Southeast Asia

The region that Global Parachute delineates as the Southeast Asia includes the countries of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The unrest that has developed in Southeast Asia grew for journalists to an intolerable level in the Philippines in November 2009 when 57 people were killed in one brutal frenzy, 32 of which included journalists. A year of investigation of the mass murder of 57 people, there were still only 19 suspects on trial, 47 more in custody but not yet charged, and 130 still at large. By the CPJ's conservative count, 68 of our colleagues have been murdered there since 1992. There have been only five convictions.

Former OPC President Larry Martz writes that "yes, the new Philippine President, Benigno S. Aquino, has promised to push the case and reverse the pattern of impunity that has made his country the third most dangerous in the world for journalists. The real question is whether he or anyone else can make that happen, given the fragile state of Philippine democracy."

Risks for journalists are not limited to the Philippines in the region, when in April and May 2010 Thai security forces and antigovernment protesters clashed in a series of armed confrontations. At least 90 people were killed and more than 1,800 injured in the violence, some of the worst civil strife to hit Thailand since troops opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1992. Agnes Dherbeys worked day and night, photographing clashes that saw anti-government protesters both attacking soldiers as well as being attacked. Her images were an emotional rendering of the chaotic and dangerous scenes around her and won the 2010 OPC Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.

During the Thai political transition in 2011, broadcasting equipment was raided and seized by police at six community radio stations in Thailand's northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province. The raids were staged two days after caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government lost to the opposition Peua Thai party in general elections held on July 3. Police and National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission officials justified the seizures on charges that the stations lacked proper operating licenses, according to local press reports. Other journalists have been handed "anti-royal charges," which if convicted, journalists could face 30 years in prison. The Thai government also closed at least 13 community radio stations earlier this year.

Cambodia has also not been a place for press freedom. In February the government blocked a popular blog, which it considered critical of the government. CPJ also learned of reports that Cambodian officials deleted digital recordings and confiscated recording equipment from a number of journalists who covered a January 21 government press conference in Phnom Penh.

Rounding out the region in press freedom abuses is Singapore, whose royal family is fiercely protective -- and letigious -- about its image. The Overseas Press Club Freedom of the Press Committee, which writes letters on behalf of journalists and a free press globally, wrote recently to the government of Singapore about Alan Shadrake, an elderly and ailing British journalist, who was convicted because of what he wrote in his book.

Columbia Journalism Review writes that Singapore is a rich country with a surprisingly poor press freedom record. CPJ also found a series of court fines and damages awarded over slights to the country’s government by major international papers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The climate in Southeast Asia is mainly tropical–hot and humid all year round with plentiful rainfall. Southeast Asia has a wet and dry season caused by seasonal shift in winds or monsoon.

While the region's economy greatly depends on agriculture, manufacturing and services are becoming more important. Indonesia is the largest economy in this region. The region notably manufactures textiles, electronic high-tech goods such as microprocessors and heavy industrial products such as automobiles. Seventeen telecommunications companies have contracted to build a new submarine cable to connect Southeast Asia to the U.S. to avoid disruption of the kind recently caused by the cutting of the undersea cable from Taiwan to the U.S. in a recent earthquake.

Islam is the most widely practiced religion in Southeast Asia, or about 40% of the entire population, with majorities in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. Countries in Southeast Asia practice many different religions. Buddhism is predominant in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Singapore.

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