KETR

Michael Sullivan

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Southeast Asia's largest lake is under threat, and with it, an entire ecosystem. Dams, overfishing and this year, drought, have brought the Cambodian lake to what may be a breaking point. Michael Sullivan reports.

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In the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet, workers are putting the final touches on the grandstand for Bon Om Touk, the annual water festival which begins this weekend. It's a huge party—the country pretty much shuts down for the three-day holiday, with dragon boat races and plenty of drink and dance.

It's a celebration of the water's bounty. This year, though, there will be less to celebrate.

There's food that's old. There's food that has gone bad. And then there's soup that has been simmering for 45 years.

In Bangkok, customers can't get enough of the latter at Wattana Panich, a noodle soup joint in the trendy Ekkamai neighborhood, where third-generation owner Nattapong Kaweeantawong wants to clear up what he thinks is a popular misconception about his beef soup.

Pinyo Pukpinyo, 50, remembers the first time he was sent to remove a snake from someone's house. It was a 14 1/2-ft. python, high up in the rafters waiting for its prey 16 years ago.

"There were four of us, and I was really scared," he says. "We didn't have any experience, but we wrestled him down and got the hoop around his neck" — a kind of snare — "but he was very strong. And after we put him in the sack, we had to remove the hoop from his head, and that's the dangerous part, because at any time he's ready to bite you."

South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world. But that level of connectivity is a double-edged sword in a society that some experts say is becoming increasingly addicted to the Internet and where 95% of adults own a smartphone.

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It's early Friday evening, at a small municipal stadium in Bangkok. The sun is going fast, but the rally for the pro-military Palang Pracharath party is just getting started.

Candidate Watchara Kannika is on the stage, warning would-be voters to keep out the "liars" and vote for "the truth." That truth, he says, is the country's coup-leader-turned prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who toppled an elected government five years ago.

How's this for adventure tourism? A close encounter with a 10-foot long lizard with razor-sharp teeth and a venomous bite from a mouth swimming in noxious bacteria.

A couple in Hanoi is watching the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week with particular interest.

The husband, from Vietnam, and the wife, from North Korea, had to overcome enormous obstacles to be together. Their love was forbidden for decades by authorities on both sides. But eventually, they triumphed.

Both North Korea and Vietnam are one-party Communist states that have fought bitter wars against the U.S. But unlike North Korea, Vietnam normalized relations with the U.S. and has grown and prospered — something North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will see firsthand this week while he's in Hanoi for his second summit meeting with President Trump. The U.S. and many in Vietnam hope Kim will also see Vietnam's experience as a model for his own country.

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Sriracha sauce. It's everywhere. Even beer and donuts. The fiery chili paste concocted by Vietnamese-American immigrant David Tran has conquered the American market and imagination in the past decade.

But the original Sriracha is actually Thai — and comes from the seaside city of Si Racha, where most residents haven't even heard of the U.S. brand, which is now being exported to Thailand.

Last winter, when Chung Soo-young saw a man rushing out of the women's restroom at a chain coffee shop in downtown Seoul, the first thing she did was to scan all stalls in search of a hidden camera. Like many other South Korean women, Chung, 26, constantly worries that she could be secretly filmed in private moments. Her fear spiked, she says, when she saw the intruder and "realized I can actually be a victim."

Chinese tourists account for more visitors to Thailand — and much of Southeast Asia — than from any other country.

The Thai village of Sob Ruak, at the heart of the Golden Triangle region where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, is no exception. Tour buses routinely disgorge thousands of Chinese tourists to buy trinkets, snap selfies and tour the nearby Hall of Opium Museum. And it's not just tourists coming from China.

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Today a group of South Koreans boarded a bus and traveled to North Korea for reunions with relatives who became separated before and during the Korean War. NPR's Michael Sullivan joins us from Seoul. Hi, Michael.

Editor's note: This report includes some graphic descriptions of injuries and dead bodies.

In August 1950, 14-year-old Ahn Seung-choon was still asleep at home early one morning when her mother woke her up, screaming that her 17-year-old brother had been taken by North Korean soldiers.

"Someone took your brother, and you are still sleeping!" Ahn recalls her mother shouting. Her mother had tried to chase the boy and his abductors, but she had babies to take care of at home and couldn't follow them for long.

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After 10 years of marriage to a husband she says was a philanderer, and dealing with her suffocating in-laws, Alpa Go, a mom in Metro Manila, threw in the towel. She wanted out, for herself and her two children.

"I just wanted to cut ties with him," she said speaking in Tagalog. "If I ever achieve my goals, I don't want to do it carrying his name. And if I acquire properties in the future, I don't want to have to share with him. What if I'm gone?" she asks — meaning what if she's dead. "Then he would benefit instead of the kids."

Philippine lawyer Jude Sabio doesn't get out much these days — not after he accused his country's enormously popular president, Rodrigo Duterte, of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

"Nowadays I do not go out so much in public places," Sabio says. "Specifically, I'm afraid that I'll be killed at any time. Somebody will be just coming and pump a bullet into my head."

The Philippine island of Boracay is a tourist magnet, with its beaches regularly appearing on lists of the world's best. It's easy to see why.

"I think this is an amazing beach," says Frida Roemer from Copenhagen, lounging on the island's White Beach. "The clear water, the white sand ... I extended my ticket because I just liked it so much."

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Last month, at a Cabinet function on the lawn of Bangkok's Government House, deputy prime minister and defense minister Prawit Wongsuwan made a simple gesture: He raised his arm to shield his eyes from the sun.

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Thailand has said goodbye to the only king many Thais have ever known. Bhumibol Adulyadej was cremated late this evening in a lavish ceremony after a year of mourning. From Bangkok, Michael Sullivan reports.

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