The World Today for September 19, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

CAMBODIA

The Corner, the Bogeyman

Authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia has been ratcheting up his anti-American rhetoric lately.

Most recently, he called on the United States to pull Peace Corps volunteers out of Cambodia after the US embassy issued a warning to Americans traveling in the southeast Asian country due to his incendiary rhetoric.

“Are you scaring Cambodians?” Hun Sen recently said, addressing the US, according to Reuters. “Are you prepared to invade Cambodia and that’s why you told Americans to be careful?”

Voice of America suggested China’s “deep pockets” were supplanting American and European aid to Cambodia, becoming an “unstoppable force whittling away Western leverage” and emboldening Hun Sen to make the US a bogeyman as he seeks reelection in July 2018 after three decades in power.

In the past month, Cambodian officials have closed independent media outlets – including the celebrated English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily and US and European-funded radio stations. The regime also shuttered the National Democratic Institute, an organization affiliated with the Democratic Party in the US, and arrested opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason charges.

Officials claimed Sokha conspired with the US to seize power, and sent 100 police officers wielding AK-47 assault rifles to arrest him without a warrant and despite his parliamentary immunity, the New York Times reported.

Such accusations might appeal to the Cambodian public, given America’s shameful role in Cambodian history during the Vietnam War.

The South China Morning Post noted that Sokha’s Cambodian National Rescue Party has been making gains in recent elections, unnerving Hun Sen. He could be reacting to the shift in the political winds by seeking to undermine the 1991 peace agreement that ended a civil war but made the country dependent on Western aid, the paper wrote.

China, meanwhile, conveniently has stepped in to fill the gap. Beijing is now Cambodia’s biggest foreign investor.

But the Post said Hun Sen could be making a foolish gamble. “It’s unlikely the West will hand the entire region to China on a silver platter,” local political analyst Ou Virak told the newspaper.

The West has tools at its disposal. Cambodian businesses depend on Western markets for their goods, for example, meaning sanctions could quickly force Hun Sen to change his tune.

Meanwhile, the Guardian noted that Hun Sen has been losing popular support because of anger over corruption and younger, more sophisticated Cambodians realizing via travel and social media that their country is headed in the wrong direction.

In that light, it seems the prime minister’s anti-Americanism is the desperate move of an entrenched politician who has painted himself into a corner. It remains to be seen how much damage he might cause before Cambodians go to the polls next year.

[siteshare]The Corner, the Bogeyman[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

MACAU

Coming of Age

Voters in Macau have elected the youngest candidate ever to hold office in the Chinese gambling paradise’s legislature, underscoring the growing power of the pro-democracy aspirations of the younger generation.

On Monday, 26-year-old Sulu Sou won a seat in the city’s semi-democratic legislature, the Associated Press reported. Another centrist candidate also picked up a seat. Both wins came at the expense of the gambling industry’s picks.

Sou’s party, the New Macau Association, has been outspoken in its criticism of the Macau government, organizing the biggest protest ever seen on this former Portuguese colony in 2014, with 20,000 people demonstrating against the government. His party is also known for reinvigorating interest in politics among the younger generation, the AP reported.

Macau, a semiautonomous Chinese city with a population of 636,000, has a 33-seat legislature, with 14 seats selected by direct elections, something the opposition wants to change.

Macau’s economy has boomed over the past decade as strong growth in the casino industry has transformed the enclave from a seedy backwater locale into a glitzy gambling destination. But younger voters want more direct democracy, the AP reported.

[siteshare]Coming of Age[/siteshare]

NEPAL

Step by Step

Nepali voters went to the polls Monday in the final round of municipal elections, considered a barometer of the national mood before a general election Nov. 26 that is the last step in a decade-long transition to democracy, Reuters reported.

The final round of voting – the first was in May – includes parts of the southern plains that border India and are dominated by the Madhesi ethnic group. Voting in the area had been delayed since June after a partially successful boycott called by the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal — which dominates the area. The party insists that its demands for greater inclusion on the national level have not been met.

The municipal elections, the first since 1997, are an attempt by the national government to restore democracy at the local level after a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006 and years of instability following the dissolution of the monarchy in 2008.

Many hope the elections are also a chance for Nepal to get on its feet. Already one of the poorest countries in Asia, Nepal has faced a wave of natural disasters: two devastating earthquakes in 2015 and recent monsoons which killed 130 people.

[siteshare]The Last Step of a Long Journey[/siteshare]

ISRAEL

Culture Clash

Israeli security and police officials on Monday blasted conduct by officers at an anti-conscription protest by ultra-Orthodox Jews that turned violent.

When protestors began throwing rocks Sunday at an Israeli Defense Force recruitment center in Jerusalem, the police retaliated with water cannons, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Hundreds of demonstrators were angry over a court decision Sept. 12 that said the ultra-Orthodox are also subject to the country’s conscription laws. Israel requires its male citizens to do 32 months of military service and its female citizens to serve 24 months when they reach the age of 18.

Last week’s decision also revived a decade-old debate in Israel about the special exemption of the ultra-Orthodox from the draft. The ultra-Orthodox oppose serving for a number of reasons. They believe that the Jewish state is not allowed before the coming of the Messiah, for instance, and maintain that study of religious texts is just as important to Israel as military service, the Times of Israel reported.

[siteshare]Culture Clash[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

A Controversial Delicacy

In Australia, the nation’s most iconic animal may soon end up on dinner plates.

That’s because the number of kangaroos in the country reached critical mass last year: 45 million, roughly double the number of people living on the continent, the BBC reports.

Kangaroos are often depicted as happy-go-lucky creatures, so culling them is controversial.

But if the population isn’t controlled, environmentalists and landowners fear these temperamental and hungry animals could impact the nation’s ecology.

The solution? Throw one on the barbie.

Feasting on kangaroo meat is taboo in Australia. But many are starting to see it as perhaps the most sustainable solution to deal with these beloved pests – which would otherwise leave behind rotting corpses after the culled animals have been stripped of their pelts. Kangaroo meat is considered to be low-fat and environmentally friendly. That might even attract curious tourists.

“If we’re going to cull these animals we do it humanely, but we also perhaps should think about what we might use the animals that are killed for,” said Professor David Paton of the University of Adelaide told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

[siteshare]A Controversial Delicacy[/siteshare]

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