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Notes From The Editor: Power

This week our stories focus on power. First, Thailand is looking for more power sources and is even going across the border to Laos, where the Thai government has built a coal plant. However, a previous similar project in Thailand made local villagers sick, with some people even dying. Will the same thing happen all over again in Laos? Martin Lowe investigates.

 

Then we turn to a lighter story about a group of women who found unexpected empowerment in their work. Copmadam is a shop that turns old materials into handbags and other items. Our reporter, Michal Bardavid, initially set out to do a story about the shop itself and the recycling of old materials – but she quickly found out there was another story begging to be told. We hope you enjoy the show!


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Notes From The Editor: Fighters

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Notes From The Editor: Fighters

The theme for this week’s program is ‘fighters’. All three stories feature people who persevere in the face of adversity. First is an inspiring story from Lebanon, whose conflicted history is reflected today by the extraordinary number of unexploded bombs and mines that are still buried underground. Natalie Carney follows the people tasked with clearing the land, and also meets some wonderful characters who haven’t let amputations (as a result of explosives accidents) get in the way of their love of football. Our next story is about the courageous individuals who are fighting to eradicate polio in Afghanistan, where polio is rampant. It’s a tough task and many workers have sacrificed their lives to do their job, when political conflicts have put them in the crosshairs, as Maeva Bambuck reports. Finally, we have the story of a woman in India who suffered a terrible acid attack. But rather than hide herself away, she has become vocal in the fight against her attackers and others who have committed similar crimes. As Karishma Vyas reports, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to stand up and fight those whose aim is to maim and disfigure. 

 

Watch the episode HERE.

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Notes From The Editor: Pakistan's Madrassas

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Notes From The Editor: Pakistan's Madrassas

On this episode of Assignment Asia, our correspondent Danial Khan investigates the roots of the Pakistani madrassa, the core of religious education for many Pakistanis. Over the last 15 years or so, these schools have come under intense scrutiny for providing an atmosphere that fosters religious extremism - seen today in a post-9/11 world, with the rise of groups like ISIL and the Taliban. Danial takes us through the history of the madrassa and talks to experts to give us a more in-depth picture of this traditional educational institution. We hope you enjoy this episode!

Watch the episode here.

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Notes From The Editor: Pressure

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Notes From The Editor: Pressure

People come under pressure in so many different ways, and that's our focus for this episode of Assignment Asia. First, our Washington, DC-based correspondent Sean Callebs chronicles the training of new recruits in the Afghan Army who represent the wide array of Afghanistan's ethnic groups, and will be tasked with securing their nation. Then we meet a group of volunteer firefighters in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, who risk everything to come to the rescue. Then we take a look at the young aspiring ping-pong champions in China who are willing to do anything to make it big.

Hope you enjoy the show! (Click HERE to view)

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Notes From the Editor: Identity

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Notes From the Editor: Identity

In today’s globalized world, not everyone’s identity is as easily defined as it may have been in the past. With more people moving around from one country to another, the ethnic, linguistic and cultural lines are becoming more diverse.

The two men in our first story, a musical duo of brothers called Soler, are a perfect example. Their mother and father are from two vastly different cultures, so these young men are defining themselves through their music, and over the years the music itself has taken on multiple identities. Barnaby Lo profiles this interesting pair and explains how they evolved over the years.

Then we have a fantastic story about how one woman who turned a difficult childhood into a sort of super-hero character in her career. As a professional female wrester, Japanese icon Aja Kong comes out winning – literally.

Finally, we have a touching story about a blind woman who was raised on tough love and let nothing get in the way of living like everyone else. Her story is an inspiration for anyone who faces a challenge in life, including a physical disability.

We hope you enjoy the show! (Click HERE to view the show)

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Notes From The Editor: Special: Thai Prison Boxers

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Notes From The Editor: Special: Thai Prison Boxers

Our story this week is a tale of hope in a situation that could be seen as hopeless. Our reporter Dusita Chumsri looks at how the traditional martial art of Muay Thai is giving Thai prisoners a chance to focus on something besides a life behind bars. For some, it’s also a ticket out of prison. The story of our main character, Chalermporn Sawatsuk, is truly touching. He tells us how he ended up in prison, and how Muay Thai shined a light on what could have been a very bleak future. This is story with an ending that is not easily forgotten.

