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Episode 5: Flashpoint Myawaddy

Podcast Free Asia

RFA Insider is five episodes old, a developmental milestone that Eugene and Amy receive with joy! For reference a 10-week-old baby would be kicking and punching, and a 10-week-old fetus would start getting fingernails. A 10-week-old piece of bread, meanwhile, would be all moldy… um… probably.

Corrections this week are short and sweet: on last episode’s discussion of matching couple outfits, Eugene clarifies that the North Korean government does not require everyone to wear the same clothes. Instead, citizens are held to clothing restrictions that prohibit items like tight pants and t-shirts with foreign words, leaving them with limited style choices.

The Rundown

The Mandarin Service recently reported that China’s internet censors removed more than 700 videos of online micro-dramas for “exaggerating” spousal and familial conflicts. Micro-dramas, binge-able online shows whose episodes are only a few minutes long, are most popular among young women in China – the same group that President Xi called upon in October to focus on raising families. This censorship comes at a time when China’s birth and marriage rates continue to plummet, as more young people are delaying marriage to focus on work, education or buying property.

In North Korea, coffee is gaining a foothold as a trendy beverage and a bribe. The Korean Service reported that coffee shops, once only seen in hotels for foreign tourists, have begun to appear in Pyongyang and other cities. While only the elite can afford to enjoy a cup on the regular, the interest in coffee culture, acquired through illegal foreign movies, transcends class. Some more health-conscious officials have even begun asking for coffee over the traditional bribe of cigarettes – residents told RFA that they have treated officials to a coffee with sugar and gifted South American coffee beans in exchange for favors. 

How It’s Made

Kyaw Min Htun, deputy director of the Burmese Service, joins us to address the recent tug-of-war between the Myanmar military and various ethnic armies for control of Myawaddy, a trading town bordering Thailand. He offers some insight into why opposition forces withdrew from Myawaddy days after taking control and the ways in which neighboring countries’ interests have influenced Myanmar’s current situation. With the country embroiled in civil war since the 2021 military coup, Kyaw Min Htun offers a much-needed explainer of the “who” and “why” of the current conflict, what the international community can do to help and his thoughts on a post-war future.

Special thanks to Kiana Duncan for this awesome report that explained the situation at the time of recording.

Since then she’s filed another with an update: 

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