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.

Vietnam has been a bright spot during the COVID-19 pandemic — and has largely reopened for business. Thanks to aggressive contact tracing, quarantines and testing, it's managed to keep its confirmed coronavirus cases to just 317, with no deaths, according to government figures.

Doctors in a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City are struggling to save a patient from becoming the country's first COVID-19 fatality.

It's the moment international aid groups have been dreading for months — the coronavirus has reached the sprawling refugee camps in the Cox's Bazar district of southern Bangladesh, home to roughly a million Rohingya refugees.

Bangladesh officials said on Thursday that at least two people living in or adjacent to the camps have tested positive for the coronavirus and have now been quarantined amid fears of a humanitarian disaster if the virus spreads unchecked.

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Myanmar's Muslim minority Rohingya had few friends before COVID-19, and now they have even fewer. Boats full of refugees are being turned away by Malaysia over fears that they will spread the virus onto its shores. Michael Sullivan reports.

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.

The United Nations' outgoing chief human rights monitor for Myanmar is calling for an investigation into allegations of ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the southeast Asian country's Rakhine and Chin States.

"While the world is occupied with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Myanmar military continues to escalate its assault in Rakhine State, targeting the civilian population," Yanghee Lee said in a blistering farewell statement.

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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.

Forget toilet paper. What about beer?

Authorities in Bangkok on Thursday banned alcohol sales for 11 days in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus during the Thai New Year, or Songkran, which begins on Monday.

More than half the country's known cases are in the capital city. Authorities in Chiang Mai, Phuket and several other provinces have also called for similar bans.

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.

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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)

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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."

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There's food that's old. Then there's food that's gone bad. And then there's beef soup that's been simmering for 45 years. At one Bangkok eatery, customers can't get enough. Michael Sullivan reports.

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South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world. But that level of connectivity is a double-edged sword in a society that some experts say is becoming increasingly addicted to the Internet and where 95% of adults own a smartphone.

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One of the last surviving leaders of Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge has died at the age of 93. He had been serving a sentence of life in prison. Michael Sullivan reports from neighboring Thailand.

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