Prehistoric Southeast Asia


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Image of Flores, Indonesia

In a number of earlier posts I have touched on some topics around Southeast Asia’s distant past.

Revisiting that theme was prompted by the thought provoking article here.

A one sentence summary of the article is that our understanding of the role and prominence of Asia in human evolutionary history is changing…again.

A couple of points I would make in response.

One point is the article’s reference to the cave art of Sulawesi being potentially the oldest in the world. I guess I will never see that art in person, but I will put a visit on my lifetime wish list. I have visited the ancient Aboriginal rock art at Mootawingee in Australia and that is something I will never forget.

Another point I would make (again) is that the article reminds us just how recent and arbitary our modern political boundaries are. These delineations are not reasonably undersood as a contest btween Asian history v Southeast Asian history or Indonesian history v Malaysia, this is our history.

And yet that concept is hard work. A sense of self built on national identity makes knowing our identity easier for us, in the same way that football team colours make it easier for us to identify us and them.

But these ancient people (or often, like Flores hobbits, maybe people) challenge us. Is their history our history or theirs alone? Is any greater understanding of this era a journey into the past as cultural insiders or outsiders?

Perhaps the answer rests on whether we can draw a sufficiently clear link from this past to our national identity.

An interpretation founded on the existence (or not) of this link would trap us in the constraints of our contemporary political realities, but sadly that may just be inescapable.


Southeast Asian censorship


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Following on from my earlier post here on fake news in Malaysia is the article here.

In summary, the conclusion is that chilling levels of censorship are probably the new normal in Southeast Asia.

That’s a reality too depressing for words.

Free speech and fake news in Malaysia


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Reassuring to see the Malaysian Government pursuing fake news as criminal activity.

I seem not to be alone (see here) in thinking that the main targets for criminal investigation include, well, anyone who suggests that Prime Minister Nijab is up to his eyeballs in corruption.

Anyway, I guess you can interpret that suggestion as fake news too unless that gets you arrested, so much better to consider it true.

So complicated lah! Everyone should just argue over whether Rendang has crispy skin rather than taking an interest as the bill is put before parliament.

Too late. As you can read here it has already passed. Truly Asia indeed.

Duterte’s war on drugs


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Who is really surprised that the Phillipines’ murderous war on drugs is going nowhere?

In the face of Duterte’s authoritarian tendancies there is still the chance that some perpetrators will be held accountable for their state sanctioned violence, but hopes are slim.

If you are interested you can learn more here about how some semblance of justice remains, but it is a grim read.

Indonesia’s Somali refugees


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A great work of photojournalism here exposing the awful reality of life for many Somali refugees in Indonesia.

I always try to believe the best of Indonesia. With such an enormous number of Indonesians living in real poverty I know there are never enough resources to give everyone a decent quality of life.

At the same time, if Indonesia wants a greater role in global Islam, and recognition of this enhanced standing, then with this issue surely it can do better and it must do better.



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The post title shares the name of a great blog I discovered here.

The author is Duncan Graham, who I had never heard of but whose writing is first class and whose feel for Indonesia is immediately impressive.

I am also swayed by his blog byline of Interpreting Indonesia with a Western perspective: Expanding inter-cultural understanding and mutual respect.

What a marvelous ambition for a blog, and the quality of his work lives up to that ambition in at least two of his more recent posts.

Mr Graham’s comments on the problems plaguing Indonesian education here and his advice to Indonesia’s President here are two of the best blog posts I have read in years, and I thoroughly recommend them to anyone interested in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Owls


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The post title is very ambitious, as sadly there is no way I can comprehensively cover such a broad and amazing topic in a single post.

Nevertheless I would like to give you an introductory glimpse into the world of Indonesian owls.

Let’s start with the bad news. Indonesia’s owls are captured and sold with eye-watering frequency. You can read about it here and here, with an image of how owls retail available here.

What sort of owls are we talking about? Well, that’s where the story gets better.

There is the Barred Eagle Owl, with images available here and here.

Another is the beautifully plumed Spotted Wood Owl, which you can see here and here.

Perhaps my favourite is the relatively tiny Oriental Bay Owl. You can see that owl here, here, here and here (and it is the owl in the title picture above).

I could go on, but I would like to mention just one more please, the curiously named Buffy Fish Owl. That marvellous bird is depicted here, here and here.

And the best news? There may be even more species out there in the Indonesian jungles, as this great article here attests.

I will leave you with an incredibly cute owl picture from Jakarta here.

The 2019 Indonesian Elections


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This blog will probably say and link to a lot as the 2019 Indonesian election (actually elections) loom closer.

I suggest you strap yourself in for what may be at times a very bumpy ride.

To get us underway, there is an interesting piece here on how the need to show that Indonesia’s creaking infrastructure is improving may ultimately lead to diminished outcomes.