At the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People’s Party took every seat in the national assembly in last month’s elections, is the world’s longest-serving prime minister (since 1985). His recent electoral victory was assured in November 2017, when Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition party after the government filed a lawsuit accusing it of conspiring with foreign powers to stage a revolution. Forty years ago Hun Sen was a Khmer Rouge battalion commander. Fearing a purge, he fled to Vietnam in 1977; he returned in 1979 with Cambodian rebel forces and the Vietnamese Army which overthrew Pol Pot’s regime.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia was set up in 1997 to try ‘the most senior’ surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, or those ‘who were most responsible’ for the atrocities committed under Pol Pot. More »

Let them eat apps

The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 food banks. Earlier this month, it reported that a spike in demand for its food parcels last summer was due to ‘holiday hunger’ among children entitled to free school meals. The all-party parliamentary group on hunger warned last year that as many as three million children are at risk of going hungry during the summer holidays. More »

With the Harbour Pilots

‘Ordinarily at this point I’d be looking at her,’ Will Mitchell told me as we approached the Cefas Endeavour, a research ship owned by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Acquaculture Science, a mile offshore the Cornish port of Fowey. ‘I’d be looking at the size of her, how she moves, where we’re going to board her. But I’ve worked this vessel before.’ It was a Wednesday lunchtime in July and the sky was overcast – a rare interruption in a week of fine sunshine – but the sea was almost flat. More »

State Terrorism

On 9 August, a Saudi Arabian air strike on a school bus in Yemen killed 40 children aged betweeen six and eleven, along with eleven adults, wounding a further 79. The 500-pound bomb had been supplied by the US. It might just as easily have come from the UK. Around half the Saudi air force consists of British-built planes, which have played a significant role in the war. More »

Predominantly Male Perpetrators

Jimmy Bennett can’t drive, so a family member dropped him off at Asia Argento’s hotel in May 2013. Legal documents leaked to the New York Times allege that Argento gave him alcohol and sexually assaulted him. Bennett was 17, Argento 37. They had met when Bennett was seven, and cast as Argento’s child in The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, which she also directed. They seem to have had an unnerving habit of referring to one another as mother and son.

Bennett brought a lawsuit against Argento, who denies his claims, More »

At the Fringe

‘Will we be safe here?’ asked a German man sitting next to me in the front row. We were about to see Leave. To Remain (An Aristophanic Brexit Tale), a Fringe production modelled on Aristophanes’ Acharnians, whose protagonist, Dikaiopolis, makes a private peace treaty with Sparta while the rest of Athens remains at war. My neighbour was worried we’d be expected to take part in the show. It’s set in a not too distant, post-Brexit future, where the British equivalent of Athenian direct democracy is interactive TV programmes. More »

Rugged Investors Only

The result of the presidential election in Zimbabwe, held on 30 July, was announced after a brief period of turmoil, on 3 August. Victory went to the Zanu-PF incumbent, Emmerson Mnangagwa, with roughly 2.4 million votes. Nelson Chamisa, the candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, got 2.1 million. The rapid shifts in the political landscape that we’ve witnessed since Robert Mugabe was removed last November felt exhilarating, but the outcome of the vote leaves big questions unresolved. More »

Where is Rahile Dawut?

When I met Professor Rahile Dawut in Urumqi in 2013, we didn’t talk about the soldiers and armoured vehicles patrolling the streets of the Uighur neighbourhoods. I didn’t ask her about the transformation of Xinjiang’s capital into an intensively policed space, or the government’s spurious claims that the region was under threat from Islamist terrorists, in part because discussing such topics, even in private, seemed too dangerous for any Chinese citizen. It was far safer to confine our talk to her extensive, brilliant ethnographic research into Xinjiang’s rich and plural cultural traditions, most notably her work on mazâr, the shrines of local saints dotted around the region, most of them in remote desert locations. She was funny, modest about her work, and gracious enough to listen to my anecdotes about visiting shrines in other parts of Xinjiang.

Last week, Dawut’s family announced that she has been missing since December. More »

At Good Chance Paris

Lycée Jean Quarré is an abandoned cookery school in Paris’s 19th arrondissement, near the Place des Fêtes. In October 2015, a reported 1000 refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers squatting there were evicted by the police. The NGO Emmaüs Solidarité now manages the building as a Centre d’Hébergement d’Urgence, or CHU, for around 150 refugees and asylum-seekers. Most of the current residents are young men from Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea and Libya. More »

Mr Ford’s Hacienda

V.S. Naipaul never saw himself as just another face in the mural of 20th-century literature. The mural was, in any case, not his favourite art form. He loved and possessed a very fine collection of Persian and Indian miniatures. But this wasn’t a frame in which he saw himself either. Long before the knighthood and the Nobel Prize, it was the mirror that excited him. Destiny stared him in the face every morning. He believed in himself. The Trinidadian was to become a very fine writer of English prose. More »

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