Welcome to the inaugural Harrison White Journalist weekly news and views!

I have decided to change the flow of the website to reflect a more personal experience of the stories previously told. Stand alone articles will still be posted and can now be found under the ‘articles’ section in the top banner. My aim will be to make the website a much more interactive experience that becomes a must read for anyone looking for a quick and entertaining read of the week that was.

The weekly news and views post will focus on the biggest stories to happen in South East Asia that week, with special reflection on the impact to westerns in country and abroad. I will also be looking to include regular segments throughout the year and gauge their popularity and the site overall.

I have moved back to my hometown of Melbourne this year, however I will be making frequent trips to predominately the Indochina region throughout the year. This will give me a chance to post several weeks with my feet on the ground and will allow me to post first hand news, views and stories from the ex-pat strongholds. I will be looking to make the move back to South East Asia permanently again in 2020.

The week that was:

This biggest political story of the week is by far the ongoing fallout from the contentious result of the Thai election, coinciding with Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation. With all political parties pointing the figure of misconduct at each other an accepted result seems near impossible to be reached.

It appears many revelers will also have to forgo their annual Songkran pilgrimage to Khao San Road. After it was announced this week that the tourist road mecca would be cancelling its water gun event due to ‘ongoing works’ for the kings coronation. However  in this commentators experience of official bans in the land of smiles – what is said and what is enforced are two very different things.

Thailand celebrates Songkran, Thailand’s traditional new year, from April 13 to 15, during which revelers splash water on each other under the scorching sun. The event is seen as must do for any self respecting backpacker undertaking the ‘Banana Pancake Trail’.

Thailand has not held a coronation for almost 70’s years and so will be considered by many Thai’s as possibly a once in lifetime experience.

Below is a British Archived YouTube link of the News Clip with thanks to AP

 

The other big news of the week was the dangerous levels of air pollution in Thailand’s North that has resulted in the closure of several schools. The pollution problems that plagued Bangkok over the Christmas break show no sign of abating and if anything only seem to be getting worse every year. With “Prime Minister” Prayuth Chan-ocha taking a military helicopter fly by to the countries self-advertised health tourism hub to find out first hand the extent of the toxic smog.

Speaking to a mate who has just returned from his annual pilgrimage to the countries second most populated city. The report on the ground was almost worse than those read in the international and domestic press. With smog so bad at times the cities famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep that has over looked the city since the 14th century becoming unseeable in the toxic air.

Living myself in the Big Mango over the Christmas period resulted in two trips to the Ophthalmologists for a severe eye infection, several rounds of sinusitis and a constant ‘smokers cough’. As odd as it sounds and something that many will never understand is my gratitude now for clean air, with my symptoms literally ceasing after one week back in Aus. However with crop burning already starting in Hua Hin, one can expect the crisis in the North to only get worse before it gets better.

Clink on the link for a real time index, the numbers speak for themselves -https://aqicn.org/map/thailand

thai polution

Outside the tourist strongholds of South East Asia and to the Kingdom of Brueni’ their further dissent into archaic Islamist laws, are finally starting to receive some international blow-back.

Under the new laws, individuals accused of certain acts will be convicted if they confess or if there were witnesses present.

  • Offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad will carry the maximum penalty of death.
  • Lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail
  • The punishment for theft is amputation
  • Those who “persuade, tell or encourage” Muslim children under the age of 18 “to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam” are liable to a fine or jail

With many western tourists never stepping foot in the tiny oil and gas rich country (and most, likely never planning too) the new laws are more interesting to examine with a wider eye. With an increase in extreme Islamist’s in Indonesia, Southern Phillipines, Malaysia and Southern Thailand. There are growing and genuine concerns for the many gay and lesbian expats living in these regions.

The Week Ahead:

Jokowi or Prabowo?

With the world most populated Muslim nation going to the polls next week, the presidential race has peaked in Indonesia.

For those planning a holiday over the Easter Break the following are key dates for the presidential election that may good to know:

  • April 13, 2019: Fifth and final debate for the Presidential Election: Jokowi- Ma’ruf vs Prabowo- Sandiaga on the economy, social welfare, finance and investment, as well as trade and industry.
  • April 14 to 16, 2019: Cooling-off period.
  • April 17, 2019: Polling Day.
  • April 25 – May 22, 2019: Progressive release of the results of the general election.
  • Oct 1, 2019: Inauguration of lawmakers.
  • Oct 20, 2019: Inauguration of President

Glossary:

Big Mango is a nickname for Thailand’s capital Bangkok.

The Banana Pancake Trail is the name given to growing routes around Southeast Asia traveled by backpackers and other tourists. The Trail has no clear geographical definition, but is used as a metaphor for places that are popular among Western tourists.

Coined in the 1990’s to counter the term “Grand Tour” used in to the 17th- and 18th-century custom of a traditional trip of Europe undertaken by upper-class young European men of sufficient means and rank when they had come of age about 21 years old.

 

Harrison White can be contacted at harrisonwhitejournalist@gmail.com