Hello readers, and welcome back to this week’s editorial! This week I’ve been gripped by the Olympics in Tokyo.
With masked-up athletes and empty stands, it’s been hard to entirely forget that the games are occurring amid a roaring pandemic. But even so, there have been some big results for Southeast Asian athletes, offering fleeting moments of joy for citizens as outbreaks unfold across Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Memes of Indonesian pair Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu have been circulating on social media this week, after images emerged of the joyous scenes following their victory over China in the women’s badminton final on Monday. It’s only Indonesia’s 8th gold medal in Olympics history, all of which have come in badminton.
But national pride wasn’t the only thing at stake, as the pair have apparently been offered five cows, a meatball restaurant, and a new house for when they arrive home. But perhaps more enticing is the 5 billion rupiah ($473,000) cash payout they’re also set to get from the government.
Thai taekwondo champion Panipak Wongpattanakit is similarly quids-in as she is set to take home 20 million Thai baht, or roughly $600,000, after beating Spaniard Adriana Cerezo to gold. It’s only Thailand’s 10th gold medal at the summer olympics in their history.
But perhaps the most powerful scenes were found with Hidilyn Diaz last week. The Filipina weightlifter won the country’s first ever gold medal as she topped the women’s 55kg class, her face mask doing little to obscure her sheer joy as Diaz struggled to hold back the tears during the national anthem. It was emotional to watch. Thanked by the president’s spokesperson for “bringing pride and glory” to the nation, prior to this the Philippines had only ever won three silvers and seven bronzes in its history.
But that’s enough sport for one week. Allow me to introduce you to our markedly non-sporting stories below.
Speaking of firsts, this week Globe trainee reporter in Singapore Weilee Yap published her first ever written piece of journalism. For this maiden piece, she looked behind the startling statistics emerging of record-high elderly suicides in the city-state and asked outreach groups what they were doing to reach the most vulnerable during the ‘new normal’. A powerful and well-reported piece, I was impressed by Weilee’s work here.
Second up we have the sixth installment of Anakut. As we near the end of this season, with just two episodes to go, here Thina and Andrew looked at Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary – an experiment in Cambodian environmental conservation that has gone painfully wrong over the past decade. They speak with Moeu Chandara, an activist from the Cambodian Youth Network, and Fran Lambrick, a co-founder of environmental and human rights group Not1More, to hear why this supposedly protected forest continues to be logged en masse.
As tragic as they are, there’s something about aviation disasters that makes them hard to turn away from. Perhaps it’s the fact that they tap into many of our worst fears, just how plausible something like this happening to us seems. Whatever it is, the case of Adam Air 574 is as gripping as any. The crash on New Year’s Day 2007 speaks to not only failures in the cockpit, but corruption-fuelled failures in Indonesia’s aviation sector as a whole. With a very similar crash occurring in January of this year, it seems few lessons have been learned.
Under the looming threat of violence since Myanmar’s coup, activists in the country are working to ensure the highly-politicised programmes working to preserve ethnic languages don’t go missing for good, even if it means going into hiding. The Globe’s Kiana Duncan reports.
Despite cases of lèse-majesté piling up and pro-democracy protesters facing serious charges like sedition, Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review later this year will most likely be as inconsequential as previous UN human rights inspections. Globe columnist Mark S. Cogan, himself a UN consultant, spoke with several senior diplomats to offer his insight.