The Thai government is using the controversial lese majeste law to target critics of the monarchy after they demanded clarity about the role of a company owned by the king in the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The situation is not likely to help save the palace’s reputation or silence its critics.
Thailand has ordered millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech. However, misinformation about safety concerns may hinder the country’s planned mass immunization campaign.
An indigenous Karen community in Thailand has returned to their land in a national park years after being forcibly evicted and seeing their homes burned by authorities. The move has prompted heightened tensions in the saga of Kaeng Krachan National Park as the Thai government threatens to remove the villagers once again and prosecute them.
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.
Southeast Asia appears open to blockchain technology and the digitization of currency despite the fact that the majority of the public remains reliant on cash.
The arrest of Tse Chi Lop, head of Asia’s largest drug syndicate, does little to alter the structures that facilitate the region’s booming narcotics trade. From Myanmar’s ethnic armies and state-backed militias to Hong Kong triad organizations, the profits driving the trade will continue—Tse Chi Lop, like any link in the supply chain, is replaceable.
Myanmar has dismissed the developer for what would be Southeast Asia’s largest economic zone, throwing Dawei SEZ into question yet again. Though the grandiose plan is backed by Thailand, Japan and China, its continued financial struggles reveal a project plagued by instability and mismanagement.
Faced with economic and strategic challenges, Turkey has turned to Southeast Asia to potentially help revive its economy. Ankara may find support from China in its new push, but building ties with the region will depend on Turkey’s ability to keep religion out of the equation.
Southeast Asia’s autocratic leaders have adored Trump’s transactional approach to foreign policy and at times won trade and defense deals without adequate scrutiny of their poor human rights records. The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden will take a tougher stance on democracy and human rights in bilateral deals.
Thailand’s large migrant population is facing racist backlash as the country works to contain a new outbreak of COVID-19 tied to a seafood market in Samut Sakhon province, near Bangkok, where a significant portion of the country’s migrants from Myanmar live.