The Globe as you know it is changing.
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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

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.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

One last drink

By: Oliver Slow - Posted on: January 13, 2014 | Culture & Life

Tourists in search of a cheap tipple are guzzling toxic cocktails that may lead to blindness, brain damage or even death

By Oliver Slow

Stay classy: a group of girls pose at a nightclub in Kuta, Bali. Indonesia remains popular among young travellers due to the availability of cheap alcohol. Getty Images
Stay classy: a group of girls pose at a nightclub in Kuta, Bali. Indonesia remains popular among young travellers due to the availability of cheap alcohol. Getty Images


There is much to attract the young traveller to Indonesia’s islands. Lombok and the Gili islands, for instance, offer less-crowded options than Bali, but are growing at a frenzied rate with world-class dive sites, beautiful landscapes and lively nightlife. For some, the islands have embodied their

Southeast Asian dream; for others, their trips have devolved into disaster. Partygoers have suffered serious illness, blindness and even death from methanol poisoning after drinking tainted alcohol.

Continued struggle: Tim and Lhani Davies with a photo of their son Liam who died from methanol poisoning
Continued struggle: Tim and Lhani Davies with a photo of their son Liam who died from methanol poisoning

When Liam Davies travelled to Gili Trawangan to see in the 2012 New Year, he and his friends were aware of the dangers of drinking unregulated alcohol. Just six months previously at least two tourists had died in separate incidents after nights of drinking in the region – with both deaths attributed to methanol poisoning.

Undeterred, Liam and his friends went out drinking, stopping at Rudy’s Pub, a lively and popular tourist haunt.

“The bar staff stated that the drinks they were serving were genuine alcohol,” said Lhani Davies, Liam’s mother. “In my mind, the barman made the decision to risk my son’s life.”

The next evening, Liam’s friends told Lhani what had happened. They all drank from the same bottle, they said, and while they reacted badly but recovered, Liam began shaking, struggled to control his breathing and was unable to see clearly.

After transferring to an international hospital on Lombok island, his condition worsened. He was incorrectly diagnosed as suffering from an aneurysm with severe bleeding of the brain, a common misdiagnosis of methanol poisoning. Further tests after his evacuation to his hometown of Perth, Australia, conclusively established that he had been poisoned by methanol, but by that point it was too late. A few days later, the family made the decision to switch off his life-support machine.

“In Liam’s case, the misdiagnosis in Lombok meant that he went untreated for over 20 hours, allowing the methanol to attack his brain and vital organs,” said Lhani.

Following Liam’s death, Lhani and her husband planned to hold the bar owner accountable for what they see as murder but, upon learning about a string of similar incidents, they decided that setting up a foundation would have a preferable impact. The Lifesaving Initiatives Against Methanol (Liam) Foundation aims to raise awareness of the dangers of methanol poisoning as well as train Indonesian medical staff in dealing with its effects.

While Liam’s story has garnered the most press exposure, largely due to the work being done by the Liam Foundation, it is by no means an isolated case. In June 2012, Swedish tourist Johan Lundin died after drinking a methanol-laced cocktail at Gili Trawangan’s Sama Sama Bar. A year earlier Roisin Burke died after drinking at Happy Café on Lombok. Most recently, 17-year-old Jasmine Baker was airlifted from Bali to Darwin and hospitalised last month following a drinking session to celebrate the end of high school at a bar on Bali’s Kuta Beach.

Such incidents are not isolated to Bali, Lombok and Gili. In April last year, English backpacker Cheznye Emmons died on Sumatra, more than 1,800km from Lombok, after drinking illegal gin. Two German brothers also died in August last year after a night of drinking in Semarang, on the island of Java. The siblings were drinking with friends in Semarang’s Pandanaran Hotel, the management of which told Southeast Asia Globe: “We do not sell or provide alcoholic beverages aside from several brands of beer and a brand of wine. So, the alcoholic beverages [the brothers] consumed must have come from an outside source… We conducted internal investigations and we are sure that the alcohol was not purchased at the hotel. The local authorities have come to the same conclusion.”

Methanol is closely related to ethanol, which is found in alcoholic drinks, but the former is much more lethal. As little as ten millilitres (two teaspoons) can blind a person; ingesting 30ml can kill.

The body is able to cope with methanol in small doses, since it occurs naturally in humans. The liver converts methanol into formaldehyde, which then becomes formic acid and is jettisoned either through urine or as carbon dioxide. However, if consumed in excess, the formaldehyde can become toxic, leading to symptoms such as blurred vision, headaches, nausea and respiratory problems. Later, symptoms often worsen to include organ failure, brain damage or death.

“It is ‘backyard distilleries’ with primitive processes that result in the production of alcohol that contains very high levels of methanol,” said Dr Eddy Bajrovic, medical director of Travelvax Australia, a corporate travel advice service. “If this is used to replace spirits in commercially produced spirit bottles and then mixed for cocktails, the inevitable methanol poisoning can occur.”

While it is usually the deaths of foreign tourists that make the news, the vast majority of deaths occur in the local population.

Down and out: revellers can be ignorant of risks
Down and out: revellers can be ignorant of risks

“Because symptoms of methanol poisoning are often non-specific, diagnosis can be difficult and many poisonings and even outbreaks may pass unnoticed. A large number of fatalities before admission to hospital are likely to contribute to the underreporting of methanol poisonings,” stated a 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the subject.

Lesley Onyon, regional advisor for the WHO’s Occupational Health and Chemical Safety Southeast Asia office, said that while the organisation does not have specific information on the number of cases in Indonesia, they “are aware of incidents of methanol poisoning” in the country.

Thanks to the work being done by organisations such as the Liam Foundation and ‘A drink to die from’ – a similar campaign set up by Johan Lundin’s fiancé – awareness of the issue is increasing, forcing Indonesian authorities to look more seriously at an issue that has, until recently, largely been ignored.

Diageo, one of the world’s largest alcohol distributors and the manufacturer of global brands including Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Guinness, has joined forces with the Liam campaign. Representatives from the company are regularly visiting bars and restaurants on Lombok and neighbouring islands to test the alcohol being served there.

“Regrettably, illicit liquor is widespread across Indonesia, putting at risk the health of consumers and tourists,” said Rachel Chan, communications manager at Diageo. “In response, the international spirits industry has engaged authorities to seek better regulatory policies and stronger enforcement to tackle non-commercial alcohol. More recently, the industry has developed a targeted plan to increase anti-counterfeit efforts in areas such as Lombok and the Gili islands.”

There is no easy solution to the problem of illicit alcohol in Indonesia. Increased alcohol taxes have contributed to its production, yet even if taxes are lowered there are still likely to be those who test the boundaries.

Lhani believes that the best approach is raising awareness, both inside and outside Indonesia, as well as pressuring local authorities to better regulate the alcohol market.

“We hope to get permission to send trained nurses into the wider villages to spread facts on the effects of adulterated alcohol and treatment,” she said. “Raising awareness around the world is just as important as raising awareness within Indonesia. Tourists need to be aware of the risks so they can make educated choices. People see Indonesia as a paradise and seem to ignore basic dangers.”


Also view:

“A Tao worth telling” – In the Philippines, a former meandering booze cruise has become the catalyst for change in needy communities

“Peace at last” – The tubing party is over in Vang Vieng, but tourism has managed to stay afloat

A pocket of resilience” – From the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the edge of the tourist trail in northern Laos

“Playing dirty” – Everyday Laotians are finding that joining the Asian Century comes with hidden costs

Suck it up” – Chi Phat is no walk in the park, but visitors prepared to rough it will be rewarded with an unforgettable travel experience