Media & Business

“Rare Treasure” Mekong Review Folds

Writers have expressed their sadness after the iconic Mekong Review announced it was folding after seven years of producing thoughtful essays and reports on the region
Cover of an article Book lane on the Mekong Review. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Cover of an article Book lane on the Mekong Review. Kiripost/Siv Channa

There has been an outpouring of support for the Mekong Review, which after seven years of thoughtful essays and reports on Southeast Asia, has folded.

The periodical was a rare treasure and took on the arts, literature and history as politics as business. Its contributors said the magazine provided a space for new writers — as well as more experienced writers to stretch their wings.

The Asian literary magazine, which was founded in 2015 in Cambodia’s Kampot province, published quarterly. It announced in a tweet on August 22 that it is ending its run under current management.

The Review is also calling for anyone interested in acquiring the magazine to keep its legacy alive.

“Keep an eye out for our 'Best of' anthology later this year as a thank you to our loyal readers,” the review said.

The Review’s August-October issue unfortunately, due to a lack of funds, could only be printed in a limited number and distribution is restricted to Singapore, London and Oxford.

Cover of the Mekong Review appreciation. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Cover of the Mekong Review appreciation. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Award-winning journalist Elizabeth Becker said the Mekong Review was a rare treasure. In these days of saturation media, the Mekong Review was an oasis of thoughtful essays and reporting on the region. She added that editor Minh Bui Jones took the arts, literature and history as seriously as politics and business, which are the usual fare of news from the region.

“I would get pleasantly lost in some of the issues, reading deep and well-written articles one could find nowhere else,” Becker told Kiripost.

“The Mekong Review lifted the conversation, expanded our view and enriched our spirits precisely because it showed an intense appreciation of the nations of Southeast Asia. That is its legacy,” she said.

Becker said it was also a delight to write for the Review. Her pieces include You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War Dateline Vietnam - Mekong Review and A bright light A bright light - Mekong Review

Sebastian Strangio is the author of a book on Cambodia’s Hun Sen and was a contributor to the Review. His pieces include City of light City of light - Mekong Review, which talks about Preah Sihanouk province turning into a gambling mecca.

Strangio said despite experiencing a near-death several years ago, the impending demise of the Mekong Review is a melancholy development for its readers and contributors alike.

“The Review created something that had never previously existed: a literary review focusing on mainland Southeast Asia: a repository of literary non-fiction and poetry and a forum for searching discussions about the region’s art, politics, and culture – all from the standpoint of the region itself,” Strangio told Kiripost.

“Despite only existing for seven short years, the Review accumulated a small but dedicated readership, and will leave a considerable vacuum at the heart of the region’s literary scene,” he added.

Abby Seiff’s contributions to the Review include Street spirit Street spirit - Mekong Review and The Tonle Sap, The Tonle Sap - Mekong Review.

Seiff, who is the author of the Troubling the Water, said it is a pity that the Review is closing and the magazine is a unique and special publication.

“I think the particularly special thing was the space it gave for new writers — as well as for more experienced writers to stretch their wings,” Seiff told Kiripost.

Seiff said the magazine allowed many journalists to try their hands at a more literary style, with a beautiful outcome. She hopes investors will come in and recognize the value of the publication.

“Mekong Review was a truly unique publication, filling a gap regionally that's not covered by other magazines. On a stylistic level, there's really few places that publish this type of blend of literary reportage, book reviews, fiction, and essays.”

“The magazine featured such beautiful and important writing on Southeast and East Asia — stuff that's really not covered in this way elsewhere,” Seiff added.

Seiff said that even on a global level, this is the rare magazine that published completely new writers alongside stars. Minh had a real eye for seeking out and championing new talent — a human legacy that will last forever, Seiff said.

Cover of the Mekong Review August-October issue. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Cover of the Mekong Review August-October issue. Kiripost/Siv Channa

“Apart from that, I think a special thing about the Mekong Review was not just the pages it was printed on but the community around it. So many people were involved in getting it out in big and small ways and you can see from the outpouring of support on Twitter how meaningful this publication was not just in Asia but across the world.”