Straight Talk Southeast Asia is a weekly podcast series that covers politics in Southeast Asia, analysing elections, conflict, political risk, governance and human rights. Along with dissecting the political muck, Bridget Welsh engages with those shaping politics and political narratives in the region.

This show is produced by Renegade Radio.


Season 2 (2024)

Published: 10 January 2024

Episode 1 - Reckoning after a Year of Deals: Southeast Asia in 2024

This episode reflects on political developments in Southeast Asia in 2023 and highlights key issues that will shape the year ahead.

Published: 10 January 2024

Episode 2 - Indonesia’s 2024 Presidential Elections: Conversation with Dr. Alex Arifianto

This episode is a primer on the coming presidential polls in Indonesia, highlighting the personalities and factors shaping the campaign five weeks before the first round of elections.

Published: 17 January 2024

Episode 3 - Towards Stability in Thailand? Conversation with Prof. Duncan McCargo

This episode with Professor Duncan McCargo looks back at politics in Thailand in 2023, discussing different interpretations about what happened in the May election and deals associated with the formation of the government, and looks ahead at key issues facing Thai democracy and political stability.

Published: 23 January 2024

Episode 4 - Ebbing of Democratic Regression in the Philippines: A Conversation with Prof Ronald Holmes

This episode looks back at what happened in 2023 in the Philippines, from Bongbong Marcos’s leadership, growing elite infighting to the creation of a new investment fund and local government elections, reflecting on the trends in Philippine politics with Professor Ronald Holmes

Published: 30 January 2024

Episode 5 - Myanmar in Prison? A Conversation with Economist Sean Turnell

This episode looks at Myanmar on the third anniversary of the political coup, with a conversation with economist Sean Turnell. We discuss his fabulous new book, The Unlikely Prisoner, where he tells his story of 650 days jailed by the military junta, as well as discuss broader changes taking place in the country this past year.

Published: 6 February 2024

Episode 6 - Indonesia’s 2024 Legislative Elections: Conversation with Dr Arya Fernandes

The focus of Indonesia’s elections has been on the presidential race. This episode with CSIS’s Dr Arya Fernandes focuses on the legislative elections, the changing fortunes of different political parties, factors shaping party voting and how the result may transform Indonesian politics.

Published: 12 February 2024

Episode 7- Evolving Politics in Vietnam with Dr Tu Phuong Nguyen

This episode with Dr Tu Nguyen looks back at Vietnam politics in 2023 and ahead, with a special focus on ongoing reforms of the social safety net. While the traditional focus of analysing politics has centred on elites, with attention to the recent anti-corruption campaign, this discussion highlights changes in policy and greater demands from Vietnam’s changing society.

Published: 20 February 2024

Episode 8 - Indonesia’s Election Aftermath in Conversation with Dr. Philips Vermonte

Prabowo Subianto won the presidential elections in the first round, with the preliminary results suggesting the fortunes of political parties did not fundamentally change. This episode looks at what happened, why and what to expect next in Indonesian politics with Dr. Philips Vermonte.

Published: 23 February 2024

Episode 9 - Bangsamoro Heads Toward Peace? A Conversation with Georgi Engelbrecht

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) celebrated its 5th anniversary last month and the peace process will mark ten years this year. This region of 5 million people located in the Philippine southern island of Mindanao with 18 million people has a long history of conflict and violence. This episode looks at the status of the peace process, the challenges facing the interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and other stakeholders with Georgi Englebrecht, Senior Analyst of the Crisis Group based in the Philippines.

Published: 6 March 2024

Episode 10 - Greater Democracy in Malaysia? Discussion of Changing Politics, Dr. Bridget Welsh

This episode discusses ten broad changes taking place in Malaysian politics in a look back at developments in the last year. Straight Talk Host Dr. Bridget Welsh draws from her analysis of politics in the field.

Published: 12 March 2024

Episode 11 - Australia’s ASEAN Economic Pivot: Reflecting on the Melbourne 2024 Summit with Susannah Patton

This episode reflects on the 2nd Australia-ASEAN Summit held in Melbourne earlier this March. We look at how Australia’s relations with the region and individual countries are changing, as are its priorities and positioning. 

