#47 - Bong
Has it ever occurred to you to wonder how a society is still functioning while there are many things that seem to be going wrong?
Sou Sdei and welcome to Campuccino, your fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia with a dash of opinion.
To new subscribers, welcome!
First off, how has everyone been? It’s been a month since you heard from me last. For new subscribers who are not sure why it’s been a month despite the newsletter saying it is published every two weeks, please head to #46 for my explanation on this temporary publishing schedule.
By the time you receive this, I’ll already be in Chiang Mai attending Splice Beta. I’m very excited to be hosting the pitch session but also to hopefully see some of you! Please come say hello if you’re also at Beta :)
Now, let’s get you caught up on a bunch of things that happened in October, shall we?
In this issue: water travel safety, scam compound raids and relocation, pre-election politics, and more.
In mid October, Cambodia made international headlines with a boat incident that killed 11 students in Kandal province. This nation-shocking incident raised questions about water travel safety as the boat in question did not have life jackets or safety equipment. However, that wasn’t the only boat in the country without safety mechanism. I crossed that path a few times myself because I have close family members living on that island. Fortunately, none of them or their children were crossing the boat that night. That does not stop me from questioning why the child survivors (as well as the deceased) and their families were not given the privacy they deserve to process and to grief such traumatic experience. For example, there are many news outlets, rich people and celebrities who took this opportunity to do their own PR campaigns to show the public how generous and caring they are by donating to the survivors and their families and asked them to repeat their experience again and again. From where I stand, this incident raised more questions beyond boat safety. I question poor practices from some reporters and authorities’ social media channels and I question Cambodian society’s appetite to consume and share such content.
In other news, Cambodia’s scam compound raids are still going strong. The Interior Minister announced that the raids have now been conducted across 10 provinces. I guess we can call it an improvement now that the issue of human trafficking and forced labours are sort of receiving an official acknowledgement (even if under different vocabularies). These raids do not seem to deter the scam syndicates much, however. There are reports of scam workers being relocated from Cambodia to Laos and Myanmar. I mean…good for Cambodia’s reputation, bad for the scam workers still.
I’m sure many of you know Siem Reap as a traveling destination where one goes to see the magnificent Angkor Wat. But did you know that local families residing around the Angkor archaeological park have been forced to move out of the area? Apparently, authorities claimed that their settlement put the heritage at risk. Worse yet, they are being relocated to a new area known as Run Ta Ek commune, which is also currently under dispute. Farm lands used by Run Ta Ek residents are now being given to the new families to be relocated from the archaeological park. Over 200 families whose farm land in Run Ta Ek is being redistributed said they never received the compensation promised by the authorities.
Five years ago, we saw the dissolution of Cambodia’s only prominent opposition party. Now, we are witnessing another potential opposition party facing a similar fate as the country is heading toward the national election next year. This week, VOD reported that the PM called on all Candlelight Party councilors to defect after threating to dissolve any party involved with Sam Rainsy. I’m watching this whole chain of event unfold with indifference, not because I do not care but because I see very small chance that the Candlelight Party, smaller and weaker, could withstand the pressure imposed by the current ruling party. I would be more than happy to be proven wrong.
Notable: With fewer independent voices in Cambodia’s media ecosystem, I rely heavily on VOD to get many of my news as you might have noticed. Recently, VOD just launched their newsletter. So, if you want to follow Cambodian news more closely, go show them your support by subscribing here.
Arts & Culture
🎙️ Since we’re talking about the relocation of families in Angkor archeological park, this conversation between Thmey Thmey Media and Cambodian anthropologist Ang Choulean is a valuable food for thought. The dialogue is about the archeological park being a “living” park that needs to remain alive. The video is in Khmer only.
📑 I enjoy talking a lot about Cambodian arts and how it has progressed. However, it is not without hindrance. Cambodian artists have limited freedom in creating and expressing their work. Read a write up on artistic freedom in Cambodia by art researcher Reaksmey Yean here.
🎨 Speaking of Cambodian artists, I’m a huge fan of Cambodian visual artist Sao Sreymao. Her works reflect many angles of Cambodian society with much depth and flare. To follow her journey and how she voices her perception through art, read this piece.
If you’re interested in illegal wildlife poaching, this one is for you.
Silent Forests is a two-part investigative series on the threats posed to wildlife caused by commercially driven poaching. Part 1 looks at health risks caused by wildlife consumption in Cambodia and Vietnam after the pandemic while part 2 investigates an effort of digging a ditch to fence off the forest from poachers.
Overheard on Twitter
Campuccino is a fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia, written by @DarathteyDin.
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