#52 - Here Comes the Sun
Except when it rains...
Sou Sdei and welcome to Campuccino, your fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia with a dash of opinion.
To new subscribers, welcome!
The last issue saw me pouring my frustrations out to you and in return, I received overwhelming support. This means a lot and I want you to know I appreciate all of you. I also saw that some readers went as far as pledging a subscription on Substack. Due to setup complications, I did not turn that feature on this platform but if you wish to do so, you can become a Campuccino regular through a membership sign-up here.
After #51, I sense that it is time to do a positive-stories-only issue again to try to hype up my glimpse of hope and give you readers a bit of a break. Shitty things will continue to happen but that does not mean we cannot take a small break from them to recalibrate.
In this issue: Cambodia off the FATF’s grey list, a new crowdfunding platform, more artefacts returned, and more.
Before we get into all the positive stories, there is a bit of breaking news I cannot skip. Who am I joking, right? (All positive stories, lol…)
This morning, a Cambodian court found former opposition leader Kem Sokha guilty of treason and sentenced him to 27 years in prison. While I was not surprised by the charge, I was taken aback by the long sentence. As the news continues to develop, there are reports of the prison sentence might be under a form of house arrest. He is also banned from all communications except for those with close family members.
Alright, we can proceed to some positive news now…
Cambodia had finally been removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list. The country had been on the FATF’s grey list since 2019. According to FATF’s announcement, Cambodia has improved its anti-money laundering and combating financial terrorism regimes as specified in its action plan. Hopefully, this will provide a better environment for foreign investment and international financial transactions.
KhmerCare is a new Cambodian crowdfunding platform launched in mid-February. While Kiripost called KhmerCare the first crowdfunding platform, I don’t think it is. I vaguely remember the now-defunct TosFund found around 2015 which I assumed was the first. Regardless of which came first, I must say I am excited about this new platform, not only because it seems to be endorsed by many reputable businesses and organizations such as ABA Bank and Cambodia Children’s Fund, but also because it appears to happen at the right time when Cambodia’s financial system is rapidly advancing.
Another good news is the return of Cambodia’s stolen Angkorian artifacts to where they should be, Cambodia. Not surprisingly, the stolen relics belonged to the deceased smuggler Douglas Latchford. The collection includes many pieces of gold and jewel-encrusted jewelry due to go on display at the National Museum of Cambodia.
If you are interested in the topic of Cambodia’s relics looting and the people behind it, check out Dynamite Doug, a podcast series by Project Brazen about Cambodian art heists carried out by Douglas Latchford and others robbing the country of its cultural heritage. So far, they only released one episode but it is really good. I caught myself questioning why am I listening to a podcast about a man, his accomplice and his journey to robbing my country but I guess the journey of seeking new knowledge makes you uncomfortable sometimes.
Arts & Culture
The Acting Academy is a new initiative claiming to bring “a comprehensive training program for professional actors in Phnom Penh”. I have not yet checked out their performance but an initiative such as this makes me excited as a person who hopes to see a more robust local art scene in the city. So far, their actors in training have performed Khmer-translated excerpts of 3 pieces by Bernard Marie Koltès. I’ll be watching out for this group and hopefully go to see their next play as I am curious to see how a French play is transmitted to the audience through the Khmer scripts and actors.
For those who are in Phnom Penh this weekend, you might want to check out Psar Bassac pop up market organised by Rong Cheang, a community art studio, on March 4. The market will host vendors of local artists and designers. You would find me there if I wouldn’t be in Siem Reap this weekend but this is the market you would definitely want to check out. I’m stoke to see some of my favorite artists and vendors there such as Beton Craft Studio, hy.clay, Monnyreak, and Jungle à Domicile.
If you are an art and culture enthusiast, this article on Cambodia’s generational differences and their roles in shaping the country’s cultural preservation policy is for you. Utilising my contextualisation of generational differences in Cambodia, the author examines how different generations of civil servants and policymakers are shaped by their lived experiences, which in turn influence their view of “cultural preservation”.
Campuccino is a fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia, written by @DarathteyDin.
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