Cambodium: trials and tribulations

Daily observations from Cambodia and beyond.

CO2 Emissions Reach an All-Time High

The Scientific American references a report by the Global Carbon Project declaring that carbon emissions have reached an all-time high.

The rise comes after a three-year period in which emissions remained mostly flat —providing hope to some climate activists that global carbon emissions had reached their peak. The increases in 2017 and 2018 seem to suggest otherwise.

Despite this globally gloomy news, the “Trump administration is expected to roll back an Obama-era rule requiring new coal plants to slash carbon emissions, a move that could crack open the door in coming years for new plants fired by the fossil fuel,” writes The Straits Times.

China emits twice as much carbon dioxide as the US. Japan in turn spits about one quarter. If the world’s cargo ships were counted as a nation, it would be the sixth-largest producer, outputting a fifth of what the US emits, or between 2.2% and 3% of global emissions.

Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company with 20% market share, recently set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. To reach that goal, the company plans on building an entirely new class of carbon-neutral cargo ships.

Passport Power

Twelve Thai gamblers who lost all their money in Poipet tried to reenter Thailand by climbing a fence, since they had given their passports to the casino as collateral. Border authorities fined the gamblers between US$3 and US$15, a small fraction of the maximum penalty, about US$54, for entering illegally.

The dirty dozen seem to have dodged their Cambodian creditors on the cheap. But they may have inadvertently contributed to the black market, where valid passports are traded for thousands of dollars. Fake passports go for only a few hundred.

Twenty years ago, in the wake of the historic handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China, the value of a Hong Kong passport was very much in question. Today though, Hong Kongers travel visa-free to 150 countries. That makes the Hong Kong passport the world’s 13th most “powerful” passport, up from 18th last year.

According to the Passport Index website, the Cambodian passport ranks 72. Twenty countries allow Cambodians visa-free travel. Another 38 offer visas on arrival.

Deep in the shadow economy, illegal workers live with abuse, torture

Cambodians make up a sizable number of domestic workers in Malaysia, and many work in the informal economy, without legal status.

[L]ack of legal protection for people with illegal status means they are open to abuse.

For the most part, abuse cases tend to go unreported because illegal migrant workers either have little awareness or feel they are without rights altogether

The new Malay administration is amending up to eight labour laws with the aim of extending protection to migrant workers.

Migrant workers are among the most under-represented marginal groups in the country, and they carry a third-class status stemming partially from the negative depiction of these communities as economic vagrants who push locals out of jobs and depress wages.

Mosquito-trapping Balloons

Tovi Lehmann, a researcher and entomologist at the National Institutes of Health, lead a group of scientists to study mosquito movements. The group pioneered the use of balloons with sticky surfaces to catch and determine mosquito flight patterns and habits. The research was done in western Africa.

The scientists ultimately caught more than 3,000 mosquitoes, says Lehmann, and over forty different species, representing more than half of the different mosquitoes that reside in Mali. By looking at wind speeds for a given night to calculate the density of insects moving through the area, Lehmann extrapolated this number to conclude many millions of these mosquitoes traverse the high Malian skies at night.

No word if Southeast Asia’s mosquitoes have the same migratory habits, or fly as high as 300 meters, but the research is useful for efforts to control and eventually eradicate malaria.

Dengue fever cases in Cambodia topped 15,000 this year. Dengue is also spread by mosquitoes.

Being a Journalist in Cambodia

Reporters Without Borders, the journalism advocacy group, has produced a two-part video featuring Radio Free Asia journalists Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin, who were arrested on espionage charges in November 2017.

The pair was released in August after nine months in pre-trial detention. But charges have not been dropped and they are still awaiting trial.

See part 2 tomorrow.

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