Genghis Khan knew about hard times. The founder of the Mongol Empire, which spanned most of Eurasia until roughly 1227, Genghis and his clan had to survive on their wits and natural surroundings, often resorting to meals of “green leafy things” when food was scarce.
When the food-strapped Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) appealed to the Mongolian government for food last month, it signaled a major turning point in the public image of this Central Asian country, which has long struggled to feed its own population of three million.
Dotted with rice fields flanked by palm trees, Cambodia’s southeastern province of Kampong Speu is nothing short of picturesque.
But behind the idyllic exterior is an on-going struggle to turn this region’s natural beauty into a global attraction and improve the lot of poor local farmers, as the neighbouring beachside Kampot province did just three years ago.
Times are tough in this Southeast Asian nation of 14 million people, where over 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of a dollar a day. Formal employment is hard to come by and many workers find themselves drifting in the murky waters of the “informal” market, where wages are unregulated and labour laws are seldom honoured.
Nean Narin, a humble man and father of three children, says his family is going hungry. Narin lives in the village of Boeung Kak, situated on the edge of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. For years, he and other villagers relied on the Boeung Kak Lake for fish and plants, which they would eat and sell.
Cambodia’s export business is in the process of changing due to shifts in manufacturing in Asia. A business publication in the country has reported unexpected growth in the “machinery and transport equipment” sector and speculated it was as “probably bicycles.” But when Cambodia jumped into the top ten exporters of bicycles to the EU in 2012, it prompted the European Bicycle Manufacturers’ Association (EBMA) to investigate.
As one of the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), Cambodia is afforded the most beneficial trade ranking to the European Union (EU) under the generalised scheme of preferences (GSP)
known as the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.
For a brief moment last month, mainstream international media turned the spotlight on Cambodia, one of the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), as a high-level visit from U.S. President Barack Obama and the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gave this country of 14.3 million people a glamorous edge.
The Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in the southern Gobi desert in Mongolia has become a symbol of a looming crisis: a limited water supply that could be exhausted within a decade, seriously threatening the lives and livelihoods of the local population.
Tucked away from the scrutiny of civil society, Mongolia’s jails epitomise the limits of democracy in this county of 2.8 million people, where marginalised members of society often bear the brunt of a corrupt and under-resourced justice system.