Whistleblowers, rhino horns, lab-grown meat and human trafficking

Whistleblowers stay silenced in Cambodia, Vietnamese authorities take sporadic actions on rhino horn and wild animal product sales, Singapore embraces lab-grown meat, why Southeast Asia can improve its anti-human trafficking actions and how regional governments are struggling to find the right balance of freedom and oversight online

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January 22, 2022
Whistleblowers, rhino horns, lab-grown meat and human trafficking

Hello Globe readers!

This week marked the 15th anniversary of Southeast Asia Globe, which has weathered media’s transition to the digital age and endured freedom of speech crackdowns in Cambodia. 

Reporting a story about whistleblowers for the Globe earlier this week, I learned one reason people are unlikely to speak out about even low-level corruption is because existing laws threaten would-be whistleblowers with prison if their allegations are not proven. Without stronger protections, they can easily be silenced, as was the case for a group of law students in 2020 who tried to call attention to suspected cheating and instead found themselves facing ongoing criminal charges.

Vietnam is also applying the full force of the law against wildlife trafficking and the sale of wild animal products as evidenced by a 14-year sentence for rhino horn trafficking. But as Govi Snell reports from Ho Chi Minh, deeper investigations and actual enforcement are applied haphazardly and often avoid bigger fish, who typically have close ties to officials.

Humans also continue to be trafficked across Southeast Asia, and we could all be doing more to put an end to exploitation and modern slavery, argues former UN official and veteran activist Matthew Friedman, whom Brian P. D. Hannon profiles. Friedman, the founder of anti-trafficking business organisation the Mekong Club, is the author of a new book highlighting how ordinary people can engage in meaningful actions in the modern-day movement to end slavery.

While some countries in Southeast Asia make slow progress on social issues, others are striding ahead in innovation to develop lab-grown meat and alternative proteins. Singapore has been making strides in a growing global market, Amanda Oon reports. Lab-grown meat could help reduce supply chain shortages, improve sustainability and reduce food insecurity in the city state.

Finally, as Southeast Asia’s internet access expands, governments struggle with the balance between increasing regulation and maintaining free speech. Researchers from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Aufarizqi Imaduddin and Albert Jehoshua Rapha, suggest how ASEAN could offer guidance in developing regional policies to navigate this tension, even as many regional governments embrace heavy-handed oversight.

That’s all for the articles for this week. Looking forward to the days ahead, we’re adding a new stellar Cambodia-based reporter, Fiona Kelliher, formerly working at The Mercury News in San Jose, California. Expect to see her bylines in the coming weeks! In the meantime, enjoy the read!

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