Michael Sullivan

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NOEL KING, HOST:

There are protests in Thailand's capital today. Anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok are demanding the country's prime minister step down.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Non-English language spoken).

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak has been found guilty on all counts in the first of his multiple corruption trials over a massive scheme to divert billions from a state investment fund to several personal accounts, including his.

The landmark criminal case involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, has not only ensnared Najib, but other prominent Malaysian figures and Goldman Sachs, one of the world's largest investment banks.

Lack of testing, mixed messages from the government and a rush to reopen.

No, not the U.S., but Indonesia, which has been hit far worse by the coronavirus than any country in Southeast Asia — more than 80,000 confirmed cases with over 3,200 dead, as of Thursday.

Epidemiologists say it didn't have to be this way.

"We have a lot of big, missed opportunities," says Pandu Riono at the University of Indonesia. "If you want to protect the people, do something seriously and do something right."

Indonesia's central government, he says, hasn't done much of either.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Indonesia, one of the countries in Southeast Asia hardest hit by the coronavirus, some residents are refusing to allow COVID-19 dead to be buried in their communities, despite government assurances that doing so is safe.

Vietnam shares a border with China, yet it has reported no deaths from COVID-19 and just 268 confirmed cases, when other Southeast Asian nations are reporting thousands.

Experts say experience dealing with prior pandemics, early implementation of aggressive social distancing policies, strong action from political leaders and the muscle of a one-party authoritarian state have helped Vietnam.

On a March morning at the Maetaeng Elephant Park in Thailand's northern Chiang Mai province, the elephants and their handlers, called mahouts, were entertaining visitors with tricks. Elephants painted pictures with their trunks and deftly back-kicked soccer balls into a net.

Maetaeng is one of the biggest wildlife camps in the north, with 85 elephants. They are also available for guests to ride or go trekking with in the surrounding hills.

Online child sexual abuse is rising as countries close schools and impose various levels of lockdown to contain the new coronavirus pandemic, children's rights advocates in Southeast Asia warn.

Three Southeast Asian nations — Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar — are using fears over the coronavirus to double down on repressive measures aimed at silencing critics or opponents.

In Thailand, general-turned-prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha declared a state of emergency on March 26, granting him broad powers to protect the "safety of the people." It allows him to confine people to their homes, prohibits public assembly and includes additional powers of arrest and search and seizure.

Malaysia has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia with more than 2,900 and counting. This week, Malaysia's government also had a serious public relations issue after an ill-conceived plan went online.

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