rohingya, allowing them to come ashore in its southern Aceh province. (Photo: Sk Hasan Ali/Shutterstock.com)

Southeast Asia

Japan – Global

Death of a statesman
Southeast Asia

11 July 2022 — The murder of Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe in Nara has shocked not just the Northeast Asian country but also the rest of the world — not least because it happened in a country with some of the strictest gun control laws and a generally peaceful society. According to Japan’s National Police Agency, since 2017, less than five people per year have been killed in shooting incidents, a very low number by global standards. From both sides of the political aisle, much has been said about Abe’s death. On one hand, an outpouring of appreciation for the former champion of multilateralism; on the other, a flood of criticism for his historical revisionism and hawkish foreign policy.

Southeast Asia

Hong Kong – Asia

Hong Kong autonomy gone, China reigns supreme
Southeast Asia

4 July 2022 — Twenty-five years since the handover from British rule, democracy remains elusive for Hong Kong. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to commemorate the handover highlighted the intensified repression of civil liberties in the city. Avery Ng, former leader of the League of Social Democrats, Hong Kong’s last active pro-democracy party, was also placed under house arrest. Just ahead of the July 1 handover anniversary, the homes of activist group members were searched by the National Security police. Prospects remain grim for Hong Kong, having no political opposition to speak of, after they were arrested, banned from running, or forced to flee the country for their safety.

Southeast Asia

Philippines-China

Squeezed by geopolitics
Southeast Asia

27 June 2022 — As outgoing Philippine president Duterte ends his bloody 6-year term, he leaves the country in an even more precarious geopolitical position. Last week, citing constitutional constraints, Duterte ordered the termination of joint oil exploration discussions with China, undoing previous agreements between the two countries—and inflaming their long-standing territorial tension. Duterte’s move, ostensibly a belated attempt to assert the archipelago’s sovereignty in the hotly contested West Philippine Sea, is expected to impose an even tighter squeeze on fisherfolk, who have largely been deprived of their livelihoods following aggressive Chinese posturing in the disputed waters.

Southeast Asia

China-Tibet

State-sanctioned silence
Southeast Asia

20 June 2022 —Time and again China has shown it does not relent from tightening the noose on the most basic rights, including access to direly needed aid, even in the face of disaster. This became evident anew when Beijing imposed a strict news blackout in the earthquake-hit province of Sichuan in Tibet while telling the affected communities to report deaths and injuries only to the government. Amid a strict clampdown on social media posts, web reports, and even photos in the aftermath of the June 10 magnitude 6.0 earthquake, government help was not immediately forthcoming to the 25,000 Tibetans displaced by the disaster, as rescue teams took three days to arrive.

Southeast Asia

India–Malaysia

Stoking bigotry
Southeast Asia

13 June 2022 — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to have grown increasingly bare-faced about their anti-Muslim discrimination, passing policies that unfairly impact the religious minority. Recent derogatory remarks from BJP members against the Muslim Prophet Muhammad are but the latest demonstration of the party’s tradition of bigotry, sparking outrage both domestically and internationally. Last week, India’s High Commission to Malaysia distanced New Delhi from these offensive remarks after being summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country. On the home front, violent protests show no signs of abating.

Southeast Asia

South and Southeast Asia

Fighting a losing war
Southeast Asia

6 June 2022 — Despite the protracted drug war, the flow of drugs from and across Asia has grown from a steady stream to a raging river. Last week, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime reported that more than 1 billion methamphetamine tablets were seized in East and Southeast Asia, a sevenfold increase from 10 years prior. Weak public governance, rampant corruption, and the decline of human rights mechanisms in Southeast Asia have made it one of the world’s most important hubs for the production and transport of illegal drugs. Efforts to derail the drug trade, therefore, might also need to address public order in the region.

Southeast Asia

Malaysia – Singapore

Drained and drawn to greener pastures
Southeast Asia

23 May 2022 — In Malaysia’s southern state of Johor, the local health care system hangs in precarious balance as it faces a critical shortage of 15,000 to 18,000 nurses. According to State Health and Unity Committee chairman Ling Tian Soon, this is due to the growing brain drain among frontline health workers, who are drawn by much better wages in neighboring Singapore, which sometimes matches even that of junior specialist doctors in Malaysia.

