Like in many countries, the pandemic has caused a surge in rates of mental health issues in Malaysia. But the country has struggled to recognize the seriousness of mental health disorders or address them on a national scale.
Mahathir Mohammad wants the Malaysian government to take the country’s ethnic diversity into account when making national policies. His comments appear to be an effort to appease voters—including the Malay majority—as the country prepares for the next election.
Malaysia has announced a partnership with Huawei as part of a push to become a regional leader in cybersecurity and increase the technical skills of its workers. Malaysia’s government appears unconcerned about Huawei’s reputational issues and the news comes amid ongoing cybersecurity controversies in Myanmar and Cambodia.
Malaysia’s largest political party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), has faced difficulties over the past few years but the party still has a future in Malaysia’s elections. Any attempts by other parties to ban or deregister UMNO are likely to further increase the party’s popularity.
Southeast Asian governments remain divided about how to regulate cryptocurrencies even as the popularity of digital assets surges. Regulators need to take concrete steps as cryptocurrencies increase the threat of online financial fraud and have been used to fund terrorism.
The sudden reopening of a case against two Malaysians and an Indonesian held at Guantanamo Bay prison has raised questions about the motive and timing of the prosecution. The US military may be trying to close the case as it is concerned about inquiries from the Biden administration over the questionable interrogation methods used over the years.
China has found major buyers for its COVID-19 vaccines in Southeast Asia, even after studies of its Sinovac vaccine have reported wildly divergent efficacy results. The growing acceptance of Beijing’s vaccine without globally-recognized clinical trial results may end up undermining China’s image as a credible vaccine supplier.
As Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen suppresses political opponents in an attempt to protect his power and prepare for the next general election, many Southeast Asian countries, particularly Thailand, are facilitating his political repression.
Pakistan’s national airline continues to run from one crisis to another. Malaysia’s impounding of the airline’s plane shows that unless a major overhaul takes place, Pakistan International Airlines faces a bleak and uncertain future.
The US ban on imports from one of the world’s biggest palm oil producers highlights the seriousness of human rights abuse issues. However, the ban on the Malaysian firm and ongoing media scrutiny are not likely to improve conditions for palm plantation workers unless the Malaysian government intervenes.