Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy New Lunar Year


This map made me think about Communist China in a new way. It shows the economic reality of where people with the means can travel. Other areas, not so much. Taiwan: why is it a blank spot? How was this data collected? No way this is sustainable. As the current economic model fails to deliver, millions of people will be rather angry, unless there is much more enlightened leadership. China, as we know it, is much smaller and incredibly dense. No wonder the pollution is so high.

I have not yet visited China, and Kurashi could benefit from more information - but really, this image provides much more food for thought than a thousand words...

IBTimes: Chinese New Year 2014: Baidu Map Captures Mass Homeward Migration

Cars drive along a main road in central BeijingWith hundred of millions of people on the move within China for the start of the Year of the Horse, the phenomenon is the biggest human migration in the world.
In addition, millions more travel to China from overseas to celebrate the coming of the new year with friends and family.  The increase in travel is dubbed the Spring Festival Transport or Chunyun and lasts for around 40 days.
Baidu, China's largest search engine, has captured this incredible commute in an interactive map. It was created by logging data from smartphones equipped with Baidu Maps or other applications using its location-based platform.
The largest source of location-based date in China, Baidu Maps has over 200 million registered users and received more than 3.5 billion "position requests" every day as of August 2013.
The surge in commuters begins in the weeks before the start of the Lunar New Year, as Chinese citizens traverse the country to celebrate the coming of the Year of the Horse.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beans 1

I had to laugh when I found these genki beans in the back of my fridge. Captions, please!

I had forgotten about them, sorry to say, but they had other plans.

Like, "escape" or at least do the best beans can do.

"Hey guys, let's get out of this old pod!" "OK, make a break for it, all together now!" "Isn't it getting stinky in here, wouldn't mind a bit of a breather myself...?" "OH! Girls, I saw the light?!" "OH! I do belieeeve..." "Me toooo!"

Or something like that. Or, more likely, "Ahem, it is late January, genetically speaking we should all be starting to think about sprouting about, ahem, grin and bear it, around NOW..."

I did have mercy on most of them, and planted them in real soil. If there is a follow up, I'll let you all know. Thanks for reading Kurashi.

And isn't the photo just hilarious: "Kick!"

Monday, January 27, 2014

Japan Focus: WikiLeaks Article

My take on the recent WikiLeaks release of details about TPP is up on Japan Focus:

WikiLeaks and the Release of the Environment Report

WikiLeaks has done it again – made available important documents that governments and corporate interests have tried to keep secret from the general public. Until this new release, we had almost no idea what was going on within the secret Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations involving an extraordinarily diverse group of 12 large and small as well as rich and poor nations of East and Southeast Asia, Australasia, and North and South America. The twelve are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United State and Vietnam, with the US driving the agenda. South Korea and Taiwan have also indicated that they may want to join. This time, we get a glimpse of the status of the Environment Chapter with important implications for the people and nature of the region. In this cartoon accompanying the release, WikiLeaks shows Mickey Mouse crossing his fingers while promising that “Of course, the environment is in the TPP!” Note the corporate logos symbolizing Texaco and Apple, while the (usually copyrighted) Disney character is singing his merry tune to the crowd of birds and geese (or are they ducks?) representing environmental organization. Crossing fingers can mean wishing for luck but, of course, it also signifies breaking a promise. How appropriate. - Read it at: WikiLeaks and the Release of the Environment Report

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Japan Ranking, Toyota Number One?

We all like to compare, and here is how Bloomberg got Japan at 4th place among the world's most innovative countries.

4. Japan

Japan ranked fourth in Bloomberg's Global Innovation Index. Here is how the country ranked in the determining factors:
R&D intensity: 5th
Productivity: 14th
High-tech density: 8th
Researcher concentration: 9th
Manufacturing capability: 6th
Tertiary efficiency: 30th
Patent activity: 3rd

I would be much more impressed if Bloomberg added an energy capability to its index. And why not other factors related to environmental protection?

