Tết travel woes, facial scans, Siem Reap’s road saga

Vietnamese decry Tet international travel ordeals, Thailand mandates facial scans for phone use in the Deep South, Siem Reap's road overhaul

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February 5, 2022
Tết travel woes, facial scans, Siem Reap’s road saga

Hello Globe readers,

This week marks Lunar New Year and associated celebrations all across the region, but getting to the party has been easier for some than others. 

Vietnamese living abroad who hope to return home for the Tết holiday say they have to navigate bribery, discrimination and halting bureaucracy to purchase flights, Govi Snell reports from Ho Chi Minh City. Many say they believe the government is easing entry for foreigners using so-called expert visas unavailable to the country’s citizens, who face sky-high ticket prices and limited flights. 

In neighbouring Thailand, the Malay-Majority population of the country’s three Southern Border Provinces, known as the Deep South, are encountering their own challenges in navigating requirements that they provide facial scans in exchange for SIM cards. In reporting on this issue with the help of Thai journalist Wanpen Pajai, I learned human rights groups are challenging the law, which they argue violates privacy and disproportionately affects a marginalised minority group in the name of security. 

I also reported on something closer to my Cambodia home. As tourists resume their travels to Siem Reap, the modern site of Angkor Wat, they bike, ride and trod across smooth asphalt surfaces that emerged from a year of busy construction across the city. Residents described their experiences of the overhaul and the meaning for the future of Cambodia’s tourism capital. 

Even though Siem Reap’s roads are new and improved, Cambodia’s ranking in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruptions Perception Index has not changed much, Fiona Kelliher reports. Cambodia once again holds the dubious ranking of the ASEAN nation with the most perceived corruption. In contrast, Singapore ranked as one of the world’s least corrupt countries and Fiona explores why the countries are perceived so differently. 

Even when administrative policies are followed to the letter of the law, they can still result in cruel and brutal outcomes, anti-death penalty activist Kirsten Han argues in her opinion piece. She highlights the case of a Malaysian man whose death sentence in Singapore remains pending amidst bureaucratic procedures, causing great emotional and mental strain on him and his family. 

That’s all for this week. We hope you enjoy the articles.

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