Published: 18 March 2024

Episode 12 - Building Women’s Empowerment through ASEAN in Conversation with Ryce Chanchai of UNWomen

In recognition of a focus on women in March, this episode looks at some of the challenges facing women in Southeast Asia as a whole, highlighting the work taking place in ASEAN with Ryce Chanchai lead of the  ASEAN Governance and Women, Peace and Security Regional Programme of UN Women. 

Published: 26 March 2024

Episode 13 - Singapore Looks to Polls with Dr. Michael Barr

This episode discusses ongoing changes in Singapore politics from unprecedented scandals and a leadership transition to greater complexity in national politics as the country prepares for elections later this year or early next year.

 Published: 2 April 2024

Easter Break: A Quick Update on Southeast Asia

This week, Straight Talk Southeast Asia is taking a break due to Easter. The show returns next week.

 Published: 8 April 2024

Episode 14 - Gaza Resonating in Southeast Asia with James Dorsey

On the week of six months into a horrifying war, this episode discusses how the conflict in Gaza and Palestine is resonating in Southeast Asia with Middle East analyst James Dorsey (The Turbulent World). 

(Photo: Latest State of SEA Survey, ISEAS) https://pic.twitter.com/w8gmrxpRgT

 Published: 16 April 2024

Episode 15 - Are Southeast Asia’s Climate Change Policies Heating Up? In Conversation with Dr. Danny Marks

This episode looks at the issue of climate change in the region, with a focus on the politics and policies that are changing. Leading the discussion is Dr. Danny Marks from Dublin City University.

 Published: 22 April 2024

Episode 16 - Myanmar Junta Losing Control of Borders? Overview of Losses and Kyaw Lynn on Rakhine

This episode looks at how conflict has intensified since Operation 1027 last year and in particular in the last three months as the junta has lost ground across border areas, from Rakhine and recent fall of Myawaddy to Muse in the Shan and Laukkai in Kachin states and fleshed out some of the implications. Special attention centres on Rakhine in conversation with analyst Kyaw Lynn.

 Published: 29 April 2024

Episode 17 - Political Turmoil in Vietnam w/ Dr. Nguyen Khac Giang

This episode in conversation with Dr. Nguyen Khac Giang looks at Vietnam’s leadership crisis after the leader of the National Assembly Vuong Ding Hue resigned this month, removing yet another pillar of the country’s collective leadership. 

 Published: 4 May 2024

Episode 18 - A Changing EU-ASEAN Relationship? In Conversation with David Hutt

This episode looks at the relationship between Europe and Southeast Asia with journalist David Hutt, focusing on shifts in priorities and engagement. 

 Published: 13 May 2024

Episode 19 - A More Resilient Singapore: Lee Hsien Loong's Legacy in Conversation with Dr. Bilveer Singh

As Lee Hsien Loong steps down after almost twenty years as the third prime minister of Singapore this episode reflects on his legacy in conversation with Dr. Bilveer Singh.

 Published: 20 May 2024

Episode 20 - Legal Democratic Backsliding in Indonesia with Andreas Harsono

This week’s episode focused on contemporary legal measures that are undercutting democracy in Indonesia with Human Rights Watch’s Andreas Harsono.

 Published: 27 May 2024

Episode 21 - Rise of Transnational Crime and Scamming in Southeast Asia with Dr. Jason Tower

This episode looks at the rise of transnational crime in Southeast Asia focusing on the findings of a May 2024 United States Institute of Peace report on drivers and the changing patterns of criminality. Joining me is Dr. Jason Tower, one of the chairs of the study.

 Published: 3 June 2024

Episode 22 - Timor Leste’s Challenges with Dr. Rui Graça Feijó

Timor Leste marked one year after its 2023 parliamentary elections this May. Dr. Rui Graça Feijó, a longtime expert on Timor politics, joins me as we look at the current macro issues facing the country. The episode draws attention to this important country and its ongoing changes, arguably the most vibrant democracies in Southeast Asia. Timor Leste deserves more attention!

