Southeast Asia

A featured selection of Jason's work as Bureau Chief in Southeast Asia from 2009 to 2013

Powerful forces revealed behind Thai protest movement

BANGKOK (Reuters) - His whistle-tooting crowds of supporters are dwindling. His threats against Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra veer from the bold to the bizarre.

But behind Thailand’s fiery anti-government protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, are two powerful retired generals with palace connections, a deep rivalry with the Shinawatra family and an ability to influence Thailand’s coup-prone armed forces.

The forces behind Suthep are led by former defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwa

Muslims vanish as Buddhist attacks approach Myanmar's biggest city

SIT KWIN, Myanmar (Reuters) - The Muslims of Sit Kwin were always a small group who numbered no more than 100 of the village’s 2,000 people. But as sectarian violence led by Buddhist mobs spreads across central Myanmar, they and many other Muslims are disappearing.

Their homes, shops and mosques destroyed, some end up in refugee camps or hide in the homes of friends or relatives. Dozens have been killed.

“We don’t know where they are,” says Aung Ko Myint, 24, a taxi driver in Sit Kwin, a farmi

In Vietnam, anti-Chinese protesters find a new outlet: soccer

HANOI (Reuters) - Under the watch of plainclothes police, midfielder Nguyen Van Phuong unleashed a powerful left-foot drive into the top corner. Dissidents cheered from the sidelines. “Down with China,” some shouted. Phuong pumped his fist.

As tensions between Beijing and Hanoi escalate over the South China Sea, Vietnamese anti-China protesters who face repeated police crackdowns are finding a new form of political expression: soccer.

Witnesses tell of organized killings of Myanmar Muslims

PAIK THAY, Myanmar (Reuters) - On a hot Sunday night in a remote Myanmar village, Tun Naing punched his wife and unleashed hell.

She wanted rice for their three children. He said they couldn’t afford it. Apartheid-like restrictions had prevented Muslims like Tun Naing from working for Buddhists here in Rakhine State along Myanmar’s western border, costing the 38-year-old metalworker his job.

The couple screamed at each other. Tun Naing threw another punch. Neighbors joined in the row.

The com

As Myanmar reforms, discontent grips countryside

LAKAPON, Myanmar (Reuters) - In a timeless ritual here in Myanmar’s rice basket, laborers in bamboo hats scattered seeds in calf-deep water and cajoled oxen through the thick mud.

From his thatch-roofed hut, 62-year-old farmer Tint Sein studied the bucolic scene anxiously. Trapped in debt to black-market lenders, he says he has begun to skip meals to save money for his family of four. The emerald-green rice fields that sustained generations of his clan are no longer profitable.

The arithmetic

Breakneck reform pace overloads Myanmar

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (Reuters) - The desks are mostly empty. Two computers idle in a corner. A young woman in a sarong leafs through a newspaper. Welcome to what should be the fast-beating heart of Myanmar’s economy: the headquarters of the central bank.

The first tour of the complex in the capital Naypyitaw by a foreign journalist reveals an almost lifeless institution. The Monetary Policy Department has just three computers, about the same as the Bank Supervision Department. A training departme

In Myanmar, protesters test boundaries of freedom

YANGON (Reuters) - As long-isolated Myanmar opens up, its people are flexing their newly democratic muscles and testing the boundaries of freedom in a series of protests over chronic power outages.

On Tuesday evening, several hundred people in the commercial capital Yangon marched at Sule Pagoda, the focal point of demonstrations in 2007 and 1988 that were crushed by the military which ruled for half a century until last year.

About 1,000 people protested for a third straight evening in northe

An image makeover for Myanmar Inc

YANGON (Reuters) - He’s the flashiest tycoon in one of Asia’s poorest cities, with a canary-yellow Lamborghini parked outside his neoclassical mansion.

Tay Za is also one of the most vilified associates of Myanmar’s former junta. The U.S. Treasury has branded him a “notorious henchman and arms dealer,” slapping him with sanctions that froze his assets and blocked his jet-setting family from cities across the globe.

