House of 1,000 stories: The mysterious Hotel Renakse

We explore the rich history of the unlikely birthplace of Cambodia’s post-war independent newspapers and dive further into the economic and educational effects of Covid-19

Written By:
June 5, 2021
House of 1,000 stories: The mysterious Hotel Renakse

This week, we’re almost all about the implications of the pandemic, a topic I’m sure you’re not at all fatigued with by now. The subject has been inescapable since our first introduction to Covid-19 and, though vaccines promise to deliver us once and for all from the novel coronavirus, we’re not out of the woods just yet.

But lest you close this email right now to avoid another heavy dose of Covid news, we’re leading off the features this week with a very interesting trip down memory lane to follow the early 1990s rebirth of regional press world — as told through those who lived it in a once-stately Phnom Penh hotel now sitting abandoned and slowly devoured by the relentless Cambodian foliage. 

The Hotel Renakse might be in serious disrepair now, but for years in the 1990s this historic site near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh had played host to the rebirth of independent journalism not just in Cambodia but across post-war Indochina. Globe EiC Alastair McCready took an up-close look at the faded glamour of the Renakse and spoke with some of the leading early figures in the local media scene, including veteran reporter Nate Thayer, Phnom Penh Post founder Michael Hayes and Cambodia Daily founding editor Robin McDowell.

A little further afield than Phnom Penh, as the pandemic has silenced the Cambodian tourism engine of Siem Reap, maybe nowhere in the gateway city to Angkor is as quiet as the local airport. Globe reporter Kiana Duncan traces the virtual collapse of the international airport and the fight for its employees, most of whom are now left scrambling for their living. Well-reported piece produced with support from the workers’ rights monitor Solidarity Center.

With the livelihoods of millions on the line, mass vaccination campaigns are providing hope for an end to pandemic conditions, the rollout of innoculations around the region still has one major gap — the many migrant workers who pass through porous national borders and often live at the margins of society. Thong Sariputta, a Young Research Fellow at the Cambodia-based think tank Future Forum, explains the situation and possible solutions in this deeply researched editorial.

Migrant workers are far from the only ones in need of vaccinations, but no two countries are exactly alike when it comes to providing them. In Malaysia, state governments have stepped up to vaccinate their residents after a stilted federal campaign promised no quick solutions. With millions still waiting on their shots, argues researcher Francis E. Hutchinson, Malaysia’s public health departments are in danger of getting in their own way as they rush to inoculate. Hutchison is a senior fellow and coordinator of the Regional Economic and Malaysia Studies Programmes at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. This article was originally published in the institute’s publication, Fulcrum.

Finally, as we look ahead to building back stronger when the pandemic finally ebbs, we’ve got a piece from Globe writer Stew Post on educational strategies to help kids and families cope with the loss of in-person schooling in Cambodia. A network of educational non-governmental organisations are now working directly with parents to make sure the very youngest children aren’t getting left behind. The home-based strategy is a vital development for the pandemic era but also one that could be key to improving public education for decades to come. Our latest piece in partnership with Caring for Cambodia.

Last but certainly not least, we’ve got some news direct from Globe-world, where we’re still sitting at about one-tenth of our fundraising goal of $100,000. To make my usual plug, if you’ve ever found value, inspiration or just good solid information in the work we do, please consider donating to the fundraiser and joining us as a paid member! Production is now underway for the second season of our podcast Anakut, in which we explore the big topics facing Cambodia today to see where they’ll lead us tomorrow, and we’ve got other great projects coming down the pipeline in the months ahead. Keep an eye on our site and social media channels to stay up on the latest.

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