The Graduate School of Korean Studies in the Academy of Korean Studies is a government-funded institution established to develop and globalise Korean studies. It brings together 50 faculty members and 250 students, a half of whom are international from 33 countries, to create an open and dynamic community to widen and deepen their knowledge in the fields of humanities and social sciences pertinent to Korea.
– Korean History – Diplomatics and Bibliography – Philosophy – Korean Linguistics·Korean Literature – Anthropology·Folklore – Religious Studies – Musicology – Art History – Cultural Informatics·Human Geography – Political Science – Sociology – Education – Korean Culture and Society
Benefits for International Students
– Tuition fees are fully waived for the whole coursework period. – About 70% of international students are provided with the Government Grant, a monthly stipend of ￡460. – A 5:1 student-faculty ratio enables close one-on-one guidance. – Korean language courses, tutoring, writing clinic, and various cultural activities are available free of charge, supporting students’ academic performance.
– English language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOEFL iBT 80, IELTS Academic Module 6.5, or TEPS 301 for applicants for Korean Culture and Society major – Korean language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOPIK(Test of Proficiency in Korean) level 4 for applicants except for Korean Culture and Society major
Application Applications are open on 24th September and close on 8th October 2021. Please apply online at gradaks.recruiter.co.kr
Why Study at GSKS?
As an educational institute established and funded by the Korean government with the aim of promoting Korean studies, we provide international students with excellent educational and living environments as follows:
Tuition fees are fully waived for the whole coursework period for all international students.
69.8% of international students benefit from the Government Grant, a monthly stipend of ￡460 for a year, renewable upon evaluation.
A 5:1 student-faculty ratio enables close one-to-one guidance by professors.
Korean language courses are available free of charge to assist international students with academic writing, presentations, and discussions.
Various programs such as tutoring, writing clinic, cultural activities and airfare subsidy for presentation abroad, etc. support students’ academic performance.
Currently, approximately 250 students including about 120 international students from 33 countries are enrolled in our Master’s or doctoral degree program in the fields of humanities and social sciences pertinent to Korea.
Coursework period is 2 years for a Master’s degree program and 3 years for a doctoral degree program.
An academic year consists of two semesters and courses are provided for 15 weeks per semester. A spring semester begins in March, and a fall semester in September.
Most courses are taught in Korean, while courses in Korean Culture and Society major are provided in English.
Students earn 3 credits each course. In order to graduate, students of a Master’s degree program should complete 24 credits, and a doctoral degree program 36 credits, other than mandatory Korean language courses which are non-credit. Both Master’s degree and doctoral degree students should write a thesis.
A keen interest in Korean studies, coupled with an undergraduate degree (for a Master’s degree program) or a graduate degree (for a doctoral degree program)
English language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOEFL iBT 80, IELTS Academic Module 6.5, or TEPS 301 for applicants for Korean Culture and Society major
Korean language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOPIK(Test of Proficiency in Korean) level 4 for applicants except for Korean Culture and Society major
Applications are sought twice a year. Application for 2022 spring semester will be open on 24 September and close on 8 October 2021. Applications for 2022 fall semester will be sought in March 2022.
How to Apply
To apply, visit here and complete the online application form. A soft copy or a scanned copy of the following documents should be uploaded on the application website:
A graduation certificate and official transcripts
A score report of TOFEL iBT, IELTS Academic Module, or TEPS (if applicable)
A TOPIK certificate (if applicable)
In addition, a letter of recommendation should be sent by email.
1st Process (If applicable) : Korean Language Proficiency Test
– If applicants do not submit a valid TOPIK score certificate, GSKS Korean language teachers conduct a phone interview to test their Korean language proficiency.
– Applicants for Korean Culture and Society major are not applicable.
2nd Process : Document Screening
– Document screening is held for applicants who meet all the application requirement.
– Overall evaluation of applicants’ research plan, academic ability, language proficiency, and academic background (shown in personal statement and a recommendation letter) takes place.
3rd Process : A Video Interview
– A video interview is held to those who have passed the 2nd process.
If you have any queries about the program or the application process, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or +82-31-730-8183.
TYPE / ROLE
Master’s Degree or Doctoral Degree Program
Diplomatics and Bibliography
Korean Linguistics · Korean Literature
Anthropology · Folklore
Cultural Informatics · Human Geography
Korean Culture and Society (Only available for Master’s degree program)
Seongnam City – South Korea
Perched on the side of Cheonggye Mountain, 30km south of the center of Seoul, the campus provides a fantastic setting for the academic pursuits of students with its peaceful atmospheres and natural environments. Also, students can reach dynamic youth culture of Gangnam area within 30 minutes by bus as well as artistic and historic heritage of Seoul city center within an hour
Click here to find out more and fill in application.
To explore new political viewpoints and to facilitate a sharing processes in the ASEAN region and towards Europe, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southeast Asia – Hanoi office is calling for contributions on the themes: (i) Social-Ecological Transformation, (ii) Climate Justice and (iii) Food Sovereignty. Please find attached the full document for more details and please help share this to relevant stakeholders.
The contributions can be of various types like academic papers, interviews, political analyses, picture series, comics etc. The selected papers will be published by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in a joint book in English and German language.
The final paper should be maximum 15,000 characters describing ideas, concepts or projects of a Social-Ecological Transformation and how they can transform the society. The contributions may focus on projects and concepts in the five Southeast Asian Mekong countries Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southeast Asia will support the editing and publishing of papers that are relevant for our themes and approaches. For each selected paper we will provide an allowance of 350 EUR net.
