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Articles in Southeast Asia

Complex Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea

By Martin W. Lewis | April 17, 2012 | 2 Comments

The headline of an April 15 article in the Washington Post might strike many readers as slightly absurd: “Philippine president says his country won’t start war with China over disputed shoal.” Although the Philippines is hardly in a position to challenge China militarily, the remarks of President Benigno Aquino III did help the country save face as it pulled a warship out of the disputed waters and allowed several Chinese fishing vessels to return home with their catch.

Burma’s (Myanmar’s) New Currency Regime

By Martin W. Lewis | April 9, 2012 |

Central bank officials in Burma (Myanmar) recently announced that they would establish a reference exchange rate of 818 kyat to the dollar in turning to a “managed float currency regime.”

Economic Disputes and Environmental Woes in Indonesia’s Booming East Kalimantan

By Martin W. Lewis | March 17, 2012 |

Indonesia’s province of East Kalimantan, located on the massive island of Borneo, is by far the most economically productive part of the country. Its Gross Regional Product is almost five times the national average, exceeding even than of Jakarta, the national capital, by a substantial margin.

Mother Goddess Worship in Vietnam

By Rebecca Hecht | February 24, 2012 |
Wikipedia Religious Freedom Map

Although Vietnam is in name a Communist state, the practice of mother goddess worship endures through much of the country. For the first time, the worship of Mother Goddesses is on display at a public museum in Hanoi.

Burma’s Electricity Quandaries

By Martin W. Lewis | February 21, 2012 |

In early 2012, the Burmese government again astounded many by suspending an $8 billion, 4,000-megawatt, coal-fired power plant at Dawei in the southern part of the country, due mainly to environmental concerns,

The South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 9, 2012 | 3 Comments

As the struggle for the Spratly Islands heats up, basic place names are coming into play. In the Philippines, news outlets and various official agencies now insist…

Dams and the Ignored Ethnic Conflict of Northern Burma

By Martin W. Lewis | October 10, 2011 | 8 Comments
Map of Cease-Fire Armies in Burma

Recent news reports have trumpeted Burma’s (Myanmar’s) decision to suspend construction of the massive, Chinese-financed Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River in the northern reaches of the country. The Economist magazine, for example, claims that the cancellation provides “mounting evidence that the new government in Yangon is serious about reform.” That assessment may well be

Subic Bay: From American Servicemen to Korean Businessmen

By Martin W. Lewis | October 22, 2010 | 2 Comments

Subic Bay, located about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, forms a superb harborage. Its waters are deep and enclosed, and the Zambales Mountains protect it from the westward-tracking typhoons that so often batter the Philippines. Overland transport to Subic, however, is difficult, delaying its naval development until the late Spanish period. In the early

The Legacy of U.S. Military Bases in the Philippines

By Martin W. Lewis | October 21, 2010 |

Through most of the Cold War, the largest U.S. foreign military bases were not located in Europe, Japan, or South Korea, but rather in central Luzon in the Philippines. Second largest was the massive facility at Subic Bay, home of the Seventh Fleet; larger still was Clark Airbase, covering 243 square miles

Pattaya Thailand: From American Troops to Russian Prostitutes

By Martin W. Lewis | October 19, 2010 |

The three maps of U.S. foreign military bases posted in Geocurrents yesterday all show an American military presence in Thailand. The contingent exists but is tiny, amounting to 113 troops in the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. The force is designed “not only to promote the initiatives and interests of the United States, but also to

Mapping Religion in Indonesia

By Martin W. Lewis | October 14, 2010 | 6 Comments

As mentioned in Monday’s post, maps of the global distribution of Islam often portray Indonesia and Malaysia as solidly Muslim countries. The close-up segment of the popular map “World Muslim Distribution (Sunni and Shia) 1995” posted above, for example, colors Malaysia and Indonesia* a uniform shade of light green, indicating the prevalence of

Region, Religion, and Redshirts in Thailand

By Martin W. Lewis | April 29, 2010 |

Maps of Thailand’s 2007 legislative election clearly show that the pro-Thaksin redshirt movement currently threatening the government has regional as well as economic foundations. In Electoral District 3, which covers much of the northeastern Isan region, the Thaksin-affiliated PPP party received over 66 percent of the vote, while the anti-Thaksim Democrat party received less than

Language, Regionalism, and Political Protest in Thailand

By Martin W. Lewis | April 28, 2010 | One Comment

The massive protests currently threatening the government of Thailand are generally described in the U.S. press in terms of class dynamics. The red-shirt demonstrators, followers of the deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are said to represent Thailand’s peasantry. Poor and politically marginalized farmers had benefitted from the

Migration, Mining, and Insurgency in Eastern Indonesia

By Martin W. Lewis | April 9, 2010 | One Comment

As we saw last Monday, a tenuous peace came to the Indonesian province of Aceh in 2005 when it was granted a special autonomous status in 2005. The same cannot be said of Papua, Indonesia’s largest province, located on the opposite side of the country. Papua was granted a measure of local autonomy in 2001

Whither Acehnese Autonomy?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 5, 2010 |

Despite the attention that sensational natural disasters receive in the media, their long-term significance sometimes seems questionable. But when nature’s calamities do change societies, the consequences can be profound. The All Soul’s Day Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, for example, purportedly led many European thinkers to question whether natural calamities reflect the will of God, boosting

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