This Week in Asia

Destructive durians, passports for sale, Korea's 'natural extinction' - here are 10 great reads for Lunar New Year

Whether you're gathering with relatives, feasting on Lunar New Year delicacies or plain taking a break during this festive season, here are 10 of our most popular This Week In Asia features to enjoy or revisit over the new few days.

While Muslim-born atheists face prison and re-education in Malaysia, in Indonesia non-believers risk being charged with blasphemy - and despite growing calls for compassion, discrimination and violence towards apostates remain common in both countries.

Nearly 90 per cent of Indonesia's 260 million people identify as Muslim. Photo: Reuters

A bride yawns in a mass wedding ceremony in Gapyeong, South Korea. Photo: AP

Rising demand - especially from Chinese consumers - for the "king of fruit" is driving up prices across Southeast Asia. But it has come as a cost to the environment and indigenous peoples in Malaysia, with ancestral forests being cleared out to make way for vast durian orchards.

Black sugar is used by traditional Chinese medical practitioners who recommend it to provide an energy boost and enhance blood circulation, among other things. Photo: Shutterstock

The sweet stuff's dark caramel flavour is captivating consumers from Taiwan to Singapore and has become a darling of the Instagram generation. But it's been around for aeons - in traditional Chinese medicine.

Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters in Bangkok. Photo: AP

The revelation that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has a Cambodian passport has put the spotlight on the ease with which the world's wealthy can obtain new passports if they have the cash - anything between US$100,000 and US$2 million. When the world's your oyster, what country gives the best bang for your buck?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds a sniper rifle during a Philippine National Police ceremony. Photo: Xinhua

From Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines to Narendra Modi in India and Joko Widodo in Indonesia, political outsiders are capturing power through a brand of populism that will be here to stay - unless their liberal counterparts provide a more palatable alternative that addresses the needs of the aspirational middle classes.

Yang Hengjun's detention in China has sparked international outrage. Photo: Reuters

Beijing's detention of an Australian national has sparked "great anxiety" about the future of academic collaboration with China. Some sinologists feel it is unsafe to travel to the mainland for work, while others are pursuing entirely different fields of study.

A Thai pedestrian walks past graffiti protesting the possible delay of the nation's general election. Photo: EPA

It's nearly voting time in Thailand (if the junta doesn't blink) and that means just one thing: Shinawatra family members seeking election. But not everyone is convinced the family that's won every election since 2001 has the pulling power it once did.

Speculation over when Singapore will go to the polls has reached fever pitch. Photo: Reuters

The family of the revered late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has dominated Singapore's politics for the best part of six decades. How do Singaporeans feel about another Lee entering the fray? A rare poll reveals mixed feelings by citizens.

The USS Ashland departs Saipan. Photo: AFP

From unprecedented deep-sea research in the Mariana Trench to what was the world's most lucrative casino operation, China's influence is growing in an area once essential for American power projection.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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