Asia in Review Archive (2017)


Date of AiR edition

News summary

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29 December 2017

Indonesia: The recent Constitutional Court ruling is not what some want it to be

After the Constitutional Court recently rejected a bid to criminalise gay sex (as reported in previ-ous AiRs), some, especially Western observers, have celebrated this as a big win and a blow to hardline Islamic forces in the country. This opin-ion takes a closer look and argues this win is nowhere near as big as it may have appeared [The Straits Times].

29 December 2017

Interview with Lieutenant General (Ret.) Widjojo on Military Reform and the 1965 Tragedy

In this interview, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Widjojo talks of the need to reform both police and military in Indonesia but points to difficulties such as the move away from the idea that the TNI should be the sole guardian of the nation and its focus on domestic threats. TNI needs to be under complete control of the civilian government. In order to finally move on from the 1965 tragedy, an apology by all sides is needs first of all [ISEAS Part I] [ISEAS Part II].

22 December 2017

Indonesia: Political Islam on the rise and the presidential election 2019

Last year an unprecedented phalanx of pro-Islam groups rallied against then Jakarta governor Ahok, an ethnic Chinese and Christian, for “blasphemous” comments putting President Widodo under significant pressure while entrenching the reach of extremist Islamic groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) more broadly into society. Now, the Islamic forces have not only celebrated a reunion whose success had been assessed differently by observers but managed to mobilize an overwhelming 100,000-strong pro-Palestine crowd to protest over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. In general, radical Islamic organizations and thought has steadily grown in importance since last year marking a general trend towards conservatism, nationalism and Islamism that is accompanied by the armed forces whose old main factions are advancing an increasing political influence. Behind the Islamic movement in the country’s capital have been and are identified not only former fringe leaders of extremist Islam but also former generals turned political party leaders, former president Yudhoyono and Suharto’s former son in law Prabowo, who almost managed to win the last presidential elections and heads the third largest party in parliament, the right-wing Gerindra. Since the Ahok rallies of 2016, Islamist ideas have increasingly consolidated among Indonesia’s Muslim population, the biggest worldwide, putting not only the President under pressure but also the social contract and its constitutional manifestation in a country that never has been a secular one but one that recognized several religions. In a related development, Islamic militants – referring to a fatwa of the Indonesia’s Islamic Clerical Council issued in 2016 – have announced to raid businesses in which Muslims are forced to wear Santa Claus hats during the upcoming Christmas days [AsiaTimes 1] [The Diplomat] [Asia Times 2][Independent].

22 December 2017

Indonesia: Concerns to stay despite Constitutional Court’s rejection to ban gay and extramarital sex

Following last week’s ruling of the Indonesian Constitutional Court in which it rejected a petition to ban gay and extramarital sex, human rights activists remain skeptical of the prospects of LGBT rights as the petition will now be delivered to the Parliament for consideration and criminalization of homosexuality continues to exist under the Pornography Law under which at the same day of the Constitutional Court’s decision a North Jakarta court issued 2-years imprisonment sentences against eight men taking part in a gay sex party [Voice of America].

22 December 2017

Indonesia: West Papua independence rallies

In more than a dozen cities in Indonesia, West Papuan students demonstrated for an independent West Papua on Tuesday. According to Free West Papua Compaign, the rallies received an unprecedented wave of solidarity from people across the country. West Papua has been a province of Indonesia since 1961. A petition for independence submitted to the United Nations was rejected in September [Asia Pacific Report].

22 December 2017

Indonesia-Australia relations: Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper recognizes Jakarta strategic importance

Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper, released in November, has put focus on the Indo-Pacific and has stressed the significance of Australia-Indonesia relationships within this frame. Indonesia is one of the  “trusted partners and friends” along with the USA, Japan, India, and South Korea. Given Australia’s strategic and trade interest, this perception of Indonesia’s importance is reasonable as Indonesia is expected by become the world’s fifth largest economy by 2030 and is strategically placed in terms of size, significance and geography at the juncture of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Security cooperation between both countries, which share a common maritime border, meanwhile, is firmly based on the Lombok Treaty of 2006.  [The Diplomat].

