SOUTHEAST ASIA AND OCEANIA
The Southeast Asia and Oceania Section of IR Insider publishes breaking news reports and analysis from Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, and other Southeast Asian and Oceanic nations. Topics covered by the Southeast Asia and Oceania Section may range from conferences within ASEAN to the Myanmarese elections and beyond. Our section editor is Desmond Yeoh.
The King of Malaysia, after receiving advice from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and consulting with the Council of Rulers, appointed Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat as the country’s first female chief justice on Thursday. The Prime Minister’s Office announced that the appointment would come into effect immediately.
In a town hall on Thursday, the National University of Singapore (NUS) announced its plans to overhaul the school’s systems for supporting sexual assault victims after backlash over a “peeping Tom” incident.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, 57, announced that he won his second five-year term with 54 to 56 percent of the votes in preliminary election results on Wednesday, reneging on his commitment to wait on official results as his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, made allegations of vote-rigging.
On Tuesday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong doubled down on the anti-fake news legislation that his government proposed to parliament earlier last week.
A new criminal statute in Brunei, based on updated sections of Brunei’s Shariah Penal Code, made sex between men punishable by stoning offenders to death. The harsh laws, which took effect on Wednesday, triggered an international outcry amongst Western countries, human rights groups, students and a host of celebrities.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar and its de-facto leader, has called on global investors to channel funds to the nation’s crisis-hit state of Rakhine, asserting that the international community ought to stop focusing only on the “negative aspects” in the province where a reported 750,000 Rohingya have fled.
Maria Ressa, the head of a Philippine news website that has been at odds with President Rodrigo Duterte, has been granted bail just a day after her highly controversial arrest on libel charges that have been widely perceived as an effort by the government to bully journalists.
On Wednesday, February 13th, Thailand’s Election Commission announced that it will put forward a recommendation to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart Party, which nominated Princess Ubolratana as their Prime Ministerial candidate, from participating in the general election on March 24. In a previous report, the Election Commission barred Princess Ubolratana from running as a candidate, stating that she cannot “hold any political office” due to her royal heritage.
After 24 hours of drama and uncertainty, the Election Commission of Thailand has disqualified the princess of Thailand from running for Prime Minister.
Huang Xiangmo, a prominent Chinese political donor suspected of making campaign contributions to further the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda in Australia, has been stripped of his permanent residency in the country. On top of that, Mr. Huang’s application for Australian citizenship has also been denied by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on “character grounds.” Officials accused Mr. Huang of making false claims during his interviews and had deep concerns about the “reliability” of the information that he provided.
Following the deadly church bombing that took place in the southern region of the Philippines over the weekend, the nation’s interior minister claimed that the attack was perpetrated by an Indonesian couple with assistance from an Islamic State-linked group known as Abu Sayyaf.
Malaysia and Singapore are once again at loggerheads: this time over an airspace and maritime dispute as Malaysia pushes for more control over its air and sea territorial borders in the south.
Singapore’s ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), has named Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as the party’s next first assistant secretary-general, a position which is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate.
The never-ending saga of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal took yet another surprising twist when the Auditor-General of Malaysia, Tan Sri Dr. Madinah Mohamad, revealed that all paragraphs mentioning the presence of businessman Low Taek Jho, who is better known as Jho Low, at a 1MDB board of directors meeting were removed from the company’s final audit report.
The former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, has been arrested after being found guilty of seven counts of graft. However, legal experts believe that she could successfully appeal the conviction and not receive any jail time due to her advanced age. If the appeals court upholds the lower court’s ruling, Mrs. Marcos could potentially challenge that decision at the Supreme Court.
The recent by-election in Myanmar saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) lose six constituencies - a sign that local support for the first democratically elected leader of Myanmar is dwindling.
In what could be the worst aviation disaster of 2018, Lion Air Flight JT610 crashed into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia, leaving authorities in a desperate scramble to search for survivors.
All 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to share intelligence in order to combat the rising threat of Islamist militancy in the region, announced Dr Ng Eng Hen, the Defense Minister of Singapore, on Saturday.
In the aftermath of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on Sulawesi island and effectively wiped out the city of Palu, the World Bank has announced that it will provide a loan of up to US$1 billion to the Southeast Asian nation. Current estimates have recorded the total physical cost of the earthquake at US$531 million.
Prolonged trade war between the United States and China may pose profound threats to ASEAN and the global economy, warned Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, during an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, Oct. 7.
On Friday morning, a three-meter-high (10 feet) tsunami triggered by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake unleashed devastation on the Indonesian city of Palu. With a population of 350,000, Palu is located on the island of Sulawesi, one of the hardest hit regions of the Indonesian archipelago.
With the European Union (EU) voting overwhelmingly to ban the use of palm oil in transport fuels, the future of Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil farmers is looking increasingly bleak.
While the U.S. is currently battling Hurricane Florence, Southeast Asia faces a natural threat of its own: Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which stormed through the Philippines over the weekend and claimed dozens of lives in its deadly path.
On Sept. 3, 2018, two Malaysian women were caned for having sexual intercourse in a car, placing Malaysia’s ultraconservative anti-LGBTQ laws in the global spotlight. The harsh sentence passed down by the Islamic courts was roundly condemned by many human rights groups such as Amnesty International, who called it “a terrible day for human rights”. In the remarks, the judge added that the caning was “a lesson and reminder … [to] the members of society”.
On Sunday, April 28, over 1,000 people in the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai publicly protested against a luxury housing development on forested land.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Sunday that the ban on Filipino workers from going to Kuwait is now permanent, intensifying diplomatic tensions between the Southeast Asian country and the oil-rich Persian Gulf nation.
Last Thursday, a senior Myanmar minister expressed his concerns over the “very poor conditions” of Rohingya refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, insisting that the upcoming monsoon season should be the catalyst for the repatriation of the country’s beleaguered Muslim minority.
Indonesia’s largest sulfur mine is rapidly transforming into a tourist destination with many miners quitting their jobs to become tour guides. However, international attention is quickly shifting to the extreme working conditions experienced by the sulfur miners.
The United States is looking to send thousands of Vietnamese immigrants, most of whom are refugees, back to the communist-ruled country, despite the existence of a bilateral agreement between the two nations that protect many of them from deportation, according to the ex-US Ambassador to Vietnam.