#22 2017

Fight for free speech finds new avenues

"In the middle of this political chaos Cambodia, with growing social and economic tensions where human rights are being questioned, is facing enormous challenges. Today twenty-seven people have been imprisoned on very obscure grounds."

The regime in Cambodia almost completely controls traditional media. Free radio stations and social media have instead become important arenas for opinion forming. Jens Rosbäck has long been engaged in democracy issues in Cambodia and here he writes about the status of free speech in Cambodia prior to the upcoming elections. 


Balancing act

There is a widespread misunderstanding that Cambodia does not have any serious-minded literature. According to Teri Yamada, professor of Asian studies, it is instead the infrastructure of publication and distribution that is

Pippi Longstocking in Cambodia

The Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren’s character Pippi Longstocking has in Cambodia become a feminist role model for women of all ages. The publisher Huot Socheta eagerly awaits the effects Pippi might have on the next

Trees of Life

The indigenous people of Cambodia still live in close proximity to the tropical rainforests so vital for humanity at large, but which are now speedily being cut down. According to Alexandra Kent, docent of social

A nation built on the rule of song

The great era of national anthems is over but anthems can still narrate a nation’s history. David Chandler, writer and professor emeritus at Monash University, allows the anthems of Cambodia to paint a picture of the

Cycle of Life

Tararith Kho is one of Cambodia’s most influential young literary profiles. Full of initiative he started the magazine Nou Hach Literary Journal, which he later abandoned after experiences of threat. He is also one of the initiators of the Cambodian

Morning glory

“They took men and women out to the killing fields in separate groups, at different times, to have them killed. She is the only survivor from one of these occasions. She says that she was part of a woman’s group of twenty-five and all were raped – the one after the

A public literary sphere under construction

We all know that large parts of the world have poor international media coverage. We also know that history is always in the making and that incidents that in the future may be recognized as decisive can at first pass by unnoticed. 
Parts of South East Asia have for some time been poorly covered in Western media. However, possibly because Thailand is a magnet for tourists, we can follow the political crises there, while the tragic development as concerns democracy and human rights in countries like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are very sparingly covered – if at all. This is paradoxical; forty to fifty years ago these countries were at the centre of world politics. Especially Cambodia had the sympathy of a whole world until this sympathy began to wane in the aftermath of the attempts to reconstruct a whole society that had first been ravished by U. S. bombings and then by the Khmer Rouge’s regime of terror in 1975-79 that killed two to three million people. The destruction of a society’s whole infrastructure and the terror regime’s deliberate extinction of academics and intellectuals left the question unanswered as to how it is possible to reconstruct a whole civic society – and a whole literary tradition.
Amnesty International has drawn attention to the Cambodian Government’s increasingly harsh treatment of those in opposition and of human rights workers; a treatment that has led to indiscriminate arrests and show-trials. Reporters Without Borders place Cambodia as number 132 in their freedom of press index (out of 180 countries in total) and they note that in the country important media are completely controlled by the state and that journalists’ attempts to report about corruption and environmentally hazardous industries (such as the exploitation of forests) are being hindered. Just as in many other parts of the world without a free press, blogging and Facebook have come to play an increasingly important role – and therefore the Government, according to RUG, are creating laws to regulate and control the Internet.