We all held our breaths, and sorry to say, Toyota once again is the world's number one car manufacturer. Too bad, I would say, as Japan has no idea how to supply the gasoline to promote a car-owning culture.

I know, they are awfully fuel efficient and they do the Prius and all of that, but come on, we are facing a future with massive emissions of carbon dioxide, and other man-made gasses and stuff that muck up the air children breathe... Ahem. BBC:

Prof Bailey said Toyota had "benefited greatly from Abenomics and the depreciation of the yen, both in making exports from Japan cheaper and in converting profits back into yen".
He added that in addition to this, the company has changed strategy and invested in the right kinds of new technology.
"The firm has weathered the storm over recalls and the earthquake and tsunami disruptions well. It has gone back to its core strategy of focusing on quality. The firm has also made the right bets on technology, in terms of developing hybrid technologies.
"These will be key technologies over the next few years and Toyota has led the way with them," he said.

I would advice, sell less cars and this planet of ours would be in a much better shape. I'm sure cities like Manilla that I had the pleasure to visit for a conference about food security, would do well to have less Toyotas, not more.

Some 80% of all cars in the Philippines are made by Japanese car makers, led by Toyota, many at local factories that provide jobs, of course. That is how Japan Inc. prevails, no doubt.

Thai made Toyota Corollas are now being exported to the Middle East and elsewhere, according to Nikkei, noting that Toyota wants to quadruple its exports from its Thai car factories...

More serious discussion about climate change issues:

The Rational Pessimist

But then again, most people seem to think they can have their cake and eat it...

Back in 2000 Japan "ranked third behind the U.S. and France in amounts of renewable energies introduced, according to the 2000 statistics of the IEA (International Energy Agency), but the percentage of such energies in primary energy supply is slightly lower than in other nations. As far as power generation is concerned, however, Japan tops all other developed nations with the exception of the U.S., and is roughly average among developed countries in terms of the percentage of renewable energies used in power generation."

I would really like to see clever Japanese engineers being more innovative when it comes to these issues!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stellar Links

Okinawa does it again: Mayor Susume wins in Nago, opposes US base construction

I have to agree with Ten Thousand Things, this is a moment for all to consider, like when Martin Luther King spoke of a "moral arch of justice" back in the 1960s in the US.

Fukushima local election results just as encouraging. Minamisoma mayor Katsunobu Sakurai won and will continue his fight against nuclear power. Mainichi Shinbun:

Sakurai's re-election victory over his two rivals with close ties to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is certain to put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to change its policy to restart idled nuclear reactors in Japan. Nuclear power is also expected to become a focal point of the Feb. 9 Tokyo gubernatorial election.
Whether to end nuclear power generation and whether idled nuclear reactors should be reactivated or not are also likely to become hot issues in a growing number of elections, even among municipalities that don't host nuclear power plants.
When initial reports about Sakurai's probable win reached his office in the city's Haramachi district, a beaming Sakurai said the electoral result represented the voters' sound judgment. ''I am aspiring to realize a nuclear-free society and build a Minamisoma that we can boast about to the world,'' he said, drawing big applause and cheers from about 200 supporters.
After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, Sakurai turned to the Internet to tell his city's plight to the world and was listed on TIME magazine's 100 most influential people that year.
Sakurai also serves as a facilitator for a council of municipal leaders, including former and current governors, mayors and village chiefs, who have been trying to get rid of nuclear power in Japan. He also played a major role in forcing Tohoku Electric Power Co. in 2013 to cancel the Namie-Odaka nuclear power plant project that was to saddle the town of Namie and Minamisoma's Odaka district. During the mayoral election campaign, he also called for expanding the anti-nuclear council of municipal leaders, challenging his two rivals who expressed their support for restarting nuclear reactors in other prefectures.
In Fukushima Prefecture, six incumbent mayors and village chiefs have failed in their re-election bids in the current fiscal year due to protracted reconstruction efforts. Sakurai won re-election partly because his two rivals failed to unite and settle on a single candidacy. During the election campaign, Sakurai tried to dodge criticism over slow restoration work, saying the number of residents in Minamisoma has risen to 52,000 from less than 10,000 at one point due to mass evacuations.
Sakurai's victory has buoyed the spirits of members of the anti-nuclear council of municipal leaders. Former Tokaimura village chief Tatsuya Murakami in Ibaraki Prefecture said Sakurai's re-election victory would make it difficult for the Abe government to restart nuclear reactors without any debate. He also said the victory would strengthen the hands of the anti-nuclear force in the Tokyo gubernatorial election and proposed fielding a unified anti-nuclear candidate.
Kosai Mayor Hajime Mikami in Shizuoka Prefecture said voters have the final say in the nation's energy policy. He said the anti-nuclear movement should also be a focal point in municipalities that do not host nuclear facilities.

