Asian Insider: Bali reopens | Food insecurity in Asia

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

Dear ST reader,

Indonesia reopens Bali to some foreign visitors today and Thailand is set to do the same next month as the region gears up to revive its struggling tourism sector. Myanmar's economic woes are mounting as its currency plunges amid fears of a food shortage, a problem that is also seen in other parts of Asia.

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South-east Asia welcomes foreign tourists

After 18 months of pandemic hiatus, Indonesia's popular holiday spot Bali reopens today to some foreign tourists. But Regional Correspondent Jeffrey Hutton reports from Denpasar that strict quarantine rules and cumbersome visa requirements are threatening to keep visitors away at least for now. Airports in the Riau Islands, where Batam and Bintan are located, are also slated to reopen today. Indonesia is determined to prove to the world its ability to keep Covid-19 under control as it prepares to assume the G-20 presidency from December and to host the G-20 summit next year.

Thailand too is set to welcome tourists from some countries next month.

In the meantime, if you miss visiting Bangkok, you can make offerings at its famous Erawan Shrine or shop at Chatuchak Market via videos or live-streaming, reports Thailand correspondent Tan Tam Mei.

Watch: Erawan Shrine goes online.

Plunging kyat and food crisis

Myanmar's fast depreciating currency is straining the people in a country gripped by political turmoil. The weakening kyat, which has lost more than a third of its value since the Feb 1 coup, has sparked concerns about the looming surge of poverty and hunger, writes Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has left more people hungry around the world. As we mark World Food Day this Saturday, our correspondents look at how Asia is grappling with food insecurity in this week's Asian Insider special.

Nobel for Ressa

Journalist Maria Ressa made history last week by becoming the first Filipino to win the Nobel Peace Prize but not everyone in her country was cheering for her. A staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, Ms Ressa's news portal Rappler has been publishing stories critical of the President's policies.

After days of silence, the Philippine government on Monday finally acknowledged the award won by Ms Ressa, but insisted there is press freedom in the country, reports Philippines correspondent Raul Dancel.

Go digital

Digitalisation is the way forward for economic recovery in a protracted Covid-19 crisis, according to a survey of Asean youth by the World Economic Forum. The survey also found that those who were more digitalised tended to be more economically resilient while grappling with the pandemic.

Watch: ST-WEF virtual briefing.

Upping the military game

As US-China ties become increasingly tense, the advent of the Aukus security pact has significantly elevated the US game in the Indo-Pacific as Washington leverages its allies such as Australia to counter China, writes US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh in our weekly Power Play column.

Struggles of Indian artisans

India's hand block printers of Sanganer, in Rajasthan state, are famous for their nature-inspired prints often found on textiles such as saris. The printers have been hit not just by the pandemic, but also competition from modernised forms of block printing, like screen or digital. The artisans were further infuriated after Swedish clothing company H&M used Sanganer prints in one of its collections, inviting criticism of artistic and cultural appropriation.

Watch: Hand block printers at work.

Badminton craze

Indonesian shuttlers' victories at the Tokyo Olympics have caused a surge in appetite for the game in the country. High demands for badminton courts and rackets, as well as club memberships, have breathed new life into pandemic-stricken businesses, says Indonesia correspondent Linda Yulisman in her Letter From Jakarta.

Hope you enjoy this week's selection. Stay safe and thank you for reading The Straits Times.

Ling Chang Hong

Deputy Foreign Editor

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