The suffering of the rich and famous

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A good summary of the latest developments in the Setya Novanto chronicle by Tim Lindsey, who has a great piece here.

Indonesian social media users may see parallels with the Australian political candidate John Alexander, who is currently being ridiculed on social media for a photo here of him (and his staff) calling voters…using phones that were unconnected.

In another amazing coincidence a high profile Australian also suffered serious injuries on his recent trip to court. You can read the story here and, would you believe it, the matter also evolved into another police investigation (see here) on related matters.

Sometimes Australia and Indonesia are not that different after all.

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Indonesia’s forest fires, 2017…

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Yes, that time of year again when vast plumes of airborne particulates from forest fires in Sumatra and elsewhere in the region cause choking pollution across much of Southeast Asia.

A very readable background piece offering an understanding of the issue is here.

There was some hope that this year would be different. In 2016 the World Resources Institute wrote here that…

For the last several years, forest fires driven by agricultural expansion have spiked every summer in Indonesia, creating smog and public health crises, including more than 100,000 deaths, throughout Southeast Asia. While fires are once again flaring, they’re not nearly as bad as usual—there are currently about a quarter as many burning across Indonesia this year compared to this time [September 2016] in 2015.

The article goes on to give a comprehensive explanation why.

Sadly however that trend seems not to have lasted a year.

Just a couple of days ago the East Asia Forum here Armida S Alisjahbana, Padjadjaran University and Jonah Busch wrote that “forest fires sweeping across Sumatra and Kalimantan in recent months prompted six Indonesian provinces to declare a state of emergency”.

That may imply the problem suddenly emerged, but as the Jakarta Post report here from January this year indicates, the annual emergency has effectively become chronic and now lasts for much of the year.

The reader can come to their own conclusion on the Indonesian Government’s recent claims to success in fighting fires (reported here), but given a recent Reuters report here that Indonesia lost a million hectares of tree cover in 2016 alone and the disastrous public health impacts from the smog that you can read about here, here and here, I desperately hope the Indonesian Government is right.

ASEAN in Manila

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Tis the season…to be talking.

Of course few bodies talk more and arguably achieve less than ASEAN, with the added distraction this time around with the presence of US President Trump at the meetings now taking place in Manila.

What will they discuss? What are the likely outcomes? A good summary for those interested is available here.

The summary? There will almost certainly be a lot of talk. And action? Well, if acting involves muliple statements, then yes, expect action.

And life and increasingly death for the Rohingya will continue, and the other urgent problems in the regon will be there unaddressed for the next meeting and further talks.

And some more Indonesian volcano pictures

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Mt Rinjani, with the infant volcano below

How can there be a better way to end the week than with some astonishing pictures from Indonesia’s volcanoes?

If the picture of Mt Rinjani above doesn’t impress you with its scale, have a look at the view from the summit of Mt Rinjani here with the pyramid shadow stretching into the distance.

Something a bit more dynamic is available by flying over Mt Tambora, which you can do here. For those readers a bit younger than me who weren’t around at the time, Mt Tambora last erupted in 1815 with possbly the biggest explosion since humans came down from the trees.

Perhaps I will end with this one here, a couple of thousand kilometres to the west. This is Mt Sinabung in North Sumatra filling the sky with volcanic ash and, flake by gritty flake, reshaping the Indonesian landmass with what will becom the most fertle soil on the planet.

Political trajectories; a regional summary

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An insighful analysis is available from New Mandala here with some disturbing implications for supporters of democracy in the region.

I hadn’t previously encountered the work of Dan Slater, but this is seriously good and I’ll clearly need to read more of his writings.

Pepinsky’s piece in a similar vein here is of also of the high standard you would expect.