Mark Seldon: Bombs Bursting in Air

Time - perhaps - to reconsider our views on the civilian suffering during WW2 in East Asia. It wasn't just atomic bombs. Where is the outrage, concern, compassion at all the other air raids? Having said that, there are numerous smaller monuments all over cities like Tokyo to the victims, including in Shinjuku. Image of mother and child by Shin Kohno, at the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage.

And of course the conventional aerial bombing campaigns also affected people in China, Korea, The Philippines... And then in Vietnam, and Laos. How fortunate we have been in this part of the world, recently, to avoid such carnage, for such a relatively long time... Namu Amida Butsu...

New large earthquake in New Zealand today: Hobbit eagle has landed...

We are all on the "ring of fire" and here's to hoping we are all safe. 19 years since the Kobe earthquake, this month. Asahi Shinbun:

KOBE--Early on a cold winter morning, mourners packed a park here on Jan. 17 to remember the exact moment when the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck 19 years ago, devastating the city and killing 6,434 people.
Local residents, survivors of the earthquake and others offered a silent prayer at 5:46 a.m. on the 19th anniversary of the disaster at Higashi Yuenchi park.
Starting from 5 a.m., the park hosted a memorial ceremony in which about 10,000 bamboo lanterns lit from a memorial gas lamp at the park named “Light of Hope” were laid in the form of "1.17."
Flames from the lamp were used to light other lamps and lanterns at early-morning memorial gatherings at five sites in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, which were hit hard by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The aging survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake have voiced a growing concern over the fading memory of the disaster, while the reconstruction of the city has continued.

Claudio Abbado has passed away. A great classical conductor. He was 80. That means he was just around my age now when I had the pleasure and the wonderful opportunity to sing in the Malmö Symphony Chorus that he visited to conduct when I was in High School... We performed Brahms, a special tune called the "Song of Destiny" with a full orchestra. What a lesson that was. How fortunate I and my friends were, and how nervous we were, and glad when it was all over. There is even a Swedish Radio broadcast of the entire thing. We were that good. RIP.

Here is a version with Zubin Mehta conducting... 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Amy Goodman, Colin Crouch In Japan: Revival Of Democracy In The Global Age?

If you follow Democracy Now! you will be interested in the one day seminar at Sophia University in Tokyo on Saturday, featuring Amy Goodman and Colin Crouch as speakers. More information here.

A day-long symposium hosted by the Institute for Global Concern, Sophia University.
Doors open 9:30 am, program from 10 am–17:45.
Featuring keynote addresses by Amy Goodman and Colin Crouch.
Event is free, but pre-registration is required, as seating is limited.
To register, or for more information, call or email:
Phone: 03-3238-3023 (Institute of Global Concern, Sophia University)
please cc: all email registration requests to

It has been an interesting week for those who follow the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations as Wikileaks managed to get hold of and share important documents related to the Environment Chapter. Still massive disagreement among the 12 countries that are trying to seal this anti-democratic trade pact, according to the files. Not much yet in Japanese media about this new leak but the New York Times wrote:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is retreating from previous demands of strong international environmental protections in order to reach agreement on a sweeping Pacific trade deal that is a pillar of President Obama’s strategic shift to Asia, according to documents obtained by WikiLeaks, environmentalists and people close to the contentious trade talks.
The negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be one of the world’s biggest trade agreements, have exposed deep rifts over environmental policy between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. As it stands now, the documents, viewed by The New York Times, show that the disputes could undo key global environmental protections.
The environmental chapter of the trade deal has been among the most highly disputed elements of negotiations in the pact. Participants in the talks, which have dragged on for three years, had hoped to complete the deal by the end of 2013. (...)

