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About Luke
Luke Hunt is a journalist and author based in Hong Kong.
Feature Stories Fact Checking
Current Affairs Fact Checking

A Papal Tour to Normalize Relations Between Vietnam and the Vatican

01 Mar 2024  |  thediplomat.com
Vietnam is set to fully establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican, highlighted by Pope Francis's expected papal tour later this year, marking a significant milestone since the severance of ties in 1975. This development follows decades of gradual diplomatic efforts, including the establishment of a Joint Working Group in 2009 and the recent appointment of Archbishop Marek Zalewski as Vietnam’s first papal nuncio. The Vatican aims to promote greater religious freedom in Vietnam, which recognizes the Catholic Church's social contributions. The anticipated papal tour is seen as a diplomatic success, potentially enhancing Vietnam's international standing and addressing concerns over religious freedom and human rights.

War Crimes and the Meaning of Genocide

16 Feb 2024  |  thediplomat.com
Michael Karnavas, an American-trained lawyer with extensive experience in war crimes and genocide cases, has worked in various international tribunals and has defended notable figures such as Ieng Sary and Meas Muth. The hybrid structure of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, where he worked, could serve as a model for future war crimes trials. Karnavas discussed the legal precedents established in Cambodia and the charge of aggression with The Diplomat's Luke Hunt. He also writes about the definition of genocide, which is relevant to South Africa's attempts to prosecute Israel in the International Court of Justice. Karnavas has consulted on complex legal cases, trained legal teams, and taught advocacy and ethics to legal professionals.

Cambodia Looks to the Future By Luring Back Western Investors

05 Feb 2024  |  asiatoday.co
Cambodia is attempting to attract Western investors and goodwill, targeting countries like the US, Australia, Japan, France, and Germany, after an influx of Chinese investment and a crackdown on political opposition. Despite growth, the economy faces risks such as the slowdown in China, high private debt, and climate change. The IMF has called for governance and anti-corruption reforms to attract investment. Cambodia's ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index has dropped, indicating persistent corruption. The US, UK, and Canada have imposed sanctions on criminal elements. French President Macron faced criticism for hosting Hun Manet and agreeing to a $235 million aid package. Cambodia's real estate sector is in crisis, and the government is offering incentives to reboot construction. Hun Manet's government continues the hardline policies of his father, Hun Sen, and blames external factors for Cambodia's issues. A significant change in attitude and effective handling of corruption is needed before Western investment is likely to return.

Cambodia Looks to the Future By Luring Back Western Investors

01 Feb 2024  |  thediplomat.com
Cambodia is actively seeking to attract Western investors and goodwill, which had diminished due to a surge of Chinese investment and political repression starting in 2016. Despite reporting over five percent annual growth, the economy faces significant risks, including a slowdown in China and high private debt. The IMF has highlighted the need for governance and anti-corruption reforms to attract foreign investment. Cambodia's corruption ranking has worsened, according to Transparency International. The government, now led by Hun Manet after a transfer of power from his father Hun Sen, continues to enforce hardline political policies and has been criticized for blaming external factors for its challenges. Western investment is seen as crucial, but a change in attitude and effective anti-corruption measures are needed for it to materialize.

AsiaLIFE and Publishing Hip Magazines in Vietnam

01 Jan 2024  |  thediplomat.com
Jonny Edbrooke, a seasoned magazine designer, transitioned from working in Hong Kong to establishing AsiaLIFE in Vietnam, an arts and culture magazine that thrived as the Vietnamese economy grew. Despite its success and expansion into Cambodia, AsiaLIFE eventually folded due to high costs and the digital shift in the media industry. Edbrooke reflects on his career, the challenges faced, and the importance of kindness in the industry.

Myanmar’s Bleak Economic Prospects Detailed in World Bank Report

18 Dec 2023  |  asiatoday.co
The World Bank's latest report on Myanmar paints a grim picture of the country's economic situation, with inflation at 28.6% and the kyat currency falling by 18% against the U.S. dollar. The escalation of armed conflict has disrupted lives, trade routes, and heightened economic uncertainty. Over half a million people have been displaced since late October, adding to the 2 million already displaced, with the UN estimating that over 18 million people in Myanmar will need humanitarian aid in 2024. The World Bank notes the constrained fiscal space, increased migration due to conflict and economic decline, and disruptions to trade, particularly with China, Thailand, and India. Despite the bleak outlook, the report suggests potential for growth in Myanmar's garment industry.

