A region under fire

Covid-19’s more infectious variant is ripping through the Mekong countries, women fight domestic violence in Thailand’s Muslim communities and the Globe catches up with noted wartime reporter Elizabeth Becker

Written By:
May 8, 2021
A region under fire

This week marked a return to (some semblance, perhaps fleeting) of normalcy in Phnom Penh after authorities lifted yesterday the city-wide state of lockdown. But we’re not celebrating just yet. The Mekong region might have avoided the worst depths of pandemic over the past year, but now a brutal cross-border outbreak of Covid-19 is making up for lost time.

Globe EiC Alastair McCready and reporters Govi Snell and Wanpen Pajai teamed up and spoke with some of the leading public health experts across Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to bring us this very in-depth outlook at the state of contagion across Southeast Asia.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy, but perhaps no workers have been more affected than those who migrate for their living. This analytical editorial traces the effects of pandemic border shutdowns on the millions of migrant workers across Southeast Asia, most flowing to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Very insightful writing and information here from Fanzura Banu and Shee Siew Ying, both researchers from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

If there’s one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s in the way it’s revealed the shortcomings of our societies. In her first for the Globe, intern Charmaine Sew delivers this nicely reported look at the gaps in Singapore’s welfare system — and some of the mutual aid organisers who have popped up to address them since the start of the pandemic. This isn’t the kind of story you often hear about Singapore, so hit the link to learn more.

Unfortunately, Covid isn’t the only epidemic gripping parts of the region. For years, domestic violence against Muslim women in Thailand’s Deep South has been quietly overlooked by authorities both religious and secular. Now, despite some pushback from male-dominated Islamic institutions, women are building their own networks to help those in need. Very strong on-the-ground reporting in this piece from Globe reporter Ryan Anders and writer Wildan Muna, definitely worth your time.

Meanwhile, as Thai civil society actors look on warily, national leaders are pushing ahead with a draft law that would grant the state broad new powers over NGOs in the Kingdom. Globe columnist Mark Cogan gives us more details in his latest.

Moving on from Thailand, for the fourth year in a row, Malaysia has managed to cut down its rate of deforestation. It’s a rare bright spot in tropical nations correlated with another falling rate — that of land used for oil palm plantations, a huge and often controversial industry. Journalist Yao-Hua Law traces the connections between oil palm and deforestation in this deeply researched piece written in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network. The article was originally published on Malaysian environmental reporting website Macaranga, and republished on the Globe with their permission.

Last but not least, we look to the past to trace some modern Cambodian history. As a wartime reporter, Elizabeth Becker became one of few foreign witnesses to some of Cambodia’s darkest days. A prolific writer on the experiences of that era, Becker recounted for this profile by Globe reporter Allegra Mendelson what she saw and heard through years of reporting on and in Cambodia, ranging from the height of the civil war to her interview with Pol Pot and on to testifying in 2015 against the Khmer Rouge in the special tribunal.

Closing out with some house business, I’m happy to say we’re finally running toward the Season 2 premiere of the Anakut podcast! I know I said this earlier in the year, but this time it’s really on its way — I promise. We’ll do our best to get new episodes out to you very soon, so watch this space for more details.

Finally, we’re also ramping up to the launch of our most ambitious fundraiser yet. I’ve written about that before, but the broad overview is that Globe is looking to raise $100,000 in two months, a sum that would not only help keep our operations going amidst the brutal pandemic economy, but would also help us to scale into a more sustainable, dynamic organisation.

It’s a big ask, but it’s one we’re hopeful to achieve with the help of our friends, allies and readers. Want more information on that? Don’t hesitate to get it touch, and keep an eye on our website for more details very soon to come.

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