Southeast Asia

Cambodia – China

Trafficked and trapped
Southeast Asia

16 May 2022 — Beguiled by the promise of earning USD 500-2,000 per month, women and girls from Cambodia are being lured to China, where they find themselves jobless and trapped in an abusive arranged marriage. Though this trafficking scheme started picking up in 2016, authorities report a worrying spike amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to experts, this is a direct result of China’s one-child policy, which gave birth to a lopsidedly male-dominated population—and an alarming demand for women.

Southeast Asia

India

Media on life support
Southeast Asia

9 May 2022 — India’s aversion to critical journalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch has put a growing number of journalists under tight surveillance or led to the detention of a number of them. Calls to immediately release detained journalists continue to fall on deaf ears, reinforcing widespread perceptions of the government’s negative attitude toward the press. In the most recent World Press Freedom Ranking Index, India ranked 150 of 180 countries, down from its 142nd spot the year before. This is in step with the rest of South Asia: Media freedom in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have deteriorated. Nepal is the only country in the region to buck this trend, climbing 30 spots from last year’s ranking.

Southeast Asia

Myanmar – ASEAN

ASEAN's five-point failure
Southeast Asia

25 April 2022 — A year after adopting its five-point consensus on Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Nations has failed to make any substantial progress in restoring democracy in the crisis-gripped country. Neither the first nor the second special envoys managed to convince the military junta to grant them access to democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. In frustration, Malaysia, through its top diplomat, has reached out to the democratically elected National Unity Government (NUG), sparking hopes that at least one member of the regional bloc recognizes the legitimacy of the NUG. But doubts remain over the prospects for peace in Myanmar.

Southeast Asia

Global

Urging international action
Southeast Asia

18 April 2022 — Can India continue to brand itself as the world’s biggest democracy if its press freedom continues to spiral steeply downward? In a recent report, the US state department has identified several instances where the Indian government harassed media workers or outlets that were critical of it. Human rights abuses are also on the rise in the country, alarming experts, who have called on the international community to support sanctions against India’s officials involved in serious human rights violations.

Southeast Asia

Cambodia – Malaysia

Crackdown on
call center cartel
Southeast Asia

1 April 2022 — Malaysian authorities have flagged fake call center job opportunities in Cambodia, which have attracted, duped, and entrapped at least a hundred Malaysians — some of them minors. According to local media reports, these scams force their employees, through intimidation and abuse, to work in slave-like conditions, pushing them into cyber prostitution or online fraud. In early April, the Royal Malaysian Police, with the help of Interpol, ASEAN Police, and Cambodian authorities, rescued 16 workers who had fallen for this scheme.

Southeast Asia

South Asia

Still waiting for Pakistan's apology 52 years on
Southeast Asia

28 March 2022 — On the country’s 52nd Independence Day, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen slammed Pakistan for failing to apologize and be accountable for their crimes against Bengalis in the Liberation War of 1971. Apologizing for yesterday’s atrocities today, said Momen, would ensure that Islamabad would not commit them again tomorrow. Bangladesh, then still known as East Pakistan, gained independence in 1971 after a long and bloody war, where Pakistani forces reportedly killed 3 million Bengalis and raped hundreds of thousands of women.

Southeast Asia

Cambodia

Caring for newborns in the time of COVID-19
Southeast Asia

21 March 2022 — Do moms pass COVID-19 to their unborn babies? The science is still out, but authorities still urge mothers to heed precautions from experts rather than from local rumor mills. Recent reports have shown that while babies born to mothers with COVID-19 are highly unlikely to test positive, it still pays to isolate them from infected individuals after birth. Moreover, experts say pregnant women shouldn’t fear COVID-19 vaccination, which has been shown to be safe and even beneficial for their babies.

Southeast Asia

Asia

Post-pandemic woes and hopes
Southeast Asia

14 March 2022 — What will life look like after COVID-19? According to the International Labour Organization, more than 200 million people will be unemployed this year, losing their livelihoods to stagnant economies beset by lockdowns. In an attempt to revitalize and boost their workforce, India, Singapore, Malaysia, and other countries across Asia are relying on upskilling. These governments have upped investments and incentives to support learning programs in sectors such as information technology, healthcare, and other digital industries.

Southeast Asia

Global

Caught in the crossfire
Southeast Asia

7 March 2022 — Russia’s sudden invasion of Ukraine has also triggered a war of words between the two sovereign states. In a series of tweets, both countries have flung accusations of racial profiling against each other, alleging that Indian students are being held hostage at borders, while white refugees are easily allowed through. India has since denied these claims, but this episode reveals that it’s the innocent, everyday people who suffer the most from senseless wars.