The current situation in Myanmar

The military coup in Myanmar took place over a year ago. While the military chief made many promises that Myanmar would return to normalcy, none have been realised and the domestic political situation continues to worsen.

Aung San Suu Kyi—the former leader—is still detained and her jail sentence has been increased over time by the junta-led court. To date, her total detainment sentence is 26 years over several charges made by the junta such as her conviction of corruption, possession of walkie-talkies, violating the COVID-19 restriction, and many more. Her trial is expected to continue and she will likely face more jail sentences ruled against her.   

An example of domestic instability is the attack on Insein prison. This prison holds most of the political prisoners in Yangon and was bombed in late October killing 8 people and wounding 18 others in the blast, among them women and children. The bombing was believed to be initiated by an anti-government group—the Special Task Agency of Burma (STA)—as a response to the junta’s oppression of the prisoners. However, little information was revealed about the STA and its plans.

More shockingly, the Myanmar military recently conducted an airstrike on a music concert organised by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in Kachin state, which killed over 80 people including the performers and attendees. The airstrike was an attempt to fight the insurgents that brought instability to Myanmar. This is the bloodiest military operation since the junta seized power in February last year.

Human Rights Watch encouraged tougher sanctions on the junta after this attack while the Myanmar military position was that the claims were false as only terrorists were eliminated in the airstrikes.

ASEAN conducted an urgent meeting among the foreign ministers to find ways to deal with the situation in Myanmar as Myanmar’s civil society has called the bloc to scrap the five-point consensus given it has not solved the issues at all. Some have even labeled Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship as a failure due to its inability to implement the five-point consensus and curb violence.

Despite many engagements from ASEAN, the junta has still increased its suppression of the opposition. The five-point consensus, which was agreed upon last April, is stalled. As ASEAN prepares for its annual summit later this month, recent violence from the junta will pressure the bloc to find a workable solution.  

Potential candidates for the upcoming Malaysian election

As the November 19 Malaysian general election draws closer, three primary candidates have emerged.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, a UMNO member, is among the potential standing candidates for the election. In a recent survey, Ismail Sabri stood as the leading candidate in the vote. This was attributed to his effective stance against COVID-19, reopening Malaysia, and especially economic growth. Economic growth resonated strongly with the Malaysian people, revealing their desire to see economic revival as the main priority of the upcoming election.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) endorsed Anwar Ibrahim as their candidate for Prime Minister. His policy platform revolves around tackling corruption and poverty. This will be his second time running for Prime Minister and has signaled that it might be his last. As one of the main oppositions in the election, Anwar is hopeful for victory.

Another politician who could make it to the top job is former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. He is respected in Johor and was an influential minister in the education, trade, and industry portfolios. However, his popularity will be tested in Johor in this election which will either give him more political leverage or spell a decline in his political career. Despite that, Muhyiddin Yassin will face a challenging campaign given current PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s commanding popularity and lead in the polls.

There are other outlier candidates such as Mahathir and the UMNO chief Zahid Hamidi, but they face significant hurdles to reach the three big contenders who are currently vying at the top.

Observers believe the UMNO will likely have the votes to form a government stressing that this could benefit the country’s economic stability given that the country has experienced three prime ministers since 2018. The world will be watching over the next two weeks to see who the Malaysians will choose as their next leader.

Indonesia revokes drug companies’ licenses after 159 deaths

Jakarta’s government revoked two pharmaceutical companies’ licenses to produce syrup-like medicines after the death of 159 children due to contamination that led to severe kidney damage.

This comes after the country temporarily banned the sale of syrup-based medicine in late October. The two companies—PT Yarindo Farmatama and PT University Pharmaceutical Industries—were reported to have changed their propylene glycol suppliers to cheaper alternatives. Such changes should be reported to the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency, BPOM. As a result of the change in suppliers, their syrup was over-packed with ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol causing acute kidney injury. The offenders could be fined over USD 64,000 with over 10 years of jail sentences.

The lawyer of PT Universal Pharmaceutical Industries has not made any comment while PT Yarindo Farmatama denied using such substances and claimed that the BPOM had approved their changes in 2020. However, Indonesia’s Health Ministry had said that the solution used in the two companies’ medicine is impure, noting that the number of deaths had reduced since the government temporarily imposed the ban on syrup medicines.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry responding quickly to save its children from illegal drug production. Potential regulations and a reduction in casualties are positive signs in the long run for the country’s pharmaceutical sector.


Sovinda Po is a Research Assistant at the Griffith Asia Institute.