We hope you enjoy the show! (Click HERE to view)

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With Tang Bo At Sun Village

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With Tang Bo At Sun Village

Sun Village is located past the Beijing Capital Airport, and if you’re familiar with Beijing, that is quite far from the city center. We set out early one morning to meet the children who live there as well as the woman who started Sun Village, a home for children whose parent(s) are in prison.

Tang Bo had already told me about a set of young triplets he met when he first visited. The Chen triplets’ mother killed their father a few years before and one of the boys saw it with his own eyes. Can you imagine witnessing such a horrific event? As a five-year-old?

 The most touching moment in all of our filming at Sun Village was when Tang Bo interviewed the triplets. The three of them stood side-by-side facing Tang Bo, while I and the cameraman stood at a distance behind the boys. At one point, when Tang Bo was talking with the triplets, one of them grabbed the hand of another, presumably because he was nervous or scared. It was sweet and sad at the same time. Then we found out from one of the caregivers that the triplets are having a hard time and really are traumatized, and they have trouble getting along with the other children.

We knew there were mostly children and teenagers at Sun Village, but on our visit we met a young man called Ma Jiacai. He spent half his childhood in Sun Village and after a few years away (he became an adult and did some migrant work), he went back to help. When he was interacting with the other children you could tell he has a ‘big brother’ persona, and the kids look up to him.

Ma Jiacai’s story of how he came to Sun Village is incredible. Its founder, Zhang Shuqin, told us that years ago, Ma’s father contacted her from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in central China and asked if she could take his son. He was being executed for killing Ma Jiacai’s mother and the boy had nobody to take care of him. Zhang considered the request but she wasn’t sure if she could provide accommodations for Ma Jiacai because he is Muslim and required certain foods and facilities in keeping with his religion.

But one night she said to herself that she knew the answer: of course she had to do something to help this boy. He was only nine years old. So she says she flew out to Ningxia to pick up Ma Jiacai and take him back with her to Beijing. By the time they arrived in Beijing, Ma’s father had already been executed. To me this was an incredible story and like nothing I had ever heard before.

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Some of these children will spend the rest of their childhoods at Sun Village until they become adults. For the triplets, at the time of our filming, their mother had only a few more years of her prison sentence left. By the time she’s released, the boys will still be of school age, and I can’t imagine how difficult it will be for her to raise three sons by herself.  (Click HERE to view)

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Notes from the Editor: Left Behind

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Notes from the Editor: Left Behind

From Indonesia to Vietnam to China, our program this week focuses on the lives of children – all of whom have had significant challenges in one way or another. 

First to Indonesia, where millions of children are ‘lost’ to the system because their parents didn’t register them at birth. That means no free access to public services like school and healthcare. The government is aware of the problem, but trying to make things easier isn’t so simple. Many parents don’t know how to wade through the details of the system or don’t know what services are available to help them figure it out.

The U.S. presence in Vietnam is not just a piece of history, it has left a legacy that is literally seen in many people today. In this story, we look at how the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam has carried down physical defects and deformities from generation to generation. This story is not easy to watch, but it’s important to see. 

Our third story is about children who are ‘left behind’ because one or both of their parents is in prison and there is no one else to care for them. A former prison worker saw how this affected parents behind bars, so she decided to help the children of prisoners by providing them with a home. In northeastern Beijing, this home is called Sun Village, where kids have clothing, food and access to schools. But they’re also learning a valuable skill - how to work in a garden. 

We hope you enjoy the show! (Click HERE to view)

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Notes From the Editor: Extraordinary Education

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Notes From the Editor: Extraordinary Education

It’s been said many times that the best ticket out of poverty is to get an education. And for the young characters in our first story, that’s just the case. These are Filipino children who go to great lengths, literally, to get to school, sometimes without breakfast or lunch. It’s heartbreaking but at the same time it gives you hope – that their future might be brighter than the struggles they endure today.

 Our next story is about an experiment in China that is just breaking ground. We travel to Shanghai where we learn how a few schools are helping boys develop more ‘male-oriented’ roles as they make their way into adulthood. In a society where the mother has more influence over a child’s education, some experts say Chinese boys aren’t growing into the men of generations past. As a result, there is a growing demand by parents for the schools to step in, and one mother says she already sees a difference in her young son as a result of this program.

