WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Michael Sullivan

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.

Michael was in Pakistan on 9-11 and spent much of the next two years there and in Afghanistan covering the run up to and the aftermath of the U.S. military campaign to oust the Taliban and al Qaeda. Michael has also reported extensively on terrorism in Southeast Asia, including both Bali bombings. He also covered the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Michael was the first NPR reporter on the ground in both Thailand and the Indonesian province of Aceh following the devastating December 2004 tsunami. He has returned to Aceh more than half a dozen times since to document the recovery and reconstruction effort. As a reporter in NPR's London bureau in the early 1990s he covered the fall of the Soviet Union, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Before moving to New Delhi, Michael was senior producer on NPR's foreign desk. He has worked in more than 60 countries on five continents, covering conflicts in Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Chechnya, and the Middle East. Prior to joining the foreign desk, Michael spent several years as producer and acting executive producer of NPR's All Things Considered.

As a reporter, Michael is the recipient of several Overseas Press Club Awards and Citations for Excellence for stories from Haiti, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. He was also part of the NPR team that won an Alfred I DuPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of 9-11 and the war in Afghanistan. In 2004 he was honored by the South Asia Journalists Association (SAJA) with a Special Recognition Award for his 'outstanding work' from 1998-2003 as NPR's South Asia correspondent.

As a producer and editor, Michael has been honored by the Overseas Press Club for work from Bosnia and Haiti; a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for a story about life in Sarajevo during wartime; and a World Hunger Award for stories from Eritrea.

Michael's wife, Martha Ann Overland, is Southeast Asia correspondent for The Chronicle of Higher Education and also writes commentaries on living abroad for NPR. They have two children.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He's been at NPR since 1985.

CHIANG RAI, Thailand — Khet Thi made cakes, ice cream and poetry. The latter may have cost him his life.

He died in police custody in Myanmar early last month. The authorities say the cause was heart failure. His widow says he was beaten to death.

A civil engineer by training, the 43-year-old quit his civil service job in the central Myanmar town of Shwebo in 2012 and opened a cake and ice cream shop to support his poetry.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The man who led the coup in Myanmar will meet with Southeast Asian leaders this weekend. They're going to talk about ways to end the violence there. Reporter Michael Sullivan has been asking, what are the chances it will work?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The military in Myanmar is cracking down even harder on protesters. There are reports that security forces have shot and killed more than 90 people today. More than 320 people have been killed since the coup on February 1.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Police in Myanmar have officially filed charges against the country's former civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She is in detention two days after a military coup. Michael Sullivan has been following this story for us from Thailand.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Thailand's prime minister has vowed to use all available laws to quash protests calling for his ouster, after parliament rejected key demands of the demonstrators by rejecting a motion to revamp the country's constitution and overhaul the monarchy.

Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief who seized power in a bloodless coup six years ago, issued a statement on Thursday, addressing months of increasing unrest in the capital, Bangkok, led by students demanding a more freer and more open society.

Voters in Myanmar will cast their ballots Sunday in the country's second general election since the military ceded absolute power in 2011.

While the result appears predictable — analysts believe Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy will win again — the elections could further exacerbate the country's ethnic tensions due to the disenfranchisement of many minorities. The military establishment continues to wield significant political power. And COVID-19 may dampen voter turnout.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

There are protests in Thailand's capital today. Anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok are demanding the country's prime minister step down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Non-English language spoken).

Lack of testing, mixed messages from the government and a rush to reopen.

No, not the U.S., but Indonesia, which has been hit far worse by the coronavirus than any country in Southeast Asia — more than 80,000 confirmed cases with over 3,200 dead, as of Thursday.

Epidemiologists say it didn't have to be this way.

"We have a lot of big, missed opportunities," says Pandu Riono at the University of Indonesia. "If you want to protect the people, do something seriously and do something right."

Indonesia's central government, he says, hasn't done much of either.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Indonesia, one of the countries in Southeast Asia hardest hit by the coronavirus, some residents are refusing to allow COVID-19 dead to be buried in their communities, despite government assurances that doing so is safe.

Vietnam shares a border with China, yet it has reported no deaths from COVID-19 and just 268 confirmed cases, when other Southeast Asian nations are reporting thousands.

Experts say experience dealing with prior pandemics, early implementation of aggressive social distancing policies, strong action from political leaders and the muscle of a one-party authoritarian state have helped Vietnam.

On a March morning at the Maetaeng Elephant Park in Thailand's northern Chiang Mai province, the elephants and their handlers, called mahouts, were entertaining visitors with tricks. Elephants painted pictures with their trunks and deftly back-kicked soccer balls into a net.

Maetaeng is one of the biggest wildlife camps in the north, with 85 elephants. They are also available for guests to ride or go trekking with in the surrounding hills.

Online child sexual abuse is rising as countries close schools and impose various levels of lockdown to contain the new coronavirus pandemic, children's rights advocates in Southeast Asia warn.

Three Southeast Asian nations — Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar — are using fears over the coronavirus to double down on repressive measures aimed at silencing critics or opponents.

In Thailand, general-turned-prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha declared a state of emergency on March 26, granting him broad powers to protect the "safety of the people." It allows him to confine people to their homes, prohibits public assembly and includes additional powers of arrest and search and seizure.

Malaysia has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia with more than 2,900 and counting. This week, Malaysia's government also had a serious public relations issue after an ill-conceived plan went online.

Pepper is believed to originate from southern India. But some chefs, including the late Anthony Bourdain and the Michelin-starred French chef Olivier Roellinger, have been drawn to pepper produced in Cambodia, specifically in the province of Kampot. That's where a near-ideal combination of sea, soil and climate produces a very aromatic, nuanced — and expensive — spice.

Some 60 million people rely on Southeast Asia's Mekong River for their sustenance. But the Mekong is under threat.

While China is building dams that sharply reduce the water flow and sediment downstream, other countries along the river share some of the blame.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Southeast Asia's largest lake is under threat, and with it, an entire ecosystem. Dams, overfishing and this year, drought, have brought the Cambodian lake to what may be a breaking point. Michael Sullivan reports.

(CHEERING)

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

In the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet, workers are putting the final touches on the grandstand for Bon Om Touk, the annual water festival which begins this weekend. It's a huge party—the country pretty much shuts down for the three-day holiday, with dragon boat races and plenty of drink and dance.

It's a celebration of the water's bounty. This year, though, there will be less to celebrate.

There's food that's old. There's food that has gone bad. And then there's soup that has been simmering for 45 years.

In Bangkok, customers can't get enough of the latter at Wattana Panich, a noodle soup joint in the trendy Ekkamai neighborhood, where third-generation owner Nattapong Kaweeantawong wants to clear up what he thinks is a popular misconception about his beef soup.

Pinyo Pukpinyo, 50, remembers the first time he was sent to remove a snake from someone's house. It was a 14 1/2-ft. python, high up in the rafters waiting for its prey 16 years ago.

"There were four of us, and I was really scared," he says. "We didn't have any experience, but we wrestled him down and got the hoop around his neck" — a kind of snare — "but he was very strong. And after we put him in the sack, we had to remove the hoop from his head, and that's the dangerous part, because at any time he's ready to bite you."

Pages