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The Lands of Charm and Cruelty


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"An absorbing introduction to a region that remains a mystery to most Americans." -- Boston Globe

Borneo -- a magnificent island rain forest where the gentle Penan people, some of the world's last hunter-gatherers, are waging a campaign of nonviolent resistance against rapacious timber companies; Singapore -- a gleaming capitalist Eden where chewing gum is illegal and a political prisoner serves out his sentence in a theme park; Laos -- a land still haunted by the periodic detonation of Vietnam War-era bombs along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and where a Buddhist perestroika blossoms after decades of Communist oppression.

These are "the lands of charm and cruelty" that Stan Sesser renders with such immediacy and insight in his reports from Southeast Asia. Whether he is in Cambodia, observing the eerie comeback of the Khmer Rouge, or in Burma, where the military regime rampages on days divisible by nine and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate lives under house arrest, Sesser writes with an unfailing eye for the nuances of place, profound sympathy for the struggles of ordinary people, and unsparing attention to the ways in which history has betrayed them."

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