That together with the growing opposition in the US to Fast Track authority, which would make it impossible for US Congress to make any demands or changes once the negotiators from the 12 countries have agreed on the TPP, makes the debate even more worthwhile right now.

Democracy Now! has more about the TPP debate: Japan Remains Hotbed of TPP Protest as U.S. Tries to Fast-Track Trade Deal, Crush Environmental Laws

On Sunday, Amy Goodman will talk in Kyoto, and on Monday at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo.

Interview with Colin Crouch, author of such books as Post Democracy and The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Farmers Markets 2014 And Much More

So much going on here with all kinds of farmers markets and marche events and promotions for islands and local fairs...

Atenna shops too a great way to make your local foods known in the big cities. Add to that parties and invitation-only deals. I like it a lot.

My Kodansha 2009 book was all about making it obvious that Japan has to celebrate its culinary roots. Be that seasonal - in January I love the decopon citrus, as well as other green veggies and fruits and berries that we can only enjoy around this cold season.

Top image from Nagiru

I think we will see more and more of independent markets, in 2014.

It is happening in Osaka, too. And in Beijing!!

The Beijing Farmers’ Market began life as a foreign-inspired fad run by a small group of expatriate artists but, three years on, it has become one of Beijing’s premier foodie paradises, where dozens of farmers, cheese makers and other self-professed “artisans” enjoy a thriving trade every weekend.

I hope more and more blogs will promote great stuff.

Second photo from Tokyo Green Space: This farmers market seller stands behind his product

Joan - who blogs about farmers markets - just helped make this happen over at Kickstarter:

Growing City - A Documentary 

A short documentary about how urban farming is changing the way Tokyo thinks about food.

Why are you doing it?

Two of the biggest problems facing agriculture these days are that it is too big and too far removed from people's lives. We have lost touch with what it means to feed ourselves; having chosen convenience over sustainability. But there isn't really anyone to blame for this other than our own human willingness to believe that something so easy can also be good for everyone. Watermelons and pineapples year-round is certainly nice, but there are ramifications for that which we are only just becoming aware of. The agricultural landscape is no longer the small family farms and quaint communities that have been ingrained into its cultural image; it's hundreds of acres of wheat and soy covered with pesticides and artificial growth hormone. My generation has been raised to believe that food comes from the grocery store.
The issue is what do we do about it? Have everyone move out of the city and back to the family farm that their grandparents or great-grandparents had? That's never going to happen. We live in a world governed by big metropolises, and who could fault anyone for not wanting to leave the cities where they were raised and love living? What urban farming has the ability to do is reconnect people with their food without taking them out of their environment. Small scale as many of the projects may be, the potential to raise awareness about agriculture and provide a truly sustainable food source is enormous.
I chose to embark on this project because I am one of the people who want it both ways. I grew up in a populous area with no agricultural experience, and it is only when I left for college that I began to get involved in growing food. I know that I want to do that for the rest of my life, but what I don't know is where. As one would expect, agriculture has its own special set of issues in Japan, especially since the Fukushima disaster, and as such urban farming has its own unique set of opportunities. Food is not a national issue, it's a global issue, but if problem solving can begin here in Tokyo, it will spread. I am doing this because I believe in the future of food, and I want to do something that I think will help.

What's the money for?

