Beyond the Mekong

The Flashpoints of Hun Sen’s Cambodia

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Beyond the Mekong | Society | Southeast Asia

The Flashpoints of Hun Sen’s Cambodia

A conversation with Ou Virak about human rights, China’s rise, and the plight of the Mekong River.

The Flashpoints of Hun Sen’s Cambodia
Credit: Luke Hunt

As founder and president of the Future Forum think tank in Cambodia, Ou Virak has dealt with many contentious issues, ranging from human rights and elections to economic development to the rise of China.

He says the Mekong River, climate change and upstream dam construction are the looming issues that governments around mainland Southeast Asia will be confronted with over the coming years in conjunction with China’s overwhelming influence.

Ou Virak’s father was killed by the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s, but he survived the country’s 30-year civil war after fleeing to the Thai border where he was granted refugee status and moved to California at the age of 13.

Virak returned to Cambodia and lectured in economics at Pannasastra University before joining the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. In 2015, he founded Future Forum, and two years later, won the Reebok Human Rights Award for his civil society campaign for freedom of expression.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt