Southeast Asia

Dateline Southeast Asia – December 15 to 21, 2020

Dateline Southeast Asia – December 15 to 21, 2020

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 25, 2020, a boat carrying Rohingya migrants arrives on the shorelines of Lancok village, in Indonesia's North Aceh Regency. Boatloads of Rohingya landing across Southeast Asia are victims of complex human trafficking networks run by a dizzying web of players, from crime bosses and corrupt cops to poor fishermen, rickshaw drivers and even Rohingya themselves.



The unresolved issue of the Rohingya refugess has resurfaced after reports that they were preyed upon in a human trafficking network involving high-seas extortion gangs, corrupt police, and illegal drugs across Indonesia and Malaysia.

Most of the exploitation happens in international waters, along the porous borders of Southeast Asia.

Read about this, as well as, stories about other countries in the region here.

Bookmark and refresh this page for updates and analyses of the latest news in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.


SINGAPORE: Country gets Asia’s first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse

Singapore received Asia’s first delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, December 21, capping what the city-state’s premier said had been a “long and arduous” year spent fighting the pandemic.

The trade and finance hub last week joined a handful of other countries around the world, including Britain and the United States, which have approved the jab.

It plans to inoculate its 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021, with priority given to health workers, the elderly and the medically vulnerable.

Read more here.

THAILAND: Oops! News site uses Harry Roque GIF to stress COVID-19 warnings

How can the public prevent COVID-19?

To reiterate safety precautions against the coronavirus, the Thai Enquirer on Sunday, December 20, used a GIF featuring a controversial figure in the Philippines: Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“We have no idea who this person is,” the Thai Enquirer said. “We used this GIF because he’s round and Asian!”

In reaction, Roque said on Sunday, “Indeed, COVID-19 knows no borders, as the Thai news website succinctly puts it, ‘We’re all in this together.'”

SINGAPORE: Meet the city state’s taboo-breaking podcaster

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse

From vaginal warts to masturbation, taboo-breaking Singaporean podcaster Nicole Lim tackles topics that may make some squirm but has won a following in socially conservative Asian societies.

With her series “Something Private”, she has tapped into a growing appetite for more open discussion about sensitive issues affecting women in the city-state and beyond.

It has featured interviews on subjects ranging from domestic violence to disabled women’s dating experiences and intimate relationships involving multiple partners. Read the full story here.

PHILIPPINES: Restaurant in Cebu serves Southeast Asian meals and more

John Sitchon

In the face of a pandemic, business owners Joseph Danelle Sulit and Beverly Joy Sulit believe that running an Asian Fusion restaurant must also mean building a place that welcomes all kinds of families.

Originally, Banana Pancake Trail started around 2014 when the couple still worked as call center agents. At that time Joseph started a social media trend called “#BaonChronicles” where he posted pictures of his wife’s tasty Malay and Thai dishes. 

The two were avid fans of traveling and had embarked on what was called the “Banana Pancake Trail,” which later became the name of the business. The trail is the name given to growing routes around Southeast Asia traveled by backpackers and other tourists.  (Read the full story here.)

THAILAND: UN says ‘deeply troubled’ over Thai detentions

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse

The UN human rights body expressed alarm Friday, December 18, over Thailand’s detentions of democracy activists, including a minor of 16 years, under royal defamation laws.

“We are deeply troubled by the move by Thai authorities to charge at least 35 protesters in recent weeks, including a 16-year old student protester, under Article 112 – the lese majeste provision of Thailand’s criminal code,” the UN Human Rights Committee said in a statement.

The activists are facing charges for headlining recent demonstrations demanding reforms to the monarchy and more scrutiny of the royal family’s financial arrangements.

The kingdom’s lese majeste laws shield the super wealthy King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the royal family from criticism.

Read more here.

SINGAPORE: ‘Hawker’ culture gains UN recognition

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse

Once seen as lowly members of Singaporean society, cooks in the city-state’s bustling “hawker” centers are rejoicing this week after the United Nations recognized their food as a cultural treasure.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday, December 16, approved the country’s bid to have its street food included on a list of intangible cultural heritage, which also includes yoga, Chinese calligraphy and flamenco.

“In the past being a hawker was a job that was looked down on, it was seen as a beggar’s business,” says Ng Kok Hua, who sells traditional deep-fried delicacies from his small stall.

“And now it’s not, now the hawker culture in Singapore is globally recognized.”

Read more here.

MYANMAR: Gang rape victim wins legal battle with military

This photo taken on December 11, 2020 shows members of the Arakan Women Network speaking to soldiers outside a military court in Sittwe. Photo by STR / AFP

After being gang-raped by soldiers, steely-eyed Thein Nu went up against Myanmar’s powerful military in a months-long fight for justice – a fight that paid off with a rare legal victory.

Her 3 rapists were jailed for 20 years with hard labor, a sentence she hopes will give other survivors the courage to speak up and challenge the military’s impunity.

Lodging a legal complaint pitted the 36-year-old mother of 4 against Myanmar’s most powerful institution, whose soldiers have long been accused by rights groups of using rape as a weapon of war in the country’s conflict zones. Read the full story here.