Editorial

Think again.

This week we’re looking at practical solutions to the plastic crisis, the winner of Trump's trade war and life for trans Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge

Paul Millar
July 31, 2019
Think again.

Whether it’s plastic or politics, finding structural solutions to the world’s problems always seems to feel like an uphill struggle.

We’ll be kicking the week off with two days digging into how the world’s plastic crisis is bearing down on Southeast Asia. More importantly, we’ll be looking at what the world can do to deal with the mountains of plastic waste steadily piling up across the region.

Burning waste to generate energy is nothing new. But why not cut out the middle man by converting plastic scraps back into their component fossil fuels in the form of oil? With a global transition away from fossil fuels still a long way off, it might not be as counter-productive as it sounds – though as you might imagine, environmentalists aren’t convinced.

But surely there are less controversial uses for all this plastic waste. Dow Chemical, still infamous throughout Southeast Asia for its role in manufacturing the devastating Agent Orange, is just one company pushing ahead with the practice of converting plastic scraps into paving material ideal for connecting Southeast Asia. In part two of our plastic solutions series, we’ll be looking at the corporation’s uneasy road to redemption.

The Khmer Rouge’s so-called “Democratic Kampuchea” might well be the last place you’d expect to find stories of LGBT love and community. But for one group of friends who survived the murderous regime, memories of fear and famine are mingled with ones of furtive romance under the noses of the ever-watching cadres. We travel to Pursat Province to retrace their incredible stories of love in the time of genocide.

We’ll also be exploring how Vietnam has eked out a fragile victory in the US-China trade war – though with President Trump increasingly on the offensive, the socialist republic might find its longtime strategy of playing the world’s great powers against each other earning it little more than enemies.

Even today, many Cambodians living with mental illness find little support or treatment. Some are taken to the pagoda for exorcisms or water blessings, beaten with sticks until the “spirits” leave them.

Ten years ago this month, Southeast Asia Globe visited Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital to speak to the men and women struggling to help the hundreds of mentally ill Cambodians who came to the hospital every day for treatment.

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