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Asia Undercovered Special: Cambodia's Election

Asia Undercovered Special: Cambodia's Election
Last week, Cambodia held an election with an expected result. Despite this, it was a rare, brief moment when the small country got some global attention. But there's a lot more to Cambodia than just politics, which is why instead of a regular election-related recap, this week we're sharing a special post from one of our favorite Southeast Asian newsletters, Campuccino, a fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia, written by Darathtey Din.
I highly encourage anyone who wants to understand not only the latest news from Cambodia, but also the country's unique art, culture, and social scenes, to sign for Campuccino. We'll, of course, continue to highlight Darathtey's writing in Asia Undercovered too.
-- Nithin

Sou Sdei and welcome to Campuccino, your fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia with a dash of opinion.

To new readers, welcome! I’m Darathtey, a communication consultant, writer, and researcher.

In this issue: election, kidney trafficking, troubled economy, and more.

Alright, post-election thoughts…

Considering how much it was covered by local and international news, this might sound underwhelming, but honestly, life goes on over here. I’m not going to dwell on how unfair or predictable the election was because come on, we all knew this. If you want to read about the election coverage, I included a few of them below:

  • This report by Shaun Turton and Yon Sineat in Nikkei Asia gives you an overall picture of what went down on election day.
  • I highly recommend this piece in SCMP reported by Danielle Keeton-Olsen and Ouch Sony because they provide a well-rounded overview of what happened during and after the elections and still maintain a reasonable length of the article.
  • This one by CamboJA News presents the voice of Funincpec’s Prince Norodom Chakravuth on single-party democracy. His party, to many people’s surprise, won 5 seats.

Now, what made this election different from usual is the announcement that Cambodia will have a new Prime Minister, a younger one too! Yes, I know he is his father’s son. Yes, it is not democratic, BUT I still find it exciting because trust me, this kind of major change does not come often in the Kingdom. For this once, I allow myself to be somewhat hopeful and curious (and maybe a little naive) to see how Hun Manet as the new prime minister and his newly appointed cabinet steer the country.  Some might think I over-fantasise, but what other choice do I have? Besides, politics aside, there are many policies that need to be discussed and fixed, as well as issues to be solved.

The new PM doesn’t exactly inherit a utopian paradise, and I’m curious to see how he and his cabinet are going to tackle some very pressing issues in Cambodia at the moment such as the economy, natural resource management, and climate change, to name only a few.

Speaking of economics, RFA released a very insightful article on the state of Cambodia’s economy. Spoiler alert, it is not looking good. So much so that the government ordered local ISP to block RFA’s website (and a few others, including Kamnotra) just days before last week’s election. So, please use a VPN to access the article. Outstanding loans, the microfinance crisis, and the stifled construction sector are major issues the article mentions that caused many adverse ripple effects on the country’s population, especially those that are already in precarious situations such as seasoned migrant workers.

This next story might have you going “huh?” because it involves Indonesians, kidneys, and Cambodia’s state hospital. Storyline? Indonesian police arrested suspects who sent people to Cambodia to sell their kidneys. I spotted the headline in AP first but it didn’t seem to get much traction in Cambodia maybe because it got buried by the election and succession news over here. A report by CamboJANews investigated the alleged role of Preah Ket Mealea Hospital in this trafficking scheme and the responses of the Cambodian government in addressing the issue.

Visually Pleasing

Arts & Culture

🎨 In her latest writeup for Kongchak Pictures, Sotheavy Nou explores Cambodia’s visual art scene and the journey of young artists to reinterpret their own version of Cambodianess. The article gives you a pretty good summary of key players in the country’s visual arts field.

📖 Shamelessly plugging my own book here, Youth Culture and the Music Industry in Contemporary Cambodia: Questioning Tradition explores young Cambodians’ perceptions of their place in today’s society and how they interact with the country’s arts and culture scene. The popularity of Cambodian hip-hop among youth presents an opportunity for research to dive deeper into the roles of popular music in society and how these roles, in turn, shape Cambodian cultural identities.

Worth Reading

Amidst all the election news, I’m glad that Fiona Kelliher did a follow-up story on Meta (or Facebook) and their recent beef with Hun Sen’s Facebook. In her latest report titled “When Meta suspends influential political accounts, who loses?”, Fiona used the incident with Cambodia’s PM as a pretext to investigate a more global challenge of archiving social media and its importance. Check it out!

Campuccino is a fortnightly dispatch of key headlines in Cambodia, written by @DarathteyDin.

Asia Undercovered: Round-ups and in-depth analysis of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media. Curated by journalist Nithin Coca.