Asia Sentinel’s Top 10 Stories for 2014

1. Joko Widodo Elected as Indonesia’s President

Jokowi’s meteoric rise to the head of Indonesia’s government is an indication that the citizens of Southeast Asia’s biggest democracy were tired of corruption and drift. Since his inauguration in July, he has lived up to his reputation, recasting foreign policy and trying to keep as many crooks as possible out of his cabinet despite the wishes of party head Megawati Sukarnoputri.


See other stories on Jokowi and the Indonesia elections here.

2. Thai Coup Ends a Flawed Democracy

The May 22 coup by Prayuth Chan-ocha is a depressing indication that Bangkok’s elites don’t understand the aspirations of a much larger portion of Thailand’s population. Don’t look for things to get any better soon. The military is in charge and appears likely to reman that way for the medium term.


See other stories on the Thai coup here.

3. Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement Ends in a Draw

The Occupy Central movement, which paralyzed traffic in the city center for 75 days, was there to tell Beijing that Hong Kong wanted truer universal suffrage. They didn’t get it, but they furthered the alienation of most of the city’s residents from the mainland.


See other stories on Hong Kong's Occupy Central here.

4. Thailand’s Prince Ousts Consort, Shocks Bangkok

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn ‘s decision to exile Princes Srirasmi included the arrest of her entire family and sent shock waves through the police department, with the jailing of the head of the Central Investigation Division, Thailand’s FBI, and may be an indication of the bitter behind-the-scenes succession struggle.


See other stories on this issue here.

5. Malaysian Investment Fund Run Into the Ground

Jho Low Taek convinced Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to start the 1MDB investment fund The result: RM41 billion in liabilities and the title, courtesy of the opposition, of the mother of the mother of the mother of all scandals.


6. Malaysian Airliner Tragedy Becomes History’s Biggest Air Mystery

The disappearance of MH370 into the Indian Ocean instead of the flight to its destination in Beijing stunned the country. No trace of the aircraft has ever been found despite months of searching. That crash was compounded by a second, almost unthinkable tragedy, the downing of MH17 over Ukraine.


See other stories on the Malaysia Airlines tragedies here.

7. Filipino VP’s Cruise to the Presidency Hits Choppy Seas

Jejomar Binay, the Philippines’ leading candidate to succeed Benigno S. Aquino III as president, formerly thought a crusading lawyer, turns out to have vast unreported wealth and a long history of bribe-taking. Is PNoy behind a move to derail Jojo? Probably.


8. China’s Adventurism in the South China Sea Wins Few Friends

The insistence on the part of China of its “nine-dash line” turning the South China Sea into a Chinese lake has alienated its neighbors and turned some, such as Vietnam, to seek the protection of the United States. But late in the year, President Xi Jinping appeared to be growing more reasonable.


See other stories on the South China Sea territorial issue here.

9. Myanmar Betrays Early Democracy Promise

High expectations in the wake of 2010 general elections that President Thein Sein would lead his country to more freedoms has been dashed by increasing repression, particularly against the press, and indications that the generals are still in charge. 2015 elections will tell.


10. Afghanistan: From Bad to Worse

Despite the optimistic assessments of the US and NATO, 13 years of war have accomplished little in Afghanistan other than to kill thousands of people and waste billions of dollars. As the NATO presence fades, the Taliban look more invincible all the time.


See other stories on Afghanistan here.