Akan Datang: Elections, Money Laundering, and some Crazy Rich Asians

Hello New Naratif readers! Another week, and more predictions about the stories to watch in Southeast Asia. On the books for the middle of August, we have election news from around the region, billions of dollars missing in Malaysia, and the Crazy Rich Asians opening. To add to this, Indonesia continues to be rocked by earthquakes and there are more arrests happening in Vietnam.

Can everything just calm down for a second, please!

We are also thrilled to announce that New Naratif has launched a new podcast today in addition to our fortnightly regional series Southeast Asia Dispatches. Our new series, Political Agenda, is a fortnightly roundtable discussion series on current affairs and issues of national importance in Singapore, hosted by Managing Director PJ Thum and Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Han. In the first episode, we talk nationalism and National Day in Singapore with political scientist Dr Ian Chong and theatre director—and former National Day Parade creative director—Glen Goei.

And if you want more coverage on national identity in Singapore, our Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Han wrote this piece on the many ways to be Chinese Singaporean.  

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


The big story in Indonesia at the moment is still the terrible news of a series of earthquakes in Lombok which have hit the island hard and left hundreds dead. VOA has this piece which details some of the devastation and, on a related note, I really liked this feature in the Jakarta Post on the spokesperson of the Disaster Mitigation Agency, ‘Pak’ Sutopo, who is everyone’s go-to source of information in a crisis. Sadly Sutopo is suffering from terminal cancer—and I can personally vouch for his kindness, professionalism and patience on the number of occasions I’ve messaged him asking for information for one of my reports. A true credit to Indonesia.

The other big news across the archipelago relates to the upcoming presidential elections to be held in April 2019. It will now be a race between current president Joko Widodo and former Major General Prabowo Subianto—a rerun of the 2014 elections. Various pieces on the controversial VP picks abound like this one in the Financial Times about Ma’ruf Amin and this one in Coconuts about Sandiaga Uno.

And, electoral commentator and journalist, Ericssen, wrote this great piece “Inside the VP Hunt Drama” which is well worth a read.


Talking of elections, Lowy Institute has this comprehensive piece which features a profile on former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and looks at the 2019 elections in Thailand—which have been promised since 2014.

Also over in Thailand, just when it seemed as if things were getting a little quieter in the conflict-ridden south of the country, there’s news that two defence volunteers have been killed. As such, we may hear more about attacks picking up again in this part of Thailand in the coming weeks—although we hope not!


And if you still want more election coverage, we published this research piece on the importance of local elections in Malaysia, which were abolished in 1965.

But of course the really big news out of Malaysia to watch over the coming weeks is the fact that former PM Najib has been charged with money laundering during his time in office. As per the BBC, “Mr Najib, members of his family and several allies are accused of embezzling huge sums allegedly used to buy everything from artwork to high-end real estate around the globe.


From Myanmar, our contributor Victoria Milko has this news:

On Thursday the Myanmar government released a statement in regards to the ICC requesting a response to seek jurisdiction over the suspected deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar to Bangladesh. The gist of their answer?

Myanmar is not party to the Rome Statute and the Court has no jurisdiction on Myanmar whatsoever.

With 25 August marking one year since the latest mass Rohingya exodus the statement has already caused a stir in the international law community, and it’ll be interesting to see the next steps taken.

On the topic of Myanmar, we also published this piece this week on a women-led puppet theatre in Mandalay bringing health and hygiene awareness to Burmese villages.


Over in Vietnam, we have news of yet more arrests, this time of an activist who was put under house arrest for defacing a flag.

We’ve covered the recent spate of arrests following protests in Vietnam here at New Naratif and this seems to be a continuing trend in the clampdown on freedom of speech, expression and assembly in the country.


Crazy Rich Asians is only opening in Singapore on 22 August, but it’s already premiered in Los Angeles to great fanfare, so the promotion and anticipation will be heating up on the island over the next week. The film is being hyped as a milestone for the Asian American community as it’s the first Hollywood-backed movie in 25 years to have an all-Asian cast, but it’s also a film set in Singapore with mainly Singaporean characters… but none of Singapore’s ethnic minority groups are represented. Singaporean cast members—none of whom were among the main cast—also told Yahoo! Singapore that they wish there was more Singlish in the film.

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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