Finding sanctuary in Karen State and deciphering the law on sex work in Cambodia

Plus, the fight to save Thai’s independent cinemas, the online angst of the Burmese diaspora in Singapore and the plight of self-censorship when covering #WhatsHappeningInThailand

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April 3, 2021
Finding sanctuary in Karen State and deciphering the law on sex work in Cambodia

This week in Globe-world we’ve settled even further into the routine of working from home and staying out of public places. To our readers who’ve experienced the pandemic elsewhere, I apologise — it must seem weird for me to even mention this, as you’ve been dealing with it for some time.

Looking forward, and as Alastair very mysteriously alluded to last Friday in his guest spot, we’ve got a very interesting project coming out possibly by the end of next week. We can’t yet say too much about it, but it’s already shaping up to be a very high-profile event for the Globe. I hate to be too cryptic (that’s not true, it’s kinda fun) but keep an eye on our website and social feeds for more.

We’ve been busy as ever this past week as well, with our intrepid reporters both here in Cambodia and further across the region bringing  in some great coverage. Just more than two months after the Myanmar military overthrew the civilian government and established a new junta, the massive citizen protests against army rule have faced enormous odds.

Outside the urban centers, the Karen State of Myanmar has long been a sanctuary for people escaping the political repression of the Burmese military. Now, as at least 2,000 members of the nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement shelter from the new junta here along the Thai border, the military’s latest airstrike campaign in the state has sent locals fleeing for safety. New Globe reporter Ryan Anders went to the Thai border town of Mae Sot, a longstanding refugee hub just across the river from Karen State, to find the latest.

Even far beyond the conflict-ridden borders of their homeland, Myanmar nationals are struggling to fight the coup. For the Burmese diaspora in Singapore, watching the military overthrow and ensuing junta violence back home has been an emotionally daunting experience. Even worse, Singapore’s strict rules against demonstration have all but ruled out public means of expressing that anger and sadness. But in the era of social media mobilisations, Burmese people are taking to the Internet to make their voice heard any way they can. Interesting story here from Singapore, thanks to Globe correspondent Toh Ee Ming. 

In more peaceful news, not even pandemic illness has stopped the film industry of Thailand. The Kingdom has produced its fair share of talented film directors in recent years but the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak still threatens to eliminate their artistic home — the independent cinemas that screen films outside the generic blockbuster circuit. Globe reporter Wanpen Pajai spoke with some of the leading figures in Bangkok’s fight to save the city’s arthouse cinemas and also caught up with the Thai Film Archive, an office dedicated to literally saving rare and culturally significant films themselves. Very cool piece of culture here.

Looking away from films to the Thai news media, self-censorship in organisations is usually based on implied threats, either from employers, peers or a frowning minder from the state. In Thailand, those threats have become both increasingly explicit and uncertain as mass protests have shattered taboos on criticising the nation’s monarchy. Reporters are left in a hard place of walking a line that continues to shift, writes Globe columnist and Associate Professor Mark Cogan. Hit the link to read more.

Finally, coming full circle back to our home turf in Cambodia, the tightening public restrictions to stop a growing outbreak of Covid-19 has put entertainment workers, including those who sell sex, into a dire spot. Sex work here is an unsung industry, both readily available and too sensitive to discuss openly. Globe reporter Kiana Duncan started with a story about foreign non-governmental organisations conducting SWAT-style raids on places that sell sex. That became a much larger question of how the sex trade came to fill its current grey area of legal acceptance and denial, and what that unsteady footing means for workers themselves. Very interesting read, especially now that Covid-19 has heaped even more challenges on workers.

Last but certainly not least, we’re happy to announce we’ve put together a special e-magazine for our paying members, compiling some of our favourite stories from the past year. We don’t often get to do a full spread for Globe since discontinuing the print magazine at the end of 2019, so this is pretty cool for us! It’s also a great showcase of the talents of our amazing designer Tab Navet, so I really do hope you get a chance to enjoy it soon. I’d say giving it a read is definitely a good way to pass the time in any Covid-19 curfew situation, so if you’re not yet a paying member, be sure to sign up today!

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