LINES OF THOUGHT ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA

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Editorial

Growing Covid-19 outbreaks dampen vaccine optimism

Plus the underground press of Myanmar, the struggle for meaningful hacktivism, the modernist hold on Vietnamese architecture and marking the 46th anniversary of the fall of Saigon with a wartime reporter who saw it happen

May 1, 2021
Growing Covid-19 outbreaks dampen vaccine optimism

While some of the world’s wealthiest countries are now seeing a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Covie-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asian countries are shaking the optimism of vaccination campaigns.

We started this week with personal stories from workers locked down in the red zones of Phnom Penh’s sweeping lockdown intended to stop the spread of the virus in Cambodia. People who spoke with us are experiencing poverty, hunger, anxiety and, through it all, the crushing boredom of being trapped often in a living space of only 4×4 metres. Hit the link to learn more of the human side of this crisis, written by me and our Focus colleague Borin Sopheavuthey, with help from EiC Alastair McCready.

While Covid-19 continues to spread across the region, so too is the conflict in Myanmar metastasising into a dysfunctional status quo. Journalists in the country have been forced into hiding and exile as the coup regime cracks down on the press. Many of those still writing have been pushed into the underground, running the guerilla press to evade the military authorities. Globe reporter Kiana Duncan brought us this great article on what that looks like, as told by the journalists working in secret to bring information to the public.

More than a month ago now, a pair of well-publicised hacks of public data in Myanmar raised early hopes of a data trove that would help to more effectively sanction the military and its coup regime. But now, more than a month after the latest leak, there’s little yet to show for the efforts of an international team parsing out the data’s secrets. Another one here from Kiana in this really interesting look at the realities of hacktivism.

Looking back at past conflicts that tore at Southeast Asia, we marked today the anniversary of the fall of Saigon to Vietnamese communists. A pivotal moment in the nation’s history, the conquest of the city ended the civil war and the state of South Vietnam while ushering in decades of single-party rule. It was also, according to this gripping narrative from wartime journalist Jim Laurie, who was in Saigon at the fall, an uncertain yet peaceful time — a sharp and puzzling contrast to the bloodbath in Phnom Penh when the communist Khmer Rouge rolled into town. This excerpt from Jim’s memoirs is worth your time, so give it a read to see what the ‘liberation’ was really like.

In these more peaceful times, we find ourselves studying the architecture of Vietnam, which writer Phạm Phú Vinh describes as deeply modernist, yet inherently Vietnamese. How could an international movement be so widely adopted by a nation? In his latest compelling piece, his first for the Globe, Vinh delves into the living history of this distinctive, homegrown style.

Yesterday, we launched our second-ever Story Vote poll, asking our paying members to help set our editorial direction by voting for one of a handful of pitches from the Globe team. Though the vote isn’t done yet, so far a clear frontrunner has emerged, with members throwing strong support for an article about the dire, likely long-lasting blow to development in Cambodia now presented by the Covid-19 crisis. 

This kind of in-depth, analytical coverage is what sets Globe apart. But the economic crisis of the pandemic is affecting us as well, and with our revenue streams at an all-time-low, we’re finding ourselves stretching thin to cover the vital stories of our region. We’re about to launch the fundraiser I talked about here last week, a drive that represents an ambitious bid both to sustain the Globe while building it stronger for whatever trials lie ahead. If you’d like to contribute to that, you’ll soon get a chance — in the meantime, if you’d like to be a part of our ongoing Story Vote, please hit the link and become a paying member.



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