Many might find it harder to be celebratory as our corner of Southeast Asia marks the traditional new year – Songkran in Thailand, Pimai in Laos and Thingyan in Myanmar – next week.
As the brutality continues in Myanmar, countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia find themselves in new outbreaks of COVID-19. Public Songkran activities have just been cancelled, entertainment venues - the source of the new cases - are expected to close for two weeks and offices are headed back to work-from-home routines.
Myanmar, of course, continues to wage a struggle on these two fronts - a political crisis and a pandemic. The level of brutality has now ascended to what some find unreal: the killing of children, the stealing of corpses. The evening news on controlled TV announces lists of people for whom warrants of arrest are issued - and identifies them by their Facebook profile photos and links to their FB account. An ASEAN leaders’ summit is due to be held within April. This month too, news reports say, the formation of a unity government around a federal system is due to be announced.
But a sense of foreboding, about civil war not being far away, is there too: There is talk of more people training on how to make bombs, willing to take up arms. This week saw several unexplained explosions in Yangon. Key cities in Myanmar are looking like war zones and the number of internally displaced urban residents continues to rise. The Thai-Myanmar border drew attention in the wake of the Myanmar military’s airstrikes in Karen state in late March, causing people to flee towards the Thai side. This reminds us too of the nearly 92,000 refugees from Myanmar still in the camps on the Thai side (infographic below).
In this issue, we discuss the realities about journalism in Myanmar: Many are on the run, out of jobs and were not given due benefits and/or salaries in recent months. Below too are updates on journalists’ arrests, and links to Reporting ASEAN’s data viz on this
. Here too
is a chat with Khaosod English on Myanmar’s journalists.
We look at what has changed, if any, in the understanding of migrant workers’ lives amid COVID-19 in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as how a Lao radio station is making waves thanks to a creative push by the pandemic.
The new year may be more muted, but sawasdee pii mai anyway to all of us –
Johanna Son - Editor/Founder, Reporting ASEAN