22 December 2017

Terrorism in Southeast Asia: Fight against IS continues

Philippine Armed Forces this week have warned against continued recruitment activities of the remnants of the terrorist group despite the end of the Marawi battle. Against the background of this claim the Philippine Congress has approval the extension martial law over Mindanao until 31. December 2018 [Task and Purpose] [NPR]. In a related development, Philippine and Australian marines jointly conducted a counter-terror warfare training [SBS News].

Meanwhile, Malaysian security and counterterrorism authorities have voiced concerns over the threat of militants returning from Syria and the Philippines. Since 2013, several hundred Malaysians have travelled to Syria to the join the IS there whereas around thirty joined forces with the pro-IS Maute group in Marawi earlier this year. Although an IS attack in Malaysia is unlikely, lone wolf attacks and recruitment activities will continue [Global Risk Insights].

15 December 2017

Constitutional Court not criminalising gay sex or sex outside of marriage

The Constitutional Court in Indonesia has re-jected an attempt to criminalise sex outside of marriage or between gay couples by a close 5 to 4 majority-decision of the 9 judges. The ruling argued it is not the CC’s role to criminalise pri-vate behaviour whereas the dissenting opinion of the other judges argued in favour of criminalisa-tion on moral grounds [Reuters]. The decision comes amid an ongoing struggle between more and less tolerant Islamic strains in Indonesian politics and a worrying trend in which radical Islam is politically weaponised and used for op-pression and surveillance [Lowy Institute].

8 December 2017

Identity politics and an analysis of the reun-ion of the 212 movement

In the ongoing discussion about identity politics in Indonesia, the country’s largest Muslim orga-nization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), has warned that politicians who use Islam to win votes inevi-tably end up discriminating against minorities and provoking intolerance that can lead to relig-ious conflict. In the run-up to May 2017 gu-benartorial elections, the country was rocked by massive demonstrations led by Islamist groups to protest against Jakarta’s former ethnic Chi-nese Christian governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama who eventually lost the election. The anti-Ahok Islamist groups came to be known as Aksi Bela Islam 212 [Channel News Asia]. Ray Yen reflects on the anniversary of the 212 mass mobilization in December 2016. Reporting from the Muslim activists’ reunion in Jakarta, he points to the far lower turnout this year due to the electoral defeat and the imprisonment of Ahok, as the raison d’etre of last year’s mobili-zation no longer exists. However, he also sub-mits that The Aksi Bela Islam 212 is an opportu-nity for a symbolic convergence of heterogene-ous groups in the name of Islamic unity, and that it cannot be described as being primarily a tool for competing oligarchs. He states that the peo-ple who attend the Aksi Bela Islam events do not necessarily share the political objectives of the elites who are supposedly pulling the strings [New Mandala]. In Malaysia, critical voices against identity politics are raised as well. The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah, expressed concern over the abuse of power, arrogance and high-handedness of certain religious officers and religious institutions in their enforcement activi-ties that he said tarnished the good name of Is-lam. He referred to incidents such as torture and abuse, implemented for the purpose of enforce-ment of regulations for the safeguarding of Islam.

8 December 2017

China’s economic engagement in Southeast Asia: Taking concrete shapes

As support from traditional development aid sources decrease, Indonesia receives foreign aid to an increasing extent from China and other non-DAC (Development Assistance Committee) countries. China’s aid to Indonesia has financed bridges, roads, power plants and a limited number of railway projects, all designed and constructed by Chinese firms. However, Pierre van der Eng submits that Indonesia could face the dilemma of whether it can continue to limit the influence of aid donors on its development policies when the delivery of bilateral foreign aid for infrastructure depends increasingly on a single provider [East Asia Forum]. In Thailand, the government just approved the country’s first high-speed railway, spearheaded by China, an on-again-off-again project that was once hailed as the crowning project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. The National Environment Commission accepted the environmental impact assessment report for the 253- kilometer portion from Bangkok to the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima. Over years, Chinese and Japanese construction firms had contested in the bidding process [Asia Times]. Meanwhile, Myanmar and China agreed to build an economic corridor between the two countries, furthering Naypyitaw’s efforts to strengthen ties with Beijing as criticism over the Rohingya refugee crisis pushes it away from the West. Beijing plans to build a deep-sea port as well as an industrial park. It also started up in April a crude oil pipeline linking Kyaukpyu and Kunming, providing an alternate route for oil shipments that does not pass through the Strait of Malacca [Nikkei Asian Review]. Before this background, the South China Morning Post asks whether an all-powerful Xi Jinping and an emboldened China are good for Southeast Asia. Karim Raslan draws historic comparisons to the Qing dynasty’s greatest emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong. However, he submits that, while China seems on the upswing now, another stumble could well be on the way, if the looming debt crisis and growing domestic income inequalities were not resolved. Moreover, he writes that Southeast Asian countries are unwilling to be hegemonized [South China Morning Post].