A great deal of the money will go towards transportation because in order to make a film about Tokyo, I want to see lots of Tokyo. The subways and trains here - like everything else - are expensive, so that adds up quick. The biggest chunk after that will be for equipment; I have the bare necessities but there are some small but expensive pieces that would go a long way towards making this thing the best it can be - specifically: a variable nd filter, a zacuto viewfinder, and a new lens.
The rest is sort of miscellaneous expenses: getting enough online storage space to work with Sam from across the Pacific, getting enough physical storage to have everything backed up etc.


This one is the most important, thank you so so much for your time (money) and money. This work is so important to me and I can't tell how much I appreciate any support you can give.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Finding Jupiter

Unusually, we can see Jupiter with the bare eye. Clear sky, late night, just above left to Orion. And if you can't find Orion, I'd say you are seriously planet-inhibited. As in having no clue about our position with regards to major planetary bodies. Tycho Brahe and then Newton and others did us the favour of doing the math...

So, do go out, late at night, cover one of your eyes for a couple of minutes to avoid light pollution, if that is that case. Try to find a dark spot. Stand there for a while.

Finding Orion should be easy.

Three stars to the south.

Above that to the upper left, you have Jupiter.

Rarely do we get to see the guru planet. Only now in January. Great view. If you have better ways of viewing, you may see Jupiter's moons. Imagine how people in the past where amazed noticing that Earth was not the only planetary mass with objects revolving around it.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

"Bystander's Vantage Point"

There is a Japanese expression that I was reminded of at the beginning of the year, which I liked.

傍目八目 or 岡目八目 (oka-me-hachi-moku)

My dictionaries give me "Bystander's vantage point" or something related to watching a game of go, and as such, it is much easier to see the game unfolding some eight steps ahead, as it where. "Observing objectively" comes some way to explain the expression, although that is neither here nor there.

I blog here at Kurashi with some ideas of what I like and what I do not like. I am obviously just a bystander, but after some time in Japan, I am also a player. I do wish the best to all people, and try to put my finger on what are the right steps to take, as we all plod ahead.

So when I see news that Japan is about to enter a trade agreement that gives no regard to this country's amazing agricultural heritage, just for a few people to export more cars, and whatever, I find that so shortsighted. When I see the mass media play into that by not asking the right questions at the big meetings where negotiations are going on, and not publishing the answers and explanations they no doubt get, I try to think further ahead. Well, I was there, I was asked questions. I tried to provide some sense of the situation. And yes, there are many qualified people, including some journalists, attending such meetings and press conferences.

But this was not about them, they thought, until suddenly the government last December pushed through new legislation about data sharing, about whistle blowing, about "secrecy" and transparency. Suddenly, telling the truth in Japan got a lot more difficult.

Also, I think we all mostly understand that the Abe government and its backers wanted stricter secrecy rules so that its industries can start exporting weapons and weapons systems that involve components from a certain other country, that previously did not want Japan to be involved in the global arms trade anyway.

Good, well, you see, Japan has had strict rules prohibiting sales of arms since after WW2. Much better in fact, than Sweden, my native country, that ranks very high on the list of arms exporting countries. Something I really liked about Japan, so far.

If we try to stay objective, as observers, we may still be able to watch the game as it unfolds and predict the 8 steps ahead. But it just got a lot more difficult to decide what to do about the conclusions we draw from being an objective bystander; one who does not necessarily benefit from whether the game goes this way or that.

Except we all know that we stand to lose a lot if things start to unravel. So we want to speak up. And that is what they just decided they don't like.

OK, end of rant, for now.

(Top image from Ethics Resource Center with much more over at

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Organic Cotton In Japan, And Your Other Choices (Think Bangladesh, Cambodia)

What you wear tells a lot about you. Fashion is such a fad. Much like what you prefer to eat or drink. Recently, we had all kinds of bad news about how our garments are produced. More about that below. First the good news.

I'm encouraged that there is a trend to grow organic cotton, and use no pesticides and no genetically modified (patented) seeds from multinational corporations with a dark history, like Monsanto or DuPont or BASF, or Bayer. We know what they can do to our planet when it comes to food, now ask what they are doing to fiber.