Process of submitting papers:
· A first overview of the paper (maximum one page) should be sent before 6th of June 2021. Paper Selection will be finished by Mid-June
· The full paper of maximum 15,000 characters should be sent before 15th of September 2021. Related Pictures would be highly valued.
Overviews and papers can be submitted via e-mail to Uyen.Tran@rosalux.org. If you have any inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us via the above e-mail address.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers raised concerns about high levels of household over-indebtedness, questioning the relationship between debt and household vulnerability. In 2017, a sector-sponsored survey (N= 802) was conducted with household borrowers in 12 provinces and Phnom Penh, and it suggests that 28% of micro-finance household borrowers were insolvent, and another 22% were at risk (MFC and Good Return 2017). Concerning over-indebtedness, many researchers have pointed to several problems: land loss (Green 2018; Green & Bylander forthcoming), distressed migration (Bylander 2014; Ovesen and Trankell 2014; Green and Estes 2018; LICADHO 2020), and declining household nutrition through a reduction in food consumption (Seng 2018). COVID-19 pandemic, which induced economic slowdown and unemployment, has dramatically exacerbated vulnerable households’ livelihoods, especially micro-finance borrowers, in the country. Given these challenges, the World Bank (2020: 3) claims that “the global epidemiological and economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 poses the greatest threat to Cambodia’s development in its 30 years of modern history.” The Bank continues, “poverty could increase between 3 to 11 percentage points from a 50 per cent income loss that lasts for six months for households engaged in tourism, wholesale and retail trade, garment, construction, or manufacturing.” In this essay, we attempt to briefly describe how the loan restructuring policy was enforced by financial institutions (FIs) and examine the extent to which this policy has benefited the debt-distressed or economically vulnerable households, and how they cope with the effects of the pandemic.
In response to COVID-19 induced economic crisis, loan restructuring policy or known in Khmer as Kareapcham Inatean Loeung Vinh or, in short, Inatean Saloueng Vinh policy, emerged. This directly follows a request by the government for leniency on debt-stressed borrowers impacted by the COVID-19. In March 2020, the Prime Minister of Cambodia called on financial institutions to be lenient towards borrowers and not to confiscate collateral assets from the debt-distressed households. Following the Prime Minister’s request, on 27 March 2020, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) issued a circular requesting banks and microfinance institutions to carry out a loan restructuring policy to relieve the debt burden of their clients whose incomes were adversely affected by the COVID-19.
To address the debt-distressed issues, NBC recommended nine options for the banks and financial institutions: 1) Reductions in the principal amount or the amount to be paid at maturity; 2) Reductions of the interest rate to a rate lower than in the original loan agreement; 3) Extension of time for the loan principal or interest repayment or interest capitalisation; 4) Extension of maturity; 5) Addition of and/or change of joint borrower or guarantor (if any); 6) Change in loan type from an instalment loan to a bullet loan; 7) Waiver of or reduction of collateral requirement; 8) Reduction of contract condition; and, 9) Provision of a grace period, which could last for six months counting from the effective date of the new contract.
To date, according to Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA), there were USD 1.3 billion worth of total loans being restructured or around 16 per cent of total outstanding loans in 2020. As of December 2020, 271,117 borrowers (about 12 per cent of the total number of borrowing households) have benefited from some forms of loan restructuring. The CMA and Association of Banks in Cambodia then called on the NBC to extend the loan restructure policy into 2021, as the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis remains in addition to the flood crisis (White 2020). The NBC granted the request so that the loan restructuring policy will continue until mid- 2021 (Sok 2020).
While the nine options and loan restructuring have been officially implemented, it is not clearly defined by NBC what should be involved or who should receive which option. As such, the banks and FIs have opted for their discretion in responses to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the implementation of the loan restructure policy varies from an institution to another. However, the financial institutions with which we spoke offered three key aspects of restructuring available for COVID-19 affected borrowers:
Payment Holiday: Borrowers granted a payment holiday is not required to repay loans at all for a specified period. The interest payments associated with that period of time are added to the left-over principal amount, and a new repayment schedule will be issued at the end of the payment holiday.
Period Extension: With a period extension, loan periods are extended so that the monthly payment is reduced to a level within the borrowers’ capacity to repay.
Grace Period: Borrowers granted a grace period have the option to repay only interest payments for a specified period of time. This allows them to minimise monthly payments and not pay down the principal for the duration of the grace period.
Our data from interviewing borrowers (N=119) and FI representatives (N= 34) show that the popular option enforced was the “grace period.” We found that 16 were given a grace period, 6 were granted a payment holiday, and in one case, a FI allowed a borrower to repay flexibly. 11 borrowers approached the FIs but were verbally rejected because of ineligibility of the sector (6 borrowers) and the loan restructuring was generally unavailable in their areas (5 borrowers). Seven borrowers were offered a “grace period” but rejected the offer because they were concerned about the financial loss (khart) it would create. Meanwhile, thirty-one borrowers were not aware of the loan restructuring policy at all, and the rest either had the ability to repay or approached their FI for the fear of impacting their credit history and/or being ashamed. The unawareness of the existence of loan restructuring policy is consistent with a finding of a survey (N = 997) conducted in July 2020 with registered and non-registered medium, small, and micro-enterprises of tourism-related businesses in four zones in Cambodia. The survey found that 60 per cent of the respondents were not aware of the bank/MFI debt restructuring policy (The Asia Foundation 2020).