8 December 2017

Indonesia: New military head and Russo-Indonesian defense ties

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has nominated the chief of staff of the air force to be the new head of the armed forces. The outgoing armed forces chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, who will step down at the end of his term in April, has often courted controversy over what analysts see as his political ambitions. The designated new head, Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, has close ties to the President [Straits Times]. Prashanth Parameswaran, however, submits that the appointment is in line with traditional practice, whereby the Indonesian military chief position has rotated between the army, navy, and air force in a move to reverse the traditionally dominant role of the army [The Diplomat]. In another recent development, the Russian defense ministry confirmed that Russian strategic bombers and aircraft had flown over Indonesia. The development was just the latest in a series that spotlighted the longstanding defense relationship between Russia and Indonesia as well as Moscow’s ongoing efforts to deepen ties with Southeast Asian states [The Diplomat].

1 December 2017

Indonesia: A critical assessment of the identity politics narrative – And: One contestant less for the 2019 presidential election

Many observers have commented on the rise of nativist sentiment and Islamic radicalism in Indonesia and have argued that this new salience of identity politics posed a threat to pluralism and the rule of law. Based on recent surveys after local elections, Diego Fossati argues that voters do take into account the actual performance of their local governments, independent of identity issues. However, he qualifies this finding: Performance-based voting behaviour is strong in Samarinda and Surabaya, but not in Medan — a city where local politics is characterised by ethno-religious polarisation and widespread corruption. Meanwhile, the Indonesian business tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo said on Tuesday that he was not planning to stand in the country’s 2019 presidential election, and that he would support current President Joko Widodo if he chose to run again. He previously stood as a candidate for vice president in the 2014 election and subsequently founded his own political party, which will contest Indonesia’s general elections in 2019. Tanoesoedibjo is also U.S. President Donald Trump’s business partner in two resort developments in Indonesia [East Asia Forum] [Reuters].

24 November 2017

Religious freedom?

In Indonesia, where Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism have long been the only officially recognised religions, a constitutional court ruling earlier in November has ruled the state ought to recognise traditional faiths as well. Whilst this sounds like a win for religious freedom in Indonesia, minority beliefs still face an uphill battle, and the trend of more fundamental Islam in the country is also increasing [Asia Times] [The Diplomat].

24 November 2017

Indonesia:  Boosting air and sea denial capabilities

The Indonesian government is building up air and naval facilities, for example on the Natuna Islands, in what some observers call an increasingly assertive reaction to Chinese activities in the region [ATimes].

17 November 2017

Blasphemy, religions, pornography, and Hitler

The man, whose edit and upload of a controversial video led to the jailing of ex-Jakarta governor Basuki (Ahok) Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy, was sentenced to one and a half years in jail for breaching information and electronic transaction laws. Before the blasphemy allegations, Ahok was the overwhelming favourite for re-election. Also, this week, the Constitutional Court of Indonesia ruled that the Population Administration Law’s prohibition on adherents of native faiths from listing their religion on official identification cards is unconstitutional. Prior to the court’s ruling, members of religious minorities faced an impossible choice: leave blank the ID card’s religion column and possibly be accused of being an atheist – which is punishable under the blasphemy law – or select one of Indonesia’s six officially protected religions and be accused of falsifying their identity. Another piece of legislation, however, continues to produce discussions: the country’s strict anti-pornography law. Ethnic minority groups voiced opposition to it on the basis that it would potentially outlaw traditional forms of cultural expression, including art and dance. Also, women’s groups opposed aspects of the legislation that seek to control how women can act or dress. Meanwhile, an Indonesian visual effects museum that encouraged visitors to take selfies with a waxwork of Adolf Hitler against a giant image of the Auschwitz extermination camp has removed the exhibit after protests [The Straits Times] [Human Rights Watch] [South China Morning Post][Associated Press].

