South-East Asia in Focus: Ethnic Discord and the Asian Financial Crisis

The global economy was shaken to its very core due to the shocks caused by the late-1990s Asian Financial Crisis.The Noah Principleis a new novel set in those troubling times that explores the alarming events in Asia that might have forewarned the world of the impending global economic catastrophe in 2008.

The Noah Principle is a gripping literary thriller that deftly weaves together a suspenseful tale of corruption, murder, mystery, and ethnic strife in South-East Asia with an authentic and very dark period of history. Situated in the broader context of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997–1998, the compelling narrative addresses the lives of Cain and Charlie, two aspirational young foreigners employed by the Temple-Speer Financial Advisory in Jakarta.

As the crisis grips Asia’s economies, Cain and Charlie are unwittingly caught up in a deadly game of wits between their bosses that undermines their friendship. That friendship is however, put to the ultimate test when they attempt to survive the chaos and violence erupting all around them in Jakarta. Can they survive? Purchase the book through Amazon to find out.

The Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s severely affected the economies of many Asian countries. The first victim was Thailand, but the contagion spread rapidly, affecting countries like Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia and even Japan. According to estimates, the crisis caused a loss in GDP of $600 billion. This was reflected in soaring unemployment figures, bankruptcies, and social unrest. As a result of the economic crisis and the ensuing social turmoil, nationalism and xenophobia increased, with minorities frequently the targets of prejudice and violence.

In Indonesia, a country that suffered greatly from the crisis, the Chinese minority faced widespread persecution. Chinese Indonesians were targeted by violent mobs, who also looted and set ablaze Chinese-owned businesses. Although the precise number of Chinese Indonesians killed during this time is unknown, estimates range from 2,000 to 5,000. The economy sunk further and the nation experienced high levels of inflation and unemployment and its accompanying mental and indeed physical health issues. The banking sector also experienced significant distress, with many banks collapsing or being taken over by the government.

In Malaysia, tensions also broke out between the Chinese and Indian minorities and the Malay majority. In an effort to calm the unrest, the government put into effect the New Economic Policy (NEP), which gave preference to Malays in sectors like business ownership and education. Even though the NEP was designed to address long-standing economic disparities, it actually served to heighten racial tensions.

In Thailand, there was an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment due to the economic downturn, with many people blaming foreign workers for displacing Thai workers. In addition, there was a rise in human trafficking and exploitation because of the increase in cheaper migrant workers from nearby nations like Cambodia and Myanmar.

The Asian Financial Crisis clearly demonstrated the interdependence of social and economic instability. Sadly, such economic insecurity and uncertainty can foster an atmosphere that throughout history has fed into nationalism and racial prejudice, frequently resulting in violence and discrimination.

It is therefore, up to governments and their electorates to ensure the implementation of inclusive policies and the eradication of inequality. By doing this, societies can better avoid instances of racism and violence that could lead them toward ethnic, racial and political unrest. 

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