Not only have FIs limited options for the COVID-19 impacted households, but they also decided not to publicise the loan restructuring policy. Since the loan restructuring policy is informed to clients on a case-by-case basis, many, predominantly, low-income household borrowers in the rural areas are not aware of the policy.
During our field visit, there is a growing sense of fear and confusion among debt-distressed households. These households do not know what kind of supports could be provided to them. A case study below illustrates this sense of fear.
Pu (uncle) Theurn and Ming (aunt) Mao started borrowing in 2014; their first loan was to buy a tractor to plough their 15 hectares of land. After a few years (he could not recall exactly when), his corn and cassava production failed due to drought, at which point the household began to struggle to repay their debts. After sustained losses, the couple decided to sell the tractor. However, they could not repay all the debt, and they decided to sell 10 hectares of their land to repay the loan. At the time of the interview, the middle-aged couple was chopping cassava roots, which were not fully ready to harvest but were harvested a few months early because the couple needed the money to repay the micro-finance debt. Our research team asked him (husband) about the key risks he perceived in agriculture, using the Khmer term phey, literally translated as “to be fearful of.” He responded jokingly, “The main phey (fear)is the due repayment date because I have to repay one after another.” After finishing the sentence, he laughed gently. This story reflects a reality for many borrowers who are struggling to repay—the feeling of phey (fear). To date, the couple is still struggling to make their monthly repayments.
Overall, it is important to make all options of loan restructuring available to all COVID-19‑affected borrowers. As evidenced in this case study, debt-distressed households can resort to coping strategies, such as land sale, migration, food consumption reduction, repayment phobia, or fear of FI’s retaliation: collateral confiscation. All of which has (and will continue to have) exacerbated economic vulnerability. At last, the loan restructuring policy should remain even after COVID-19, and other forms of restructuring such as debt forgiveness or interest cancellation should be considered.
This is an excerpt from a study report to be released in June 2021. The full report can be found here on the website of The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) or The Asia Foundation (TAF) in English and Khmer.
Phasy RES is a doctoral student in anthropology and sociology at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a research fellow at The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) under The Asia Foundation’s Ponlok Chomnes Program, funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Her PhD research looks at the relationship between microfinance expansion and land security by examining how access to microcredit shapes land access and control in Cambodia. At CKS, under Ponlok Chomes Program, she specifically examined the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on microfinance borrowers and loan restructuring processes. Apart from these, she has conducted research on a range of topics, including agricultural mechanisation and intensification, anti-malaria drug resistance, the subjectivities of financial literacy, and labour migration in the Sub-Mekong region. Her work has been published in Espace Politique, Malaria Journal, Development Policy Review, Development and Change, and Mekong Migration Network.
The views expressed in this article are solely mine
Bylander, Maryann. 2014. “Borrowing across Borders: Migration and Microcredit in Rural Cambodia.” Development and Change 45(2):284–307.
Honorary Research Fellow, University College London, UK
In Southeast Asia, Cambodia is the most impoverished nation whose economy relies on garment and manufacturing industries, apart from tourism and agriculture. The country’s garment and manufacturing sector, especially the garment and footwear industry, emerged in the early 1990s after the first general elections organised by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. The United States and the European Union (EU) have supported Cambodia’s export-driven economy through their Generalised Systems of Preferences (GSP) and other trade schemes. The EU, for example, has allowed Cambodia to export duty-free and quota-free to its market since 2001 under the Everything but armed (EBA) scheme. These have boosted Cambodia’s garment sector that now employs about 600,000 Cambodians, most of whom are women from rural areas. With the support of the garment and other industries, Cambodia has managed to significantly reduce poverty and transformed its economy to become a lower-middle-income country in 2016. Annually, Cambodia exported about EUR4 billion (2017-2019) (European Commission 2020) and USD 4 billion (2017-2019) (United States Census Bureau, 2021) of apparel products and goods to the EU and the US markets, respectively. As such, the manufacturing industry contributes about 10 per cent (2017-2019) to the Cambodian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (World Bank, 2020).
While these supports are significant to the country and her people, the Royal Government of Cambodia’s human rights, and freedom of association and speech, and democracy in general, have been sabotaged as the country has leaned towards authoritarianism, including the dissolution of the prominent opposition party, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in 2017, and the on-going intimidation and spurious arrests of human rights and environmental defenders, restricting space of civil society organisations. These restrictions have provoked the EU to withdraw its EBA scheme to Cambodia, harming workers and its related sector. Many factories were forced to shut down without proper indemnities for the employees.
Coincided with the imposing tariff by the EU, Cambodia’s economy, especially its garment and manufacturing, are doubly punished by the emergence of coronavirus (COVID-19), which spread across the world. Not only have pandemic severely disrupted the global supply chain and markets of garment and manufacturing industries, leaving many jobless, but it has also affected the entire country’s socio-economics. The lack of proper remedial measures to the impacts by the government has sparked dissatisfaction, provoking activism. Amid the country’s leaning toward authoritarianism as manifested by the 2018 election, and the restriction imposed by the government to contain the virus, many were forced to stay at home, compelled to subscribe to digital platforms for study, works, communication, and activism. This has reframed those who have been affected by the EU’s sanction and pandemic not to stage offline (on-street) but online activities to advocate for better solutions.