17 November 2017

Natural resources: Attack on copper mine in Indonesia; Thailand faces arbitration over gold mine

An Indonesian police officer was killed and a second wounded after being shot in the back in an area near a giant copper mine in the eastern province of Papua. A string of shooting incidents in the area since mid-August have wounded at least eight people and killed two police officers. Meanwhile, the Thai government has begun preparing for arbitration in the conflict over the ordered closure of an Australian gold mine in Phichit. The Australian mining company had previously announced that it would commence proceedings, claiming that the government’s order to suspend the mining operation had harmed their business and violated the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). Nevertheless, Thailand appears poised to attract more foreign direct investment, particularly by the development of the so called Eastern Economic Corridor [The Straits Times] [The Nation] [Asia Times].

10 November 2017

West-Papua: Independence revisited?

Starting with what is widely perceived as a flawed plebiscite in 1969, the question of West Papuan Independence has long been discussed. Alleged human rights abuses and a repressive colonial style rule of the province by Indonesia and its military have been reported repeatedly by several organisations working on the issue. The complex and highly sensitive questions surrounding independence have long been suppressed by Jakarta but it seems more attention is being given more recently [Asia Sentinel].

3 November 2017

Need for justice reform exposed

Indonesia’s troubled legal system is again coming under scrutiny, after rulings in two high-profile cases that have alarmed both Western expatriates and local organizations that fight corruption in the country’s judiciary. One case involved a Canadian educator serving an 11-year term in a high-security prison on charges of sexually assaulting kindergartners, the other a powerful Indonesian politician who avoided prosecution in a corruption scandal [The New York Times].

28 October 2017

A new party outfit pro secularism and diversity

In preparation of the 2019 general elections In-donesia’s young Solidarity Party (PSI) stands out as a promoter of diversity and ‘clean’ poli-tics. The article presents the crowd-funded PSI as an unprecedented alternative by young people for young people that is characterized by the open online recruitment of electoral candidates which it has carried out and its bid to offer a counterweight to the xenophobic nationalism and purification rhetoric that currently dominates political discourses [Today Online].

28 October 2017

Political Islam and constitutional democracy

An advancing political Islam uses the processes of democratic constitutionalism to enforce an agenda that partly converges with those of nationalist conservatism. While political Islam has always been a factor in Indonesian constitutional politics, recent years saw an unprecedented shift of its more radical strands from the fringe to the center of the political discourse. The article examines this development as a reaction to the exclusion of more fundamentalist notions of Islam after democratization in 1998 and observes a successful appropriation of dominant Indonesian constitutionalism [The Diplomat].

28 October 2017

Shrinking spaces for minorities

The first report of HRW sheds light on adoption laws and practices that effectively exclude adoptions of children of unknown (and Muslim) identity by religious minorities while the second article addresses the shrinking space for LGBT. Originating in the xenophobic rhetoric of a resurging military that warns of the LGBT movement as part of a proxy war against Indonesia, the issue has been broadly taken up by a variety of societal forces creating an increasingly repressive environment for LGBT people in the country. Meanwhile the unprecedented hostility has even reached mainstream TV with the broadcast commission warning of suspicious content in a recently aired comedy and the parliament considering legislation that would ban any LGBT content from TV by the end of the year [Human Rights Watch][The Sydney Morning Herald][NBC News].

28 October 2017

Fighting Terrorism, Piracy & Drug in South East Asia

While terrorist groups in Indonesia seem to have shifted the focus of the financing operations from illegal activities to legal ones including donations through social media [The Strait Times], President Duterte calls on Malaysia and Indonesia to ‘blast’ pirates with strings to terrorist groups out of the regional sea [The Star]. Meanwhile Indonesia’s ‘shoot-on-sight’ policy against drug offenders has increased the number of drug-related extrajudicial killings to a total of at least 80 since January this year [The Jakarta Post].

28 October 2017

And the U.S. stood by: The 1965 Indonesian mass murder and its legacy

Newly released documents reveal details of America’s role as a benevolent bystander of Indonesia’s murderous 1965 anti-communist rampage that was killing half a million Indonesians at least. The NYT piece refers to newly declassified State Department files showing that diplomats meticulously documented the purge in 1965-66 watching the massacre they were well informed of with some sympathy. According to the sources, US officials definitely welcomed the end of socialist leaning dictator Sukarno by General Suharto as a “fantastic switch” they had pressured for. While Suharto’s New Order generals still play a dominant role in democratic Indonesia, the legacy of the massacre remains a sensitive issue. After a noteworthy documentary of the killers by filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer from 2012 named “The Act of Killing” turned out to be highly divisive a public screening of Oppenheimer’s second documentary, “The Look of Silence,” was restricted by a military directive while a mob gathered around a building where a talk on the violence has been planned [The New York Times, Youtube].

