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Seeking court justice, appointing an ambassador

Hello Globe readers,

The past two weeks at Southeast Asia Globe have included a reduced publishing schedule, but not any decrease in the quality of stories on some of the region’s most important issues.

Globe staff members delved into human rights and justice, the tough choices facing Cambodia’s fishing families, a renewal in advanced regional diplomacy with the United States and the exciting opportunities presented by farming inside an urban city-state.

The International Criminal Court has ripe but elusive targets for possible cases of human rights abuses in Southeast Asia. Myanmar’s ongoing civil war following the military junta’s February 2021 takeover has tragically produced repression and systematic violence. In the Philippines, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte has waged a war on drugs with alleged extrajudicial killings. Yet as I wrote earlier this month, the court has been unable to bring cases due to legal, political and cultural factors.

This week saw what observers characterised as an abuse of the Cambodian justice system when a Phnom Penh court handed down treason and incitement convictions to more than 50 people who immediately received prison sentences ranging from five to eight years. My report focused on one of the trial’s most visible defendants, Cambodian-American attorney Theary Seng, and reactions to the verdict from activists and the international community.

One of those who condemned the mass trial was Sopheap Chak, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. Globe’s Amanda Oon asked the renowned advocate about her reaction to the verdict and Sopheap responded with tough words for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, calling the trial part of the regime’s “brazen attacks on democracy.”

In Cambodia’s coastal Kep province, Globe’s Anton L. Delgado spent a week with families living in a traditional fishing community. His article and photographs highlight the problems resulting from extreme weather, likely caused by climate change, and underfunded initiatives. These circumstances have led many residents to consider exchanging their lives on the water for more secure livelihoods further inland.

ASEAN represents 10 of Southeast Asia’s 11 nations, but five years have passed since the U.S. had an ambassador delegated to the diplomatic bloc. Globe’s Jack Brook profiled President Joe Biden’s pick to fill the ambassador position, Yohannes Abraham, a veteran of the National Security Council and a trusted Biden advisor. The nomination suggests a renewed interest in Southeast Asia and a heightened level of engagement with the region.

Singapore is known as a small place with big ideas. But its geographic limits have caused food security concerns, so the city-state’s innovators are taking agriculture straight upwards with urban farming projects overlooking the city and other technological growing innovations. Amanda Oon explained high-rise farming could be a new sustainability model while also creating challenges for small, traditional farmers.

We hope you enjoy the articles and your weekend.

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