In this blog, I seek to understand online activities and activism during the pandemic and examine the adverse consequences of offline avoidance in the time of the pandemic. This blog argues that the endeavour, either by the state or individuals, to avoid offline activities to contain the virus, has adversely induced a new form of virus, that is digital surveillance, that has infiltrated everyone’s digital devices. More than the panopticon of the virus, which may be observed as symptoms showed, the new form of digital virus embodies and incubates in every device, smartphone, without showing a symptom like COVID-19. While social media is a COVID-19 free platform for ordinary citizens and activists to connect and express their concerns during the pandemic, this platform is an invisible hand of surveillance of the governed body.
This blog is written based on my on-going observation of Cambodia’s socio-political and technological development, employing digital ethnography to collect data from digital sources and from observing relevant social media pages and profiles. Quantitative data presented in this blog is acquired from using Google Search, focusing on “news” media outlets captured by Google search engine.
The remainder of this blog begins with a discussion about conceptualising how digital media become a new form of digital virus, a form of the pandemic that is neither known to us, in the context of surveillance. It then illustrates how COVID-19 induces Cambodians to subscribe to social media and digital devices before providing evidence on how the latter would strengthen an authoritarian surveillance system.
Panopticon of virus and digital technologies
The digital community has been recognised as a modern tool of human development and evolution. Many have been impressed by this evolution as digital machines and devices can process data and circulate images and voices from a community to another. Kittler (2010, p.11) argues that “machines take tasks – drawing, writing, seeing, hearing, word-processing, memory and even knowing – that once were thought unique to humans and often perform them better”. Given this capability, digital devices and machines like smartphones and cloud devices, become a modern type of panoptic tools incubated in our everyday lifestyle. The devices and the internet are now replacing our basic needs. Drawing on Foucault’s (2012) conception of the panoptic prison cell, these devices gradually observe and incubate in our body and mind without warning us; health applications are exemplars in this context. It is like a virus that has affected us by having not given us a symptom of it. As we unintendedly concede or consent to do so, this new type of digital virus has extracted our personal and privacy data for buyers’ commercial and political purposes. Zuboff (2019) rightly illustrates that access to the digital community exposes oneself to a significant risk. It is a risk of losing or co-opting their privacy rights, rendering privacy data (our private space in essence) to the corporate giants. Having submitted to the machine learning system, holding the state and politicians accountable to citizens, primarily through activism, is facing difficulties. More often than not, for profit-making purposes, the media corporate capitalists tend to co-opt with the surveillance and authoritarian states to gain legitimate power as in the US presidential and UK parliamentary elections.
Drawing on how activists and state interact in China, MacKinnon (2010) introduces a concept of “networked authoritarianism”, which is a political tactic that creates selective social openings for transparency but, in fact, monitors and stifles dissents (He & Warren 2011). This networked authoritarianism in the digital era is framed based on the notion of a networked society whose key social structures and activities are organised and linked electronically (Castells 2010). The networked authoritarian Chinese government, for instance, allows people to use the internet to submit grievances or unjust activities, but the government also monitors who reports or submits the grievances. In China, only specific applications or types of social media platform are allowed to use, and this eases the ruling regime to scrutinise and surveil the users to curb outrageous dissents. The use of these digital communication technologies also induces side effects, one of which is the exposure to the surveillance system (Howard & Hussain 2013), a critical concern for digital activism in the non-democracy ruling systems that appear to have adopted the Chinese authoritarian style of panoptic surveillance.
Cambodia’s online community and activism amid the pandemic
The foregoing theorisation of how digital communication and technologies render risks reverberates Cambodia’s and other countries’ situation during the pandemic. Following the instruction of the government not to mobilise or conduct physical contacts, especially in education and office works, the pandemic has forced millions of Cambodians to subscribe to digital devices and communication platforms. By September 2020, about 67% (11.28 million of about 16 million) of Cambodians have subscribed to Facebook (NapoleonCat, 2020), making this social media site a popular means of communication among Cambodian people, particularly youth. This figure climbed from about 9.73 million subscribers in December 2019, before the pandemic, and it gradually increased to 9.78 million users in January 2020 when the pandemic was not widely spread into the country. As the COVID-19 began to import to the country in early February 2020, the number of subscribers surged rapidly to 10.52 million in March and 10.95 million in May the same year (see Figure 1). Young adults and children are among the new subscribers with the age range between 13-17 (7.8%), 18-24 (31.4%) and 25-34 (47.5%) as of March 2020 (NapoleonCat, 2021). Likewise, the number of cellular smartphone subscribers also increased as these devices are required to access social media: Facebook, Telegram and YouTube. International Telecommunication Union (2020) reports that the number of mobile cellular phone subscribers in Cambodia increased from 19.42 million in 2018 to at least 21.42 million in 2019. Compared to the total population of 16 million, 2019 data suggests that a Cambodian could afford at least two phones (Young 2021a). Given the low quality of education, the higher percentage of young subscribers causes critical concern on data and privacy issue, and the users’ rights. These young adults and children subscribe to the internet and social media for online education, watching Livestream lectures or pre-recorded video teaching. Albeit the supervision of their parents or guardian, we have seen many of these users are addicted to online movies on YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok, online game, and exposed to inappropriate contents, instead of access to teaching materials.