Be that as it may, here in Japan there is a vibrant movement for organic cotton.

Tohoku Cotton Project is doing this:

To connect your everyday life with the disaster areas and to create a continuous support system that is not a heavy burden --

That's our promise.

Music : Takeshi Kobayashi
Movie : Kensaku Kakimoto
Photo : Yukihide Nakano
Translation Volunteer : Kei Hamada

Yup, cotton is grown here in Japan, in spite of all the odds, in places like Fukushima and Tottori prefectures. And there is support from SME Support.

Be that as it mayx2 this is all very small scale when you think of the massive amount of clothing bought and sold here... but that is another issue altogether. Here over at Kurashi, we tend to like the tender seedlings of hope and new ideas that do inevitably pop up. As great ideas always tend to do!

Do read on, if you care.

Japan Organic Cotton Organization (J) is the place to start for novel projects how to use cotton in the 21th century. Top image of a cotton flower from their blog.

And yes, they used to grow it here in Japan in ancient times, as well as hemp and silk, without toxic poisons, so we know they can do it now again. Except recent "free trade" agreements and all kinds of rules are rather more encouraging the automobile exporters, while allowing cheap cotton to be imported without much consideration. 15 years ago we were told the World Trade Organization would make all of this a "level playing field" but now we see the results.

Member list here (J) pretty impressive.

Did you know that cotton used to be grown i Osaka?

Jiji/The Japan Times has more: Osaka town revives cotton cultivation

A plan to create a new industry by reviving cotton cultivation is under way in Hannan in Osaka that was inspired by a project in Tohoku to remove salt from fields ruined by the tsunami of March 2011.
Cotton is highly salt-tolerant and can be grown in fields saturated by it because it wicks salt from the soil. The Tohoku Cotton Project took advantage of this feature by growing cotton and turning it into yarn for sale at apparel shops and other firms.
The project caught the eye of Hannan officials as cotton was grown on 40 to 50 percent of its cropland in the Edo Period (1603-1868).
To launch the Hannan Cotton Project, some 2,000 sq. meters of fallow fields (10 percent of its farmland) was leased. Cotton seeds were planted in April 2012.
Hannan chamber of commerce officials tended the cotton as advised by a spinning company, and about 80 students helped harvest it last October.
To establish Hannan’s brand of organic cotton, the crops were raised naturally, without chemicals, meaning weeds had to be pulled and pests killed, chamber executive Hisanobu Deguchi said.
There are still hurdles to overcome, however, as only 30 kg of cotton can be produced per 1,000 sq. meters of land, making it too costly to compete with imports, Deguchi said.
The chamber hopes to win over health-oriented cotton users, like makers of baby and nursing care products, Deguchi said.

Then there are great places like cofucu that cares about you and what kind of fabric you use.

Back in 1999 in an encounter with cotton spinner Mr. Kenichi Kondo who was involved in cultivation of the organic cotton, made Kobayashi Meriyasu aware of using environmentally friendly materials and as a result they started manufacturing organic cotton clothes for a new born baby. This is the birth of cofucu. Since then their safe and comfortable organic cotton baby wears has been favorably received by the obstetrics and gynecology department of Hospitals from all over Japan. In order to fulfill the increase of demand for older age group, they started up baby fashion label cofucu in 2010 by designer Mieko K.
cofucu is inspired by love for nature and feel for rejuvenating energy of children, cofucu brand is a luxury knitted organic cotton baby fashion label designed and made in Japan. cofucu brings fusion of finest quality organic cotton thread and natural dye complemented with superb workmanship, making cofucu brand product luxurious collectable product and not just a fine quality baby clothing. cofucu emphasizes on vividness of color and soft touch bringing out the organic softness which reminisces the baby’s skin feel.
With the love for design and uncompromisingly highest quality material, cofucu brand brings to the market one of the most innovative design, color and superb quality.
Softness and lively color along with extraordinary attention to detailing has become cofucu’s trademark.
cofucu’s exquisite product lines are made of 100% fine organic yarn complemented with its vivid natural dye based on fruits and plants as well as various natural clay based color from around the world. Each item comes with its own particular charm and identity but shares the same highest quality.

