We’ve already reported on what appears to be biased coverage by the Associated Press of the recent Sean Flynn discovery (see preceding post), but the matter is now getting out of hand. In an article printed in The Australian, writer Mark Dodd has referred to David Macmillan and Keith Rotheram, the two men who may have discovered the remains of Sean Flynn to the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday, as “bounty hunters.”

The first question one should ask is, “Does Mark Dodd, and for that matter any editor at The Australian, know what a bounty hunter is?”

Presumably, if Macmillan and Rotheram were bounty hunters, they would have collected some sort of payment upon turning over the remains to the American embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Friday. This was not the case.

Dodd’s complete ignorance of the facts is illustrated when he writes, “The Australian-born Errol Flynn died in 1959, but [Lili] Damita has funded several searches for their son. It’s not known if she bankrolled the latest search.” First off, Lili Damita died in 1994. Second, had he read the Sunday Mail article that broke the news of Macmillan and Rotheram’s discovery written by AsiaLIFE contributing editor Thomas Maresca and Simon Parry of Red Door News Agency, he would have known that Flynn’s sister Rory, who was quoted in the article, partially funded the excavation.

Further, it should be questioned on what sources Dodd is relying for his own facts. At one point he writes: “David MacMillan, 29, and his bar owner friend, Keith Rotheram 60, found the remains which they claim are Flynn’s earlier this month.” According to Macmillan, who AsiaLIFE is in touch with, neither he nor Rotheram have made any such claim to any news agency or the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh.

Further he quotes Tim Page, the photographer and friend of Sean Flynn as saying, “I have had hundreds of people contact me over the years about Sean and I’m always interested in what they have to say…” This quote is exceedingly misleading, as Page and Macmillan are personal acquaintances. It was Macmillan who set up Tim Page’s interview with Thomas Maresca for the story The Last Search for Sean Flynn in the March 2009 issue of AsiaLIFE.

Page also claims that Macmillan and Rotheram tried to sell their story. We cannot speak for any subsequent dealings, but Macmillan personally contacted Thomas Maresca and AsiaLIFE with the story and asked for no compensation, nor has he received any. Maresca then traveled to Phnom Penh, where he spoke to Macmillan and Rotheram for the story that broke the news in the Sunday Mail and South China Morning Post. They are, however, well within their rights to grant an exclusive feature to a periodical.

Dodd says that he could not reach Macmillan and Rotheram for comment. Again, it would appear that Page is the only source that reporters are turning to, and thus, his is the only narrative being propagated to potentially hundreds of thousands of readers. Dodd’s amateurish reportage is part of the reason that Macmillan and Rotheram have been advised to wait until the DNA results are in to speak to the press.

However, the result of hair-trigger reportage like Dodd’s is quickly amounting to a smear campaign.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher


David Macmillan handing over potential remains of Sean Flynn to the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh. Photo by Fred Wissink

On Sunday, AsiaLIFE contributing editor Thomas Maresca and Simon Parry of Hong Kong’s Red Door News Agency, along with AsiaLIFE photo editor Fred Wissink, broke the story in the Sunday Mail and South China Morning Post that the remains of Sean Flynn, the famed war photographer and son of actor Errol Flynn who went missing in Cambodia in 1970 along with colleague Dana Stone, may have been found by Australian David Macmillan and Briton Keith Rotheram.

Soon after the story broke, the Associated Press began widely distributing an article by Sopheng Cheang reporting on the impending forensic tests that will be carried out to determine if the bones–which Macmillan and Rotheram turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday–are indeed the remains of Sean Flynn.

The article, however, appears heavily biased against the find, and at the very least overlooks or intentionally omits important information.

By the ninth graf, the article seems to cast suspicion on Macmillan and Rotheram’s motives, noting that: “Freelance ‘bone hunters’ have also taken up the search for both missing journalists and US service personnel. Some proved to be swindlers who demanded money from relatives of the missing.”

(At the time of writing, neither Macmillan nor Rotheram have made any claims that the bones they found are the remains of Sean Flynn.)

Tim Page, the photographer and friend of Flynn who has been on the hunt as well, is quoted in the following grafs regarding his doubts about the dig:”It was not a forensic dig – they used an excavator and uncovered a full set of remains, which they removed from the site,” Page said.

