Michael Tatarski

Freelance journalist


Michael Tatarski is a freelance journalist based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has covered the environment, breaking news, social issues, politics, tech and more for publications such as the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Atlantic and Al Jazeera, and is available for assignment. He can be reached at [email protected]

Mongabay Environmental News
New study finds that minority of animals host majority of zoonotic viruses

In May 2020, Shivaprakash Nagaraju, senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy in India, was working in New Delhi when he contracted COVID-19. "I had breathing problems and other symptoms, and as a result I was isolated in my room for around two months," he told Mongabay in a Zoom call.

These Myanmar Coders Built a Website To Spread Anti-Military Propaganda

Soldiers stand guard as they block a road near a prison in Myanmar capital Naypyidaw on February 15, 2021, after the military seized power. Photo: STR / AFP "We thought it was literal-blasting propaganda on the megaphones for the military dogs to hear-stupid, and also funny."

Mongabay Environmental News
At Vietnam's southern tip, mangroves defend the land from the encroaching sea

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - Seen from above, Cape Ca Mau National Park, at Vietnam's southernmost point, juts into the Gulf of Thailand like a verdant green toe. This dark green shade is created by an expansive, ecologically vital mangrove forest. But the province the park sits in, also called Ca Mau, is losing [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
'Drastic forest development': Vietnam to plant 1 billion trees - but how?

HUE, Vietnam - In October and November of 2020, a relentless barrage of nine typhoons and tropical storms slammed into Vietnam, setting off record floods and countless landslides. Nearly 200 people died, and property damage was estimated at $1.5 billion. Then-Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc responded on Nov.

Mongabay Environmental News
Vietnam creates new nature reserve, possible home to elusive 'Asian unicorn'

HO CHI MINH CITY - In a move wildlife conservationists are hailing as a victory, Vietnam has established a new nature reserve encompassing critical habitat for numerous species, several of them threatened globally with extinction. Located in Quang Binh province in central Vietnam, the Dong Chau-Khe Nuoc Trong Nature Reserve spans 22,132 hectares (54,689 acres) [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
Vietnam conservation regulations improving, but much work remains

HO CHI MINH CITY - Earlier this year, Vietnam's prime minister called for a ban of the wildlife trade in the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several months later, the government released a directive on the wildlife trade. Hailed as a ban in some media coverage, the move fell short of that, as [...]

China Dialogue
Cambodia chooses coal in rush for power - China Dialogue

From the top of a low hill, farmer Pich Sophat points to an area scarred by excavators. Remnants of a house can still be seen in the centre of land being cleared for Cambodia's Botum Sakor coal-fired power plant.

Mongabay Environmental News
Campaigners call for transparency in Myanmar timber trade after 850 tons of wood seized

Earlier this month, Myanmar's Information Ministry announced that the country's Forest Department had seized nearly 850 tons of illegal timber between March 30 and April 5. Teak and other hardwoods accounted for the vast majority of the haul. No monetary value on timber was released, and the exact locations where the seizures took place was [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
Vietnamese agribusiness firm HAGL accused of clearing indigenous land in Cambodia

Hoang Anh Gia Lai, a publicly listed Vietnamese real estate, energy, mining and agribusiness giant, is at the center of recent allegations of clearing land in Cambodia that had been earmarked for local indigenous communities. HAGL, as the company is known, is involved in a diverse range of business sectors, but is best-known in Cambodia [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
Discovery of threatened species drives bid to protect Vietnam forest

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - Recently disclosed results from an extensive survey have revealed the presence of several highly endangered species in a forest that is not currently under any legal protection in Vietnam's central highlands. Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and GreenViet, a biodiversity conservation NGO based in Da Nang, undertook months of [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
Anticipated new restrictions on wildlife trade in Vietnam fall short of a ban

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - On July 23, after several months of anticipation within Vietnam's conservation community, the government released a new directive on managing the wildlife trade in the country. The directive's key provisions include an order to stop the already-illegal activities of "importing living or dead wild animals, eggs, larvae, parts and [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
Vietnam wildlife trade ban appears to flounder amid coronavirus success

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - Conservation organizations in Vietnam sent a letter to the Prime Minister last week asking for an update on planned measures to curtail the trade and consumption of wildlife. In March, responding to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
Vietnam considers wildlife trade ban in response to coronavirus pandemic

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - As the coronavirus pandemic continues its deadly onslaught around the world, the Vietnamese government has moved to ban the wildlife trade. Amid scientific theories that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began at a market in Wuhan, China, that sold live wild animals and animal parts, a [...]

