Listen to My Interview on The Underworld Podcast Here…

As long time fans of the show, Nathan and I were pretty pumped to appear on The Underworld Podcast last week. It’s not the lightest of subjects – we’re talking about our experiences investigating the growth of industrial-scale online scams in Southeast Asia, which has involved tens of thousands of people being trafficked into modern slavery in some truly atrocious conditions. But we did get to dive into the rise of Chinese gangster-patriots and the bizarre history of currency and crypto scams across Asia – a story which features militia-run casino towns in the jungles of Myanmar, fake nuns scrawling the name of Ponzi-Cult leaders on their shaved heads, and Chinese ex-cons buying new identities (and business empires) in Cambodia. Oh, and the time we wandered into a human trafficking processing centre in Laos.

Hope you find it entertaining / interesting / enlightening, etc.

You can listen here on Apple Podcasts:

Or Here On Spotify:

Hun Sen’s Coronavirus Crackdown

On April 10, Cambodia’s parliament passed a sweeping new state of emergency law granting the government the power to impose its will to protect “national security and social order”—using the army if necessary—in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Days earlier, a leaked draft of the law had alarmed human rights groups, which feared the legislation would embolden Cambodia’s long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen to take an even more authoritarian line. Since shutting down the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2017, Hun Sen’s government has cracked down on opposition activists and online dissenters.

Read the full story at Foreign Policy >

Photo by Chris A. Tweten on Unsplash

In Afghanistan, the Coronavirus Could Be Deadlier Than War

Until recently, billboards around Kabul were emblazoned with a simple phrase: “Imagine Peace.” Now, they instruct people to wash their hands.

Afghan security forces weren’t only armed with guns when they rushed to the scene of a brutal massacre of Sikh worshippers by an Islamic State-affiliated gunman on March 25; they also wore protective masks and gloves. Dreams of an end to violence are as distant as ever because Afghanistan now faces a more imminent and potentially deadly threat than terrorism or even the Taliban: COVID-19.

Read the full story on Foreign Policy >

Unfortunately, the TePonui team wasn’t able to travel to Kabul to report on this story due to the pandemic, but we were very pleased to collaborate with Afghan reporter Ezzatullah Merhdad.

Photo by WantTo Create on Unsplash

As Palestine’s Friends Fall Away, Iran is the Last Man Standing

For generations, one issue has united countries across the Muslim world: Palestinian Liberation. But as Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US find a shared priority in battling Iran, the Gulf is losing interest – and Palestinians are left out the in the cold, with nowhere to turn but Tehran.

Read the full report on Inside Over >

Inside Southeast Asia’s Illegal Wildlife Trade

Southeast Asia accounts for less than 3% of the world’s land mass but 25% of the global trade in wildlife. It’s a supplier, consumer and transit hub for the booming black market, where endangered animals are illegally caught, sold, eaten and shipped to customers around the world.  So how do we bring this destructive trade to an end? Read the full report on Inside Over >

Could the COVID-19 Outbreak Finally Lay the Wildlife Trafficking Trade to Rest?

As the coronavirus crisis spreads further afield and claims casualties all over the world, many are asking what lessons we can learn from yet another case of deadly zoonotic disease. This could be exactly the conversation that conservationists working to stop wildlife trafficking need.

Read the full story on Foreign Policy >


That was the night we drove to the highlands

And the fierce white peaks were arrows pointed at the stars.

I remember the moon, the colour and texture of snow

Crumbling from the mountain

Tumbling into the dark.

You took me there

Because the day had spread like an oil slick

And tarred my skin

But I saw now the night was not black at all

But indigo

A screen-print of deep blue hills


Like so many heartbeats

Into the always.

I thought of the night we crossed the icy border into Kyrgyzstan

The flint-arrow mountains

Dipped in shining white

Piercing the inky night

Our feet crushing snow as soft as light

The men who picked us up: hard-faced, kind hearts

Building us a nest of blankets for that cold, cold drive through the high mountain pass

My own heart beats with the rise and fall of the hills,

A symphony of synchronised cardiac rhythms –

And you say, what are you writing?

Squeezing my hand so the pink-white peaks of our knuckles

Form a a miniature mountain range of our own.

And your eyes shine

Because I feel better now


And you know I am ready to start the climb.






Arabella’s Daughter

So – this is a story I wrote aaaaages ago, and completely forgot about until I just found it by accident. It’s one of the weirder stories I’ve written, and if I remember rightly, my friend Joe’s sole feedback at the time was: ‘I think you and the male gaze need to sit down for a good long chat to see if you can resolve your issues’. But anyway. Here it is.

Continue reading →

Great News for Some Phnom Penh Friends…

When I first came to Phnom Penh earlier this year, I interviewed a really fantastic social enterprise called ARC Hub PNH for an article I was writing about prosthetic limb production in Cambodia and Laos.

During the Secret War that ran concurrently to the Vietnam War, the Americans (illegally) dropped more bombs here than had ever been dropped anywhere before, and the Khmer Rouge continued to carpet Cambodia in landmines until the ’90s. The upshot of this is that, every year, people lose limbs to UXOs all over Laos and Cambodia – and since these are some of the poorest people on the planet, their chances of getting hold of an artificial limb are pretty remote.  Continue reading →