The AP article fails to note two major aspects of the dig. First, Macmillan and Rotheram’s efforts were partially funded by Flynn’s surviving sister, Rory, who was quoted in Maresca and Parry’s article as saying, “I grew up with Sean and also named my son after him, so we have hoped and prayed that his remains would be found … Information came to me in the past year that motivated this private search and we hope that the person found is my brother so that he can finally come home.”

Second, Tim Page worked alongside David Macmillan to some degree to make advances in the search. It was Macmillan who put AsiaLIFE in touch with Tim Page in February 2009 for a special feature that ran in our March issue, “The Last Search for Sean Flynn. At the time of the interview, Page told AsiaLIFE he was at work on a book chronicling his search, tentatively titled Bones of Contention. He also expressed interest in having a documentary film on the subject made. The article made no mention of Page and Macmillan’s past history.

What is troubling is that Cheang’s AP article has been distributed to hundreds of newspapers around the world, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Australian.

AsiaLIFE was contacted about two weeks ago by Macmillan after he made the discovery. He requested that Thomas Maresca, who wrote the March special feature, cover the story. Macmillan was later approached by AP. He inquired about payment for photos taken of the dig and was told that AP does not pay for photos.

UPDATEThe Australian ups the ante on irresponsible coverage of the discovery. Read about it here.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

St. Patrick’s Day may have come and gone, but there’s more emerald-themed nightlife happenings this month with the next installment of Green Drinks, the Ho Chi Minh City branch of the worldwide environmental event series.

Head over to QD Bar & Lounge at 138 Ton That Dam in District 1 tomorrow evening, March 30, to clink glasses and get informed about Green Business, from carbon credits to green manufacturing. The presentations and Q&A session will be lead by Tau Van Ngoc, international consultant for and co-founder of Hanam Carbon, and Melissa Merryweather, the founder of consultancy firm Green Consult-Asia and southern regional coordinator for the Vietnam Green Building Council.

The presenters will address a number of questions. What are the opportunities for green business — the REAL ones? What’s holding Vietnam back? What do we need to do to make green business real and viable?

The RMIT Vietnam Environment Club will also introduce their latest activities and update the crowd on how they can get involved in Earth Day, which celebrates its 40th anniversary on April 22.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

In our first Q&A with Othello Khanh in March 2009, the producer and director told AsiaLIFE about his life growing up in the Khanh household. His father is designer and inventor Quasar Khanh, who is known for creating a line of high-end inflatable furniture and fabricating hovercrafts. Recently, another of Quasar’s unlikely inventions was included in a list of Eye-Popping Car Designs on Time magazine’s website. Check out this shot of a prototype for the cube-shaped Le Quasar from 1967 that Time editors included on the list of 43 creative cars.

For in-person examples of Quasar Khanh’s designs, head over to Gaya design shop on Le Lai in District 1, where his aluminum cast furniture, tables and lamps are featured among the fashion and interiors selections.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

Nguyen Huy Kham for Time magazine

It looks like the Mekong River Delta isn’t Vietnam’s only waterway in peril. Last month, contributing editor Thomas Maresca reported on the dangers facing the Mekong in “Delta Blues” (vol 23), and on Thursday, Martha Anne Overland contributed a feature on the drought affecting the Red River’s dangerously low water levels for TIME magazine. Overland touches on a number of the issues Tom covered, including complications due to damming upstream, increase salinity and the impending threat of large-scale crop failure. She also brings up some shocking new developments. According to the article, the drought is the worst in more than 100 years, with water levels at an all-time low of 0.68 meters since records began being kept in 1902. Read the whole story here.

Back in September, contributing editor Thomas Maresca wrote a story called “Game On” (vol. 17) that looked at the growing legions of gamers taking to Internet cafes and working their fingers into a frenzy playing massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs in nerd speak). It turns out it’s become a big enough phenomenon to attract the attention of international consulting firms. This story popped up in our inboxes  yesterday. It forecasts that there will be 25 million gamers in Vietnam and India by 2014.

Which means if the world were a high school and Vietnam and India were students, they’d be trading cheat codes and speculating on vaporware in a lonely corner of the cafeteria.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher