Editorial

Time marches on.

This week we’re looking at the dangers facing Thai dissidents in exile, Cambodia’s dying spirit music tradition, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s succession plans and more.

Paul Millar
July 8, 2019

Across Southeast Asia, time is running out.

At home and abroad, critics of the Thai government are being hunted. This week, we’ll be speaking with the Thai dissidents throughout the region who live every day in fear that their words against the regime will soon catch up with them.

When we think of the Khmer Rouge, we don’t normally think of a roomful of technicians feverishly cutting clips together in a Phnom Penh film lab. But for Oum Prum, one of the men recruited by the regime to film the brutal rebirth of Cambodia under Pol Pot’s forces, this was the lens through which he viewed the darkest chapter in the Kingdom’s past. In 2009, we spoke with Prum about his years spent filming the dawn of a new Cambodia. Now, for the first time, you can read his story online.

Even on your birthday, you can’t always get what you want. To celebrate Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s 94th birthday, we’ll be looking at whether or not the world’s oldest prime minister will keep his pre-election promise to step aside in favour of his old adversary Anwar Ibrahim – and what going back on his word would cost both his coalition and his country.

Weaving through the raucous traffic of Southeast Asia’s smog-choked cities, the spectre of an overpopulated world no longer seems something bound to the realm of science fiction. But a number of experts charting a decline in birth rates across the developing world maintain that over the next century, our problem will not be too many people, but too few. Time, it seems, will tell.

We’ll also be exploring the sacred spirit music of Cambodia’s pleng arak players as this ancient artform collides head-on with the demands of contemporary Cambodian life. As modern healthcare edges out the spirit mediums that many communities in the Kingdom have long turned to for healing, we sit down with the musicians who continue to summon up ancient spirits – only to find that their tastes, too, have changed.

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