28 October 2017

Indonesia-Vietnam Defense Ties

The recent defense minister meeting culminating in the signing of a new joint vision statement for 2022 looks back to a steady development that has started from a comprehensive partnership agreement in 2003 [The Diplomat].


20 October 2017

Jakarta’s new governor and the Islamization of Indonesian politics

Anies Baswedan was sworn in as governor of Jakarta on Monday, while Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta’s recently departed governor, is serving a two-year prison sentence after being convicted of blaspheming Islam. In his inaugural speech, Anies doubled down on the identitarian religious rhetoric that sustained his campaign and propelled him into office, Tom Pepinsky analyzes. Women’s rights advocates say recent controversies, including the launch of a mobile dating app for polygamists in Indonesia, have highlighted how cultural and religious views are increasingly impeding efforts towards gender equality in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation [The New York Times] [New Mandala] [South China Morning Post].

20 October 2017

Indonesia: Proposal for ASEAN intelligence sharing to track militants

Indonesia will propose a broad intelligence-sharing initiative among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to deal with the rising threat of radical Islamist militants. Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacuda said he would propose an “Our Eyes” initiative at the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) in the Philippines this month [The Straits Times].


20 October 2017

Files reveal details of US support for Indonesian massacre

Declassified files have revealed new details of U.S. government knowledge and support of an Indonesian army extermination campaign that killed several hundred thousand civilians during anti-communist hysteria in the mid-1960s. The thousands of files from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta covering 1963-66 were made public Tuesday after a declassification review that began under the Obama administration [Daily Mail].


13 October 2017

Jakarta will swear in new governor as Jokowi’s poularity rises

Jakarta’s governor in spe Anies Baswedan will be sworn in next week after winning the controversial election which saw fellow candidate and former governor “Ahok” sentenced to a two-year prison sentence on blashpheny charges, which he now serves. Baswedan is close to hardline Islamist groups who have supported his bid. Rumours are already surfacing that he might run for the presidency in 2019 against the current president who momentarily enjoys soaring approval rates [Cogit Asia] [The Straits Times].

13 October 2017

Is the military advancing as a political player?

At a show-of-strength parade of the founding of the country’s military, with details on the new weapon systems showcased, the Indonesian President said that it should only be loyal to state and government and stay out of politics. The Indonesian forces (TNI) officially withdrew from the central political role they used to have prior to the New Order regime years ago but remain to some extent a political force that has shown increasing assertiveness in recent times under Armed Forces Commander General Gatot. Nevertheless, the TNI chief has reiterated his force´s loyalty [Antara News 1] [The Straits Times] [Antara News 2].

6 October 2017

Deregulating economy and relegating rights

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo takes another effort to deregulate and clear the country´s thicket of legal red tape now preparing a presidential regulation that will integrate all business licensing paperwork by the end of March 2018. However, experts voice concern about its enforceability at the regional/local level [Aseanews]. At the same time, legislators are debating a law that would ban LGBT characters from national television shows after the LGBT community had come under increasing pressure from conservative forces across the country. “We have to ban it early before it becomes a lifestyle,” said one legislator [The Telegraph].

6 October 2017

Rohingya, Rights, and ASEAN

The former Indonesian foreign minister Dr. Marty Natalegawa believes that ASEAN would eventually be able to find common ground on Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohinya minority. In spite of the apparent disunity, he expressed optimism about the regional entity going forward and overcoming “this temporary division” (Today Online). In this respect, another article points to the possibly destabilizing force of widespread human rights violations in ASEAN, as authoritarianism in the region runs counter to the otherwise liberal economic goals of Asia’s rising tigers (Frontera). Another ASEAN-wide concern is cyber security.  Telecommunications ministers from the ASEAN countries agreed on the need for increased regional dialogue, more effective regulatory systems and improved resources to enhance cyber security in the region. Earlier this year, Interpol had reported that it had identified cyber threats to nearly 9,000 command and control servers in ASEAN. The topic is also one of several priority pillars for market integration under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and a blueprint for securing information infrastructure by 2025 (Asia Times). In the meanwhile, the U.N.’s decolonization committee announced that it will not accept a petition signed by 1.8 million West Papuans calling for independence, saying West Papua’s cause is outside its mandate. Political control of the region has been contested for more than half a century and Indonesia has consistently been accused of human rights violations and violent suppression of the region’s independence movement. Many Papuans regard Jarkarta’s 1963 takeover as an illegal annexation (South China Morning Post).