Finally, if ever there were an example of how an education can help a person out of poverty, it’s with our next story. Anil hit a stroke of luck (pun intended) when he beat a top amateur in golf, an experience that paid off and gave him a reprieve from the daily life in the slums of Mumbai. Now he’s trying to pay it forward by helping others learn to play golf so that they too have a chance at a better life.

We hope you enjoy the show! (click HERE to view).

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Notes From the Editor: Care

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Notes From the Editor: Care

Each story in this episode of Assignment Asia is emotionally gripping. First we meet a man who has been granted special access to one of the most dangerous zones in Karachi, Pakistan to clean up the mess left behind by violence. One important part of his job is to try to keep his emotions out of it – but every day he’s on call there is a new tragedy to clean up after. This is the story of a very brave man.

Then we go to Afghanistan, where we meet the midwives who are helping women when it comes to maternal health, from family planning to childbirth. Without the help of a midwife, many Afghan women are isolated during their pregnancy and even in childbirth. These midwives often go great distances to bring care to the women, and in a small way it’s also given women a new voice.

And finally, dealing with a death in the family can be awful, and even worse when it’s your child. We have the story of a woman in Indonesia who is turning the tragic loss of her daughter into hope for others with disabilities. This is an inspiring tale that shows how getting outside yourself can bring about the best kind of healing.

Please enjoy the program (click HERE to view).

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Reporter's Notes - Escape From Sabah

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Reporter's Notes - Escape From Sabah

There are over 10 million Filipinos working overseas, so chances are, if you ask a Filipino – any Filipino – if he has a relative or knows someone living abroad, the answer you’ll get is a yes. Ask me: I have an aunt who is a doctor in New York, cousins in Canada and Taiwan, friends in the Middle East. And each migrant – each member of the so-called Filipino diaspora – has a story.

I met 24-year old Darwisa Mibahar on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah. Sam, as she’s known to her family and friends, is from the island of Sulu in the Southern Philippines. But she’s spent many years of her life in Sabah. She’s worked on palm oil plantations and when I met her, she was working at a construction site together with two of her younger brothers.

Despite their hard work, they barely made enough for a decent meal. They were living with about half a dozen other people in what I can only describe as a shoebox of a house within a compound of mostly Filipino migrants – ILLEGAL migrants, that is.

It wasn’t easy living as an illegal, Sam told me then, but it was becoming riskier by the day. When I met her, the political atmosphere was tense. Militants from the Southern Philippines had just invaded a village in Lahad Datu. A standoff with Malaysian forces ensued, shots were fired, and in the end, dozens of lives were lost. The militants blended in with the local population, so suddenly, Malaysian authorities were watching every Filipino very closely.

It was then that Sam decided it was time for her and her brothers to go home. And we decided to follow them in what we’d find out later was a harrowing journey. They came to Sabah illegally, they could only get out illegally.

We drove for about 10 hours from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. The next day, a small fishing boat took us to the middle of the sea, where a cargo boat – known in the Philippines as a “lantsa” – was waiting to take passengers back to the Southern Philippines. When night fell, we were asked to turn all lights off, turn our cellphones off, and keep quiet. We were about to sail, but we needed to be discreet enough to not be spotted by the Malaysian Coast Guard. (What baffles me though is that despite being told that, there was a Malaysian police vessel almost just across our boat the whole time.)

It wasn’t my first time on a “lantsa,” but we sailed for hours and hours and hours. Night turned into day; day turned into night. There was nowhere to sit, nowhere to lay down, except for the cold, hard, insect-infested wooden ground inside the vessel. Luckily, it wasn’t too crowded. Before leaving Sandakan, I saw at least two vessels bound for the Philippines that had people sitting on the roof.

After more than 30 hours, we reached Jolo, the capital of Sulu. We spent the night there, and the next day, we drove another three or four hours to Sam’s village. Finally, they were home. Unfortunately for myself and my cameraman, we were about to embark on another journey back to Sabah, the same way we came to Sulu.

We had to - or we’d be illegals in Malaysia ourselves. But this time around, it was twice as difficult. It took us five long days before a crew allowed us on; most of them were apprehensive about taking on a television news crew. When we were finally on a boat, there was no space for us but on the exposed upper deck. And when it rained, we got soaked. When huge waves rocked the boat almost like it was about to turn upside down, we had to hang on really tight. I shut my eyes the whole time. And when the sea finally calmed down and darkness turned into light, I saw my white shirt – and my skin – literally turn black. Turns out smoke was blowing directly on me the whole time.