Figure 1: Number of Facebook subscribers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Source: Author’s compilation from NapoleonCat, 2020
Not only did the pandemic compel ordinary Cambodians to go online, but it also affected Cambodia economy (coincided with the partial withdrawal of the EBA programme). Coupled with the decline of the purchase order in the apparel and footwear industries, Cambodia’s GDP growth in 2020 was predicted to be between -1 to -2.9 per cent, and that about 1.76 million jobs were also at risk (World Bank, 2020). The World Bank emphasised that the poverty rate in the country is to increase by 20 per cent. Some factories closed down as they were either affected by the impact of COVID-19 on the global supply chain or by the withdrawal of the EU’s EBA scheme. This raised the affected population’s concerns, especially garment and manufacturing workers, to seek the government’s intervention and remedies. Given the government’s restrictions on physical movement, the ability to lobby the government and concerned stakeholders were limited to online activities. They began to use social media platforms such as Facebook to express the grievances such as indemnities (as the factories were shut-down) and dissatisfaction with the government’s intervention in remedying job loss and cut due to COVID-19. Either made by individuals or media outlets, news on job losses and cuts, people’s dissatisfaction with the government measures was widely observed.
Figure 2: Women rights and arrests report on digital media and news
Source: Author, 2021
As I traced the development of news on women workers on Google Search (see Figure 2), we found that “women rights Cambodia” are often reported by local and international media outlets: the number of its citations has increased from 47,000 times in 2019 to 66,100 time in 2020 (September). While digital and social media become platforms for disgruntled women to frame and amplify their concerns to the public, the endeavour has not been the ideal solution. By querying the term “women workers arrest” in Cambodia, I found that the frequency of the term mentioned in digital media exploded from 7,170 times in 2019 to 43,800 times in 2020 (September). This signified that many women workers or activists were arrested, detained or harassed by the authority. For instance, a women worker, who was a member of a union, was arrested because her post on Facebook criticised her employer, who dismissed 88 workers without following the government of Cambodia’s guidelines and instructions not to cut jobs but reduce workers’ wage government instruction (Kelly & Grant 2020). Following her post, the employer decided to re-employ the workers, and she immediately deleted her post from Facebook, but, still, the employer filed a complaint against her accusing that she created fake news to defame the company and the buyers. The ability to notice who is posting thing or creating news from their smartphone onto Facebook has indicated how effective the government’s surveillance system is. In one instance, the prime minister of Cambodia who has been in power for more than three decades claimed that smartphone allows the government to track and trace anyone effectively (Young 2021b; Young 2021c). He claimed that “If I want to take action against you, we will get [you] within seven hours at the most” (Doyle 2016). Anyone dares to speak against the supreme leaders and or the governance system; the consequence thereof is predictable based on the statement.
Figure 3. Number of people arrested between 2010 and 2020
Source: modified from Young & Heng, 2021
While many Cambodians resorted to online to contain and prevent the spread of the virus, human rights, political activists, environmental and human right defenders, workers and protesters also resort to online activities. As they go online, they submit to a new form of authorities or what I call a “surveillance virus”, which surrounds the users every time. As in Figure 3 above, it appears that the pandemic causes a surge of spurious arrests of political activists, environmental and human rights defenders, workers, and protesters. The increase in the arrest in 2019 was induced by two important reasons. First, authorities arrested those activists who were disgruntled with the dissolution of the opposition party (CNRP) in 2017 prior to the 2018 election. The election allowed the ruling party to take control of all national assembly seats and Hun Sen to remain in power for more than three decades (Young 2021c). Secondly, the arrests were made in response to those who supported the attempt of CNRP leader, Sam Rainsy (who has lived in exile abroad since 2016), to return to Cambodia in 2019. As of September 2020, the number of people arrested by authorities increased to 55, alarming the international communities’ concerns over the country’s tendency to practice authoritarianism amid the pandemic. The arrest is enabled by a form of “networked authoritarianism” as put forward by MacKinnon (2010) in China, where the governed body allowed online grievance submissions, but tackling those critical ones as their comments or grievances undermine the ruling regime’s authority and legitimacy. Cambodian activists’ critiques of how the ruling government handled the pandemic and socio-economic issues, and also other social issues during the crisis have been subject to scrutiny and surveillance, of which social media-mediated-devices are invisible tools of the ruling system.
In this blog, I have demonstrated how COVID-19 has affected not only Cambodia’s economy, but also pushed many Cambodians to go online, subscribing to digital platforms. Digital media platforms are believed to help contain the spread of COVID-19, but such endeavour has apparently compelled the users to be infected by a new form of virus, digital surveillance whose symptom may not be diagnosed or known to the users but the governed body. This form of the digital virus has surrounded users, placing the users in a panoptic prison cell of the surveillance system. The users only realise that they are in the cell when the observers/guards (the government in this instance) take actions against them, as illustrated by women workers and activists in the present study and beyond. This new type of virus has tightened the authoritarian surveillance system to effectively monitor the subject’s antagonistic behaviour, citizens and activists, which may undermine the ruling system’s legitimacy.
 I used key terms to search on Google, and classified the results of the search by year. To ensure that all search results are about Cambodia, “Cambodia” are always added to individual terms when searched on Google, “Women workers arrest Cambodia” for example. These search results are limited to “news” rather than “all” results in the Google search engine.
Castells, M 2010 The rise of the network society: Information age: Economy, society, and culture. West Sussex: Willey-Blackwell.
Young, S 2021c Strategies of authoritarian survival and dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men versus Strongmen. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.
Zuboff, S 2019 The age of surveillance capitalism: the fight for the future at the new frontier of power. New York: Profile Books.
Sokphea Young obtained his PhD from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the University College London (UK). His research interests are in the areas of civil society, social media, citizenship, Chinese globalism, and political development in Southeast Asia. His research published in Journal of International Relations and Development, the Chinese Journal of Comparative Law, Journal of Civil Society, Asian Politics & Policies, Asian Journal of Social Science, South East Asia Research, Media Asia, and Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs. He is the author of the forthcoming book entitled “Strategies of authoritarian survival and dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men versus Strongmen” with Palgrave Macmillan (June 2021).
