Fishing boats are moored in the Mekong River, which has changed to an unusual clear blue color, in Nakhon Phanom province, Thailand, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Chessadaporn Buasai).

As societies around the world focus on containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, millions of people in Southeast Asia have another worry on their minds: How to put food on their table amid a devastating drought. In Thailand, historically low levels of rainfall since last summer have taken a heavy toll on the agriculture sector, which employs 11 million people. Inland fishing communities across the region are reporting drastically smaller catches. And in Vietnam, a state of emergency was declared earlier this month in five provinces in the southern Mekong Delta, which produces more than half of the country’s […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 10, 2019 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

Almost a year-and-a-half after threatening to sanction Cambodia over Prime Minister Hun Sen’s clampdown on human rights, and a year after beginning the formal process for doing so, the European Union finally made good on its word. Underwhelmed by the Cambodian government’s meager attempts to allow political dissent and media freedoms, the bloc announced in February that it would suspend tariff-free access for more than $1 billion worth of exports from the Southeast Asian nation, starting in August. While the immediate impacts of the new barriers to trade will be limited, they could eventually result in an economic contraction of […]

Migrants stand outside their makeshift tents on the perimeter of the overcrowded Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, Jan. 28, 2020 (AP photo by Aggelos Barai).

In mid-February, the United Nations issued a statement calling for the immediate evacuation of the Moria refugee camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos. Initially designed to hold fewer than 3,000 people, the camp’s population had increased from 5,000 last July to roughly 20,000. With ships bringing new arrivals every day, medical experts feared a looming public health crisis. Malnutrition was widespread, hygiene impossible to maintain and health care workers completely overwhelmed, leading many residents to die of treatable conditions. A regional government official called Moria “a powder keg ready to explode,” and a volunteer doctor told The Guardian that […]

East Timorese independence hero Xanana Gusmao, center, waves a national flag in Dili, East Timor, March 11, 2018 (AP photo by Valentino Darriel).

After months of political turmoil in East Timor, a new six-party coalition government led by Xanana Gusmao, a former president and independence hero, and his National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, or CNRT, is set to take office. The previous government, led by Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, collapsed after failing to pass a budget in January. President Francisco Guterres must now decide whether to accept Ruak’s resignation and install the new government. But even if he does, the new CNRT-led coalition could be difficult to manage, says Michael Leach, an expert on East Timor’s politics at Swinburne University of Technology […]

A protester holds a cut-out of the new prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Feb. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

Less than two years after Malaysia’s landmark May 2018 election that ousted its long-ruling coalition, tensions within the government exploded into the open in recent weeks, upending the country’s politics. Nonagenarian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned late last month in an apparent attempt to ditch most of his allies from the Pakatan Harapan coalition, which he had led to an upset victory against the scandal-plagued Barisan Nasional bloc in 2018, and form a new, essentially ethnic Malay government. It would have included his old party, the United Malays National Organization or UMNO, which led the Barisan Nasional during its six-decade […]

Trash collectors pick up plastic bottles in New Delhi, India, Sept. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Altaf Qadri).

In September 2018, after years of modeling and development, the Ocean Cleanup project launched System 001, a floating barrier designed to scoop up plastic debris from an area in the Pacific Ocean that, because of prevailing currents, had become a natural repository of ocean-borne plastic waste. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as the area the size of France became known, was first discovered in 1988, but it gained prominence after a public awareness campaign in 2008. Although System 001 ultimately failed to hold onto the plastic debris it collected, Ocean Cleanup announced late last year that a modified prototype known […]