For many Americans, Cambodia is a question mark. Since the dark days of the Khmer Rouge regime, the country has receded from public consciousness, being largely forgotten along the way. Ben Woods, however, is too young to forget.
“The main reason I came here was that I didn’t know anything about it,” says the St. Louis native, who moved to Cambodia in 2010 after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science. “This country gets so little international media coverage, and I think many people here like it that way. Cambodia actively tries to stay off the radar.”
For this reason, says Woods, corruption is rife within the Cambodian government, and its borders are a haven for international criminals. He reports on both of these issues regularly as an associate editor at The Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper based in Phnom Penh.
“Unless public opinion turns against you, you can hide here in plain sight,” he says, pointing to the recent case of Alexander Trofimov, a wealthy Russian property developer who lived comfortably in Cambodia despite being a convicted serial pedophile. Thanks in part to Woods’ reporting, Trofimov was arrested and extradited to Russia to face charges there.
“For every criminal who’s exposed, there are many others getting away with something,” Woods says. “It’s important that people outside of Cambodia take notice.”