Cambodian PM Hun Manet Poised for Bureaucratic Shake-up

01 Dec 2023  |  thediplomat.com
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet is expected to initiate a bureaucratic shake-up following his first 100 days in office, which coincided with a successful Water Festival. The shake-up is anticipated around the Senate elections on February 25, with a focus on the oknha title holders. Some oknhas have been linked to human trafficking and corruption, drawing ire from China, Cambodia's chief foreign benefactor. China is pressing for the elimination of criminal activities by oknhas, especially in Sihanoukville, as highlighted in a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime. Beijing is also concerned about the negative impact of Chinese-associated gangs on its reputation and is reluctant to encourage Chinese investors and tourists to return to Cambodia. The Chinese government has cracked down on telecom fraud originating from northern Myanmar, reflecting the scale of regional issues tied to organized crime syndicates in Cambodia.

Cambodia’s Dragon Boat Races Make a Welcome Return

26 Nov 2023  |  voanews.com
Cambodia celebrates the return of dragon boat races at the Water Festival after a three-year hiatus, with hopes that the event will boost tourism and aid economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Could Cambodia’s New Prime Minister Release Theary Seng?

01 Oct 2023  |  thediplomat.com
Khmer-American lawyer Theary Seng, serving a six-year sentence for treason in Cambodia, has been transferred to Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh, sparking hope for her early release amid renewed U.S. financial aid. Theary, a political prisoner, became a symbol of resistance against the former Prime Minister Hun Sen's crackdown on opposition. With Hun Sen's son, Hun Manet, now in power, there is speculation about potential policy changes. Theary's health and spirits are reportedly good, and her case has attracted international attention, including from U.S. diplomats and human rights lawyer Jared Genser. The U.S. Senate's threat of sanctions and the release of withheld aid signal possible diplomatic efforts for her release. Theary's conviction, based on her past political activism and support for opposition leader Sam Rainy, is seen as disproportionate, especially given her recent non-political life.

China Gathers Information to Rally Support Ahead of ASEAN Summit

13 Aug 2023  |  www.voaindonesia.com
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded a brief visit to Singapore, Malaysia, and Cambodia amid rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta. The visit aimed to strengthen strategic communication and push Beijing's version of the Code of Conduct for the contested waters. Analysts suggest China seeks to solidify ties with more easily influenced ASEAN members while isolating pro-Western countries like the Philippines and Vietnam. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has aligned his country closer to the U.S. and taken a firmer stance against China's maritime expansionism. Talks between Manila and Hanoi on a maritime pact have also begun to protect their shared interests against Chinese confrontations. Beijing's claims over the South China Sea, despite overlapping claims from several ASEAN members, continue to test its relations with the bloc.

Myanmar’s Revolution and the Challenges Ahead

01 Aug 2023  |  thediplomat.com
David Gum Awng, deputy minister of international cooperation for Myanmar's National Unity Government, discusses the future of the NUG and its armed wing, the Peoples Defense Force, the struggle against the military junta, and the role of Aung San Suu Kyi in the movement. He expresses optimism about ASEAN's role, despite past failures to initiate talks with the NUG, and highlights the need for ASEAN to align with Western sanctions, particularly regarding arms and aviation fuel sales.

Assessing Cambodia’s New Political Leadership

01 Aug 2023  |  thediplomat.com
Cambodia's ruling party, the CPP, has confirmed Hun Manet as the new prime minister, following a national election where the party won 120 of 125 seats amid criticism of being 'rigged.' This generational shift in leadership, which includes the children of senior cabinet ministers inheriting portfolios, solidifies Hun Sen's power structure. The country faces challenges such as a tarnished international image due to one-sided elections, corruption, human trafficking, and its close ties with China. With China's economy in poor condition and a lack of expected post-pandemic investment, Hun Manet must navigate these issues to attract foreign investment and revitalize the tourism industry.

Out of Myanmar

31 Jul 2023  |  thediplomat.com
Security advisor Ross Milosevic recently visited Thailand's northern border regions, meeting rebels aligned with Myanmar's National Unity Government (NUG) and its armed wing, the People’s Defense Force (PDF), opposing the military junta. His visit coincided with increased violence and political maneuvers by the junta, including moving former leader Aung San Suu Kyi out of solitary confinement. Milosevic witnessed air force attacks on civilians, which went largely unreported internationally. He emphasized the need for the NUG to develop younger leaders and a cohesive political policy, noting that Aung San Suu Kyi's reputation has been tarnished by allegations of genocide against the Rohingya. Media coverage of the conflict remains limited, primarily emerging from online publications in northern Thailand.

Cambodians Brace for One-Sided Election

23 Jul 2023  |  www.voanews.com
Cambodians are set to vote in an election on July 23, which has faced criticism from Western countries, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and pro-democracy activists due to the exclusion of the top opposition party. Despite these criticisms, authorities maintain that the election will be fair.

