15 years on from the Bali bombings and what have we learned and how have things changed?
That’s the question posed by Judith Jacob, whose Twitter account here proceeds to answer in 15 tweets that I happen to agree with.
Events in the southern Philippines are easily overshadowed by the nuclear fuelled great power games currently taking place in north Asia, but for residents on the ground in and around Marawi City the threat of imminent death isn’t in the future.
Following on from my earlier post here, as a historical snapshot there are great pieces of photojournalism here and here to take you inside the unfolding horrors, featuring some powerful photos acccompanied by some high quality text.
For those readers not following events closely there is a report summarising the conflict here, with other articles for balance here and here and the Lowy Institute’s take on the symptoms and solutions here.
The post heading is the title of a recently released publication available here.
This is a high quality publication with input from some of the giants in the field of Southeast Asian studies. I highly recommend the work, but (gentle hint) it is written for serious scholars.
Sadly this blog rarely visits Myanmar, but that is hardly because all is well in that part of the world. One area that is particularly troubled, and has been for some time, is Rakhine State in the west of the country.
As the recently released World Food Program report (available here) makes clear, food security continues to deteriorate. To quote from the report…
“…the survey confirmed a worsening of the food security situation in already highly vulnerable areas after the October 2016 incidents and subsequent security operations. Nearly one third of the population was severely food-insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance. Only 14 percent of women achieved minimum dietary diversity and none of the children met the minimum adequate diet. Income opportunities were scarce and households could not access sufficient food to cover their needs. About half of the markets were not functioning or were only partially operational, food prices were highly volatile and supply of affordable foods in many markets was scarce”.
With over 80,000 children under 5 years of age expected to suffer acute malnutrition over the next twelve months the unfolding humanitarian disaster shouldn’t be forgotten, but probably will be by those unaffected.
Image: Ma’ahad Jamio Mindanao Al-Islamie, Marawi City
To quote from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict here…
“The battle for Marawi in the southern Philippines is likely to have long-term repercussions for extremism in Southeast Asia. The ability of pro-ISIS fighters to occupy an entire city and hold the Philippine armed forces at bay for almost two months has already inspired violence elsewhere in the region and may lead to more attacks in the region’s cities; a more coordinated regional strategy among extremist groups; and strengthened capacity among pro-ISIS cells in Indonesia and Malaysia”.
The full report, available here, makes grim reading. I concur with the page 23 assertion that there is “simply no chance in Indonesia of a military-style assault by extremists on a town centre“, however I also agree with the report’s argument that an entrenched disconnection from the benefits of democratic governance in the region, including accountability and equality, will continue to provide fertile soil for extremist ambitions and strategically scratchy assaults on state power.
Note – Taking a step back and considering conflict more broadly across Indonesia and the Philppines, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict website here is an excellent source of information and analysis that goes beyond the headlines, while the images on the site here marvellously convey the Islamic culture that permeates the region.
Thanks to the work of the good folk at TechInAsia, particularly Kathrinna Rakhmavika, the great graphic found here and reproduced above illustrates the cost of data across the region.
There is a lot in that data. Some points I’d make is that I was unaware some of these countries had a minimum wage, and certainly if they do the enforcement mechanisms by the state would be, at best, extremely inconsistent and insipid. In this context the minimum wage reference, unless it was a vague allusion to the market minimum wage, is somewhat meaningless.
Then there is the number of hours worked to achieve payment equivalent to 1gb of data at local prices. This is provided as the number of hours of work at the (somewhat meaningless) measure of the minimum wage, but alternatively providing this as the required number of hours at the mean national wage (the average wage) or the number of hours for the nation’s modal wage (the wage received by the highest number of workers) may give very different answers.
There is also the issue that covering only income received from wages excludes those who receive their income from capital (and retirees and children). The data also avoids the cost of entry to accessing that data, eg the price of hardware and initial access costs.
My point is that at first glance this is, or was, an interesting graphic, but on closer scrutiny the numbers presented begin to look very shaky indeed on the story they are telling.
