So, this happened: “For three weeks,” the Financial Times reported, “Malaysian forces facied off against 180 followers of the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, from a remote island in the southwest Philippines. More than 20 people were reported killed in clashes, in the worst violence on Malaysian territory for decades.”
The three Southeast Asian island nations of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia (which doesn’t figure into the violence), who collectively have a population of more than 350 million people, are arguably the countries most ignored by Americans relative to their importance. They’re all just poor and stable and democratic enough to slide mostly under the radar, unless they’re quarreling with China or hosting Obama. To their credit, most major media outlets have picked up on the violence. But I can’t imagine a water-cooler conversation, even in Washington, D.C., about “the situation in Malaysia.” Let me know in the comments section if you disagree.
As an aside: I assume I’m not the only who thinks this story reads like a bad fantasy novel: “The group’s leader in Manila, Jamalul Kiram III, one of several claimants to the title of sultan of Sulu, remained defiant,” the New York Times reported. He added that “Filipino fighters in Borneo, including his son, whom he identified as the prince of Sulu, would continue the fight.”