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.
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Family Dynasties in Asia
Cambodia could be turning into Asia’s next family dynasty, as signs are pointing to Hun Sen – who, after crushing the opposition in elections earlier this year, enjoys undisputed power, handing the reigns to his son Hun Manet in what would be another setback for democracy in Southeast Asia.
In fact, there are numerous family dynasties in Asia that enjoy considerable power, often at the expense of citizens. India has the Nehru-Gandhi family-controlled Congress party, now headed by Rahul Gandhi. Bangladesh’s current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, is the daughter of founding President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Recently imprisoned South Korean President Park Geun-hye is the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee. And Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is the son of the country’s longtime ruler Lee Kuan Yew.
Still not getting enough attention: Xinjiang human rights crisis
See these striking photos of empty mosques and shuttered shops in Xinjiang published in Albawaba. More and more people are starting to make the connection between these concentration camps and those in Germany in the 1930s.
The question is – will we respond now, or wait until it’s too late, like we did then? Until we do, I’ll be highlighting this in nearly every issue of this newsletter.
One change these past weeks – China has finally acknowledged the existence of these camps, but is calling them “vocational centers” and painting them out to be like vacation camp. Why the shift? Rian Thum has a worthy read in the New York Times. Thum has been one of the best experts for giving context on Xinjiang, having studied the region for decades. Follow him on Twitter here.
A tragedy in India as the 86 year old environmentalist GD Agrawal died after a 111 day fast. His cause – action to revive uninterrupted flow of the critically polluted Ganges River. (The third Pole)
Himalayan waters – which also feed the Ganges – are going to be a big issue in the coming decades. This is one of many issues facing the troubled region, which includes war-torn Kashmir, brutally oppressed Tibet, and landlocked Nepal. The Lowy Interpreter has a great piece on how infrastructure development and geopolitics is changing the rooftop of the world.
The one country doing relatively well in that region – Bhutan – held elections this past week. The center-left Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa party won in what was an incredibly civil campaign. This means the country’s next Prime Minister will be an urologist. Read more in Stratford Worldview.
I enjoyed this piece in Foreign Affairs by Christopher Balding on why so many Democracies, most notably Malaysia and Pakistan, are seeing an anti-Belt and Road Backlash. Something to watch in upcoming elections in Indonesia and Thailand in the coming months.
Bangladesh is sliding increasingly towards authoritarianism. One tool has been the ruling party’s ability to turn Universities – once a hotbed of activism – into centers of political control (The Diplomat).
What Asia can teach Brazil
The big news from earlier this week was obviously the elections of the racist, fascist, homophobic Jair Bolsonaro as President of Brazil, an election that could bring much pain and suffering for minorities, indigenous peoples, and the environment.
Two years ago, it was the Philippines who was dealing with the shocking election of a fascist – and the results have been grim, with over 20,000 killed in a violent war on drugs, and attacks on the press increasing.
Walden Bello wrote a long, detailed letter in The Nation to counterparts in Brazil on the Philippines experience. He highlights one key point – how both countries results connect to the disappointment of liberal politics in post-dictatorial states. Well worth a read.
Until next week,