But back to the issue of what you are wearing, if you do not care - or do not know.

It is not that easy, I know. We all have priorities, and the budget is tough.

So, is what you wear that high on your radar?

If you shop at Walmart or JC Penney or H&M, look for the label. Made in Cambodia. We can find it here in Japan too, I'm sure. Factories pay young workers next to nothing. They protest. The military moves in, kills young workers. Story and video over at Al Jazeera has more details.

Now we learn that the Korean companies respond by - lawsuits against the head of Cambodia’s opposition party and a union for USD 10 million in losses from a strike and subsequent protests.

Time: Cambodia: Four Dead As Garment Protests Turn Violent

Tensions were already high after members of the elite 911 Paratrooper Brigade cracked down on a small demonstration outside a Korean-owned factory on Thursday. Soldiers bearing AK-47 rifles reportedly used steel pipes, batons and slingshots to attack the crowd. “It’s quite telling that the Special Forces were used, as they are only brought out when [officials] consider things really out of line,” Ou Virak, president of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights, tells TIME. At least four monks and 10 other protesters were reportedly detained at the scene.
Friday’s bloodshed is the latest P.R. blow to the global garment industry, which became front-page news following the Tazreen factory fire and Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, claiming 117 and 1,129 lives respectively. Bangladesh boasts the world’s second largest apparel industry, with garments accounting for 80% of national exports, but the international spotlight on subsistence wages and perilous working conditions has since swayed many retailers to source elsewhere.
With some of the lowest wages in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is absorbing much of this excess. Clothing is the country’s largest industrial sector, accounting for some $5 billion per year in exports and some 400,000 jobsaccording to the International Labour Organization. The industry supplies major international brands including Nike, Gap and H&M.

And then you ask, are you buying clothes for your baby and your family from companies that are a part of this?

All the killed workers asked for was a doubling of wages to 160 US dollars (16000 Yen) per month according to Radio Free Asia and UPI.

And if you remember the fire in Bangladesh last year, how could you ever be sure that conditions there are satisfactory, in that factory?

BBC: Arson blamed for huge Bangladesh garment factory fire

A Reuters photographer at the Standard Group garment factory said that burnt garments were strewn at the scene bearing brand names from US and other international retailers.
Officials say that the factory was one of the biggest in the country and as many as 18,000 people worked there.
At least 15 trucks carrying garments were also reported to have been set on fire.
"We think it's an act of arson committed by workers from both inside the factory complex and outside," Mosharraf Hossain, a senior officer in the Industrial Police force, told the AFP news agency.
Police and witnesses said tempers flared after a mosque loudspeaker announced that a garments worker had been killed when police opened fire and used tear gas to disperse a road blockade by workers who had clashed with police near the factory on Thursday morning.
A recent string of accidents in garment factories has put pressure on the government, industrialists and foreign retailers to reform an industry that employs four million people and generates 80% of export earnings.
Demand for reform escalated after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in April, one of the world's worst industrial accidents.

And if you do not know where your clothes are coming from, do listen to guys like this, talking to Phnom Penh Post:

Nam-Shik Kang, managing director of Phnom Penh-based Injae Garment Co, which employs 3,500, said that despite the new plan, he stood to lose out on profits.
“Our factory currently has a full capacity of orders to fill by February, most of it being material equating to about three million garment pieces. We will send to partners in either Indonesia or Vietnam . . . This is a huge quantity and a very big disaster for us and for others,” said Kang, whose South Korean factory supplies Wal-Mart and JC Penny.
“Even if we ship part of our shipment, about one million pieces, we will incur shipping costs of about $200,000 or even $300,000. And it will not even solve the problem.”