A survey of power and politics in South-East Asia

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Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia. By Michael Vatikiotis. Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 336 pages; £20.

SOUTH-EAST ASIA is adorned by jungles, islands and gleaming skyscrapers. Home to more than 640m people, the variety of the region’s 11 countries defies most analytical attempts at clustering them together. Sweeping takes often fail to encapsulate the complexity of ancient cultures, languages and people that are to be found from the tip of Timor-Leste to the top of Myanmar. This is precisely what makes “Blood and Silk”, Michael Vatikiotis’s frenetic overview of politics in South-East Asia, so ambitious.

In his analysis of the power structures which define the region, Mr Vatikiotis, a private diplomat, analyses the role of monarchies and elite groups in perpetuating political uncertainty. Corruption, violence and religious extremism follow in cycles of misery: “When the water is high the fish eat the ants;…Continue reading

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