southeast asia

The US is considering downgrading Thailand to a human trafficking blacklist, following revelations in the Guardian that slaves are being used in the production of prawns sold in leading American, British and European supermarkets. Washington will directly address allegations of human trafficking in Thailand's trade in prawns – known in the US as shrimp – in an imminent report that could result in economic sanctions against Bangkok. 

Protesters demonstrating against the military, which seized power in last month's coup d'état, have been spotted invoking the three-fingered salute used by the oppressed population in the films of Suzanne Collins's young adult science-fiction series.  In the wake of international news channels such as CNN and the BBC being taken off air, as well as HBO and the Disney Channel, it is especially significant that this small but pointed gesture of protest should have sprung from popular culture.

New investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private-sector investment arm, may perpetuate economic inequality rather than alleviate poverty in Myanmar, critics here are warning.  The IFC has proposed five new investment projects for Myanmar (also known as Burma). But the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a rights group here, is calling on the multilateral funder to slow down these projects and analyse their potential social effects.

A week into the coup, army troops continue to be a highly visible presence on Chiang Mai's streets with bases set up at two of the main gates that ring the old city.  On Monday, security forces used the area to carry out highly visible anti-riot drills while tourists watched and took photos.  Chiang Mai's newest arrivals continue with their holidays much as before, haggling with tuk-tuk drivers and sauntering about the city in various states of undress though, according to locals, in increasingly smaller numbers. 

Myanmar has been opening up slowly since reforms began in 2010, but as constitutional changes gather momentum so the rate of overseas investment appears to be speeding up.

The coup in Thailand poses a threat to one of the country's most successful industries: tourism. There's no question the country is a major tourist destination. Visitors travel from around the world to see attractions such as the markets of Bangkok, the beaches of Phuket and Koh Samui and the forests and mountains of Chiang Mai. Monthly visitor numbers have fallen by about 400,000 - or roughly 16% - since the end of last year, coinciding with the escalation in protests.

Early on Wednesday morning, Malaysian officials were on hand to welcome two important new arrivals to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The pair, Ms. Feng Yi and Mr. Fu Wa, are on a diplomatic mission from China, hoping to cement the relationship between the two states and help them get past the considerable trauma caused to that relationship by the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

Relations between Indonesia and Malaysia have been marred by issues relating to the treatment of migrant workers, border disputes, the environment and cultural claims. Despite ups and downs during 57 years of relations, the two nations have committed to forging better understanding. Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Herman Prayitno talks to The Jakarta Post’s Yohanna Ririhena on the issue on the sidelines of a seminar on Indonesia-Malaysia relations at the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Kedah, Malaysia, recently.