Sou Sdei and welcome to Campuccino, your fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia with a dash of opinion.
I am not going to lie, I found myself procrastinating while writing this issue. Professionally, I am going through a transition from full-time employment to a consultancy-based life. It was a decision that took years to make, and I finally pulled the plug. Hence, my head has been full of brainstorming business ideas, identifying potential clients, etc. This will be yet another sharp learning curve for me, but I am excited to see what the journey has in store for me. But fear not, Campuccino will continue to hit your inbox, hopefully with more new content after I have a bit of time to settle into this new life/work schedule.
While my head is full, I find it more challenging to look for quality news updates without VOD. I have to spend a longer time looking and going through many more sources to find news reports that I deem worth putting in the newsletter. Oh well, I’m trying very hard to make do with what I’ve got.
In this issue: election, succession plan, deforestation, monks on Tik Tok, and more…
While I would like to think that the upcoming election will be similar to the one we had before, it won't be. This time around, Cambodia is watching the Prime Minister's succession plan slowly unfold, hopefully. With no solid opposition parties allowed a fair competition, a slow and mindful transition of leadership is all I can hope for if I were to be very honest with myself. One has to manage expectations from time to time. However, there are news reports of potential misaligned interests within the ruling party while they are working on the succession plan. In Asia Times, David Hutt wrote about disputes involving relatives of Cambodia's senior politicians which could potentially derail the succession plan. Hutt also posted a question on China's position on the transfer of power. Read the full article here (it's super interesting).
In another note, it appears that Kem Sokha's lawyers are being blocked from visiting their client. To date, we know that the court found Sokha guilty and sentenced him to 27 years of house arrest. He will appeal against the verdict. Therefore, this obstruction is obviously an attempt to slow down his appeal process. Duh!
While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, there are simply too many of them to ignore. This next one is about Cambodia's draft cybersecurity law that has raised many eyebrows regarding its real intention and vagueness, which is a common trait found in my country's legislation. In Rest of the World, Fiona Kelliher reported that the law would seize operating systems and access data from entities deemed unable to mitigate impacts of any event that could cause "significant harm" to "national security, national defense, foreign relations, the economy, public health, safety, or public order." In the article, many experts provided their insight on how the law would further enforce the government's censorship on critics and boost their control of the internet ahead of the election. Isn't election season fun?
For this next item, I am surprised that Gerald Flynn has not gotten in trouble for reporting this already. While the topic of illegal logging is not new in Cambodia, this investigative piece takes a deep dive into who was behind the act, revealing many Cambodian top officials and military generals. I find the article super fascinating, especially the part where the reporter went through many steps trying to unmask who Oknha Chey was. Meanwhile, NGOs and international donors are telling us, the general public, to stop buying wooden furniture in order to save our forests. LOL.
Arts & Culture
🎨 Creative Generation is calling for applications from designers, artists, and architects to design their second “Under the Canopy” project. The winning concept will be displayed in the courtyard of Friends Futures Factory. See more details here.
🖼️ Sa Sa Art Projects is hosting a new group exhibition titled “Rebuild” by artists Kong Dara, Leng Kimsreang, and Soung Pheakdey. Running from 2nd March to 17th May, the exhibition is about “the cycle of life, nature, and what humans create, as well as the problems they bring with them: the often-changing urban identity, the resilience and fragility of mental health, the process of building life experiences, and the imbalance and instability of life.”
🎶 With the rise of hip hop in Cambodia, I am beyond thrilled to ride this wave. While VannDa is ranking at the top of my list of favorite Cambodian hip hop artists, I think RuthKo has caught my attention with his new release titled "Stay the Same". I must say I could not get the song out of my head for a few days, but what’s more exciting about this song is the music video that accompanied it. To me, the video provided this rough, yet familiar; underground, yet friendly feeling which I cannot specifically point out. Check it out and let me know what you think!
📰 Worth Reading
How many of you are on TikTok, and what do you think of the platform? I am genuinely curious as I find myself too old for this thing. I am on the platform, though, making use of its very smart algorithm to get 15 minutes of awesome cat and dog content (don’t judge me!). My next question is how many of you here are Buddhist. I was brought up to be one but decided over a decade ago that agnosticism helps me answer life questions better, so here I am. Now, put TikTok and Buddhist monk together. What can you think of now? This is what the next article is about: Monktok, content created by Buddhist monks on TikTok. It is a very intriguing read as the article makes me question religious morals, survival, and relatability in today’s world in which the line between physical and digital life is increasingly blurred.
Is that really a good wave to ride though? I am older than you, my generation had mostly melodic music by actual musicians, with lyrics about love and hope and some protest, sometimes corny, but it was not angry victim music. I have no idea what they lyrics of this song are, but the images I see are disturbing: gangs, gang tattoos, Hell's Angel-type motorcycle jackets, choppers, smoking, chains, boomboxes, nightmare club scene, 10-year old boys making gangster rap hand signs. And most of all I see Angry Attitude in the eyes of the men, and the woman fighters, wtf, women fighting in a ring? So progressive. I did not see ONE adult smiling. Sheesh, please, do young people need these "heroes"? I don't get Cambodian men imitating black American gang culture as cool.
I am American, America is undergoing a terrible time. I blame black culture for many of the failures of black Americans, not racism. Rap/hip hop/gangster music was invented in the black ghettos of American cities. Young blacks are not following leaders like Obama with positive messages to study-hard, work-hard and succeed messages, from this kind of music. Positive, healthy, safe guidance is what they need, it is what all young people need.
Oh well that is just my take, but you asked what we think! Thanks for writing about your country.
-phil in saigon