 Published: 10 June 2024

Episode 23 - Strategic Engagement in Japan-Southeast Asia Relations with Dr. Kei Koga

Japan is being much more strategic in its engagement with Southeast Asia, with new priorities and regional frameworks/organisations. The engagement with the region is changing, broadening and deepening as Japan is taking on a more prominent leadership and proactive approach in its relations with the region. At the same time, the level of engagement is more dynamic and multifaceted in many directions – like Tokyo’s Scramble, organized, purposeful and busy!

This episode with Dr. Kei Koga examines current dynamics in the Japan-Southeast Asia relations, drawing attention to new drivers and recent changes in Japan’s approach to foreign policy toward the region.

Season 1 (2023)

Published: 7 February 2023

Introducing Straight Talk Southeast Asia

In this trailer episode, host Dr. Bridget Welsh introduces the premise of this show and what we will discuss every episode. It can range from news and current affairs within the Southeast Asian region, to issues on politics, governance, inequality, and more that we believe to be of the upmost importance if you want to be informed about Southeast Asia.

Keep up to date with the latest episode to be informed of the latest news, so we can understand this region, its nature, politics, and each other in the process as well. See you in the next episode!

Published: 8 February 2023

Episode 1 - Way Out of Crisis in Myanmar?

Three years on, Myanmar’s crisis is far from over. This episode discussed different dimensions of the crisis, and speaks with seasoned Myanmar journalist Thin Lei Win and Malaysia’s former Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on what steps need to be taken to respond to the crisis.


YB Saifuddin Abdullah is the MP for Indera Mahkota and Malaysia’s former Foreign Minister from 2018-2020, 2021-2022.

Thin Lei Win is a Myanmar journalist who founded Kite Tales and Thin Ink, analysing food security and food systems globally.

Published: 15 February 2023

Episode 2 - Working Inside-Outside Human Rights Southeast Asia

In the wake of annual reports on human rights, for this episode Bridget Welsh speaks to human rights activists, Phil Robertson and AICHR Chair Yuyun Wahyuningrum on the region’s human rights challenges and evolving strategies.


HE Yuyun Wahyuningrum is a human rights activist, chair of ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR) and the representative from Indonesia.

Phil Robertson is the deputy director of Human Rights Watch.

Published: 22 February 2023

Episode 3 - Turning the Page in Southern Thailand Conflict?

With a new peace talk facilitator from Malaysia and Thailand’s national elections coming in May, there are new opportunities to address the protracted conflict in southern Thailand. Join Bridget Welsh and security expert Don Pathan discussing the conflict and obstacles ahead.


Don Pathan is an independent security and conflict analyst based in Thailand.

Published: 1 March 2023

Episode 4 - Closing Down Democracy in Cambodia?

Cambodia has shut down its last independent media organization, VOD. Episode 4 discusses what this means for national politics and the impact on media with scholar Sophal Ear and human rights activist Sopheap Chak.


Sophal Ear is an associate professor and associate dean at Thunderbird School for Global Management, specializing on Cambodia and political economy of the region.

Sopheap Chak is the Executive Director for Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

Published: 8 March 2023

Episode 5 - Ukraine War and Southeast Asia: Reluctance or Realism?

This episode looks at why Southeast governments have been reluctant to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bridget Welsh is joined by regional scholars Ian Chong and Hoo Chiew Ping who offer different perspectives of responses and Russia’s influence in Southeast Asia.


Ian Chong is associate professor of political science at NUS and a non-resident fellow of Carnegie China.

Hoo Chiew Ping is a Senior Lecturer at Strategic Studies and International Relations at National University Malaysia (UKM).

Published: 15 March 2023

Episode 6 - Killing Politicians for Hire in the Philippines

In this episode, Bridget discusses more on the recent political violence in the Philippines, from political assassinations to guns for hire. She speaks with Peter Kreuzer from the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt as well as with Ross Tugade from Ateneo de Manila University, to share different perspectives on these issues.

Additional info:

Courtesy resignations won’t solve the Philippine National Police’s problems

Killing Politicians in the Philippines: Who, Where, When, and Why, PRIF Report 2/2022 

If You Can’t Beat Them, Kill Them. Fatal Violence Against Politicians in the Philippines, PRIF Report 2/2021

Published: 17 May 2023

Episode 7 - Imperfect Partners: US-Southeast Asia with Scot Marciel

In this episode, Dr. Bridget Welsh talks with seasoned US diplomat Scot Marciel, who shares insights from his latest book Imperfect Partners on US-Southeast Asia relations. Marciel is based at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center in Standford and served over 37 years across the region.

