Facebook enabling SEA authoritarianism, Angkor temple visits to be timed

Globe explores why hate speech and disinformation persist across Facebook in Southeast Asia, while an interview with a top Angkor park official reveals changes to Cambodia's signature tourism destination

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December 18, 2021
Facebook enabling SEA authoritarianism, Angkor temple visits to be timed

Hello Globe readers! 

Living in Siem Reap, I enjoy the luxury of being able to stroll or bike through the Angkor temple complex at leisure after investing in one of the pandemic-special annual passes. But as Anton L. Delgado learned during a recent Q&A with a top official at the park authority, which manages the temples, a visit to Angkor Wat or Bayon will soon be timed, a new measure to increase public health and manage crowds. 

Before moving to Cambodia in 2020, I happily deleted my old Facebook account in an effort to reduce my social media usage. But, I soon realised almost everyone in Cambodia relies on Facebook to share news, communicate and accomplish day-to-day tasks, much more so than in the US where Instagram and TikTok seem to be largely replacing Facebook’s former relevance. Despite how important Facebook remains in Southeast Asian countries, the platform only allocates a fraction of its oversight budget to the region, where human rights officials say more sophisticated and culturally sensitive content monitoring is needed.  

Govi Snell and I recently reviewed several notable cases in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia where hate speech and propaganda emerged on Facebook, impacting the lives of activists and human rights advocates without action from the platform until it was much too late. 

We hope you take the time to read our article, Anton’s Angkor interview and some of the other great content we published this week from around the region. Check it out below.

Lack of regulation and gaps in content monitoring on Facebook in Southeast Asia continues to fuel hate speech and propaganda across the region, Govi Snell and Jack Brook report. In Thailand, for example, the military has used Facebook to spread deception while in Cambodia and Vietnam governments leverage the social media giant to persecute citizens. The Globe looks into how and why these issues are able to persist on the platform. 

A senior US state department official’s visit to Phnom Penh focused on the need for constructive, purposeful ASEAN engagement with Myanmar beyond mere appeasement of the junta, Brian P. D. Hannon reports. The diplomat also expressed concern about the potentially deepening military relationship between China and Cambodia, while foreshadowing US plans to strengthen economic relations in Southeast Asia.

The arrival of 2022 is likely to prompt a surge of visitors eager to experience the wonders of the Angkor Wat and other temples in Siem Reap. Globe’s Anton L. Delgado spoke with Long Kosal, APSARA deputy director-general, about new discoveries, additional bike paths and plans to implement a time-limited, management system for temple tourists.

Singapore’s Yip Yew Chong, a celebrated self-taught street artist, has been painting murals across the city to bring his country’s history to life, Amanda Oon reports. You can almost smell the fresh fish in an old wet market or taste the sizzling cooked ducks in Yip’s vivid art. Along with the admiration of passers-by, Yip’s work is fetching the attention of galleries and private buyers. But his art remains public and accessible. 

To commemorate World Migrant Day on 18 December, Matthew Friedman, a former UN official who focuses on fighting human trafficking, reflects on how migrant workers in Southeast Asia all too often fall victim to trafficking schemes. He shares the story of one Laotian construction worker in Thailand who was tricked and manipulated into modern slavery.

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