The author received financial support for this article’s research from the European Research Council-funded project entitled PHOTODEMOS (Citizens of photography: The camera and the political Imagination), grant number 695283, at the University College London.
This blog was previously published by SLE Southeast Asia Blog
The Asia Research Institute (ARI) of the National University of Singapore (NUS) invites applications from citizens of Asian countries currently enrolled in a full-time MA or PhD degree at a university in an Asian country (except Singapore) for the award of the Asian Graduate Student Fellowship (AGSF). Offered to graduate students working in the humanities and social sciences on Southeast Asian topics, this opportunity will allow the recipients to connect with NUS on a virtual fellowship for a period of six (6) weeks.
Successful candidates can expect the following benefits:
Access to library and computer resources in NUS You can look forward to excellent library access to e-resources at NUS’ main library (http://www.lib.nus.edu.sg/). NUS’ main library has 2 million volumes covering all topics.
Exposure to webinars by various experts in the field
An appointed mentor/advisor on your research topic
An opportunity to present your research paper at the Singapore Graduate Forum on Southeast Asian Studies to an audience of young international scholars and senior Southeast Asia specialists
Intensive English Academic Writing Program (Optional)
A limited number of students will be selected to take part in a two-week long intensive course on English academic writing, to be held online. This program is specifically intended for students who still struggle with writing and/or communicating in academic English, often coming from non-English speaking backgrounds. This program may benefit students who require support in the English language in their academic courses.
REQUIREMENTS & EXPECTATIONS
Successful candidates for the fellowship are expected to submit a draft of their papers by 21 May 2021. This paper will be shared with his/her local mentor in preparation for his/her interactions with her/him. Subsequently, they are required to send in a full-length paper (4,000-5,000 words) by 23 June 2021, and make a presentation on their work at the 16th Singapore Graduate Forum on Southeast Asian Studies on 12-16 July 2021.
Please note that the paper must be based on your own work, and only previously unpublished papers or those not already presented elsewhere can be accepted.
When I say that dictators are dumb, I do not mean to suggest that they do not know how to dictate the way their citizens live or society function. Dictators can be very smart people with high IQ scores. But they tend to become dumb over time because of their tendency to err on the side of relying on too much force rather than too little of it and just do not know when to stop or how to call it quits.
We may need to give dictators a lot of credit for behaving the way they do, and for holding to power when no one else is willing or able to do the same. World history is filled with dictators, the first of whom came to power in Rome around 510 B.C. Until Julius Caesar became dictator for life, however, most dictators left office when their tasks given to them during emergencies were completed.
Oftentimes, dictators’ reigns of terror end tragically. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. Napoleon Bonaparte of France has been considered by historians to be the first modern dictator. He enjoyed popularity because he did some good things for his country, such as balancing the budget, reforming state institutions, and writing the Civil Code that laid the foundation of France’s current civil law. Sadly, he did not seem to know when to stop or call its quits. In 1804, he crowned himself emperor, established a network of spies to tighten his control over the government and the press, and pursued his political ambition by invading other countries across Europe. He could not be stopped until Great Britain, Prussia, Spain and Portugal surrounded his empire and when his generals rebelled against him. He was forced to give up his throne and was exiled for good in 1815, after a brief return to power.
More recent dictators also did not know when to call it quits until they were removed from power by force or execution. Adolf Hitler started WWII, was defeated by the Allied Powers and then committed suicide. His ally, Fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, was shot to death and stoned. Pol Pot of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror was known as Brother Number One but ended up as Brother Number Zero. His regime kept slaughtering innocent people and many of his party’s members, but was then driven out of power and eventually arrested by those who served under him. His life was put to an end. Saddam Hussein of Iraq was executed after he had been found in a muddy foxhole. More can be said about Gadhafi of Libya whose fate was sealed after NATO destroyed his armed loyalists.
Health-related death can be another cause of dictators’ demise. The first two Soviet dictators, Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, died after strokes. Mao Zedong of China died at the age of 82, after a heart attack more severe than the previous ones. Fidel Castro of Cuba was replaced by his younger brother because of his worsening health. Dictators do not seem to enjoy good health – and a happy life!
With that said, it is not easy to get rid of dictators because they do not know when to stop until their defeat or death stops their reign of terror. This fact further suggests that they are usually dumb because they think they have no choice but to fight to the death because of their insecurity, if not insanity. Dictators usually come to power amidst chaos and turmoil or violence and war, rely on terror and intimidation to maintain their power bases, instead of building democratic and rule-of-law institutions to enhance their legitimacy. Sadly, they live in fear of subversion, retribution, and assassination.
This insight further explains why any efforts to bring them to justice are likely to fail if doing so without any preponderant power to defeat them decisively. Because of their paranoia and insecurity, they usually develop the strategy of ‘preemptive strike’ against any foes (real or perceived) before any threat to their survival grows stronger. The best counter-strategy for anyone to adopt when not having the level of hard power that can overwhelm that of the dictator also would not be one based on a violent threat to him. Dictators do not like threats, and they balance against them. Economic sanctions, however smart they may be, are more likely to harm civilian populations more than they hurt dictators. Appeasement does not work either because this strategy tends to embolden dictators. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement did not work with Hitler after he had consolidated power in the 1930s, though it might have worked in the 1920s when Germany was weak following WWI.