Published: 18 May 2023

Episode 8 - Zahid's Vision? Where to UMNO?

UMNO is one of Southeast Asia’s oldest parties. For decades it failed to reform from within. Now new political conditions are forcing change, making the party address hard issues of its narrative and its place in Malaysia’s politics. Join a conversation with on-the-ground journalist Amirul Ruslan and Dr Bridget Welsh on the challenges the party faces, Zahid’s vision and the primacy of survival.

Published: 22 May 2023

Episode 9 - Thailand's 'Revolutionary' Election With Chris Baker

On May 14 Thais overwhelmingly rejected conservative/military rule at the polls. Join me for a conversation about how this election reflects broader changes in Thai society, the emergence of new political forces, and compares to its past with historian Dr. Chris Baker.

Published: 27 May 2023

Episode 10 - Timor Leste's Polls and Challenges with Michael Leach

In this episode, Dr. Bridget Welsh is joined by Dr. Michael Leach, Professor of Politics from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia, in an analysis of Timor Leste’s May elections – the results and factors shaping the polls and the challenges ahead for this young country that stands out for being the most democratic in Southeast Asia.

Published: 2 June 2023

Episode 11 - Rohingya at Risk

One of the most targeted populations in the world, Rohingya continue to be at risk. After victimization from human trafficking, genocide, refugees lacking mobility, right to work and education, this month they were in path of Cyclone Mocha, facing reduction of humanitarian support and renewed calls for repatriation. Join me in conversation of risks and responses with experts and advocates Tun Khin and Lilianne Fan.

Published: 8 June 2023

Episode 12 - Discussing the Shangri-La Dialogue with Aaron Connelly

Every year defence ministers meet in Singapore as part of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). In this episode with IISS Senior Fellow Aaron Connelly we discuss the geopolitical issues raised, with special attention to Southeast Asia.

Published: 16 June 2023

Episode 13 - Singapore Presidency Election with Gillian Koh

Singapore will decide on its next president this year. Join me with Dr. Gillian Koh to discuss recent entrants into the race, the role of the Singapore presidency and issues tied to a possible election.

Additional info:

Singapore Presidential Election 2023

Published: 29 June 2023

Episode 14 - Perspective of LGBTIQ+ Rights in Southeast Asia

It’s Pride month. This episode looks at the unique challenges the LGBTIQ+ communities in Southeast Asia face and how the debates over rights and forms of activism have changed. We discuss these issues with academic Anthony Langlois who has written widely on gender and sexuality rights in the region and human rights activist Thi Laga who leads JusticeforSisters. 

Additional info:

Southeast Asia: An ongoing duel with conservative forces

Sexuality and Gender Diversity Rights in Southeast Asia

Journal of Human Rights, Volume 20, Issue 2 (2021)

Published: 4 July 2023

Episode 15 - Towards a Thai Government and Malaysia’s State Election Primer

This episode features a primer on Malaysia’s upcoming state elections by Bridget Welsh and a discussion of political developments in Thailand with political analyst Ken Lohatepanont as its parliament meets after the historic May 2023 elections.

Published: 17 July 2023

Episode 16 - Democratic Betrayal in Thailand?

This episode looks at developments in Thai politics surrounding the first vote for the prime minister and the blocking of Move Forward’s Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister. In a continued conversation with University of Michigan scholar Ken Mathis Lohatepanont.

Published: 24 August 2023

Episode 17 - Cambodia's Transition

This episode looks at the ongoing political and economic transition taking place in Cambodia. Bradley Murg shares his insights on the challenges ahead for Cambodia’s political economy, while Bridget shares her thoughts on facets ahead for the political change in leadership.

Published: 18 September 2023

Episode 18 - Singapore Presidency

Singapore has inaugurated its ninth president, Tharman Shanmugaratnam who was elected by a resounding majority earlier this month. Join Bridget in conversation with Professor Terence Lee discussing the election and what it means for Singapore politics.

To follow Malaysian news