The struggles of Cambodia’s garment workers, sex workers and reproductive rights

This week we looked at three groups of Cambodian women, all of whom are facing struggles exacerbated by the pandemic

July 31, 2021
The struggles of Cambodia’s garment workers, sex workers and reproductive rights

Welcome to this week’s editorial! Brought to you today by your Editor in Chief, writing from a Phnom Penh currently sitting between a rock and a hard place. 

Tonight, everyone in the Cambodian capital shall once again be homebound, living under a 9pm-3am curfew for the next two weeks in a move that seems targeted towards bars, nightclubs and restaurants. With 99% of Phnom Penh’s adult population vaccinated, and new cases remaining relatively steady over recent weeks, it seems a preemptive move made very much with the big picture in mind. 

To Cambodia’s west, a spiralling delta-fuelled outbreak in Thailand (which registered a record 17,669 daily cases yesterday) looks at risk of spilling over the Kingdom’s borders. In response, on Thursday the Cambodian government placed eight provinces nearest the frontier under lockdown and shut the border, trapping some 1 million Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand (friend of the Globe Gerry Flynn wrote an excellent story on this for Thmey Thmey here). 

To the east, Vietnam is dealing with its own crisis, with more than 130,000 cases nationwide logged as of today (for context, as of May 1, there were still less than 3,000 cases nationwide). Ho Chi Minh has registered record-high daily cases twice this week, with Globe reporter Govi Snell, based in the city, telling us of curfews, increasingly restricted movement and shopping vouchers. (Vietnam-based journalist Michael Tatarski gives a far more detailed run-down of the situation than I could ever hope to in his weekly newsletter – worth a sign up.)

While the Mekong region Covid-19 success story is well and truly over, here at the Globe we’re still striving to improve amid some staff turnover. This week we broke new ground in the history of our publication, venturing into video as Kiana Duncan and videographer Ines Sothea produced our first mini-documentary. The pair spoke with sex workers in Phnom Penh, hearing about their struggles with shuttered KTVs and massage parlours, forcing many to go freelance on the streets with all the dangers that entails. Check out the footage below. 

We’ve also got this week’s Anakut podcast episode, in which Thina Toch and Andrew Haffner revisited Cambodia’s garment sector after 18 months of relentless setbacks for an industry that employs more than 800,000 people. Listen to the audio below. 

Beyond that, we have commentary and analysis from Globe columnist Mark S. Cogan, anti-human trafficking group the Mekong Club, and reproductive health NGO MSI Reproductive Choices

Enjoy the features, take care and see you all next week. 

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