The only viable strategy when dealing with dictators in our globalized world is one that assures their security through power-sharing arrangements or credible amnesty. Dictators believe they will lose everything if they lose power. They have no reason to trust any promise that any loss of power would still keep them safe and secure. It is worth remembering that dictators are dumb because they do not know when to stop, but they can still outsmart their opponents when their survival is under threat and can stay in power for a very long time. The dictatorship of North Korea has proved this point.
Sorpong Peouis Full Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies. He was formerly Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Winnipeg (Manitoba), and Chair of the Advisory and Recruitment Committee for The Manitoba Chair of Global Governance Studies – a joint program between the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. His major books include Human Security Studies: Theories, Methods and Themes (World Scientific and Imperial College Press, 2014); Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific (Praeger 2010), Human Security in East Asia: Challenges for Collaborative Action, ed. (Routledge 2008), International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), Intervention and Change in Cambodia: Toward Democracy (St. Martin’s Press, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Silkworms, 2001); and Conflict Neutralization in the Cambodia War: From Battlefield to Ballot-box (Oxford University Press, 1997).
I have enjoyed reading this new blog for a while. As a contribution to the blog, I am writing to share my flight experience from the UK (London) to Southeast Asia (Cambodia) via Singapore. I hope this experience is worth sharing to readers who wish to fly from the UK or Europe Cambodia. In this journey, I will also compare how the UK or probably even the whole EU, handle travellers to contain COVID-19 at London Heathrow Airport with Southeast Asian nations (Singapore, Cambodia). After experiencing about nine months lockdown and living in a square room and coping with stress, last month, I decided to travel to Cambodia, my home country, as I see COVID-19 in the country was not much worse compared to the UK, between 16,000-19,000 cases per day. However, the recent outbreak in Cambodia has disappointed my plan, but I have to fly because I already paid for the airfare.
Almost two months ago, before flying or choosing airlines, I did some researches and asked friends who had experience of a long-haul flight (up to 15 hours in total to exclude layover). I chose Singapore Airline. There are flights via South Korea, Thailand, and Japan, but I chose Singapore Air in term of airfare, service and safety measures.
A month before my departure, I prepared 4 3M/N95 masks (1: for inflight, 1: transit, 1: another flight, and 1 when you landed in Cambodia), a transparent face shield, hand sanitiser jells, cough sweets, and diarrhoea and flu tablets. I like cough sweet the most, even I am healthy, but it is very dehydrated on 13 hours flight from London to Singapore. I took immune pills two weeks before the flight to boost my immune system. I BELIEVE THIS IS ESSENTIAL EVEN YOU DO NOT TRAVEL BY AIRE. I STRONGLY RECOMMENDED N95 Mask as in the photo. Unlike other masks, this one is much convenient because when you speak your lips will not touch the mask layers. Imagine 13 hours flight, you will smell YOUR OWN MOUTH and get sick by that.
To the Airport. Compared to public transportation: buses and underground trains, I would spend some money on a private taxi, or Uber to be safe. Travel alone is better than with unknown herds using public transpiration services. You may know that the spike of COVID cases in the UK is linked to public transportations. London underground is a crowded since they do not have proper seat arrangement, social distancing and space between travellers to avoid close contact.
At London Heathrow. I arrived at the airport about 2.5 hours before the flight. At Terminal 2, there was no standard social distancing arrangement besides queueing from the passenger drop off section to the check-in counters. Not many cared about social distancing, 2 or 1.5 meters apart from each other, even FACE COVER (they called it that, not a mask; I FOUND FACE COVER unhelpful) is compulsory inside the terminal. At the check-in counter, I was asked to present a health certificate: COVID-19-free. I was exempted since I was travelling to my home country (I will explain that it is not helpful at all). After checking in, I went through a security check, and again there was no proper arrangement beside lining, not even 1.5 meters apart. THIS MIGHT BE THE CASE WHY THE TRANSMISSION RATE IN THE UK or EU increased sharply after first or second waves or lockdown.
Inside Heathrow’s departure terminal: Shops are opening, and as you know, BLACK FRIDAY remains, and you can still enjoy duty-free shopping. Discount everywhere. You can kill time and wander around shopping, and some of them do not respect social distancing.
Before boarding: I had temperature checked by Singapore Airline staff and was called by our row and seat number to board the flight, to avoid the crowd. Before entering the plane, each of us gets a health kit bag containing a hand sanitiser, a mask, a wipe, and a bottle of water.
In the plane: we were arranged to sit with empty seat/ space in between seats we were assign (unless you know each other you can chose to seat together). IT IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA, and I FELT SAFE instead of sitting next to an unknown person (I MET a CAMBODIAN STUDENT FROM AUSTRALIA said her flight from Brisbane to Singapore arranged seat the same mine). ONE IMPORTANT NOTE is that if you could check online and select your preferred seats would be great. I DID SELECT SEAT in advance. I would recommend those at the EXIT AREA, LAST ROW, and ROW against the laboratory seats to avoid being SURROUNDED. If you cannot do that, you might be lucky to sit next to those EU/UK citizens who have COVID-19-free certificate. I WOULD FEEL SAFE TO SIT NEARBY THESE FOREIGNERS WHO HAD TEST NEGATIVE to board the flight. Test negative for COVID-19 is a must to travel to another country that is not your home.
