Asia Undercovered #5: The red scare in Asia
This week: Asia’s ongoing red scale, a unexpected anti-LGBT backlash against GoJek in Indonesia, and more undercovered news from Thailand, China, and the Philippines.
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Not getting enough attention: The “Red” Scare in Asia
We’ve seen a resurgence in anti-communist fear-mongering over the past few years in Asia. In South Korea, the new right-wing Korean Patriots' Party is resurrecting dictatorship-era red baiting rhetoric to chastise President Moon Jae-in for his overtures to North Korea. In Indonesia, online memes are falsely accusing President Joko Widodo of being a secret communist, and his response has been to spew threats of violence against the Communism and promote a dictatorship era anti-communist propaganda film.
In fact, the Communist Party and its left-wing brethren are banned in many major Asian democracies, including Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand (if elections are ever held). While the reasons and contexts vary, I firmly believe the lack of a true left is one reason we’re seeing rising Islamism and nationalism in so many Asian countries.
Even China is quashing Marxist groups. In my opinion, the country’s post-Mao system resembles a fascist, nationalist, capitalist state more than a Communist one.
Southeast Asia is in the middle of nearly all of Asia’s geopolitical spats but most news on the region focuses on whether countries are either on China or the US’s side. Beginda Pakpahan argues in Global Asia that Indonesia needs to play a larger role in leading and creating a third power pillar in Asia.
A horrific attack left nine farmers dead in the Philippines due to a land dispute with a massive sugar company. This is not an isolated incident – locals and indigenous people around the world are killed regularly in land disputes, with perpetrators rarely held responsible. (Rappler and Mongabay)
Vietnam is going to have a new President (again). Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, is expected to be chosen. Read Mike Tatarski’s take on why this is potentially problematic for Al Jazeera.
In Indonesia, Grab, a regional ride-hailing app, faced criticism for failing to adequately respond to an allegation of sexual assault by a driver. But when it’s main rival, Go-Jek, saw its vice president try to respond by saying the company was open to diversity, including LGBT employees, it faced a right-wing backlash. Satu Pelangi argues it’s time for Go-Jek to come out of the closet.
Air travel in Asia is surging. In fact, within a decade, nearly all of the world’s busiest airports will be in Asia. Jun Suzuki reports in Nikkei on how several are planning massive expansions, including Bangkok, Singapore, and Jakarta.
Surprisingly, the new King in Thailand has overseen a drop in use of lese majeste. A positive sign ahead of long promised and delayed elections next year? (Asia Times via Splice)
One Pakistani diplomat dared to bring up the Uyghur crisis. His Chinese counterpart responds by trolling him.
Lastly, Some Inspiration
A hero I’d never heard of: Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara saved an estimated 6,000 Jewish lives by writing hand-written visas when stationed in Lithuania. Read this profile about a simple man who did so much yet never sought recognition for his actions.
Until next week,
Asia Undercovered: Journalist Nithin Coca's weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.