Welcome to Anakut, a podcast about Cambodia present and future!
We’ve been working on this one for a while, and we’re both eager and proud to share it today. Anakut, the Globe’s inaugural podcast, is powered by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Cambodia and produced with help from audio engineer extraordinaire Jan Mueller. The show is a table-talk format led by a double-header hosting team made up of Seavmeng Samoeurth, founding member of Politikoffee, Cambodia’s premier political talking group, and Andrew Haffner, Globe reporter and assistant editor.
Each week, we sit down with guests at Serey Studios in the bustling Toul Tompoung neighbourhood of Phnom Penh to dive deep into the issues affecting Cambodia today. What’s the point? It’s all to get a clue where we might end up tomorrow.
For this very first episode, we wanted to tackle a subject of global proportions: The Covid-19 pandemic. To get a better idea of what legacy the outbreak will have on Cambodia, we sat down with Ou Virak, long-time political commentator and president of the Future Forum think tank in Phnom Penh, and Chheng Kimlong, economist and director of the governance and democracy centre of the Asian Vision Institute (AVI).
Thankfully, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus has not had any obvious major health impact on Cambodia as it has in other countries. But that doesn’t mean the Kingdom has been left untouched by the ripple effects of the viral disruption. Here at the Globe, we recently went deep on the effects of Covid-19 with our Cambodia in Quarantine series, a multi-part exploration of the economic toll of the novel coronavirus. We’d covered a lot of ground out in the field, but we wanted to keep the discussion going in the studio.
We chose our two guests for their complementary perspectives, combining the socio-political approach of Virak with the economic know-how of Kimlong. That balance didn’t disappoint, and after an opening discussion of the broad impact of the economic downturn on the country’s most vulnerable, we started getting into the details.
Here’s what that means for you, our friendly listener.
In partnership with the Angkor Research firm, Virak’s Future Forum has been collecting and analysing data that sketches a picture of household incomes through the pandemic era.
So far, Virak said, that picture isn’t looking good. Amidst massive job losses and falling income, he’s most concerned about the possibility of growing food insecurity, a gnawing spectre haunting Cambodia’s most vulnerable families. Kimlong is holding out hope that a modernising agricultural sector can buoy the economy while other industries falter, but Virak was ready to douse that notion with a cold bucket of skepticism.
Though there has been some recovery since the dark days of March and April, which were some of the world’s worst economic months in memory, the economic numbers still seem dire. That led our hosts to wonder just how far Cambodian workers can be pushed before the country runs the risk of serious social unrest and alienation.
Our guests had a lot to say about that, but you’ll have to listen to find out what.