Asian Insider: Vaccines and opening up of economies | Malaysia's royal caucus

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

Dear ST reader,

This week, we look at the juggling acts by governments to open up their economies as they step up efforts to keep the Covid-19 virus under control. The Malaysian King and his fellow Malay rulers have met to discuss the pandemic and political situation.

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Jab and open up

As South-east Asian nations ramp up their vaccination drives as part of efforts to protect their people, we examine what countries around the world are doing to reopen their economies in a safe and cautious manner even as the virus continues to emerge. Do look out for our Sunday Focus report.

Royal caucus

After a flurry of audiences with political leaders, the Malaysian King met the other eight state monarchs on Wednesday to discuss the Covid-19 and political crises. The King urged the federal legislature to meet soon, putting a dent in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's plan to reconvene Parliament later in October.

The latest development has put the test on PM Muhyiddin's tenuous grip on power sooner, rather than later, writes Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh.

Lockdown confusion and despair

Malaysia is still in the throes of a nationwide lockdown after it was extended by two weeks to June 28. For most Malaysians, navigating the confusing rules and glitchy apps has been an exercise in fear and confusion. Malaysia Correspondent Hazlin Hassan shares her experience in her Letter from Kuala Lumpur.

The prolonged lockdown has also led to more despair. Soup kitchens are serving food to more people, and not just the homeless.

Read here for more Letters from the Bureau.

Booster shot for US vaccine diplomacy

After a slow start, the US and its fellow G-7 rich nations are catching up with China in vaccine diplomacy by pledging 1 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations. Such competition is a win for South-east Asia and the world and there are several factors in favour of America catching up and even overtaking China, writes US Correspondent Charissa Yong.

More insights from our correspondents in the weekly Power Play column that looks at various facets of US-China rivalry and its implications for Asia.

In this weekend's Asian Insider special report, our bureaus will look at how the idea of American democracy, as championed by US President Joe Biden during his recent Europe tour, is playing out in Asia.

Delivery workers' woes

In South Korea, delivery workers have gone on strike indefinitely to demand better welfare and protection in the wake of a record-high 16 deaths among them last year, all blamed on overwork, reports South Korea Correspondent Chang May Choon.

Australia has also seen a spike in accidents and deaths among food delivery riders, prompting calls for tougher safety rules, reports Jonathan Pearlman.

Opportunities in Batam

Data centre operators are eyeing Batam as a new digital hot spot after Indonesian President Joko Widodo granted Nongsa Digital Park special economic zone (SEZ) status, reports Regional Correspondent Arlina Arshad.

Batam Aero Technic, an aircraft maintenance facility, has also been given SEZ status and will focus on the maintenance, repair and overhaul of passenger aircraft.

To 'tang ping' or not to 'tang ping'

In contrast to "nei juan" which we featured two weeks ago, another trend has emerged in China - "tang ping". Literally meaning "lie flat", it is a rallying cry for youth to get out of China's hyper-competitive rat race.

Those who identify with "tang ping" feel it is getting harder to achieve success due to the widening social inequality, a slowing economy and rising costs of living. Learn more about this phenomenon in China Correspondent Aw Cheng Wei's report.

Shipwrecks ahoy!

Two centuries-old shipwrecks have been excavated within Singapore's waters - a first for Singapore and a ground-breaking development for its maritime heritage.

Check out the treasures on your mobile device in our Discover format.

Hope you enjoy this week's selection. Until next week, stay safe and thank you for reading The Straits Times.

Deputy Foreign Editor

Ling Chang Hong

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