For the first time, the internet has surpassed traditional media as the main source of news for Cambodians, according to The Asia Foundation’s 2016 annual survey on mobile phones and internet usage. This has significant implications in terms of connectivity and information access in Cambodia: just three years ago, only 15 percent of people said they received their news from Facebook or other online sources, compared to 30 percent today. The survey, based on 2,061 interviews across Cambodia, found that 96 percent of Cambodians now own a phone and that 48 percent own a smartphone, a 21 percent increase from 2015. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they use or have used the internet, and 33 percent said they accessed the internet using their own phone. Forty-eight percent said they have used Facebook while 37 percent of Cambodians indicated that they used Facebook on their own phone. With greater access to the internet, Cambodians now have more choices in terms of where information comes, from instead of relying only on the state-controlled media. However, having access to more information does not necessarily mean that people are better informed. In one of many examples (and certainly not unique to Cambodia), last week, a story about canned fruit produced in Thailand being contaminated with HIV/Aids went viral on Facebook in Cambodia. The incident prompted the Thai embassy in Cambodia to issue a statement to clarify that the message was a hoax. Cambodians face a new challenge in navigating this online space and deciphering what content is trustworthy, particularly as the campaign season heats up ahead of local elections scheduled for June 2017 and national elections in 2018. In addition, online censorship appears to be on the rise as Cambodians exercise their online freedom. Recently, the president of the main opposition party, Sam Rainsy, and two of his Facebook page assistants were sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for being accomplices to another opposition lawmaker who posted a video on Facebook that cited inaccurate border treaty information and criticized the government. The survey also found a strong correlation between education and mobile… Read more
In 2016, Asia was rocked by major events that tested the region’s perseverance and proved its strength. While many countries in the region proved to be economically resilient and politically stable, others were challenged by shifting alliances and leadership change, including the passing of a beloved monarch, and threats of regional security and resource shortfalls. To find out just what to expect in 2017, I asked Asia Foundation experts to share what they view will be the pivotal issue in their respective countries this year. Here are perspectives from 18 countries. — In Asia editor, Alma Freeman Afghanistan Afghanistan will continue to face challenges in 2017 to provide adequate employment opportunities for its youth. Besides the problem of “brain drain” that persisted in 2016, an inevitable and significant increase in the number of Afghan returnees from Pakistan and Iran will need to be addressed through a comprehensive employment and reintegration program. Prolonged and inconclusive peace negotiations with the Taliban, coupled with delays in conducting parliamentary elections, could further damage the National Unity Government’s legitimacy in 2017. — Abdullah Ahmadzai, country representative Bangladesh The security situation was exacerbated by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, forcing thousands of Rohingyas to flee into Bangladesh. In the face of growing conflict and rising religious intolerance, can the Bangladeshi people continue to demonstrate resilience to such security threats and ensure peaceful coexistence and continued economic prosperity in 2017 and beyond? This will no doubt be the most pressing issue for 2017. — Hasan Mazumdar, country representative Cambodia Cambodia’s local elections on June 4, 2017, will be the biggest event of the year. Should the opposition—chiefly the Cambodian National Rescue Party—win the popular vote, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party will have hard calculations to make regarding the national elections slated for 2018. If this scenario unfolds, will the regime seek a peaceful transition of power through compromise and dialogue or will they double down against the opposition? We are likely to see a combination of both, perhaps maintaining political order while widening fractures within the opposition. — Silas Everett, country representative China It will be a… Read more
Starbucks Vietnam and The Asia Foundation Launch Project to Support Vocational Training for Disadvantaged YouthMonday, December 5th, 2016
Hanoi, December 5, 2016 — Starbucks Vietnam and The Asia Foundation today announced a one-year vocational training program in Hanoi to prepare young people from disadvantaged backgrounds for careers in Vietnam’s fast-growing food and beverage industry. The Starbucks Vocational Training program will engage 50 youth between the ages of 18 and 24, including those who have been affected by family violence, human trafficking, and poverty, in a training program where they will acquire the professional and life skills required to succeed in the retail sector. As part of the program, youth will receive both classroom instruction focused on subjects such as customer service, English language learning, financial literacy, and work readiness, as well as on-the-job training. Starbucks partners (employees) will actively engage in the program providing seminars and in store experience. Upon completion of the program, youth will receive six months of follow-up assistance to help them secure full-time employment. “Being an active part of the communities we serve in is intrinsic to who we are as a company,” said Mark Ring, president of Starbucks Asia Pacific. “As Starbucks continues to grow in Vietnam and across Asia, so too does our aspiration to build a different kind of company – one committed to performance that is driven through the lens of humanity – and being a positive force in building the future success of young people.” “We are proud to partner with The Asia Foundation and REACH to provide lifelong experiences and skills for disadvantaged young people,” said Patricia Marques, general manager for Starbucks Vietnam. “Youth in Vietnam represent a huge pool of talent for this dynamic country but at the same time there are also challenges for many young people to gain access to work. We have created this project to build confidence, self-esteem and training which will help them to succeed in the economy.” Figures from the General Statistics Office in 2015 indicate that the unemployment rate among youth is more than triple the overall unemployment rate, standing at 6.75%. While well-educated workers are able to access expanding opportunities in the private sector, for less educated workers, and particularly… Read more
December 1, 2016 — NPR cites The Asia Foundation’s research on Mongolia’s artisanal mining industry: A 2014 report by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation estimated that one in five rural Mongolians — 100,000 people — are mining coal and gold on their own to make ends meet. Such mining is legal with the proper license, but Nalaikh’s abandoned mines are filled with several unlicensed brigades that are mining illegally.