Mongabay Environmental News
A vital mangrove forest hidden in Vietnam's largest city could be at risk

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - As the largest urban area in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is known for its kinetic pace of life, rivers of motorbike traffic, and relentless construction. With an official population of 9 million and a booming economy based on manufacturing, real estate and tourism, there is often little space [...]

Vietnam Halted Its COVID-19 Outbreak. Now Comes the Economic Fallout

Thanks to a number of proactive, aggressive steps its government took shortly after the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, Vietnam has had just 320 confirmed COVID-19 infections and no reported deaths. With its outbreak apparently contained, Vietnam is looking anxiously at what comes next.

Dams, Sand, Rice: The Life and Possible Death of the Mekong Delta | Saigoneer

Envisioning such a reality is difficult, but it is entirely possible that this will come to pass, albeit long after anyone reading this in 2020 is dead. The delta is Vietnam's most vital agricultural region, producing 50% of the country's rice, including almost all rice for export, 65% of aquaculture products and 70% of fruit, according to government figures.

Features & Field Reporting

Mongabay Environmental News
U.S. lumber company found importing high-risk Peruvian timber

Accordingly, Robinson "follows a clear environmental policy for the purchase of tropical wood and wood products. We believe in our responsibility and are committed to basing our commercial activities on sound principles of proper forest management. These principles have been outlined by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), which we fully support."

Atmos Magazine - Climate and Culture - atmos.earth

A spade strikes the bone-dry Cambodian dirt with a crunch, and the hunt is on. Chem Wai, a lanky, deeply tanned 53-year-old former soldier, has been collecting wild tarantulas and scorpions for most of his life. Wai knows this scruffy forest, located 20 miles north of Siem Reap and the astonishing ruins of Angkor Wat, like the back of his hand.

Mongabay Environmental News
As Cambodia swelters, climate-change suspicion falls on deforestation

"Cambodia has had one of the highest deforestation rates in the last few decades, which has significantly contributed to global climate change," Ledecq said. "Forested area in Cambodia declined 4.6 percent per year from 2010 to 2014 according to the country's government report available through the Regional Forest Observatory - Southeast Asia."

Mongabay Environmental News
Innovative methods could transform Vietnam's robusta farms into carbon sinks

The study used 2016 farming records from 300 robusta farms in Dak Lak and Lam Dong provinces, two of Vietnam's biggest coffee producers. It found that coffee farms which grow non-coffee trees in addition to their primary crop help to sequester carbon emissions, while monocrop farms tend to act as carbon sources.

Mongabay Environmental News
On one island, a microcosm of Vietnam's environmental challenges

CAT BA ISLAND, Vietnam - While approaching Hai Phong, a major city on Vietnam's northeast coast, it is impossible to miss signs of the country's fast-growing economic might. GDP growth hit just over 7 percent in 2018, and foreign investors are swarming: Samsung alone has invested nearly $20 billion here.

The Atlantic
Vietnam Won the Trump-Kim Summit

Kim's unorthodox arrival, which involved taking his armored train from Pyongyang to Vietnam's border with China and then taking a car the remaining 100 miles to Hanoi, presented a particular challenge. Dong Dang, a town unfamiliar to many Vietnamese, let alone foreigners, would welcome Kim to the country, thanks to its border train station.

Vietnam's Communist Party chief set to become president

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, is expected to be chosen as the country's next president when the one-party state's rubber-stamp National Assembly meets on Monday, making him the first person since founding father Ho Chi Minh to hold both posts.

Mongabay Environmental News
Current threats and future hopes for the greater Mekong's mangroves

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - While Southeast Asia is known as one of the world's fastest-growing economic regions, home to booming metropolises like Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Kuala Lumpur, it also hosts some of the planet's most vital ecological areas. The Greater Mekong, which includes Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, is [...]

The Atlantic
The Trump Administration Wants North Korea to Be the Next Vietnam

Read: About that movie trailer Donald Trump gave Kim Jong Un In locating the next meeting in Vietnam, a country that fought a devastating war against the United States but is now a fast-growing economy and a regional ally, the White House appears to once again be trying to illustrate what is on offer if Kim cooperates.

