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Articles in Southeast Asia

Thailand’s Political Crisis and the Economic Rise of its Eastern Seaboard

By Martin W. Lewis | May 8, 2014 |

News that a Thai court had just ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra came to my attention yesterday just as was beginning to prepare a lecture on the politics, culture, and economy of Thailand. I immediately began to assemble a series of maps showing the geographical contours of Shinawatra’s powerbase. According to the conventional story, the populist (former) prime minister, like …

India and Indonesia: Pronounced Differences in Electoral Geography

By Martin W. Lewis | April 18, 2014 | One Comment

As India and Indonesia, the world’s largest and third largest democracies respectively, carry out their complex 2014 national elections, it is worthwhile to compare their political and electoral developments since independence. Although the two countries have much in common, they have taken a markedly different direction in political ideology and electoral geography. In India today, two major and several minor …

Controversies over Ethnicity, Affirmative Action, and Economic Development in Malaysia

By Martin W. Lewis | September 20, 2013 | 2 Comments

Few issues are more controversial in Malaysia than the country’s National Development Policy, particularly its extensive “affirmative action” provisions that provide economic and social advantages for the majority (61%) indigenous population (“Bumiputeras”) at the expense of the Chinese and Indian communities. Dating back to the early 1970s, this policy has resulted in significant economic gains for the Malay community, but …

The Philippines’ Uneven Economic Boom

By Martin W. Lewis | September 6, 2013 | 16 Comments

For decades, the Philippines has been noted for its economic failures. Fifty years ago, it was ahead of South Korea on most economic indicators, and its relatively high levels of education and public health seemingly indicated a bright future. Misrule, corruption, and missed opportunities, however, took a heavy toll, as did a persistently high birthrate, leading many observers to dub …

North Kalimantan: Indonesia’s Newest Province and Southeast Asian Geopolitical Tensions

By Martin W. Lewis | July 31, 2013 |

Indonesia and Malaysia have a long history of mutual distrust, despite—or perhaps because of—their similar historical and cultural backgrounds. Indonesia objected so strongly to the creation of an independent Malaysian state out of several British colonies in the early 1960s that it instigated a four-year undeclared war, the so-called Indonesian–Malaysian Confrontation (1962–1966). But with the fall of the Sukarno government …

Bhutan’s Paradoxical Development

By Martin W. Lewis | May 13, 2013 | 18 Comments

The southern rim of the Himalayas is rarely mapped as a region, as it encompasses two independent countries (Nepal and Bhutan) and five Indian states.* As a result, maps depicting economic and social development of the area can be misleading, as they typically contrast the two Himalayan countries with India as a whole. To address this situation, I have made …

Mapping Evangelical Christian Missionary Efforts

By Martin W. Lewis | March 13, 2013 | 2 Comments

It is difficult to find maps depicting religious adherence in areas outside of the historical boundaries of the major universalizing faiths, such as much of sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania. Many such places, however, are characterized today by profound religious change, as missionaries seek converts and as syncretic forms of worship emerge. Some proselytizing organizations, however, maintain intricate maps of their …

Lovely Wikipedia Gong Map of Southeast Asia

By Martin W. Lewis | March 7, 2013 | One Comment

A Google image search of “culture map” returns some interesting images. A striking Wikipedia map that comes up high in the search depicts three “gong and chime” culture areas in Southeast Asia: gamelan, kulintang, and piphat. The gamelan percussion orchestras of Java and Bali are relatively well known globally, but the same cannot be said for piphat or kulintang, both …

Indo-Australian Plate Rent Asunder Beneath the Ocean

By Nicholas Baldo | September 28, 2012 | 3 Comments

In April 2012, two massive earthquakes hit northern Sumatra. The earthquakes—one of magnitude 8.2 and the other 8.6—were far in excess of what one would expect to encounter many miles from a tectonic plate boundary. Indeed, “strike-slip earthquakes”, where pieces of crust rub against each other laterally, had been completely unknown in the area before the two quakes.

The Australian Asylum Controversy Extends to Indonesia

By Martin W. Lewis | August 22, 2012 | 2 Comments

The on-going Australian asylum-seeking controversy has recently spread to the Indonesian island of Java. On August 20, the Jakarta Post announced the arrest of “28 illegal immigrants hiding in a forested coastal area of South Cianjur, West Java. The immigrants were part of a large group of asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran who were heading to Christmas Island.”

New Government in East Timor Sparks Gender Debate

By Nicholas Baldo | August 10, 2012 |

Over the last half-century, peace and stability have remained elusive goals in East Timor, officially known the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Invaded by Indonesia shortly after it achieved independence from Portugal in 1975, East Timor has only been a formal country with de facto control of its borders only since 2002.

Robert Kelly’s Delusions about Indonesia

By Martin W. Lewis | June 13, 2012 | 10 Comments

A recent post in Robert Kelly’s Asian Security Blog that lists “America’s 8 most important allies … in order” (see map) has been getting a lot of attention. Kelly’s response to his critics has not done much to bolster his position. Consider, for example, what he has to say about Indonesia (here and here), which he regards as the sixth …

Religious and Racial Strife in Western Burma

By Martin W. Lewis | June 6, 2012 |

Although Burma (Myanmar) has seen substantial reform over the past few months, several deeply entrenched conflicts create major obstacles for the country’s transition. According to The Irrawaddy, tensions in the western Arakan region recently exploded into violence when “300 people stopped a bus carrying Muslims from a religious gathering, dragged out the 10 occupants, beat them to death and burned the vehicle in Taunggup…” The attack occurred in retaliation for the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist girl by three Muslim youths.

Thai Transsexual Wins Election

By Martin W. Lewis | June 1, 2012 | 2 Comments

Yonlada Suanyos, a transsexual woman, recently gained fame by becoming Thailand’s first katoey (or openly transgender person) to be elected to public office. Ms. Suanyos, a PhD candidate who also runs a television station and a jewelry business, will soon become a councilor in Nan province in northern Thailand. She was formerly a member of a transgender music group called Venus Flytrap, performing under the name of Posh Venus.

A Disneyland for the Philippines’ Sex City?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 29, 2012 | 2 Comments

A prominent Filipino politician is seeking support from the country’s Department of Tourism for his lobbying effort to establish a Disneyland theme park in the Clark Freeport Zone, a massive (4,400-hectare) trade-oriented redevelopment area that occupies the former U.S.-run Clark Airbase in central Luzon.

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