Note: As a supplementary comment on this post, the price of an additional 1gb data on a phone plan in Australia is around $10. With the minimum wage in Australia set at around $16 that equates to around 40 minutes of work, but the cost of that additional 1gb excludes the upfront and the baseline monthly fees to use it. That sounds unambiguous enough, but there are also packages that a quickly Google search and selection at random (like the one here) that presents options costed at (per 1gb) $3, $0.5 and (effectively) <$0.01 respectively. Of course if you used so much data that the cost is down to a single cent per gb then you a/ probably don’t need to work to pay for it, or b/ can’t keep doing that as you cannot find time to go to work to pay for it, but that is a topic for a post on another blog.
Today’s post was to have been a thoughtful and insightful piece on regional urbanisation.
Sadly however I have run out of time, so I will quickly give you some lovely graphics on rice production in Southeast Asia and return to urbanisation on another day.
There can be little doubt that rice is central to the histories and cultures of the people of Southeast Asia, but just how much does the region produce?
Well, thanks to the good folk at the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service and their publication Southeast Asia Projected To Remain Top Rice Exporter located here, the following graphic gives you some idea.
Nevertheless the graph gives little indication how significant the Southeast Asian harvests are as a compoent of the global total. Well, the USDA-ERS has an answer there too.
Super observant readers will note that I retained the tag human rights based on my suspicion that access to rice is a highly potent political concept in many Southeast Asian cultures. I will return to this interesting and important topic in a future post.
There is a terrific story here on fake news in Southeast Asia, and all credit to the author for his very clever and amusing writing style.
I wanted to laugh, but underneath the superficial madness there are real consequences for real people. Ok, the sight of Hun Sen in a singlet is mildly traumatic, but the mirth fades rapidly when it comes to what is, or may be, happening to the west in Myanmar.
As the article here suggests, there are growing questions over how “Aung San Suu Kyi” and “worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize” can still fit in the same sentence. The article here gives some clues as to humanitarian disaster in Myanmar that the world is largely disinterested in. That is, of course, if she can be located to provide answers, a problem detailed in the report here.
Perhaps wisely the article hasn’t even started on Indonesia, where the idea that facts are “what you believe” and that the planet is literally at risk of exploding should gays be given equal rights, are beliefs that remain disconcertingly close to mainstream thought on local social media.
Sigh. No wonder duck noodle soup is so popular in the region.
Apologies for the typos in the initial post. Hopefully these gremlins are now gone.
The post is prompted by the newspaper story here.
I invite you to read the story for the facts, but I have mixed feelings on whether the author has drawn the right interpretations and conclusions.
I’m not sure I would agree that the visit was a worry, at least not in the sense that the article implies.
My own hope, for what it is worth, is that Indonesia isn’t so dazzled by the display that it forgets the horrific torture inflicted intermittently on domestic workers from Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast and South Asia who are imported into Saudi Arabia as virtual slaves.
There is also the quote “In the face of the Saudis’ relentless, pernicious proselytising, what has Australia done? Cut its aid funding for Indonesian schools and more than halved the number of scholarships it offers to Indonesians to study in Australia” , which also makes me sigh.
Is this really all Australia can think about? Tinkering around the edges of aid funding… again?
Indonesia has vast reserves of natural resources. The country can afford fighter jets, highways, skyscrapers. Most Indonesians would probably agree with me that a lot of Indonesia’s money is wasted and lost to corruption, but that is a cultural issue with priorities other than schooling, not a question of poverty. I’m further unconvinced that Australia knows what it really wants to achieve with aid funding in Indonesia, and that Indonesia is on the same page with Australia’s intent (or even that it knows what this intent is).
As for providing (more) scholarships for Indonesians to study here, why must Australia support Indonesians who are otherwise already very succesful in the system anyway get an extra privilege? In this I am not opposed to the scholarships, but rather who they are generally given to.
Finally, there is the issue of the genuine frustration this causes domestically in Australia. I must declare my own interests in this issue, but still want to ask why Australia is supporting foreign students to study here at greatly reduced/negligible cost with guaranteed jobs to return to, while at the same time pushing ever higher and unaffordable fees to Australian students under increasingly harsh and non-negotiable user pays models with diminishing work prospects at the end?
Courtesy of Angkhana Neelapaijit
For those readers concerned about human rights in Thailand, today marks the 13th anniversary of the abduction and presumed murder of Thai human rights layer Somchai Neelapaijit.
Rare indeed is the day that I would recommend you head to the Bangokok Post for quality editorial, but the opinion post here echoes the sentiments I would express.
I would like very much to say more, but I refer readers to my earlier post here.
Lest we forget indeed.