Asia Undercovered Round-up: 12 April 2022
This week: Sri Lanka's worst crisis since independence, a new Prime Minister in Pakistan, and how India is surrounded by challenges in South Asia.’
Deserving More Attention: Sri Lanka Crisis
A nation of more than 20 million – similar in size to Taiwan or the Netherlands, is facing a widespread economic, social, and political crisis, one which some consider the worst since independence.
The ire has turned on Sri Lanka’s leadership, namely, the Rajapaksa brothers, who, despite their cabinet resigning, are clinging to power. Thousands are protesting in the capital Colombo (The Wire).
What I find especially frustrating is that, instead of focusing on the concerns of Sri Lankans, many are using these events to make broader political points based on their own self-interest. In India, this means praising the ruling BJP government for bringing stability (and forgetting how it, in many ways, enables this crisis through it’s geopolitical mistakes).
Amazingly, there’s even been a broad effort by agribusiness to pin the blame on the country’s shift to organic farming. It’s, as Bahar Dutt shows in this piece for The Quint, an overly simplistic framing, and ignores the broader need to support low-carbon agriculture.
The reality? As usual, its far more complex – why is why you should follow reporters who know Sri Lanka, not outsiders with agendas. Like this one (see the entire thread).
Also Undercovered last week
In a move that should have been condemned, China’s foreign minister met with Myanmar’s un-elected junta government, giving them unwarranted legitimacy. The parallel civilian government fired back, saying that this will damage China’s international reputation (The Irrawaddy).
Meanwhile, the parallels between how China has dealt with Myanmar and Ukraine, are clear, and concerning.
Terrible news from Thailand, as a court has acquired suspects in the attempted murder case against Dam On-muang, a land rights activist, a move that may undermine the safety of activists in the country (Prachatai).
For months, workers at the NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh, Cambodia have been protesting and striking against employees. Instead of helping or mediating, Josep Prat reports that the government is using Covid-19 to restrict and quash protests – so far, unsuccessfully (The Diplomat).
India has a new transgender portal, launched in November 2020, which, among other things, provides ID cards for transgender persons, crucial for their ability to receive education and other social services. Unfortunately, as Eisha Hussain reports for BehanBox, it’s, so far, ineffective due to red tape, apathy, and bias.
The island nation of Tonga saw elections last year bring in a new wave of independents – but not women, who remain excluded from the highest positions. In this piece for Policy Forum, Lepolo Tanisili and Sonia Palmieri break down the barriers for the country’s women politicians.
And in Southeast Asia’s largest democracy, Indonesia, the current President, Joko Widodo, will have to step down due to term limits. With elections scheduled for 2024, it’s time to start looking forward (East Asia Forum).
Meanwhile, Pakistan has a new caretaker Prime Minister, as Imran Khan was booted by Parliament. Elections may take place as soon as October.
Worth Watching: according to Rajeev Bhattacharyya, northeast Indian rebels groups are operating in Myanmar, used by the military in its fight against anti-junta forces – with potential implications for regional security (The Diplomat).
Myanmar is just one of many problems for India, alongside the crisis in Sri Lanka, instability in Pakistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan and China’s growing footprints in Nepal and Bangaldesh. For The Print, Nayanima Basu writes about the issues the government in Delhi is facing in its backyard, and its impacts.
Japan is no stranger to natural disasters, which have devastated many parts of the country over the past few years. It also, however, can demonstrate models around recovery and resilience. In this piece by ISHES shows how the power of community and sharing is impactful in post-disaster Atami (landslide) and Tohoku (earthquake).
Also enjoyed this article by Hartatik for Climate Tracker on how solar irrigation is helping farmers in Java, Indonesia resist drought and save money.
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.