A day later, we reached the Philippines’ Turtle Islands. We were told the cargo vessel could no longer travel, as security in Malaysia was tight and the water approaching Sandakan was shallow. So we took a small motorized fishing boat to Sandakan and true enough, as we were closing in on the coast, we hit some very shallow waters. The boatmen took us around a mangrove instead, and at that point, I felt nervous. I didn’t know if we could trust the people we were with.

We landed in a shanty community above a filthy, muddy network of canals. There was now a real possibility that we could get kidnapped, I thought. There have been cases of Abu Sayyaf-linked militants capturing their victims in Sabah before taking them to either Sulu or Basilan, their strongholds in the Southern Philippines.

We stopped near what looked like a relatively big, sturdy tree, and then we climbed our way up to the stilts that were holding the shanties together. Instead of harming us though, a couple of men there helped us carry our luggage and equipment while we were balancing and making our way very slowly along the stilt walkways. And as I approached the main road, I realized then just how uncertain and perilous a journey like this really is for migrants like Sam. Yet oftentimes, they have little choice but to make the journey. They risk their lives for a little luck, for some money, so that they can put food on their family’s table.

This is the story of one Filipino migrant worker. A story that’s no stranger to many other Filipino migrant workers.

Watch the Episode ...HERE

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Notes From the Editor: Escape from Sabah

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Notes From the Editor: Escape from Sabah

When I first watched this story that CCTV’s Barnaby Lo filed for Assignment Asia, I was touched by the sacrifices our main character, Darwisa Mibahar – better known as Sam – has made in her life. She has grown up shuttling herself between the resort area of Sabah in Malaysia – where she worked as an undocumented laborer – and her home in the southern Philippines.

In this story, according to Sam, it’s her last journey home from Sabah. She has no plans to go back. But beneath it all, I couldn’t help but think, what must it be like to leave your best friend? Or to reunite with your family after such a long time away? This is a story that has so many layers and emotions. It’s amazing to be able to follow Sam’s journey home.

We hope you enjoy this episode.

 

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Notes From the Editor: Communities

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Notes From the Editor: Communities

Communities are all about helping one another or coming together in good times and in bad. On this episode of Assignment Asia, we take a closer look at how different communities are protecting themselves, preparing themselves or celebrating themselves.

First, in the small South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, we see firsthand how sea levels are a threat to the local population – but it’s not stopping Tuvaluans from enjoying life. Then we go to Japan, a place that is no stranger to earthquakes, including the one in 2011, which led to a catastrophic tsunami. We meet scientists and experts who are developing ways to minimize damage to Japan’s buildings if such an event happens again. Finally, we travel to India, where we find the touching story of a village that is not only proud of its baby girls, but dedicates itself to celebrating them.

YOU CAN WATCH THE FULL EPIDISODE HERE - http://youtu.be/VK0eiHOpWQI

We hope you enjoy this episode.

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Episode 1 - Conflict

Four point three billion people live across this vast continent of Asia and we are telling their stories. In this edition, conflict. Rangers in Thailand in the forest on the hunt for poachers and smugglers. In Myanmar the war is over, but the casualties grow. Weapons in the ground that in a second, forever changed these peoples way of life. Also in the Middle East two fathers, one Palestinian and one Israeli see their worst nightmares come true. They come together for peace.

Episode 1 airs at 9.30 AM Beijing Standard Time on CCTV News. The episode will be available online later in the day.

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CALLING ASIA-BASED VIDEOGRAPHERS

We are looking to find the best videographers from across Asia (at least one from every country) to work with us on our new multimedia program Assignment Asia.

Each week, we will feature up to four short documentaries about current affairs issues from across the region both on the CCTV News channel and across a range of multimedia online products.

If you are an experienced, creative documentary videographer and are interested in working with us, please use the contact button to send us links to some examples of your work.

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Announcing 'Assignment Asia'

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CCTV News is working on a new current affairs program to begin broadcasting in early 2014.

Assignment Asia will feature reports, interviews and first-person accounts to highlight issues and reflect the vibrant and diverse cultures that make up this vast continent.

Assignment Asia is driven by strong characters. Through their personal stories, we uncover social issues that affect a wider population.

Assignment Asia is visually stunning, using some of the most creative visual storytellers from across the region.

Most importantly, Assignment Asia is about storytelling. Not just reporting facts.

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