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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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Chinese theme park risks offending Cambodians with Angkor Wat replica

By: Robin Spiess - Posted on: September 19, 2018 | Cambodia

A Chinese replica of Angkor Wat, built in honour of the annual China-Asean exposition, has attracted the ire of many Cambodians who feel that it is an offence to their heritage

The Angkor Wat replica at Nanning’s new Fantawild “Asian Legend” theme park Photo: People’s Daily

As calming music plays, visitors walk down a cobblestone pathway lined with perfectly-spaced palm trees and gold lamps, posing for pictures along the way. A triple-towered temple looms in the distance: its rooftop is decorated with images of the seven-headed mythical serpent naga, and its entryway is manned by carvings of temple guardians armed with lances and clubs.

It isn’t the renowned World Heritage site of Angkor Wat, but rather a new tourist attraction built in Nanning, China called “Amazing Angkor”. In near-Disney like fashion, the architecture of Cambodia’s best known historic temple has been duplicated in plastic as part of China’s latest tourist site.

“Visitors can’t tell whether they are in Cambodia or Nanning,” said one Chinese news outlet, reviewing Amazing Angkor.

“Always wanted to see the world famous temple complex at Angkor Wat, but don’t feel like going all the way to Cambodia?” reads another travel blog. “Don’t worry, China has you covered.”

As an attraction in Nanning’s new Fantawild “Asian Legend”  theme park, which was built to showcase landmarks from ten Asean countries, the Angkor Wat replica is not alone: tourists to the park can take a ride through the water villages of Brunei, witness the beauty of Thailand’s Grand Palace, and see the Philippines’ Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tourists pose for pictures at the real Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province, Cambodia Photo: Mak Remissa / EPA

The park was created in advance of the annual China-Asean exposition – which took place in Nanning and concluded at the end of last week – and was built in part to highlight the recent strengthening of Sino-Cambodian relations.The park welcomed more than 10,000 visitors on its first day, while its manager urged that Asian Legend would soon become a regional landmark and one of the hottest destinations in China.

Officials from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos reportedly attended the opening of the new theme park on 8 August, according to a park press release.

But despite the apparent support from Cambodian officials, many in the Kingdom reacted negatively to hearing that their historic and religious landmark had been replicated and placed in a theme park.

“[Angkor Wat] is important for us, very spiritual,” said Heng, a local who works as a barista in Phnom Penh. “I don’t think it is ok to copy it, not even for fun like in the [Asian Legend] park.”

Buon, a restaurant owner in Phnom Penh, shared the same sentiment.

“Me and my friends, we are not happy about this [replica],” she said, shaking her head. “[Angkor Wat] is true Cambodia, we need to protect this.  We should have known about this [replica] before now.”

A tourists walks through the replica Angkor Wat Photo: People’s Daily

Though several Asean destinations are emulated in the park, few have had as tumultuous a history when it comes to replication as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. In 2012, India announced that it would be building a replica of the famed temple complex that would be even taller than the original and therefore the largest Hindu temple in the world. Due to Cambodian protests, construction of the temple was halted in 2015 and its design altered.

Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister in Cambodia at the time, asserted that the Angkor Wat complex was the “heart and soul of the Cambodian people” and that its replication would have “degraded” India’s reputation.

As popular a story as the India replica became, few were aware of the plastic iteration in Nanning until its doors had already opened to visitors last month. According to Kerya Chau Sun, spokeswoman for Cambodia’s Apsara Authority which maintains the Angkor Wat complex, her organisation had no knowledge of the temple replica until hearing of it on the local news.

She added that while it was a concern that tourists visiting the proposed Angkor Wat replica in India would be drawn away from tourism to the Kingdom, she doubted that the Chinese theme park’s replica would have any considerable impact on future tourism in Cambodia.

“About… less Chinese tourists travelling to Cambodia, I don’t think so,” she said in an email to Southeast Asia Globe. “Because for somebody who really likes heritage, it is always better to visit the authentic one.”

Cambodia has seen rapid growth in its tourism industry in recent years, in great part due to Chinese interest. Nearly a million Chinese tourists visited Angkor Wat last year, while the Kingdom welcomed a landmark 1.2 million Chinese tourists over the course of 2017. China has become the leading country for tourism in Cambodia, with Chinese tourists accounting for more than 20% of the Kingdom’s total visitors. The Cambodian Ministry of Tourism has announced plans for Cambodia to welcome upward of 2 million Chinese tourists annually by 2020.