The future of Cambodia’s energy

This week, the Anakut podcast discusses the implications of Cambodia’s increasingly coal-oriented energy policy, while two of our reporters call attention to the dire situation of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand. We’ve also got updates on ASEAN’s new special envoy to Myanmar, a look back at the ethnic riots in Singapore in the 60s and finally a report on the protests and activists pushing for American sanctions against the Tatmadaw

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August 14, 2021
The future of Cambodia’s energy

Hello, Globe readers! I’m Jack Brook, a newly arrived editor at the Globe, and I’ll be taking over the role of rounding up the week for you with the editorial (shout-out to the excellent work of Andrew Haffner, who helmed this previously). 

A little background on me: I’m originally from California and came to Cambodia in late 2020 on a fellowship to study Khmer and work at the Bophana Audiovisual Resources Center. I’m currently based in Siem Reap, and I’ll be covering environmental issues, human rights and the arts in Cambodia, among other topics. If you have any story ideas or would like to say hi, please feel free to get in touch on Twitter or over email

And though I hope to ingratiate myself with readers, I’m sorry that my debut here is marked by the inauspicious announcement that we’re all doomed. At least, that’s the latest update from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released earlier this week. It’s similar to the last IPCC report, only scientists say the apocalypse will be worse and is arriving sooner than previously predicted (it has, in fact, already begun). If you’re like me then you probably find this news mildly distressing, until you remember the million little things that you have to do that just feel so much more urgent and comfortably under your control — like what’s for dinner. Sometimes, though, it’s good to get a kick in the rear from scientists and realize we have it in our power to do something beyond simply declining a plastic straw. Because there is still time to act, meaningfully! Here’s some suggested readings about what that might entail, if the IPCC report left you feeling existential and guilty (the newsletters Heated by Emily Atkins and Dense Discovery by Kai Brach; and here’s an older Globe article on some bad-ass young Southeast Asian environmental activists, if you’re looking for inspiration).  

Anyway, I’ll get off my pedestal because it’s time to introduce the week’s features. Fittingly, the first one is an informative (and reasonably optimistic) overview of energy policy in Cambodia.

If you’re already missing the voice of Mr. Haffner here, fear not – you can listen to him on the latest episode of Anakut. Along with co-host Thina Toch, he discusses the future of energy in Cambodia with energy consultant Chea Sophorn and Dr. Venkatachalam Anbumozhi of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia. It’s an in-depth conversation into how Cambodia is addressing its growing energy demand (hint: a lot of coal involved), as well as ways to potentially embrace sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions. 

Next up, Wanpen Pajai and Samphors Sao highlight the increasingly desperate situation of the estimated 2 million Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand. With Thailand in the midst of its worst Covid-19 outbreak yet and Cambodian tightening its borders, many documented and undocumented Cambodian migrant workers are now stranded, with limited resources and little to no support from employers and the Thai government.

Meanwhile, the appointment of ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar, Erywan Yusof of Brunei, provides limited hope for a diplomatic solution to restore Myanmar’s democracy, writes Hunter Marston. Although the ASEAN “Five-Point Consensus” calls for the envoy to meet with civilian leaders and National Unity Government representatives, Yusof has so far been unable to do so. Individual ASEAN countries will need to step up and apply more pressure for Myanmar to return to democracy, Marston explains.

On August 9, Singapore celebrated its 56th year of independence – generally used as a time to celebrate its highly multiethnic makeup. But the large peaceful coexistence of races in the city-state we see today was not inevitable, and Joshua Wan looks back at the ethnic riots of the 1960s to uncover lessons for maintaining peace today.

On the other side of the world, Myanmar activists in the US continue to place pressure on American politicians to pass a so-called “Burma Bill,” which would place sanctions on the Tatmadaw’s international income and recognise the National Unity Government as Myanmar’s legitimate government. The Globe’s Ryan Anders was on the scene last weekend, when 2000 people converged on Washington, D.C. in support of the bill.

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