BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Almost a decade after a devastating earthquake and tsunami killed 170,000 people in Aceh, voters in Indonesia’s northwestern-most province are gearing up to have their say in today’s presidential election.
NUWARA ELIYA, Sri Lanka — K. Sagunthaladavi, 36, has spent half her life among the waist-high bushes that cover the verdurous slopes of Sri Lanka’s tea country, plucking hundreds of thousands of the green leaves used to make one of the world’s oldest and most popular drinks.
THILAWA, Myanmar — The Thilawa Special Economic Zone might be just a 45-minute drive from downtown Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city and commercial hub, but the Japanese presence is unmissable. Outside the site offices — an island of prefabricated shelters surrounded by acres of upturned earth — a row of six flags dries in the breeze after a short downpour. The yellow, green and red of Myanmar alternates with Japan’s unmistakable red sun on a white background.
BANGKOK — Thailand’s bitter political divide widened this week after two separate rulings by legal institutions forced Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office and raised the possibility that she could be banned from politics for five years. The developments also cast doubt over Thai national elections planned for July 20 after the country’s Constitutional Court voided the results of an earlier poll on Feb. 2, citing disruptions by anti-government protesters that prevented the poll from being completed nationwide in a single day, as required by the country’s constitution. On May 7 the Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck and nine ministers had abused their offices when reassigning the National Security Council secretary in 2011 — a reshuffle that paved the way for the brother-in-law of Yingluck’s elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra, to take the position of police chief.
MAW SON NYA, Myanmar — Mohamed Akbar*, a 32-year old father of five, cannot move. Lying on a bed of old rags, he struggles to even turn his head toward the sunlight glinting through the door of his family’s bamboo shack. Akbar, one of the nearly 140,000 stateless Muslim Rohingya living in overcrowded refugee camps in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, thinks he could be HIV-positive. But since the government expelled medical aid group Doctors Without Borders from the state in February, slashing medical services in the camps, he has no way of finding out. “I have been sick off and on for two years, but it is much worse these last few weeks. Now I cannot get up at all,” he says. Akbar’s scarred ankles are thinner than an average man’s wrists. Apart from an occasional involuntary tremble, his shrivelled arms lie motionless by his side.