By Word of Mouth and Help of Friends, Mekong Review to Expand

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Minh Bui Jones reads

Phnom Penh-produced literary tabloid, Mekong Review, will further expand its regional distribution with its next issue due in August. It will then be available for the first time in Bangkok through Riverbooks, a gallery cafe and bar. 
 
The publication was launched last year on November 7 at the Kampot Writers and Readers Festival, and since then has slowly been building its reach in the region via a distribution system that the editor, Minh Bui Jones, 47, describes as unorthodox.
 
“Monument Books distributes the mag through its outlets in Cambodia, Laos – and from next issue Myanmar,” he says. “We are available in Cafe Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, not far from Ben Thanh market, and Tadioto, a music cafe/bar in Hanoi.
 
“This is done through a most local fashion: bussed from Phnom Penh to HCHC – for $5! – and then taken up to Hanoi by friends and friends of friends in small batches. We are also in discussion with a bookshop in Hong Kong and Singapore, so slowly, in somewhat unorthodox ways, we are getting around.”
 
The editorial structure of the publication is also unorthodox, with Minh Bui Jones based in Sydney, Australia, for most of the time and the rest of the team – associate editor, designer and sales manager – based in Phnom Penh where the issues are printed.
 
Minh Bui Jones, who moved to Cambodia with his family in 2009, edited the first edition in the Kingdom but in January this year he and his family returned to Sydney and he edited the second issue from there. He was in Phnom Penh in May and June for the third edition and hopes to return again in the fall. 
 
The Vietnamese-born editor was a 1978 boat refugee, and started his career as a TV producer, then worked as a newspaper journalist and switched to magazines, co-founding The Diplomat in 2001.
 
He said that while his attendance at the Kampot Festival was the impetus for Mekong Review, he had been toying with the idea for several years.
 
“I took the plunge when I finally understood that there was a regional entity – the riparian Mekong countries – and one that made sense to me,” he said. “Publishing is all about timing and I felt the timing was right.” 

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