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On Chut Wutty and Journalist Protection in Cambodia

Photo: KhmerNz I’m sure most of us are familiar with this famous quote from Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Personally, I prefer the much more humorous George Costanza line in a Seinfeld episode when Jerry is trying to defeat a polygraph test being given to him by his girlfriend. “Remember Jerry, it’s not a lie, if you believe it.” The Cambodian military police must be adherents to both of these strains of belief. It’s the only way one can explain their incredible and, one might say delusional explanation of the events of last Wednesday night in Koh Kong Province where environmental activist Chut Wutty was gunned down by one or more people in the employ of the Cambodian military, a story which has now gone global. See if you can follow without having your head explode: The military policeman who allegedly shot the activist, In Ratana, was also killed that fateful night. The preliminary report indicated that a bullet ricocheted off of Chut Wutty’s car and hit the policeman. Let’s pause for a moment and digest that one. Have you ever heard of a bullet bouncing off a car and striking the person who initially pulled the trigger? Maybe in Hollywood. Is it possible? I suppose anything is possible. Is it likely? Probably not. The military apparently didn’t think it was possible either. Within a day, the report changed to say that In Ratana had instead committed suicide, shooting himself twice with his own AK-47, once in the stomach and once in the chest. Now I’m no expert on the matter, but I would think that if one wanted to kill oneself with a gun, the preferred method would be a single bullet to the head with a convenient handgun, ending everything quickly. I would not think it prudent to use an assault rifle to shoot myself not once but twice in my body, prolonging my pain and suffering. Muddying the picture still further is the fact that the two female journalists accompanying Chut Wutty – Ukrainian/Canadian national Olesia Plokhii and native Khmer Phorn Bopha – were taken into police custody, after which they offered unclear reports of the night’s events to The Cambodia Daily. According to the journalists, they only heard two shots fired. This seems impossible if Chut Wutty was fatally shot at least once, and In Ratana shot himself twice. Right there that is already three shots. Moreover, despite being only meters away, they said they didn’t know for certain who fired the bullets. The Cambodian government has announced that it will form a committee to investigate the events of the evening. However, the longer this drags on, the more questions will be asked. Is someone being protected by the military police and/or government? Why would In Ratana decide to end his own life? How many bullets were actually fired? And will there be statements from the two journalists? The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing press censorship abroad has gotten involved, presumably to assist Ms. Plokhii, an associate of mine who has not responded to email requests for comments so far. I believe there is more to this story, but the only way I think we will find out is if Ms. Plokhii exits stage right and tells her story outside Cambodia. Of course, she has to consider the fate of her colleague at The Cambodia Daily, Ms. Bopha, who has no option to leave the country as she is a Cambodian citizen. Sadly, it seems quite possible that several hours of Cambodian police interrogation may mean that the truth of what happened will never be known.

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Photo: KhmerNz I’m sure most of us are familiar with this famous quote from Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Personally, I prefer the much more humorous George Costanza line in a Seinfeld episode when Jerry is trying to defeat a polygraph test being given to him by his girlfriend. “Remember Jerry, it’s not a lie, if you believe it.” The Cambodian military police must be adherents to both of these strains of belief. It’s the only way one can explain their incredible and, one might say delusional explanation of the events of last Wednesday night in Koh Kong Province where environmental activist Chut Wutty was gunned down by one or more people in the employ of the Cambodian military, a story which has now gone global. See if you can follow without having your head explode: The military policeman who allegedly shot the activist, In Ratana, was also killed that fateful night. The preliminary report indicated that a bullet ricocheted off of Chut Wutty’s car and hit the policeman. Let’s pause for a moment and digest that one. Have you ever heard of a bullet bouncing off a car and striking the person who initially pulled the trigger? Maybe in Hollywood. Is it possible? I suppose anything is possible. Is it likely? Probably not. The military apparently didn’t think it was possible either. Within a day, the report changed to say that In Ratana had instead committed suicide, shooting himself twice with his own AK-47, once in the stomach and once in the chest. Now I’m no expert on the matter, but I would think that if one wanted to kill oneself with a gun, the preferred method would be a single bullet to the head with a convenient handgun, ending everything quickly. I would not think it prudent to use an assault rifle to shoot myself not once but twice in my body, prolonging my pain and suffering. Muddying the picture still further is the fact that the two female journalists accompanying Chut Wutty – Ukrainian/Canadian national Olesia Plokhii and native Khmer Phorn Bopha – were taken into police custody, after which they offered unclear reports of the night’s events to The Cambodia Daily. According to the journalists, they only heard two shots fired. This seems impossible if Chut Wutty was fatally shot at least once, and In Ratana shot himself twice. Right there that is already three shots. Moreover, despite being only meters away, they said they didn’t know for certain who fired the bullets. The Cambodian government has announced that it will form a committee to investigate the events of the evening. However, the longer this drags on, the more questions will be asked. Is someone being protected by the military police and/or government? Why would In Ratana decide to end his own life? How many bullets were actually fired? And will there be statements from the two journalists? The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing press censorship abroad has gotten involved, presumably to assist Ms. Plokhii, an associate of mine who has not responded to email requests for comments so far. I believe there is more to this story, but the only way I think we will find out is if Ms. Plokhii exits stage right and tells her story outside Cambodia. Of course, she has to consider the fate of her colleague at The Cambodia Daily, Ms. Bopha, who has no option to leave the country as she is a Cambodian citizen. Sadly, it seems quite possible that several hours of Cambodian police interrogation may mean that the truth of what happened will never be known.

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On Chut Wutty and Journalist Protection in Cambodia

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Expedia and Accor join UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge

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Expedia Group, the global travel platform and Accor, a world leading hospitality group, in conjunction with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are joining forces to further extend the UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge (hereinafter also “The Pledge”).

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Disrupted by Covid-19, will South-east Asia’s super apps join forces?

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Disrupted by Covid-19, will South-east Asia's super apps join forces?
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After a year of external expansion and internal reorganisation due to Covid-19, South-east Asia’s super apps appear to be looking towards mergers and public listings as a strategy for future development.

In early January international media reported that Indonesian ride-hailing and payments giant Gojek was in advanced talks about merging with local e-commerce company Tokopedia, in a deal estimated to be worth $18bn.

Any potential merger between the two would be significant for Indonesia. The two local unicorns could create a digital powerhouse, with integrated services ranging from ride-hailing to digital payments, e-commerce and delivery.

A tie-up would also create numerous synergies, such as Gojek’s fleet being able to serve Tokopedia’s online shopping orders. However, there is also some overlap in the digital payments space, where Gojek’s GoPay platform competes with Ovo, which is 35% owned by Tokopedia, although there is speculation that Tokopedia may look to sell its stake in Ovo.

The news was followed by separate reports in late January that Grab, Gojek’s biggest competitor in South-east Asia, had selected investment banks Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan to help work on an initial public offering (IPO) in the US, set to take place in the second half of the year.

The Singapore-headquartered company, which operates ride-hailing, food delivery, e-payment and insurance services in around 400 cities across eight South-east Asian countries, is valued at around $16bn. Its IPO is expected to raise at least $2bn, which would make it the largest overseas share offering by a South-east Asian company.

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Thailand’s economic outlook for 2021

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The Thai economy will grow next year after contracting by almost 10% this year. Next year, the Thai economy is expected to expand 3 to 4% from this year. It will not be until the end of 2022 before the Thai economy returns to its pre-Covid level of 2019.

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