Akan Datang: Vietnam goes football-mad again

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Akan Datang: our contributors’ take on the stories to watch in Southeast Asia this week, curated by Regional Editor Aisyah Llewellyn.

Hello New Naratif readers! This week we’re delighted to announce that, while there’s still some sad news in Vietnam, it isn’t the usual fire and brimstone of the last few weeks or months—which is something of a relief. This week we have football fever in Vietnam, US-Brunei bilateral relations, and some crispy Indonesian duck in Singapore. Tuck in!

We started off our coverage this week with an underreported climate change story on the issue of blue carbon in Indonesia. You can read the Bahasa Indonesia version of the article here. We then published this piece about ethnic Vietnamese who are being evicted from their floating villages in Cambodia.

We also aired a new episode of our fortnightly regional podcast, Southeast Asia Dispatches, which features free speech activism in Myanmar; how Bangkok’s street food is disappearing amid city sidewalk cleanups; an interview with a journalist who reported from the scene of a devastating earthquake in Indonesia; and an op-ed on media restrictions in Singapore. Southeast Asia Dispatches is available on Spotify or you can subscribe on iTunes.

Our team’s been busy in Kuala Lumpur for our first open meeting in Malaysia, so instead of a new episode of Political Agenda, we’ll be airing a lecture that our Managing Director PJ Thum delivered at Stanford University in October. He discusses the history of Singapore, covering how the country developed politically and socially from as a post-colonial country in the 1960s to the much-envied yet authoritarian state that it is today. It goes up tomorrow, so keep an eye out for it on Spotify and on iTunes.

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


The ASEAN Summit took place in Singapore last week, and we’re all a little underwhelmed, as it came across as rather dull with no real drama or stand out news to speak of. To prove that theory, here’s some grassroots coverage of one of the highlights of ASEAN, which is actually just Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo eating fried duck on Orchard Road.


Over in Vietnam our contributor Mike Tatarski has this news:

Tropical Storm Toraji formed off the southern coast of Vietnam late last week, and it drenched parts of southern Vietnam over Saturday and Sunday. The worst-hit area was around Nha Trang, the coastal city famed for its beaches. Roads around the area were inundated by heavy rain, while landslides in the mountains outside of town left at least 12 dead. It’s possible that this death toll will rise as rescuers reach other villages and towns hit by torrential downpours. Another tropical storm may form east of the Philippines this week and move towards Vietnam, so people will need to keep a close eye on that development.

In much lighter news, Vietnam is performing extremely well in the ongoing AFF Cup. They beat Laos 3-0 in their tournament opener, and registered an exciting 2-0 win over Malaysia, considered one of the stronger teams, on Friday. Vietnam has truly gone football-mad this year, as their success at a U23 tournament in February gripped the nation and sent hundreds of thousands into the streets to celebrate several stirring victories. Similar scenes of jubilation followed Friday’s win in Hanoi and Saigon, and more can be expected if the team beats Myanmar on Tuesday evening. Vietnam last won the AFF Cup in 2008.


In Myanmar, our contributor Victoria Milko has this dispatch:

Repatriation is set to be in the spotlight for some time to come in Myanmar’s headlines. Repatriation of the Rohingya was scheduled for late last week but was ultimately halted amid officials from the United Nations, international NGOs, and the Rohingya themselves speaking out against what they call premature and unsafe conditions for the return. Myanmar held a press conference essentially saying that the impetus for return essentially depends on Bangladesh’s enforcement—but officials from Bangladesh also expressed concerns over premature return.

But there are some attempts by the Rohingya to leave Bangladesh. On Friday morning over 100 suspected Rohingya refugees were held aboard a boat off the coast of Yangon, suspected of trying to flee to Malaysia.


Brunei is a country that often doesn’t make much of a splash internationally, or when it does it’s usually for all the wrong reasons, like when celebrating Christmas was banned in public. This week however, we actually do have some serious and interesting headlines in the form of US-Brunei defence ties which have blossomed in 2018 and look set to deepen in 2019.


Over in Indonesia, we have another spate of bad news as LGBT communities around the country continue to be targeted. This time, there have been cases including several transgender women who were hosed down by police in Lampung, while the mayor of Padang, Mahyeldi Ansharullah, held a rally which condemned the LGBT community as part of his plans for “Padang Bebas Maksiat” or “Padang Free From Immorality”.

It would seem that this kind of anti-LGBT sentiment usually ramps up before election season as politicians and the local authorities scramble to curry favour by pretending that the LGBT community pose some kind of threat to society. Sadly, it seems that we’ll continue to see these kinds of incidents and events in the lead up to the election in April 2019.

We’ve published a number of pieces on LGBT rights in Indonesia and the stigma faced by this community, such as how LGBT individuals are turning to religious exorcisms to try and find a “cure”, and how the community has been labelled “more dangerous than nuclear war”.

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 aisyah.llewellyn@newnaratif.com !

See you next week!

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