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Hello, Shadowlands: Inside the Meth Fiefdoms, Rebel Hideouts and Bomb-Scarred Party Towns of Southeast Asia Paperback – 7 Jun 2018
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'Brilliantly crafted and thrilling to read. This is a page turner with soul - an evocative tour through places that are too often ignored.'
'Avoiding both sensationalism and moralizing, Patrick Winn takes his reader with somber elegance into Southeast Asia’s criminal underworld - and from more interesting perspectives than the usual drug dealers and traffickers. Here is a world as rich, contradictory and strange as any that one could think of.'
'In Hello, Shadowlands, Patrick Winn writes in a vibrant, readable style, uses years of hardcore field reporting and adds thought-provoking analysis to expose a side of global crime that we all need to better understand. His vivid descriptions take you deep into surreal and at times heartbreaking worlds but he also steps away to give wider meaning to these tales and their place in the economic and political systems. Anyone who wants to make sense of the dark side of modern global capitalism needs to read it.'
'Through a gripping narrative, Patrick Winn takes the reader on first-hand tour of Southeast Asia’s underworld - from the meth dens of Myanmar’s rugged Kachin State to Manila’s fetid slums where Duterte’s drug war has killed thousands, all the way to Central Vietnam where village mobs have murdered drug-addicted dog meat thieves. As Southeast Asia’s villages empty and its cities swell, the region seems caught in a bitter struggle between the powerful syndicates who control the $31 billion methamphetamine traffic and desperate citizen vigilantes who are determined to break the drug’s grip by any means necessary. Through vivid character portraits and deft anecdotes, Winn offers the reader an intimate, indelible portrait of a major world region in the throes of serious social change.'
'Drawing on a decade of on-the-ground reporting in Southeast Asia, Patrick Winn gives us a rare window into the subterranean depths of the region’s $100 billion organized crime underworld. Winn takes us from the narco-empires of Myanmar’s war-torn north to the slums of Manila, where crime rings peddle phony birth control elixirs to desperate young women. Hello, Shadowlands is a sweeping work of investigative journalism that reads like a thriller you can’t put down. Winn’s reporting on the men and women who run the region’s underworld is both sensitive and incisive. He demonstrates how the breakneck economic growth that has lifted so many fortunes in Southeast Asia has also set the stage for a new golden age of drug trafficking ― aided by corruption, despotism and the absence of law. Hello, Shadowlands is a quintessential read for anyone who wants to understand the dark side of Southeast Asia’s economic gains.'
'Not inappropriately billed as Fear and Loathing meets McMafia, this is a compelling expose of Southeast Asia’s criminal underworld, and the dark underbelly of some popular holiday destinations by an award-winning US journalist resident in Thailand. Reporting from Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, he tells the often deeply moving human stories behind the organized crime and corruption rife in the region, whether it be the massive trade in candy-colored meth, or hostesses trained by the North Korean regime. I found the chapters on Myanmar particularly illuminating in the light of recent headlines about that troubled country.'
So addictive that it has me chasing down everything else he has written .... It’s hard to say what is more potent in Hello, Shadowlands: Winn’s rich characterisation, his canny reportage or the way his interrogation of the past illuminates 21st-century Southeast Asia and its criminal networks.
Winn’s journalistic skills remain firmly in charge throughout ... an intelligent and timely glimpse into a region of the world rapidly growing in importance, and ensures you’ll never think about Southeast Asia in the same way ever again.
Great Read....It’s a fascinating piece of journalism and Winn makes sure the subjects of his interviews and the overarching political, cultural and sometimes religious atmosphere they live under take the spotlight.
- Belfast Telegraph
From the Author
Patrick Winn is an award-winning American journalist who covers crime in Southeast Asia. His work has appeared on NBC News, The Atlantic, the BBC and other outlets. Currently the Asia correspondent for Public Radio International, each week Winn’s voice is heard by millions on NPR stations. Since 2008, he has lived in Bangkok and reported almost exclusively on Southeast Asia.See all Product description
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This is also the premise of Patrick Winn’s book Hello, Shadowlands: Inside the Meth Fiefdoms, Rebel Hideouts and Bomb-Scarred Party Towns of Southeast Asia. (The original title of the uncorrected proof copy I received from the publisher prior to a discussion on organised crime in Southeast Asia at Chatham House, a think tank in London, was Hello, Shadowlands: Inside Southeast Asia’s Organized Crime Wave. A recording of the Chatham house discussion with Winn is available on the think tank's website).
In Hello, Shadowlands, Winn argues that Southeast Asia is in the midst of an organised crime wave that is fuelled by the weakness of the region’s governments. Unable to police their territory, criminal activities flourish in the shadow of Southeast Asian states.
To support his argument, Winn examines various forms of what in his view constitutes organised crime in Southeast Asia. The six chapters in the book explore methamphetamine consumption in Myanmar and how a militant Christian militia (Pat Jasan) is trying to contain the country’s drug epidemic by beating up drug consumers before incarcerating them in private “rehabilitation” centres; the black market for abortion pills in the conservative Philippines; eateries in Thailand run by the North Korean government in search for hard currency; Islamic “terrorists” targeting karaoke bars and sex workers in Thailand’s deep south; as well as vigilante groups that kill dog thieves on the payroll of Vietnam’s culinary establishment.
