Democratic illusions

The illusion of democracy has cast its net wide in Southeast Asia. This week we looked at the dangers human rights activists face in Thailand, how public flogging humiliates and degrades people in Indonesia’s Aceh province, what Cambodia’s future is projected to look like, and more.

Julija Veljkovic
December 6, 2019
Democratic illusions

Earlier this year, Thailand held its first general elections since the military coup in 2014. The elections did not, however, translate into a greater respect for democracy and human rights, as pro-democracy activists regularly report being harassed, threatened or silenced. With Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit blocked from participating in parliament due to baseless charges, political tensions remain high in the Kingdom. As the pile of human rights violations grow, we explore what the battered state of Thai democracy means for its people. 

Fast-forward twenty years – what will Cambodia’s political, economic and social landscape look like and how will the Kingdom and its people tackle these challenges? We’ve partnered with Future Forum to produce an eight-week series exploring the potential highs and lows of Cambodia’s future, hearing from a panel of experts and academics on matters related to socio-economic development, the climate, the energy sector, agriculture and much more. 

Every Wednesday we will explore core topics related to Cambodia’s future development, giving you an opportunity to get involved in the potential solutions that could make Cambodia’s future brighter. Find out more about our campaign here.

Additionally, we sat down with Filipino photographer Vicente Jaime R. Villafranca, deep-diving into how he captures the complexity of Philippine’s social issues on camera. He has devoted his life’s work to immersing himself in the experiences of his subjects – from spending months with Manila’s feared Chinese Mafia Crew, to following communities impacted by climate change closely. His poignant snapshots tell a tale of a thousand words.

Back in 2010, we also interviewed Malaysia’s then-opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, learning about the fragile state of Malaysian democracy, the country’s economic woes, and the government’s tight control over the media.

And in Indonesia, religious edicts under sharia law in Aceh province ban alcohol and teenage romance. For more serious transgressions like pre-marital sex or adultery, they mandate punishment by public flogging with a thin cane. From our 2015 archive, we revisit the issue of using public punishment as a weapon of humiliation and degradation. 

Read more articles