Nha Trang and its Tourist Lure

Nha Trang and its Tourist LureIs the Vietnamese city of Nha Trang on the way to becoming another Pattaya, the vast and notorious resort two hours south of Bangkok where sun, sex, sleaze, sports and second homes are all in abundance? Or even just another Patong, Pattaya’s younger sister on Phuket? Or could it be the center point for focusing,…

Massive Break Illustrates Indonesia’s Prison Dilemma

Massive Break Illustrates Indonesia’s Prison DilemmaOn May 5,  when officers unlocked detention rooms to allow inmates to perform Friday prayers, 448 of them  suddenly attempted to breach the main gate of Sialang Bungkuk Prison on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and, having failed that, boiled out of a side gate, overwhelming the outnumbered officers.  In the midst of utter pandemonium, the…

Myanmar Struggles to Control Illegal Logging

Myanmar Struggles to Control Illegal LoggingPyar Aung remembers the first time he saw a chainsaw. It was a German-made number being used by one of the logging companies operating in the forest around his remote village in Myanmar’s northwest Sagaing region in 2013. “It was so powerful and fast!” recalled the 50 year-old Aung, who lives in the tiny village of…

Chinese Company’s Monument to Disaster

Chinese Company’s Monument to DisasterA vast, ornate, moldering gambling resort complex on the Gulf of Thailand has come to embody many of the problems plaguing foreign projects in Cambodia – lack of transparency, poor planning, environmental hazards and displacement of local communities. The resort, built by the Tianjin-based Union Development Group (UDG), a Chinese entity, was meant to be…

Zheng He’s Modern Doppelganger

Zheng He’s Modern DoppelgangerThere is an uncanny resemblance between today’s China and the voyages of Zheng He in the early 15th century. The specific parallel I have in mind is China’s Belt and Road initiative, which is being celebrated by the May 14-15 summit meeting in Beijing of 23 leaders of nations along the routes. Back in the…

Philippines Seeks to Reverse Duterte’s Foreign Policy Botch

Philippines Seeks to Reverse Duterte’s Foreign Policy BotchPhilippine Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is attempting to undo an international gaffe by President Rodrigo Duterte, moving to establish a research facility on Benham Rise, a 13 million-hectare underwater plateau 250 km. east of the island of Luzon. The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf declared the area part of Philippine…

Malaysia Squeezes Social Media Administrators

Malaysia Squeezes Social Media AdministratorsWith national elections looming, perhaps as early as August or September, the Malaysian government is warning its legions of myriad social media critics to knock off tweeting or posting content the government deems “inappropriate.” The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has promulgated a new “advisory for group admins” that critics say is designed to coerce…

Trump’s Ominous Climate Plans

Trump’s Ominous Climate PlansThe United States could start the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change as early as this week. But some experts believe the alternative that President Donald Trump is considering – simply downgrading the country’s climate targets – could ultimately prove even more damaging for the environment.  During his campaign, Trump said…

Logging Corruption in Vietnam and Cambodia

Logging Corruption in Vietnam and CambodiaIn a new report that promises to make waves all the way to Europe, the watchdog Environmental Investigation Agency takes aim at Vietnam's timber processing industry and the role it plays in the illicit timber trade from Cambodia. The study comes just days before Vietnam and the European Union are meant to finalize their discussions…

Cambodia’s Virachey National Park in Danger

Cambodia’s Virachey National Park in DangerOn a January late afternoon I was sitting in a small jungle clearing about 500 meters over the Cambodian border in Laos, utterly lost in a lost world. It was almost completely silent save for the melodious warble of an unseen bird. There is almost nothing which demarcates the international border between Cambodia and Laos…