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The past month has seen rising tensions in the South China Sea. What are the implications of recent developments for Indonesia, and how can it best respond? Will Indonesia’s relations with China be affected? Dr Dave McRae speaks to Dr Makmur Keliat, from the University of Indonesia, about these issues and more in the latest Talking Indonesia podcast.

Indonesians often complain about kelas menengah ngehe, or the “awful middle class”, on social media. But despite the ubiquity of the term, there is little consensus on how to define it. Who are the awful middle class? And what makes them so ngehe? Dr Salut Muhidin takes a look at the phenomenon.

More than a year after 1,000 Rohingya asylum seekers arrived on the shores of North Aceh, few have been resettled in western countries. The fact that many Rohingya are poor and illiterate means they are not considered a priority. Lies Marcoes found that the global indifference to their plight may be driving them to join the Islamic State.

Rumours of a “same-sex marriage” between comedian Aming Supriatna Sugandhi and Evelyn Nada Anjani in early June saw a return of the national hand wringing over sexuality that Indonesia witnessed earlier this year. Hendri Yulius writes that their relationship demonstrates the complexity of gender and sexuality issues and exposes the inadequacy of Indonesian policy to cope with this complexity.

For 10 years, hot mud has been erupting from the ground in Sidoarjo, East Java. It has submerged villages and displaced about 39,700 people, and disaster management costs have exceeded $2.7 billion. Earthquake expert Associate Professor Mark Quigley examines the origins of the mud volcano, which remain controversial after a decade.

Since the advent of democracy, Islam has become increasingly visible in Indonesian society and politics. But the electoral success of Islamic parties remains limited. How does this compare with the experiences of other Muslim-majority countries? Will Islamic parties ever be able to dominate Indonesian politics? Dr Ken Setiawan chats to Professor Vedi Hadiz about these issues and more in the latest Talking Indonesia podcast.

Founded 16 years ago, Indonesia’s National Ombudsman has often been dismissed as an ineffectual body. But the institution has recently received an injection of budget funds and its new members are widely seen as competent and committed individuals. Indonesia at Melbourne spoke to the new chair of the Ombudsman, Amzulian Rifai, about problems in public service delivery and how the Ombudsman is working to address them.

Images of a woman pleading with officials as they confiscated food she was selling went viral over the weekend. Netizens were furious and donated almost $27,000 in support of the woman. Ihsan Ali-Fauzi writes that the case is a chance for the central government to send a strong message to local governments that it is serious, and able, to act against intolerance and discrimination.

Although freedom of religion and freedom of expression are guaranteed in the Indonesian Constitution, these guarantees have not been sufficient to protect non-religious expression in the public sphere. Ismail Hasani looks back at the case of Alexander An, jailed for writing “God does not exist” in a Facebook post.

Vote buying is widely held to be endemic in Indonesian politics but it has rarely been studied in detail. In Talking Indonesia this week, Dr Dave McRae speaks to Professor Edward Aspinall, who with Indonesian colleagues has recently co-authored a paper on the mechanics of vote buying by electoral candidates in the 2014 legislative elections and the logic underpinning these candidates’ actions.

Since the 1990s, inequality has risen faster in Indonesia than in any other East Asian country except China. What is causing rising inequality, and how is the Jokowi administration addressing it? What still needs to be done? Dr Matthew Wai-Poi, from the World Bank in Jakarta, examines Indonesia’s rising divide.

Luqman-nul Hakim recently argued that the dismissal of Fahri Hamzah from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) indicated that the party was returning to its ideological roots. But Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir and Andi Rahman Alamsyah contend that the party’s recent political manoeuvres suggest it will continue to favour a pragmatic approach. It will need to because of its weak position in politics.

Thousands of residents were evicted from North Jakarta coastal region of Pasar Ikan last month, the latest community to be relocated under Jakarta Governor Ahok. While many Jakarta residents have praised Ahok for his efforts to transform the capital, Dicky Pelupessy writes that we should be mindful of the disruptive experience of displacement for evictees.

Over the past couple of weeks, security officials have confiscated books on the 1965 violence and leftist ideas to prevent what they describe as a “reawakening of communism”. Hendri Yulius looks at the long history of book banning and book burning in Indonesia and examines what this recent episode means for freedom of expression in the country.

Despite the many problems of its domestic leagues, Indonesia has a strong and passionate football fan culture. Who exactly supports football and in what ways? What can be done to improve the game, for supporters and players? Dr Ken Setiawan discusses these issues and more with Dr Andy Fuller in the latest episode of Talking Indonesia.

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