Winn, an American journalist who has been reporting out of Bangkok for several years, knows the region well, which is evident from the carefully researched chapters. At the same time, a close reading of his vignettes calls into question his assumption that organised crime is thriving in those areas of Southeast Asia where the state is absent.
Arguably, states are at the heart of criminal activities in Southeast Asia. There is ample evidence that military and government officials at the highest level are involved in the production and sales of methamphetamine in Myanmar, while their Thai counterparts are have a stake in human trafficking and the country’s flourishing sex industry. In Cambodia and Laos, the government plays an important role in the logging of protected tropical hardwood and the exotic wildlife trade. Meanwhile, in Indonesia the military and the police compete for control over natural resources and protection rackets in the mining sector. In the Philippines, family dynasties have controlled the legal and illegal economy ever since having captured the local state during the US-American colonial period, while Singapore has been named one the world’s main centres for money laundering by the US Treasury in May 2018.
In addition, despite Western governments and multilateral donor agencies such as the World Bank tirelessly pointing out that Southeast Asia’s economies are so vibrant because they are solidly based on market principles, the overwhelming number of Southeast Asian companies depend, defend and profit from heavily cartelised domestic economies. As Joe Studwell has shown in Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia (London: Grove Press, 2008), at the heart of almost every successful Asian conglomerate lies the monopolistic control over a concession or license. These can range from monopolies over the gambling industry reminiscent of colonial-era vice farms (Henry Fok’s Sociedade de Turismo e Diverseos de Macau [STDM], which runs the gambling industry in Macau, is a case in point) to import monopolies for livestock, flour, spices, sugar and coconuts. While diverse in terms of economic rents they create, these monopolies all have in common that they have been granted to Asian “entrepreneurs” by government officials and politicians.
In short, it is not so much the absence than the presence of the state that facilitates and shapes the contours of organised crime in Southeast Asia, an argument made already twenty years ago by John Sidel in Capital, Coercion, and Crime (Stanford University Press, 1999).
The intimate connection between the state and organised crime across Southeast Asia makes the latter a difficult subject to study. Much of it happens “within” the state and little information is therefore to come within the purview of academics and journalists with an interest in such matters. This is amply shown by the fact that most accounts of “organised crime” in Winn’s book are based on interviews with fairly ordinary petty criminals, including meth users, abortion pill dealers and sex workers at the receiving end of moral crusades waged by vigilante groups in the name of Islam. This is perhaps why Winn’s book does not provide any new insights into crystal meth production, the role the Thai military plays in the trafficking of Rohingya refugees, or the role Singapore’s finance sector plays in money laundering in Southeast Asia.
Arguably, Hello, Shadowlands is then not so much an analysis of organised crime in Southeast Asia but an account of how ordinary citizens at the receiving end of systemic and endemic corruption, private sector rent-seeking, arbitrary law enforcement and predatory bureaucracies try to survive and make ends meet. Winn is giving such invisible people a voice, and this is why his book should be read by scholars, development practitioners, and tourists travelling to the region.
Michael Buehler is a Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. His latest book, The Politics of Shari’a Law: Islamic Activists and the State in Democratizing Indonesia, was published in paperback by Cambridge University Press in March 2018.
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The journey you will take includes Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam. You'll meet drug dealers, users and those who punish them. Thai Bar girls on the border of Malaysia where an insurgency is taking place. North Korean hostesses in Thailand and the truth of their lives. Dog thieves and traders in Vietnam. and those who hunt the thieves.
Were I teaching a class on SE Asia this would be required reading.
Brilliant book indeed!
Rich with detail and minutiae, Winn does a better job than anyone of conveying what it actually feels like to live in the ordered chaos of that part of the world.
Winn spent a decade absorbing the Thai language and the millions of comic-tragic contradictions that form the fabric of life inside police states where the cops are so often found passed out drunk at the wheels of their busted official vehicles.
He lets us know that the place is funny and beautiful and terrible all at once.
In the course of 400 tight pages, Winn has donuts with an aging Islamic insurgent (and Vietnam Veteran) who hopes that America will convince Bangkok to relinquish the tropical sultanate along its southern border. He smokes opium with the corrupt Burmese policemen charged with ridding its northern border regions of methamphetamines. And he spends an astonishing few pages taking the confession of a recalcitrant Vietnamese dog rustler.
Winn's also careful to reveal the sorts of jokes told by the Filipina herbalists who offer women in their country homeopathic abortifacients. He lets us know that life inside Pyonyang's state-owned musical academy wasn't (relatively speaking) all that bad.
The utter collapse of print journalism in our lifetime sent a wave of flotsam careening out of the US toward third world markets. Most hoped to play (just a little while longer) at writing and reporting before technology came and took the job away for good.
For those who rode that wave, Patrick Winn was a rare and baffling star. In an industry only barely sustained by NGO press releases, open bars and the fear of China--very few ventured out into sticky night to do any actual reporting. Fewer still bothered to write well about what they found.
Winn did all of these things. Please buy, read and share his book.