Mongabay Environmental News
Graphic anti-wildlife-trafficking campaign tackles Vietnam's pangolin problem

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - On Jan. 28, a graphic new anti-wildlife-trafficking campaign called "Be Their Bodhisattva" launched at a major pagoda here in Vietnam's commercial center. Under the branch of Mahayana Buddhism widely practiced across Vietnam, a bodhisattva is someone who delays reaching nirvana in order to save others from suffering.

Vietnam Cyber Law Enables Intensive Surveillance

Vietnam's sweeping new Law on Cybersecurity (LOC) will allow authorities to access users' online data and censor content when criminal or anti-government activity is suspected. The Vietnamese government has said the LOC is aimed at protecting the country's active online space while creating a safer environment for internet users.

Southeast Asia Globe Magazine
Why Vietnam ranks best in world for living greener and better

Vietnam performed the best of 151 countries in a study that assessed quality of life versus environmental sustainability. But researchers tell Southeast Asia Globe that, despite its achievements, the best-performing nation on the list still fails to meet the sustainability demands of an increasingly dire ecological outlook For Diep Nguyen, life in Vietnam is good.

Fed up with flight delays in Asia? Blame the airports

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - You've endured the long queues at check-in and immigration; patiently sat on the floor of a packed departure hall after being informed of a delay to your flight; before eventually being told to walk across a baking tarmac to your plane.

Formula 1 to hit Hanoi in 2020, but will Vietnamese lap it up?

Ho Chi Minh City - Hanoi will host Vietnam's first-ever Grand Prix in April 2020 with drivers battling it out on the streets of the capital's western suburbs, but in a country where the sport is largely unknown, organisers will have to work hard to ensure the race's success.

Mongabay Environmental News
New climate change report highlights grave dangers for Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY - Earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report on the potential impacts of a 1.5C rise in global temperatures above pre-industrial averages. The report found that massive, destabilizing climate events could start impacting global society as soon as 2040, within the lifetime of most [...]

New Naratif
A New Model for Ho Chi Minh City's Sidewalks - New Naratif

For ten years, Le Thi Thuy sold (rice noodle rolls) in front of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. She and her husband remember it as a busy, but also tense, experience. "Back then, if there was a policeman or urban security officer in sight I would tremble in fear and get ready to run away," she recalls in Vietnamese.

The Diplomat
Why Is the US Deporting Protected Vietnamese Immigrants?

Before being deported from the United States and returned to his native Vietnam on December 20, 2017, Pham Chi Cuong, a wiry 47-year-old with intense eyes and a shock of graying hair, was living his version of the American Dream.

New Naratif
Backed by Banks, Vietnam Embraces Dirty Coal - New Naratif

A petition calling on several major Singaporean banks to end their funding of thermal power plants in developing nations like Vietnam and Indonesia has shed light on the complex, transnational nature of financing for such projects.

Mongabay Environmental News
Environmental reporting in Vietnam often a comedy of errors

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - This shouldn't come as a surprise, but reporting on the environment in Vietnam is not an easy task. The one-party state was recently ranked 175 out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders' 2017 World Press Freedom Index, between Sudan and China.

Trump warns of crackdown on trade cheats

DA NANG, Vietnam - President Donald Trump Friday delivered a broadside against unfair trade practices, warning of a coming crackdown from the United States on "violations, cheating or economic aggression." But in a bid to avoid souring his blossoming relationship with China and other nations in the region, he stopped short of placing the blame for everything from product dumping to currency manipulation and predatory industrial policies on other countries.

Vietnam's Social Media Battle

Look around the streets of Vietnam, and you'll notice crowds of young people glued to their smartphone screens. Such scenes are no different from elsewhere, but here, more than in almost any other country, there's a good chance they're interacting on Facebook.

Countries agree on Pacific trade pact that excludes U.S.

DA NANG, Vietnam - Top trade officials from the 11 remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed on a plan to bring the pact into force without the United States, according to a joint statement provided to POLITICO by the Chilean government.

U.S. on sidelines as Pacific nations talk trade

DA NANG, Vietnam - The United States may not matter in broad trade negotiations taking place this week. As political and economic leaders from around the Pacific Rim gather here in Da Nang, a major city on Vietnam's central coast, for the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Week, negotiators will be busily reworking the TPP.

A Tale of Two Plans: Thu Thiem, Phu My Hung and Future Saigon | Saigoneer

Across the Saigon River from central District 1's glass-and-steel skyscrapers, the Thu Thiem New Urban Area is slowly - very slowly - taking shape. Named after the swampy peninsula on which it sits, this long-gestating development will, perhaps, someday become a new financial, residential and commercial center, taking pressure off Saigon's overcrowded interior districts.