15 September 2017

Indonesian Islam Today

Indonesia, the world´s nation with the largest Muslim population, displays an ongoing turn towards the global Islamic revival with Islam becoming steadily more relevant for social as well as political life and order [Deutsche Welle]. Accordingly, visible is the response to the recent violence involving the Rohingya Muslim com-munity in Myanmar going on to spark enormous outrage in Indonesian Muslim communities and prompting the government to send 34 tons of aid to the suffering Rohingya [Sun Star].

15 September 2017

The mothers who infiltrated an online pedo-phile group

A group of mothers infiltrated a pedophile Face-book group saving and screening evidence of horrible crimes against children eventually lead-ing to the arrest of five suspects among the 7,000 members pedophile group that has produced and distributed at least 400 videos of child abuse with the network being linked to 11 countries also over WhatsApp groups. Indonesia has last year passed strict laws in relation to convicted pedophiles including chemical castration and execution.

15 September 2017

South China Sea: Indonesia´s growing assertiveness

The first article comments on Indonesia´s increasingly assertive posture in the South China Sea and its implications. After three maritime skirmishes in 2016 and Indonesia having renamed a part of the disputed waters as Natuna Sea the country is building up its military presence around the Natuna Islands despite the fact that China is one of Indonesia´s biggest investors and trading partners (Today). The development expresses the declared policy of Indonesia´s President “Jokowi” to transform his country into a maritime power but also fits in a general trend of mutual assertiveness in the disputed waters (US Department of Defense). At the same time, Indonesia is enhancing its military training capabilities in the context of its participation in the annual US organized bilateral CARAT military exercise aiming at improving maritime interoperability of US partners and allies (Jakarta Globe).

15 September 2017

Indonesia & China: The Sea between

The article provides some historic background on the bilateral relation between China and Indonesia amidst growing tension in the South China Sea. It juxtaposes historic ideas of a common cultural space in Asia and the “firm” national borders today.

15 September 2017

Indonesia – Turkey: Tightening security cooperation

On occasion of their annual defense talks Indonesia and Turkey have used the opportunity to tighten their ties after closer collaborations have emerged since 2010 (The Diplomat). Now the decision for a joint production of the Turkish KAPLAN medium-weight battle tank and military drones adds to the already established cooperation between the country’s aircraft manufacturers, submarine production, and joint efforts in counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing (Hurriyet).

15 September 2017

Terrorism: IS wants Muslim militants to avoid Syria and go to the Philippines/Returnees share horrible experiences about life under the IS and in Singapore there are increased worries about radicalization.

The Islamic State, after losing ground in Syria and Iraq, is switching its attention to the Philippines encouraging potential fighters to join the battle for Marawi, reinforcing serious worries that Asia is ISIS’s new focus (The Week). In Indonesia, returnees who spent some years living in Syria under the IS publicly shared some of their experiences and what caused them to return (Benar). In Singapore, officials lament that radicalization now happens faster than ever (Channel News).


7 September 2017

Former Constitutional Court Judge sentenced to eight years

Indonesia’s corruption court sentenced Patrialis Akbar to eight years in prison for taking bribes, the second time a Constitutional Court judge has been imprisoned for bribery since 2014. Back then, Akil Mohtar, the former President of the nine-member bench was sentenced to life in prison for accepting bribes causing a crisis of identity of the powerful Court.

7 September 2017

Lynching highlights rise in vigilante justice

The lynching of a petty criminal this month in a suburb of Jakarta has shocked Indonesia and opened a broader discussion about why vigilante mobs continue to torture and execute petty criminals. The article portraits possible reasons such as a weak justice system and the down-side of urbanization, in particular the influx of large numbers of migrant workers.

7 September 2017

LGBT crackdown feared in Indonesia after 12 women evicted from home

A raid against a group of women sharing a house in West Java confirms the worsening of the situation of LGBT in the wake of the increasing influence of Islamism in Indonesia.

