Deutsche Welle

Vietnamese officials in Hanoi have asked residents to stop eating dog meat, citing health and public image concerns. Vendors and enthusiasts now fear a nationwide ban on what they consider to be a traditional delicacy. My story for Deutsche Welle.

Dog meat in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ate Hoekstra

Hoang has been eating dog meat since he was young. He can’t imagine there will be a time that he won’t be eating it at least twice a month. However, Vietnamese officials announced in September that dog and cat meat should no longer be served in the inner districts of the capital city Hanoi because it’s offensive to tourists and can spread diseases like rabies.

Dog meat lovers and restaurant owners fear that the government will try to expand the ban and decide to officially forbid eating dog and cat meat entirely.

“I don’t see how they can ban it. The demand is just too high,” Hoang said at a restaurant in Vietnam’s largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City.

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Cambodia recently reopened the final stretch of a railway running from the capital Phnom Penh to the border with Thailand. I took the new train and wrote about it for Deutsche Welle.

Hang Sothanun in the train to Poipet. Photo: Ate Hoekstra

It’s slow and not as comfortable yet as trains in developed countries, but Cambodians were nonetheless proud when the first train in decades left the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for border town Poipet last month, effectively connecting the northern part of Cambodia with the south.   

This rail line will soon cross the border and connect with Thailand. It’s expected to become popular among travelers and boost trade between Thailand and Cambodia.

Sitting in the train to Poipet on a quiet Sunday morning, music teacher Hang Sothanun said that he’s happy that he can now take the train. “I have to travel all over the country, most of the time by bus or by car. But the train is really nice. It’s relaxing and it offers a very nice view of the countryside,” he told DW.

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Aid agencies and the UN have warned that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are at risk as the monsoon season begins in South Asia. Heavy rains and cyclones could cause enormous damage to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. My story for Deutsche Welle.

Rohingya refugee Mohammed Hayis. Photo: Ate Hoekstra

After Mohammed Hayis and his family arrived in Bangladesh in September last year, he built a shed out of plastic and bamboo on top of a hill composed of sand and clay. Now that the monsoon season is about to intensify, he is worried about his family’s safety.

“We already had the first serious showers in the past few weeks,” the Rohingya man told DW. “A few times it rained during the night. My wife and I were so scared that we couldn’t sleep anymore. We were terrified that something bad would happen to the kids.”

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China is shoring up its sphere of influence in Southeast Asia through aid and investment. My story for Deutsche Welle.

Chinees nieuwbouwproject in Phnom Penh. Foto: Ate Hoekstra

Last week, China and Cambodia signed 19 agreements during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s meeting in Phnom Penh with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that will heavily increase Chinese investment in Cambodia.

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In October the funeral of the deeply loved Thai King Bhumibol Abdulyadej took place. For Deutsche Welle I looked into what the end of this era means for Thailand’s future.

Thai people have gathered to bid farewell to their king. Photo: Ate Hoekstra

Thousands of people have gathered around the Grand Palace in Bangkok to pay tribute to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The late king’s five-day funeral will start Thursday.

Bhumibol, who reigned for 70 years and died last year in October at the age of 88, was more than just a king for most Thais. He was a role model for citizens. In times of political upheaval in the country, Bhumibol often played his role as a mediator between feuding political groups.

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Thailand’s attractiveness as a tourist destination remains evergreen as millions of tourists continue to flock to the Southeast Asian nation, providing much needed momentum to its economy. But challenges remain. My story for Deutsche Welle.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok. Photo: Clay Gilliland / Flickr

Close to the Grand Palace in Bangkok a group of Asian tourists steps out of a brightly colored tourist coach. Most of them wear blue hats, colorful t-shirts and sunglasses. With hasty steps they follow a man wearing a vintage pair of glasses. He unfolds an umbrella and raises it up in the air. Now the tourists know who to follow.

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Five Cambodian human rights defenders have spent one year in pre-trial detention. Their detention is widely criticized and seen as politically motivated. For Deutsche Welle I looked into the facts behind their detention.

A motorbike passes a campaign banner to release the Adhoc 5. Photo: Ate Hoekstra

“When Nay Vanda gave up his job as an English professor in 2008, he did so because he wanted to defend the rights of his fellow countrymen. He joined Adhoc, Cambodia’s oldest human rights organization.

But it’s been one year since Vanda was incarcerated along with three of his colleagues and Ny Chakrya, the deputy secretary general of Cambodia’s National Election Committee. The Adhoc 5 – the name given to the five detainees – are accused of bribing a witness.”

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