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from Photographers' Blog:

Surviving as a garment worker

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

By Damir Sagolj

Like a true professional, Maen Sopeak sings to the audience of seven people who sit on the bare floor of her room in a Phnom Penh suburb. Her singing is soft, at moments almost a whisper, but her beautiful voice is clear. In a country even slightly richer than devastated, impoverished Cambodia, she could be a star. She could perform to packed halls, wearing only the best clothes.

Maen Sopeak is, however, just a poor garment worker. There will be no sell-out crowds or fancy dresses for her anytime soon. She shares a single, hole-in-the-wall room with six other women, who all work at a nearby garment factory producing clothes for Western brands.

The song is excruciatingly sad. It tells the story of a girl forced into marriage with an older man, not the one she loves. Maen makes the grim song sound somehow joyful, although suicidal thoughts would be more appropriate. The abject conditions where she lives and works are a natural setting for this tragic ballad. Here, misery invites yet more misery. Just like in my home country of Bosnia, another devastated post-genocide country where its sevdah music is just a natural extension of everyday hardship.

I'm in Cambodia for five days to do a story on garment workers. The idea is to see how these women live, and shine some light on these conditions before a tragedy strikes (which I hope will never happen). Working conditions are better than in Bangladesh, but not by much. After a building collapsed in Bangladesh in April, killing more than 1,000 workers in the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry, more business has come to Cambodia. Many fear more accidents will follow.

from The Human Impact:

Toronto S-21 photo exhibition urges vigilance against genocide-curator

Black-and-white photographs of 103 inmates of a secret prison in the Cambodian capital propel viewers into a complex confrontation with genocide.

The haunting pictures on show at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto were originally attached to interrogation documents and portray a few of the estimated 14,000 prisoners detained, tortured and killed at S-21, a prison in Phnom Penh, between 1975 and 1979 under Pol Pot’s communist Khmer Rouge regime.

from The Great Debate:

Murders in the forest

Since Apr. 26, a crusading forestry activist, a muckraking journalist and a 14-year-old girl have been killed in Cambodia because they tried to safeguard the country’s dwindling land reserves. They are all victims of a decade-long battle over Cambodia’s ecological future, a fight that in the past two years has turned more bloody and corrupt. Their deaths offer the world a stark vision of how crony capitalism has replaced totalitarianism as the threat to human rights in Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, the price of a human life pales in comparison with a blank check.

I worked at the Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh for one year (2011-2012), covering the oil business, land evictions, the environment and forestry. That’s why I was with Chut Wutty, the nation's foremost forest conservationist, on Apr. 26 when he was killed. On the third day of an investigation into illegal logging in Cambodia’s Cardamom mountains, we stopped at what Wutty said was a military-controlled illegal logging outpost. There, he was shot dead during a confrontation with soldiers who were protecting the site and preventing us from leaving. A soldier was also shot dead under mysterious circumstances in the firefight, although Wutty did not fire any shots. When the murderers began concocting a cover-up, a colleague and I were threatened with death. “Just kill them both,” they icily said within earshot of us. After six hours of paralyzing fear and pacing at the scene of the murder, we were transferred from police custody into the care of our editor in chief as night fell.

from Breakingviews:

Cambodia must solve two big problems for takeoff

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Cambodia must solve two big problems to achieve the kind of rapid, sustained growth Asia’s tiger economies have delivered. Opening its stock exchange on April 18 is a good start - it shows the country is relatively friendly to foreign investors and markets. But meeting the needs of a rapidly growing population will be expensive, and Cambodia’s corruption is both dreadful and pervasive.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 14 August 2011

This week Pakistan marked its day of independence from British rule with parades, parties, face painting and bombs.  Two pictures of faces covered in colour, one paint, the other blood, seems to sum up all there needs to be said about the national pride Pakistan feels while facing so many challenges. Visually the complementary colours of green and red (colours on opposite sides of the colour spectrum) make the pictures jump out of the page especially when put side by side. The angry eye staring out of the face of green in Mohsin Raza's picture engages the viewer full on while in Amir Hussain's picture the man seems oblivious of his wound as blood covers his face, again more opposites, this time not in colour but mood. India too is preparing to celebrate its independence and Dehli-based photographer Parivartan Sharma's picture of festival preparations came to mind after I put together the red-and-green combination picture from Pakistan.  

 

(top left) A man, with his face painted depicting the colours of the Pakistan national flag, attends a ceremony to mark the country's Independence Day at the Wagah border crossing with India on the outskirts of Lahore August 14, 2011. Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures February 13, 2011

First, congratulations to Pakistan Chief photographer Adrees Latif and Bangladesh based photographer Andrew Biraj for their competition awards this week.  Adrees is the winner of the photojournalism category of the ICP Infinity Awards 2011 for his pictures shoot during the floods in Pakistan last year.  Andrew won third prize in the singles category of daily life in the World Press Photo Awards for his picture of an overcrowded train in Bangladesh.

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010. Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government. The disaster killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of 12 million.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures February 6, 2011

Cyclone Yasi statistics were impressive, bigger than Katrina that killed more than  1,200 people in 2005, winds of 300 km (186 miles) per hour, more powerful than Cyclone Tracy that hit Darwin in 1974, killing more than  70 people and probably the most powerful in recorded history ever to hit the coast of Australia. The satellite pictures seemed to support all these claims. The expectation of devastation was high. I even began to fret about the claim that the concrete hotel that photographer Tim Wimborne was staying in was actually cyclone-proof. Experts had started to say that  cyclone proof buildings might not be. But Yasi passed and only one poor soul died (asphyxiated in his home by fumes from his own generator), a few homes had their roofs torn off, caravans were swept aside and minimal flooding. The only lasting effect that will hit us all are the increased insurance premiums, devastated banana and sugarcane crops; price rises are promised.

aus combo

(Top left) A hand painted board protects the front window of a cafe in the northern Australian city of Cairns February 2, 2011. Category five Cyclone Yasi, expected to be the most powerful storm to cross Australia's heavily populated east coast in generations, is expected to make landfall late on Wednesday night. Thousands of residents fled their homes and crammed into shelters in northeastern Australia as the cyclone with a 650 km (404 mile) wide front barreled toward the coastline on Wednesday. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 28 November 2010

I was listening to a radio programme about the history of military music (please bear with me) and a woman recounted a story about the first time she heard the "Last Post" being played at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday. The woman (sadly I don't remember her name), said that what really struck her was that after the moment of total silence was broken by the first notes of the Last Post she knew that every one of the thousands of people standing in Whitehall would be sharing the same thought - that of someone who they had loved and lost. Three stories this week put me in mind of this woman as I looked at images of people grieving for lost ones. The difference being that for each person lost the world was watching their story albeit only momentarily; the crushed people in Cambodia, the miners in New Zealand and the four people killed by the shelling by North Korea of the tiny island of Yeonpyeong.

CAMBODIA STAMPEDE/

People are crushed in a stampede on a bridge in Phnom Penh November 23, 2010. The stampede killed at least 339 people late on Monday and wounded nearly as many after thousands panicked on the last day of a water festival, authorities and state media said. REUTERS/Stringer

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures

Rarely do so many big stories of global interest happen at the same time from one region but last week in Asia its been incredible.

Soldiers and aid workers struggled to reach at least a million people cut off by landslides that have complicated relief efforts after the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years. Poor weather has grounded relief helicopters and more rain was expected to compound the misery of more than 13 million people . The floods have killed more than 1,600 people. 

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