7 September 2017

Rising inequality, a ticking timebomb in Indonesia

Lacking a comprehensive approach to strengthen Indonesia’s economy, the government’s budget plan for 2018 is not suitable to substantially tackle the problem of increasing inequality, re-flected in the number of close to 28m Indone-sians considered as poor, Siwage Dharma Ne-gara analyses in this article.

7 September 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Influence on Indonesia’s Growing Islamic Extremism

The growing strength of Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia is in many ways connected to Saudi-Arabia, historically, ideologically, and financially. The Indonesian government needs to keep a close eye on the country’s influence in Indonesia to prevent a regression to the Middle Ages, Stanley A. Weiss warns.

7 September 2017

Anti-piracy patrols adrift in terror-targeted waterway

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have started joint patrols against pirates terrorizing shipping in the deep water Sibutu Passage between Malaysia and the Philippines, but limited resources and legal obstacles are already rocking the boat. The Sibutu Passage has emerged as Asia’s most dangerous waterway as Islamic terror groups target seaborne trade.

31 August 2017

Indonesia and Vietnam mend ties after talks to settle South China Sea disputes

Despite two recent maritime stand-offs in the waters in the South China Sea Indonesia and Vietnam mended ties after President Joko Widodo and Communist Party of Vietnam Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong held talks on their interests in the South China Sea producing also a number of important deals between the countries.

31 August 2017

Background: Indonesia and the Sea

The article analyses plans and possibilities of Indonesia to further enhance its position as a significant sea power between the oceans in the context of Asia’s changing security order.

31 August 2017

Southeast Asian Terrorism: Indonesian militants planned nuclear attack

Indonesian pro-IS militants planned to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb close to a high – level target in Indonesia. Given the expertise and equipment, the attempt to create a small nuclear bomb would have failed but could still have functioned as a dirty bomb that could spray radioactive material with explosion.

24 August 2017

What next after Indonesia’s tax amnesty

The Indonesian government has just completed the largest tax amnesty in the country’s history which aims at improving the population´s low compliance rate with tax obligations. Compared to most Asian neighbours, Indonesia suffers from low revenue collection while the country has one of the highest wealth inequality figures in the world. A way to increase the effective tax revenue as the article suggests would be to just tax wealth by introducing an inheritance tax, a land-value tax or an annual wealth taxation, all of which would represent steps towards taxing unearned income and unproductive assets.

18 August 2017

Former Indonesian president’s son launches think-tank

The recent foundation of a political think tank by Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of Indoenesia’s former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is viewed by observers as part of a strategic plan to ensure his election as Indonesian president in 2019.

18 August 2017

Indonesia´s War on Drugs and its Human Right Toll

Two articles on the war on drugs in Indonesia highlighting the immense increase of drug sus-pects killed in this year by security forces as a result of a government-ordered shift in the treatment of drug criminals.

18 August 2017

Indonesia denies claims of Papuan rights restrictions

The Indonesian government has declared accusa-tions of infringement of political rights of West Papuans as baseless.

11 August 2017

New election bill, new hope for democracy

Indonesian legislature passed a new bill reform-ing the general election process for the 2019 si-multaneous elections. Despite dissent from op-position parties, the reform introduces thresholds for the acceptance of presidential candidates, and for representation of parties in the House. The changes are expected to consolidate democratic processes, through a more effective presidency and House, and an easier-to-understand and less costly political system.

11 August 2017

Indonesia Again Silences 1965 Massacre Vic-tims

Reflecting the traditional unwillingness on the side of the Indonesian government and security forces to allow public discussion on the mass killings of communists in the years 1965-66, a workshop dealing with the issues of financial compensation for victim of those killing was cancelled in the last week.

4 August 2017

Indonesia’s Death Penalty Debacle Exposed

Indonesia’s Attorney General’s Office and Su-preme Court are being accused of maladminis-tration in the July 2016 execution of a Nigerian citizen charged for drug trafficking. This news comes amid President Widodo’s sustained policy to execute convicted drug traffickers. Shock-ingly, the president and Indonesia’s chiefs of police and narcotics agency have urged officers to summarily execute dealers who resist

27 July 2017

How This Agency is Waging War Against Corruption in Indonesia, and Winning

Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption agency KPK is continuing its quest to eradicate corruption in the island-state. To many, the comparatively small and according to some commentators hugely underfunded agency is a success story in fighting corruption in Asia as it keeps bringing high-profile cases to a successful end [South China Morning Post].

