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

The happiest-making story I’ve seen for a while

So, Ricky Jackson has finally been released from prison, after 39 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. If I’d been convicted for murder based on a lie extracted from a child by corrupt police officers, I suspect I would have spent my four decades of incarceration plotting extensive Old Boy-style retribution. Luckily, Ricky Jackson is a far better human than I am. What a thoroughly lovely bloke.

(P.S. If there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind over why the death penalty is a really, really shite idea, cases like this will hopefully help to illuminate)

Coursera and the Art of Brevity

I admit it: I have a problem. My family is concerned, my friends are perplexed and my boyfriend is beginning to despair. Due to a crippling psychological disorder, I am physically unable to allow pockets of free time to creep into my hectic work-life schedule.

That’s not to say that I’m some kind of superwoman. Far from it. I’m just as susceptible as the next person to naps and YouTube and all-encompassing hangovers that last until 10pm the following day. My problem is that I see a week of free evenings stretching out ahead of me and, instead of thinking, “Great! I’ll piss about and go to the pub and watch an entire series of House of Cards,” I think to myself, “Great! I’ll learn Spanish and write a novel and master macroeconomics.” At which point I piss about, go to the pub, watch an entire series of House of Cards, then panic and try to squeeze 6 months’ worth of intellectual activity into the hours I should be sleeping on a Sunday night.

The latest enabler of my addiction is Coursera. If you haven’t discovered it yet, take a look: it’s amazing. Coursera is a website where you can sign up for online versions of degree modules from major universities, wherever you are in the world, for free. These are made up of video lectures and set reading, and are assessed through multiple choice tests or short essays, depending on the demands of the course.

Continue reading →

Skins: a shiny shiny shrine to all that is wrong with TV

Ah, Skins: a menagerie of awful, entitled, jaded rich kids doing awful things to each other whilst seemingly getting a sexual kick out of this posturing, faux-nihilistic awfulness. Occasionally, we are asked to suspend our disbelief whilst the unbearable little shits export their particular brand of awfulness to a range of exotic locations, unlikely warehouse raves and/or what appears to be the set of Brighton Rock, all the while uttering the kind of wallowing, baseless, psychology-by-numbers banalities that make Amy Childs seem insightful and complex.

Inexplicably, according to Skins, no one in Bristol has a Bristolian accent, jobless teenagers never run out of cash and no one under 30 can act, with the possible exception of (OMG LIKE SO FUCKED UP!!!!) Franky’s psychotic cockney drug-dealing love interest, a sort of Scum-era Ray Winstone-cum-Topman model.

Unless the world has changed beyond all recognition in the seven years since I left sixth form college, the only thing amongst this drivel which actually rings true is the pervading sense of vacuity and selfishness that permeates all adolescent activity. All that is revealed by C4’s extended turd-polishing exercise is that, for all their slender limbs and agonised pouts, the lives of 17-year-olds are just too boring to stomach without a liberal smattering of violent sex, hourly drug intake and ill-conceived ‘serious issues’ to sledgehammer away any semblance of reality and/ or meaning. Luckily, there’s plenty of jumpy editing, elaborate sound design and the odd hallucination or dream sequence to distract from the very silly script, allowing the audience to focus their attention on what the cast do best: lolling around in their underwear, reciting clichés, with narrowed eyes and flat, plummy-voiced resolution. Gripping stuff.

Skins: The Young Offenders

Dreadful People.