Layover in Singapore. It was very unfortunate that I had 8 hours of layover in Singapore. All passengers were disembarked row by row, about 3-5 rows at a time. Those who transited at Changi Airport were well directed by a guide to the transit hall. TEMPERATURE WAS TAKEN as soon as you disembark, and BEFORE ENTERING THE transit HALL. Wrist bands were given to identify us as layover passengers. There, we were not allowed to move around like in London. If you want to eat and shop, you need to order online (there is a banner instructing how to do so). Duty-free shopping need to be placed at least 8 or 12 hours in advance. I THINK THIS IS WHY SINGAPORE COULD CONTAIN COVID-19 TRANSMISSION and or imported CASES. To avoid a close contact with other passengers, I located myself somewhere at the corner of the hall.
SINGAPORE-CAMBODIA: Before boarding, we were again asked to queue about 10-20 passengers each line with at least 1 m apart. They rechecked our temperature. A number of Cambodian flocks flown (mostly) from Malaysia joined us. The guide/staff navigated and led group by group to the security check. AGAIN, We were given health kit as we board. But, UPON BOARDING I WAS DISAPPOINTED THAT THE AIRLINE (Silk Air, a regional subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) did not follow the long-haul flight standard mentioned above. All seats were occupied except three rows left empty as the flight attendant told me that they reserved for quarantine or in case if anyone gets sick they would isolate him or her there.I AM DISAPPOINTED that we were asked to stay apart during the transit but HAD TO PACK US TOGETHER in a tinny Airplane. EVEN MASKS are still compulsory, but we sit close to each other. From HERE YOU DO NOY TRUST your CAMBODIAN FELLOWS since, like me, THEY DIDN’T COVID-19-Free certificate. IT seems Singapore does not care when they send travellers out of their country. THIS MIGHT BE THE CAUSE of COVID-19 transmission and importing CASES to CAMBODIA. The Government of Cambodia should instruct incoming flights to follow space inside the plane.
FOOD dining is the most CONTAGIOUS time in this small flight. When foods and drinks were served, everyone removed masks and dug in. THIS IS a risky time, but I DID NOT EAT UNTIL the nearby passengers ate. BUT, I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SIT NEXT TO A FOREIGNER. AS I TOLD YOU BEFORE, THEY WERE ONCE TESTED NEGATIVE up to 72 hours before boarding the flight.
LANDING in PHNOM PENH. Again, DISAPPOINTED since passengers compete to get out of the plane, and the cabin crews did not advise them to disembark row by row like the long-haul flight. NO SOCIAL DISTANCING at all.
IMMIGRATION CHECK and COVID-19 TESTING. I think many have written on this aspect, I should not spend more time on this. We had to fill out health status and condition and presented to the Health Officer to inspect. AGAIN, WE NEED TO line up, and there was no social distancing practice (by passengers). YOU KNOW THAT THE AIRPORT IS SMALL; it cannot follow Singapore. From there you will be given a form to fill out your choice of QUARANTINE ACCOMMODATIONs: Free and private hotel. In the form, you must include your personal info, and contact information (phone and e-mail). As I once heard about the condition of free accommodation, I CHOSE HOTEL as I will need to work during this period. AS I SAID BEFORE, it is a must now that all passengers are required to quarantine 14 days at the hotel and the free accommodation, not two days to get the test result and check out to quarantine yourself at home.
I proceeded to collect my baggage and presented the health information form to the doctors who interviewed where about I would stay after the quarantine period (part of the contact tracing). From there, samples were taken from your mouth and noise. You will be asked to remove your face mask. Upon the samples were taken, you must wear you mask immediately as I believe it is where people were asked unmask; it can be a CONTAGIOUS area. DON’T be scared, ALL DOCTORS and OFFICERs were equipped with Personal Protection Equipment’s (PPE).
Transferring to the hotel was complicated as well. AGAIN, NO SOCIAL DISTANCING AT ALL. It was confusing as not many officers could speak English well. Some foreigners joined different queues: hotel and free accommodation. It took about 2 hours to get ready on the bus to the hotel. Both foreigners and Khmer passengers were frustrated with the arrangement. I THINK IT IS TYPICAL BUSINESS AS USUAL IN THIS COUNTRY.
I will tell you more how I felt when I was transferred to the hotel. It is again a typical thing. Stay tuned!
If you have questions, please comment and I will respond.
RLS Southeast Asia – Hanoi Office is calling for project concept notes for the period from 2021 – 2023!!!!!
Each organization can submit maximum two project concept notes. Projects can be, but are not limited to conferences, policy studies, dialogues, workshops, trainings, awareness raising events, development of communication material, educational art work and advocacy activities. Projects should contribute to our three components (as in the picture) and focus on specific themes.
Project duration: Project can be implemented in 1 year, 2 years or 3 years during the period from 2021 – 2023.
Project value: Single activity projects should not exceed 30,000 EUR /project/year Multiple activity projects should not exceed 45.000 EUR/project/year For applicants, who don’t have any experience working with RLS, we just accept 1-year project concept notes with a maximum amount of 20,000 EUR.
Requirements for applicantsState agencies, research institutes, academic institutions, and not-for profit organizations:• Based in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand• Have legal status for implementation of projects with above topics.
Criteria for selection:
1. Relevance with our thematic focus and political background.
2. Relevant experiences and capacity of applicants.
3. Proven profile to address social and ecological issues in lower Mekong region.
4. Engagement of political actors in the project implementation.
5. Budget efficiency and effectiveness.
Application procedure and deadline:-Interested organizations are invited to submit concept notes in one file and pdf format (maximum 02) to Mr. Nguyen Tung (Nguyen.Tung@rosalux.org) and Ms. Hoang Tra My, RLS Project Manager (TraMy.Hoang@rosalux.org) latest by 10.01.2021.
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