Akan Datang: It’s a bit of an odd one this week…

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Hello New Naratif readers! We wonder if the news is a little strange this week, or if it’s just us. From a Facebook Live post telling us that Duterte is alive and kicking, to a miraculous lizard found in a Vietnamese restaurant, the stories just keep getting weirder, and we’re here to keep you up to date and fully informed!

Here at New Naratif, we started the week with this piece about the challenges of navigating Indonesia’s streets for disabled residents. This was then followed by my analysis of the Indonesian presidential elections scheduled for 2019—which saw me accused (on Twitter) of libelling presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto. If you listen to the second episode of our podcast series, Southeast Asia Dispatches, however, I do actually defend Prabowo and his (and his press team) on occasion… which is no easy task.

And talking of podcasts, we have a new episode of our fortnightly regional series Political Agenda on the site for you. This week our Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Han sits down with Ruby Thiagarajan of Mynah Magazine, Aisyah Amir of The Local Rebel and Faris Joraimi to talk about representation, inequality and Crazy Rich Asians from a Singaporean perspective. We hope you enjoy it!

Here are all the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week…


We start with Myanmar as it is going to be a big week on a number of fronts. Our contributor Victoria Milko has this dispatch:

Perhaps one of the biggest stories in the region this week is the verdict in the case of the Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, which is due on Monday, meaning it will be decided if the jailed duo will be imprisoned for up to 14 years for possessing “state secrets.” You can watch a video about the Reuters reporters here.

Saturday, 25 August marked the one-year anniversary of the latest Rohingya exodus, which caused over 7000,000 largely Rohingya refugees to flee into Bangladesh amid a brutal crackdown by the Burmese military. This week we’re likely to see a few pieces asking what the future holds for the most persecuted minority on earth.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss Myanmar on 28 August, and set to be opened by the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with other members making remarks after.

A major human rights groups is expected to launch a report that has been two years in the making. The report is going to be launched by Fortify Rights and is about Kachin State, based on documentation from 2013 to 2018—so that’s certainly one to look out for!

The Philippines

The news this week is a little nuts in places, and perhaps no more so than in the Philippines where there have been rumours circulating that President Duterte is about to die, which some might say is no bad thing. As one does, he countered these allegations by releasing a Facebook Live video that proves he’s not in a coma.

Asia Times also has fabulously blunt article entitled “Is Duterte Dying?


Last Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his National Day Rally speech, which addressed cost of living issues but also the matter of the 99-year lease on public housing flats. Since 80% of the population live in public housing, the question of what happens after the lease runs out is a matter of great concern, so you can expect more chatter to come this week.


Strangely enough, the big news coming out of Indonesia this week may actually be all about Australia. At the time of writing this column, the Prime Minister of Australia is Scott Morrison, who plans to fly to Jakarta within his first week in office to sign a long-awaited free trade deal. I feel this trip is also going to set the tone for Aus-Ind relations for the future, so this is definitely one to watch to see how it all plays out.

We also have the news that Julie Bishop is no longer going to serve as Australian foreign affairs minister, and it will be interesting to see who takes her place, as Bishop has long been a great champion of Indonesia—whatever you may think of her wider politics. I’d give my right arm to read a piece on how her relationship with her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, was central in reviving ties between the two countries, so hopefully someone will write one this week.

And also in Indonesia we have this sad news that revered short story writer (and North Sumatra boy), Hamsad Rangkuti, has died. If you haven’t read Maukah Kamu Menghapus Bekas Bibirnya di Bibirku Dengan Bibirmu? (Would You Erase the Trace of His Lips on My Lips with Your Lips?), then do so now.


In Vietnam, the news has broken of the death of John McCain, and we liked this piece which talks aboutthe reaction on the ground. “As news of John McCain’s death hit Vietnam, the country he once bombed and in which he spent five years in a squalid prisoner-of-war camp, many mourned the loss of the former US senator.”

A poignant read.

And in slightly less sad news, a new self-cloning lizard has been found in a Vietnamese restaurant in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. “A popular dish on Vietnamese menus is made from a newly discovered lizard that reproduces via virgin birth, scientists say.”

And that’s a wrap on this week in Southeast Asia! If you have a tip on a news story you would like to see featured in Akan Datang, then send it to us via northsumatra.editor@newnaratif.com!

See you next week!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to join our movement to create space for research, conversation, and action in Southeast Asia, please subscribe to New Naratif—it’s just US$52/year (US$1/week)!

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