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ASEAN leaders shake hands on stage during the opening ceremony of the 34th ASEAN Summit at the Athenee Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand on June 23, 2019 Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters



This Week's News Spotlight:

Myanmar activists hold ‘blue shirt’ protests; junta chief to attend upcoming ASEAN summit | ASEAN calls summit on Myanmar as EU widens sanctions | ASEAN languishes on press freedom index, Malaysia falls 18 spots | Grab to stay focused on Southeast Asian markets: Report | What’s driving the flurry of financial activity in Southeast Asia’s tech sector?


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Myanmar activists hold ‘blue shirt’ protests; junta chief to attend upcoming ASEAN summit - CNA



Since Feb 1, anti-coup demonstrations have occurred almost daily around Myanmar.


On Wednesday, anti-coup activists in Myanmar launched protests calling for those detained by the military to be released, ahead of junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing’s first foreign trip on Saturday. The country has been in crisis since the military conducted a coup on Feb 1 and seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.


People shared photos of themselves on social media wearing blue shirts and holding up a hand with the name of a detained person written on it. The blue shirts are a tribute to pro-democracy Win Tin who was imprisoned by the military for 19 years and died in 2014. After being released, Win Tin pledged to wear a blue shirt until all political prisoners were freed.




ASEAN calls summit on Myanmar as EU widens sanctions - Reuters



After the ASEAN secretariat announced the submit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said that he would be represented by his deputy, who is also foreign minister.


Member countries of ASEAN will be discussing the Myanmar crisis at a summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on Saturday. However, some countries are sending ministers, rather than heads of government.


The 10-member economic union has made attempts to guide Myanmar, one of its members, out of the crisis triggered by a military coup on Feb 1, but the group’s principles of non-interference and consensus have hindered its ability to overcome members’ different views on how to manage the situation in Myanmar .



ASEAN languishes on press freedom index, Malaysia falls 18 spots - Nikkei Asia



Singapore and the Philippines each fell two spots to 160th and 138th, while Myanmar ranked 140th, one slot down from last year.


Southeast Asian countries mired toward the lower end of the Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom ranking for 2021, with the steepest drop coming from Malaysia, which plunged 18 places and placed 119th out of 180 countries.


In an analysis attached to the index, Reporters Without Borders said that Malaysia’s sharp fall in ranking is directly linked to the formation of a new coalition government in March last year. The new government imposed a decree against ‘fake news’ which makes it illegal to publish inaccurate information about the pandemic, a move which drew criticism from rights groups and opposition politicians. Reporters Without Borders likened this law to a similar one used in neighbouring Singapore, which allows “the government to correct any information it deems to be false and to prosecute those responsible”.




Grab to stay focused on Southeast Asian markets: Report - The Edge



Grab co-founder and CEO Anthony Tan added that Southeast Asia had nearly twice the population of the United States, with 670 million people, and its adoption of online services is still low.


Singapore-based tech unicorn Grab will remain focused on Southeast Asian markets even after going public in the United States. Co-founder and chief executive officer Anthony Tan stressed that Grab will scale up its existing businesses, such as food delivery and digital finance.


Earlier this month, Grab announced that it will go public in the United States by merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The listing is expected to value Grab at US$39.6 billion and provide as much as US$4.5 billion for the company. The capital will be used for investment in maps and other technology to improve on their core businesses, said Tan



What’s driving the flurry of financial activity in Southeast Asia’s tech sector? - The Diplomat



The Temasek Google study estimates that digital commerce in Southeast Asia will be worth US$240 billion by 2025, of which US$100 billion will come from Indonesia alone.


Southeast Asia is home to a number of regional tech giants. Gojek, Indonesia’s crown jewel of its booming tech sector, sought approval for a merger with e-commerce giant Tokopedia earlier this month in a deal reported valued at US$18 billion. Singapore-based Grab, Gojek’s largest direct competitor, also announced plans to go public via a SPAC listing that could net the unicorn approximately US$4.5 billion in cash. Traveloka, the biggest online travel booker in Indonesia, is also reportedly pursuing its own SPAC merger.


This recent wave of financial moves is arguably being driven by companies’ desire to catch up with Singapore’s Sea group, which runs e-commerce platform Shopee and gaming hub Garena. The company went public in 2017 and has seen its market capitalization skyrocket since then.


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