The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

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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.

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Arn Chorn-Pond / The Khmer Rouge survivor fighting to revive Cambodia’s traditional music

By: Ellie Dyer - Posted on: January 30, 2019 | Cambodia

Learning an instrument helped Arn Chorn-Pond survive the Khmer Rouge era. He has since dedicated his life to reviving traditional Cambodian music that was almost lost under the regime

Arn Chorn-Pond outside Phnom Penh’s National Museum
Arn Chorn-Pond outside Phnom Penh’s National Museum Photo: Sam Jam

It was a knife-edge decision that helped to save Arn Chorn-Pond’s life. Overworked, underfed and a witness to mass slaughter, he volunteered to play a musical instrument while living in a brutal Khmer Rouge camp in Battambang province in the 1970s.

“They said: ‘We’re going to start music, who’s interested in playing?’ Sometimes, they killed you if you raised a hand in a wrong situation,” says the 50-year-old musician, explaining how he was forced to work at a temple, used as a “killing place” by the regime, alongside 700 other children aged from about seven to 13.

“I was sure it was a 50/50 gamble, but inside of me [I thought] it is fine if they kill me now. We were all sick; starvation was a really hard thing to take for us,” he remembers, reliving his memories through expressive brown eyes while sitting in his cosy Phnom Penh office, surrounded by images illustrating his life’s work.

The cadres, however, kept their word, and an elderly master was brought in to teach five young boys how to play. The musician, whose name Chorn-Pond never discovered, soon disappeared – as did so many during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975 to 1979 rule, when an estimated 1.7 million people died from disease, starvation and summary execution.

Three children who were slow to learn were next. But Chorn-Pond was quick, and he began performing revolutionary songs on the khim, a type of hammered dulcimer, at gatherings for cadres and leaders of the ultra-Maoist regime. “Sometimes you peed in your pants [if] you played the wrong song or you played the wrong tune or whatever… these were bad people,” he says.

Amid the trauma of the regime, a father figure emerged in the form of a replacement teacher, master Mek. The pair helped each other to survive, risking death as Mek taught Chorn-Pond forbidden tunes from the past, and his student stole food to supplement their meagre diets.

After the Vietnamese invaded in the dying days of 1978, that link was broken. Chorn-Pond was given a gun and forced to fight, acting as an expendable decoy for the regime. Eventually, he found himself in the jungle near the Thai border, where he was discovered – blistered, unconscious and close to death – and brought to a nearby refugee camp.

A more brutal childhood experience is difficult to imagine, yet it has shaped both Chorn-Pond’s life and work: the musician has dedicated much of his existence to the revival of traditional Khmer arts after an estimated 90% of artists perished under Pol Pot, decimating the Kingdom’s rich cultural knowledge base.

His efforts have roots in both Cambodia and the US – where he was taken by his adoptive father, Lutheran minister Peter Pond, and enrolled in a US high school. Filled with students with no knowledge of his past, Chorn-Pond found it tough. He recalls being unable to control himself – “like a tiger” – and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Over time he revisited music, taking up the flute – which he plays to this day – in the late 1980s. After being asked by his father, he also began speaking about his experiences and sharing his story. Later, when working with troubled youths in Lowell, Massachusetts, where a large community of Cambodian-Americans have settled, he again harnessed the power of song by asking a surviving Cambodian master of the fiddle to interact with the young people, a move that helped boost their self-esteem.

Despite his time in the US, Chorn-Pond was drawn back to his homeland, where his family had owned a popular opera company. It was back in Battambang – after finding out that close to 35 members of his family had died – that he stumbled across master Mek, working as a hairdresser, and drinking.

“He turns around, he looks, and he was smiling – but also had tears coming out. He called my name, and I went and we hugged each other,” Chorn-Pond recalls, before recounting how he went on to find other masters, often living in difficult circumstances, and in 1998 created the Cambodian Masters Performers Programme.

The ‘school without walls’ encouraged youngsters in Phnom Penh to take up music and learn from these salaried experts. And, with the help of key supporters, it evolved into the organisation known as Cambodian Living Arts (CLA).

Today, the non-profit fosters a new generation of artists, students and teachers through a range of educational, development and market-building programmes. Driven and dedicated, Chorn-Pond is also continuing his work by exposing rural populations to music via the Khmer Magic Music Bus, which works in partnership with CLA to transport artists across the country to perform.

“Playing music helps me smile now, and helps me even cry now,” he says. “Being on the bus, seeing the laughter and the relationships, those young masters and the old masters talking to each other about: ‘How did you meet your wife?’ – the same questions that the gang members in Lowell asked. I drive the bus, and my tears come out.”

But for all his achievements and experiences in the Kingdom, Chorn-Pond has a wider vision. In 2013, the CLA-initiated Season of Cambodia exposed New York to Cambodia’s cultural heritage through a range of performances featuring some of the nation’s best artists. Chorn-Pond reveals that he even invited politician Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state widely blamed for the large-scale bombing of Cambodia by the US in the early 1970s, to attend.

Today, Chorn-Pond’s dream is for every child on the planet to own an instrument, echoing his passionate belief in music and the arts as forces for peace. The flute is now his ‘weapon’, rather than the guns he was forced to carry as a youngster.

“I’m telling the Khmer Rouge: ‘How powerful is this?’” he says, softly. “Just a little bamboo flute, and I play and I make everyone cry, and give money, and fall deep into their heart. How powerful is that compared to just taking people’s lives, you know, which I have also done.”

This article was first published in the 2017 edition of Discover magazine