ASEAN could do better

Southeast Asia must work harder on the fight against corruption and human rights protection through effective legislation and rule of law

February 4, 2023
ASEAN could do better

Hello, Globe readers!

As we are approaching the first Globe event of 2023, high hopes for the fight against corruption and the strengthening of digital and human rights across the region are placed on Indonesia as the new ASEAN Chair. 

In the meantime, you can check out the extension to our limited New Year 50% discount on annual Southeast Asia Globe memberships, which is now available until 17 February.

If you are in Cambodia, you won’t want to miss our first event of the year: The exciting new photojournalism exhibition Passing for Protection. Open to everyone and free of charge, the exhibition will run from 10-19 February at Hops Central beer garden and restaurant in Phnom Penh. With more than 20 images collected throughout more than a year of on-the-ground reporting across Cambodia, the exhibition is the culmination of the Globe’s environmental reporting by Anton L. Delgado, supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network and Rainforest Journalism Fund.

This week also marked the end of the Lunar New Year’s celebrations across Asia, and Singapore’s troupes performing traditional choreography dressed as auspicious lions were busy trying to meet the high demands of post-pandemic festivities. Globe’s managing editor Amanda Oon reported the demands and the challenges of the lion dance business across the country. 

Meanwhile, while the Globe continues reporting urgent environmental issues and new year celebrations across the region, Transparency International, the corruption watchdog organisation, released the latest Corruption Perceptions Index showing the ongoing struggle of Southeast Asia countries to climb up the list. Globe’s editors Andrew Haffner and Amanda Oon reported the alarming backsliding of Myanmar and Malaysia and the unexpected progress by Vietnam. 

In the meantime, six months into the decriminalisation of cannabis, Thailand is still lacking sufficient regulations on weed production and import. Globe’s new reporter Leila Goldstein wrote about the struggles and concerns of local cannabis business owners as the illegal import of weed continues growing. 

New legislations were also the driving force behind the renewed public attention to Singapore’s LGBT+ community. Robin Vochelet dived into the months-long debate over the repeal of Section 377A in November 2022, which prohibited consensual sexual relations between men.

While Singapore has made some steps toward expanding civil rights, other countries in Southeast Asia are increasing restrictions on free expression. Emilie Palamy Pradichit and Letitia Visan analysed how the region’s democratic decline was highlighted by the lack of an effective rule of law of autocratic governments such as Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam last year.

Hope should not be lost, however, as the region looks up to Indonesia as the new ASEAN Chair. Raafi Seiff wrote about the regional and international trust in President Joko Widodo as a good example for other Southeast Asian governments by effectively tackling domestic human rights and political challenges.

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