Now, as his country starts to open up after decades of military misrule, Tay Za

As Myanmar opens, hopes for an art renaissance

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar artist Nyein Chan Su’s paintings have a breezy simplicity. Broad, colourful strokes and exaggerated figures, often in silhouette, capture an isolated country steeped in Buddhist culture but blighted by years of military rule.

But selling them has been anything but simple. For two decades, sanctions imposed in response to human rights abuses kept tourism to a trickle, and those who visited found a country run on cash, not credit. Expensive paintings rarely sold. Cheap

Analysis: A "Thaksinomics" renaissance in Thailand

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Festive campaign posters across Thailand promise voters the world in Sunday’s election: free tablet PCs, wage increases, high-speed trains, tax cuts. The list goes on.

These could deliver a burst of consumer spending and investment but also fuel a host of problems -- from higher debt to delays in economic reforms and an inflationary rise in the cost of business in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

With inflation already accelerating, and the economy slowing, some eco

Analysis: A debate over autonomy in Thailand's restive south

YALA, Thailand (Reuters) - The motorcycle bomb burned the 27-year-old woman so badly her father only recognized her by a tattoo. She lost half her face and an arm in the attack by shadowy Muslim separatists in Thailand’s troubled deep south.

“The wound was awful. She must have suffered enormously,” said her father, Athorn Buakwan, a Buddhist farmer, as he held a framed photograph of his daughter and recalled his frantic search for her on the afternoon she was killed and 17 others were wounded i

Defiance in Thailand's "red shirt villages"

NONG HU LING, Thailand (Reuters) - Its brilliant green rice paddies, thatched-roof huts and overgrown jungle resemble most rural villages in northeast Thailand. But the red sign looming over a quiet dusty road in the community of Nong Hu Ling is something different.

“Red Shirt Village for Democracy,” it reads, proclaiming its allegiance to the red-shirted, anti-government movement whose protests paralyzed Bangkok last year and sparked a bloody military crackdown that ended with 91 people killed

Analysis: Thailand risks growing old before it gets rich

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Earning $6 a day from her food stall outside her home next to a railway track, Lumyai Rungruang is sceptical of news that Thailand’s wages are rising. The 54-year-old is too busy contending with spiralling inflation.

Coconut juice has doubled in price. Egg prices are up 50 percent at 90 baht ($2.95) a dozen. Doubtful her income can keep pace, she bristles when pressed about her future.

“I expect to work the rest of my life,” the mother of five said from her makeshift stall

Thailand still scarred five years after tsunami

BAN NAM KHEM, Thailand (Reuters) - Suvadee Sukkasem is still searching for her son who vanished when the Indian Ocean tsunami turned this tropical paradise into a mass grave for thousands of Thais and foreign vacationers nearly five years ago.

Although the sea now frightens her, she refuses to leave her beachside village in southern Thailand, holding out hope for the return of her son, who was four years old when the towering wave crashed ashore with little warning on December 26, 2004.

As the

After delays, Cambodia rekindles stock market dream

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Construction cranes and unfinished high-rise buildings surround the silty marshland where a year from now Cambodia hopes to turn the page on decades of upheaval by opening a stock exchange.

The idea of a Cambodian stockmarket has been floated since the 1990s but has struggled for traction in a country known for a culture of political impunity, chronic poverty and a history of violence, including the Khmer Rouge “Killing Fields.”

But authorities argue those days are over


A selection of Jason's work as Deputy Bureau in Singapore 2003 to 2005

...elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific

A selection of Jason's dispatches from other postings and assignments in the Asia-Pacific

Culture of Aborigines Attracts Tourists to the Great Outback

A pack of tourists follows the steps of Aborigine Robert Lerossignol through the hard, gritty outback of central Australia that has been home to his culture for 50,000 years.

He explains the significance of rock art carved into sun-baked slabs of red stone, sifts through ancient fossils in a dried-up seabed and shows how native plants nourished a daily diet and cultivated 1,000-year-old outback medicines.

This land where Lerossignol has grown up holds myths and legends which run deep in aborig