27 July 2017

Indonesian religious ministry to propose tougher blasphemy laws

Indonesia’s proposed “Religious Rights Protection Bill” will significantly expand the definition of blasphemy and allow harsher punishments for the crime of insulting religion. Critics allege the bill is more about curtailing religious rights than protecting them [Asian Correspondent].

27 July 2017

Why banning ‘extremist groups’ is dangerous for Indonesia

A new law will make it easier for Indonesia to ban any group it deems “extremist.” Critics of the law argue the law will harm Indonesia’s stability, security and democracy [The Washington Post].

27 July 2017

Indonesia: ‘Religious Rights’ Bill Would Harm Minorities

HRW voices significant concern with regards to the recently introduced “Religious Rights Bill” in Indonesia. According to the report, the draft law reinforces already existing discrimination against minorities and expands on harsh blasphemy laws already in place [Human Rights Watch].

27 July 2017

Weapon against subversion: As Indonesia Targets Islamist Hard-Liners, Even Rights Groups Object

In an attempt to confront the rise of Islamist hard-liners, the Indonesian government has for the first time officially banned an Islamic Organization. The move has raised concern across Indonesia however, as opponents of the measure, both Islamic conservatives as well as Human Rights groups, find the measure too punitive as in its current form, the ban cannot be appealed [The New York Times, The Straits Time].

27 July 2017

Widodo risks voter backlash with ban of Islamist group

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has issued a decree on the basis of which the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights banned the Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir [Today Online].

27 July 2017

Indonesian leader polishes strongman image by calling for drug killings

Indonesia’s president Widodo has in a speech on Friday called on police to shoot drug dealers who resist arrest, especially if they are foreign. It added to National Police Chief General Karnavian’ speech on Thursday, in which he praised Philippines’ president Duterte’s war on drugs. While political analysts pointed out that the speech was designed to boost the president’s popularity, it also sparks a real threat of police taking it as a green light for the extrajudicial use of excessive force [CNN].

27 July 2017

Indonesia police ordered to shoot drug dealers to tackle ‘narcotics emergency’

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s order to shoot drug dealers echoes the policies of Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose drug war has killed thousands and has been condemned by the international community [The Guardian].

27 July 2017

Indonesia’s Police Chief Touts Killing Drug Dealers as Crime Solution

The most senior Indonesian law enforcement official says Duterte’s summary execution of alleged drug dealer is the model for effective counter-drug policing. Human Rights activists say Indonesia should reject the Duterte model as “a brutal, unlawful assault on the rule of law, human rights, and basic decency” [Human Rights Watch].

27 July 2017

Indonesia calls for OIC Special Meeting on Al Aqsa Issue and Urges Granting of Worship Rights in Al Aqsa

Indonesia appears increasingly concerned with regards to Muslims in Palestine. It is calling on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to provide a forum to discuss the ongoing dispute around the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and at the same time, Foreign Minister Marsudi has voiced concern that Muslims in Palestine will encounter restrictions in practicing their faith due to the issues surrounding the mosque. [Tempo, Astro Awani].

21 July 2017

The next election will be about religion: Why Indonesia´s President had to abandon his ally Ahok

The article highlights the Indonesian President’s uncomfortable position between a rock and a hard place in form of a nationalism rooted in the country’s authoritarian past on the one hand and an increasingly illiberal Islamic fundamentalism on the other while liberal voices are at risk to be increasingly marginalized in the world’ largest Muslim country’s polity with no end in sight before the 2019 elections [South China Morning Post].

18 July 2017

‘A cannon to shoot sparrows’: New Indonesian anti-Islamist law slammed

Human rights organizations condemn the revised law in Indonesia allowing the disbanding of religious and civil society organizations without the right of appeal. Part of the government’s plan to ban the conservative Islam group Hizbut Tahrir, it could exasperate issues as peaceful political activism is already severely restricted [CNN].

30 June 2017

Indonesia’s Military Chief Says ISIS Cells Are in ‘Almost Every Province’ of the Country

Indonesia’s military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo warns against country-wide established “sleeper cells” linked to the Islamic State group (ISIS) [Time Magazine].