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The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

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The ruthless truth behind Vietnam’s corruption crackdown

By: Calvin Godfrey - Posted on: October 11, 2017 | Current Affairs

Opinion: Those caught in the Communist party’s crosshairs see a ruthless effort by Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong to consolidate power

Vietnam Communist party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong (centre) with then-Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (left) and other officials at the country’s national congress in Hanoi in 2011. Photo: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP

The anti-corruption campaigns of Vietnam’s Communist party always feel like inscrutable performance pieces – symposiums on the merits of female modesty held in strip clubs.

They just don’t make sense, given the business model. 

Even as the party oversaw decades of massive economic growth, it paid its members paltry salaries. Somehow, though, even the most ‘anti-corrupt’ among them lived well beyond their official means.

Their motorcades and luxury cars shot through cities choked with motorbikes. During one particularly farcical stretch, close readers of the nation’s newspapers learned more from their stolen-property reports than their financial disclosure forms.

At the top of this ladder stood Nguyen Tan Dung, who evolved from a 12-year-old combat nurse scurrying through the mud of the Mekong Delta to the nation’s Teflon two-term prime minister. Parachute journalists and international donors scrounging for a good guy called Dung    ‘the reformer’, a man inclined to freedom particularly of markets and navigation.

In reality, his administration presided over an alphabet soup of state banks that gave free money to profligate state-owned enterprises. Every once in a while, bad cadre got caught taking hundreds of millions of dollars in loans no one would ever pay back or selling chunks of the state economy to themselves for a song.

Vietnam’s former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was forced into retirement by the government by Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong. Photo: EPA/Minh Hoang

News like this never boded well for Dung.

In 2012, the party slapped the cuffs on one of the richest men in the country – a prominent banker convicted of fraud, tax evasion, illegal trade and “deliberate wrongdoing causing serious consequences”. Many interpreted it as a warning to Dung, who had thwarted an attempt to boot him out of the politburo that very year.

Few took note of the cracks widening in Dung’s patronage network until it finally fractured during the 2016 party congress.  It seems the steering committee’s wily general secretary had rewritten the rules of the game to force Dung into retirement. A plurality of the politburo had grown sufficiently grossed-out or jealous of his excesses – perhaps both.

The big man went quietly, and his sons continue to hold party positions in booming beach provinces. His daughter and her billionaire husband continue to do well in Ho Chi Minh City. His allies, though, suddenly found themselves at the mercy of Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong.

The septuagenarian silver fox dealt disgrace and demotion to some. Others he fed to the Supreme People’s Procuracy – a process that often begins with articles in the pages of the nation’s dying newspapers.   

Enter Trinh Xuan Thanh: a balding, acne-scarred official driving around one of the poorest Delta provinces in a Lexus SUV. Not long after Dung’s exit, reporters wanted to know where he got his sweet ride and how his UK-educated 24-year-old son had come to head the marketing department of a state-owned distillery.

Such questions are like thunder to people such as Thanh, who sent the party a doctor’s note and bugged out to Berlin. By the time lightning struck, seven of his former colleagues at PetroVietnam Construction had gotten snared in the search for about $150m that had apparently vanished from the company’s books. 

Once in Germany, the 51-year-old Thanh applied for asylum.

My client is like a piece in this puzzle for the general secretary. I think it’s so important to have him there in a schauprozess [show trial], like in Stalin’s time”

While waiting for the wheels of justice to turn, he took the unusual step of granting four interviews to a Vietnamese blogger living in Germany. The transcripts circulated on social media, openly questioning the purpose of crushing loyal ‘screws’ like Thanh: “It is easy to see that many state-owned enterprises suffer losses and, of course, the officials responsible for these enterprises should be held liable; also, it’s apparent that a majority of officials, both political and economic, are corrupt. But in my opinion, the main problem doesn’t lie in these officials, but the system. I used to be a ‘screw’ in this system, so if during my time as a leader PetroVietnam Construction suffered losses, I had to take responsibility. But the fact is, during that time, I was not a greedy person, and I definitely did not commit a crime. Certainly not a ‘deliberate violation of state regulations,’ as Mr. Trong claims. This pursuit was initiated by Mr. Trong purely to consolidate his power.”

One bright day in July, the truth-teller vanished during a walk through Berlin’s Tiergarten Park and re-emerged on Vietnamese television looking like he’d had a rough week. Monotone state broadcasters reported that he’d come home to assuage his guilt and face sweet party justice.

“To believe anyone outside Vietnam could believe that is just unbelievable,” said Thanh’s Berlin-based lawyer, Petra Schlagenhauf. “This is really like George Orwell reloaded.”

German police have since tracked down a Vietnamese construction worker who supposedly drove from Prague to Berlin to help a team of spooks drag Thanh to his embassy and stuff him into an ambulance.

No one’s sure where that ambulance went, but one possibility is Moscow, where Secretary Trong literally earned his PhD in party building. Vietnam’s diplomats have said only that they “regret” Germany’s kidnapping allegations.

“The general secretary hates my client deeply,” Schlagenhauf said over the phone. “The attack isn’t mainly against [Thanh] but others higher than him. I think there will be more persecutions to come. My client is like a piece in this puzzle for the general secretary. I think it’s so important to have him there in a schauprozess [show trial], like in Stalin’s time.”

Calvin Godfrey has worked as a writer and editor in Ho Chi Minh City for seven years. This April, he won the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award for his investigation of the country’s dog meat supply chain.

This article was published in the October edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here