Erin Cook

About my TinyLetter

Dari Mulut ke Mulut covers all ten Asean countries and Timor Leste. Each week it brings together the top stories from each country as well as interesting analysis and commentary. The aim of the project is to help readers from the rest of the world stay on top of the big stories in a region that does not get as much attention in international press as it deserves. In the case of major regional stories, such as the death of leaders or crises, detailed explainers point lost readers in the direction of the best coverage so they can stay on top of breaking news.

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The Lady, The Speech

Aung San Suu Kyi, after facing mounting criticism for refusal to address the Rohingya crisis, made a speech Tuesday in Naypyidaw. The speech was meant to clear up the ‘iceberg of misinformation’ which has spread over the last month, but (from my view at least) has largely reinforced the thinking ASSK is willing to forego true leadership on this in favour of balancing domestic pressures. 

She made a series of claims throughout the speech which was in real-time slammed by Yangon journalists and regional human rights watchers as both fantastical and plainly unknowable, as her government continues to tightly monitor both media and aid workers in Rakhine State. 

Jonathan Head, BBC’s Southeast Asia corro and general regional smartie, went through some of the major claims made by the de facto leader and dispelled them with some good old facts. Head is one of few journalists, particularly foreign, to have been allowed into Rakhine State where he met Buddhist villagers burning Muslim homes – after the date ASSK gave as the resolution to violence. Oh boy. 

I’m a big fan of SCMP’s Bhavan Jaipragas anyway, but this on the speech is outstanding. He takes a look at the international pressures Myanmar faces, a comment made by ASSK on prioritising recommendations made by the panel chaired by former UN sec-gen Kofi Annan and where the blame belongs – which Jaipragas notes she placed squarely at the feet of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. 

Australia’s ABC spoke to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh about a promise made by ASSK to repatriate Burmese refugees – if they can prove they are true refugees from Myanmar. This comment raised most of the outrage on social media, with most noting that one of the major problems for the Rohingya community is the very fact they are considered stateless by the Myanmar government. 

On Wednesday, the day after the speech, ASSK sat down with Gwen Robinson, chief editor at NAR, to hash it out. In the most telling part, ASSK touches on the response from fellow leaders around the world: ‘”Actually, nothing is surprising, because opinions change and world opinions change like any other opinion,” she said. “Countries that have been through a transition themselves are much more understanding than those which have never gone through such a process,” she added, referring to the range of reactions from Asian and Western countries.’ 

Q & A

Why did you start a TinyLetter?

Making the move to Jakarta, it became glaringly obvious to me how poorly the rest of the world covers the region. Foreign correspondents are important, but only half the story. Combining the work of foreign journalists and English-language local reporting gives a much clearer picture of the happenings in each country as well as the impact of smaller stories on the big headlines.

What is your experience of the community?

Brilliant! Reaching out to other users and sharing links has really helped me grow my audience as well as get much needed help when starting out.

What advice would you give?

If you’re serious about it, be consistent! Are you weekly, monthly, daily? Doesn’t matter – just make sure it comes out when you say it will. I’ve missed out on some great opportunities by being lazy.

I’m a journalist based in Jakarta covering Southeast Asia politics, with a focus on Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore. Bylines include VICE, South China Morning Post, the Age, the Jakarta Globe, the Vocal and Lowy Institute’s the Interpreter. I also curate the weekly Dari Mulut ke Mulut newsletter which brings together the biggest stories from around Asean and Timor Leste.