Cambodians Brace for One-Sided Election

15 Jul 2023  |  www.voacambodia.com
Cambodia's upcoming election on July 23 faces widespread criticism from Western countries, the UN, and pro-democracy activists, who argue it will not be free and fair. Prime Minister Hun Sen, running on his record, dismisses these criticisms. The opposition, particularly the Candlelight Party, has been barred from participating, leading to concerns about a one-sided election. The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is expected to win all seats, continuing its long-standing dominance. The election is seen as a potential transition of power from Hun Sen to his son, Hun Manet, though the exact timing remains uncertain.

Could an Australian Solar Farm Challenge Lao Energy Ambitions?

19 Jun 2023  |  asiatoday.co
A dispute between Australian billionaires Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes over the world's largest solar farm project, Solar Cable, has been resolved, with Cannon-Brookes taking control. The $35 billion project aims to sell electricity to Southeast Asia, including Singapore, via a 4,500-kilometer HVDC cable. This development challenges Laos's ambition to be the 'battery of Southeast Asia' through hydropower, as the Solar Cable project could undercut the need for more dams and offer competitive pricing. Construction is set to begin next year in Australia, and Singapore's green energy needs are expected to rise, potentially exceeding the 1.75 GW that Solar Cable has agreed to supply.

Victory by Move Forward in Thailand Could Move ASEAN

15 May 2023  |  khmer.voanews.com
The Move Forward Party's victory in Thailand's recent election, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, could significantly impact Southeast Asia, particularly on human rights issues and the Myanmar crisis. Despite the party's success, it must navigate the military-controlled Senate to form a government. The election results reflect a strong desire for democratic change among Thai citizens. Analysts suggest that if Move Forward leads the government, ASEAN's stance on Myanmar may shift, potentially leading to quicker resolutions. The election also highlights regional divides within ASEAN, with differing political and religious affiliations influencing member countries' stances. The outcome may also affect Thailand's foreign policy, particularly its relations with China and the U.S., and could lead to improved conditions for migrant workers in Thailand.

Rebuilding Cambodia’s Gambling Mecca

01 May 2023  |  voanews.com
Cambodia is creating an action plan to address over 1,100 unfinished structures in Sihanoukville, which were left by Chinese investors amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative aims to revitalize the city, known for its gambling industry.

An Australian Who Worked to Restore Cambodian Culture Dies at 76

01 May 2023  |  thediplomat.com
Darryl Collins, an Australian author who dedicated nearly three decades to documenting and restoring Cambodia's cultural heritage, passed away at 76 in Siem Reap. His work included revitalizing the National Museum in Phnom Penh and authoring significant books on Cambodian architecture. His contributions are celebrated by colleagues and friends, who emphasize his impact on Cambodia's new generation of scholars and his dedication to preserving the nation's heritage.

Financial Difficulties, Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia to Shut Down

01 Mar 2023  |  voaindonesia.com
The Phnom Penh Post, a newspaper operating for over 30 years in Cambodia's capital, announced it will cease publishing its English and Khmer editions by the end of March 2024 due to declining revenue and readership. The closure adds to concerns about press freedom in Cambodia, which has been under pressure since the government's crackdown on political opposition about eight years ago. Founded by Americans Michael Hayes and Kathleen O’Keefe in 1992, the newspaper is recognized for its independent journalism and role in nurturing young journalists.

Cambodia’s Most Unwanted

13 Sep 2012  |  Latitude
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, known for its culture of impunity, attracts various criminals such as Gottfrid Svartholm Warg of The Pirate Bay, who was deported for copyright infringements. The city is a haven for crooks, gunrunners, terrorists, and pedophiles due to lax law enforcement and corruption. High-profile cases include Patrick Devillers' involvement in the Bo Xilai scandal, Roger Graham's assisted-suicide program, and Alexander Trofimov's sexual abuse charges and subsequent pardon. Money and connections can buy freedom or protection, as seen with Thaksin Shinawatra's advisory role to Prime Minister Hun Sen, despite his corruption charges in Thailand.

Coming to Australia

04 Sep 2012  |  Latitude
The Hazara community in Australia, particularly in the suburb of Ormond, is anxious following the sinking of a boat carrying Afghan asylum seekers. Hasan Jafari, a Hazara and owner of the Doner Kebab Inn, reflects on the persecution of Hazaras and the necessity for them to seek refuge. Australia's policy, under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to divert refugees to detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing is seen as a response to electoral pressures rather than humanitarian concerns. The policy has led to a surge in asylum-seekers attempting the dangerous journey by sea. Refugees in Australia face polarized attitudes, with some Australians accepting them, especially those from Afghanistan. Jafari, a former refugee himself, is now a community figure, assisting other Hazara refugees through the Shamama Association of Australia.

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