Chasing Pavements: In Defense of Saigon's Sidewalk Economy | Saigoneer

As Doan Ngoc Hai, the leader of Saigon's most aggressive sidewalk-clearing campaign in recent memory, takes a brief hiatus, headlines about towed cars and demolished buildings often obscure the reality that many people rely on that coveted space between the street and a building for their livelihood. ...

Pacific Standard
A Graffiti Campaign in Ho Chi Minh City Aims to Educate Locals About Rhino Conservation

Vietnam is home to one of the largest African rhino horn consumer bases in the world, in addition to being a key transit point for shipments to China. By Michael Tatarski Throughout the month of March, a unique graffiti campaign popped up on the walls of several streets in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, the hyperactive commercial capital of Vietnam.

Mongabay Environmental News
Harsh sentence for blogger may haunt Vietnam's environmental movement

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - On April 6, 2016 dozens of tons of dead fish began washing ashore along Vietnam's central coast. The phenomenon continued through the month, turning into what is considered the largest environmental disaster in the country's history. Fishing communities in Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên-Huế provinces [...]

South China Morning Post
Vietnam's tale of two metros built by the Japanese and the Chinese

For the first time in their histories, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are both in the middle of desperately needed major metro-system projects that aim to transform their cities. Both are facing delays, but a series of high-profile accidents has already cast a larger shadow over the Chinese-led effort in the capital.

Mongabay Environmental News
Enforcement, development and education define efforts to save Vietnam's rare primates

CAO BANG CITY, Vietnam - Vietnam is home to some of the world's most endangered primates, many of which live in the country's mountainous, heavily forested far-northern provinces. Among the 25 most critically endangered monkeys, apes and lemurs in the world, three species are endemic to northern Vietnam.

Mongabay Environmental News
Vietnamese luxury wooden furniture makers feel pain of regulations and deforestation

DONG KY, Vietnam - A mere 45 minutes northeast of Vietnam's bustling capital city of Hanoi is the carpentry town of Đồng Kỳ, where conversations take place above the incessant din of electric saws cutting wood. A thin layer of sawdust coats every surface, and after a few hours you can feel the dust in your throat.

South China Morning Post
The good, the bad and the ugly of Chinese tourists in Vietnam

It'sBEEN A long day following the tourist trail in Da Nang, on Vietnam's central coast. And as the group's attention fades, somewhere around Linh Ung Pagoda and its huge statue of the Goddess of Mercy, their tour guide rattles off an alternative version of Vietnam's history and culture.

Mongabay Environmental News
Vietnam faces dilemma on forests as climate change threatens coffee crops

HO CHI MINH CITY - For millions of people around the world, a cup of coffee is necessary to start the day. Though it might seem like the supply of this popular commodity is endless, climate change and a growing demand is likely to bring about dramatic changes to global coffee production in coming decades.

Looking Ahead While Remembering the Past: Cu Lac's Bomb Crater Bar | Saigoneer

The village of Cu Lac in central Vietnam is a postcard image of rural life. Water buffaloes and cattle graze among low-slung houses, and verdant rice paddies stretch to the nearby Ho Chi Minh Highway. The broad, green-tinged Son River flows past the length of Cu Lac, while a breeze whispers through the bamboo trees lining its banks.

Arts & Entertainment

Art Platform S.E.A. Focus Brings Together 20 Galleries From Vietnam, Asia | Saigoneer

In its second year, the art platform brought together 20 galleries from across Asia and beyond, highlighting a diverse range of contemporary Asian artists in one space. S.E.A. Focus 2020 ran from January 16 to 19 at Singapore's Gillman Barracks, a former British military facility that has been transformed into a sophisticated creative hub.

The Rise of Saigon's Stand-Up Scene | Saigoneer

Details Published on Sunday, 12 March 2017 10:30 Written by Michael Tatarski. Photos courtesy of Saigon International Comedy. Ahead of Saigon's first major international comedy festival later this month, Saigoneer talks to members of the local stand-up community, from veterans to relative newcomers, to find out where the jokes are headed.


[Photos] Hue's Abandoned Waterpark Is a Post-Apocalyptic Beauty | Saigoneer

Details Published on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 11:45 Written by Michael Tatarski. Photos by Michael Tatarski. Just south of Hue sits the Ho Thuy Tien Waterpark. Once a sign of aspirational middle-class family entertainment, it now sits abandoned, creating an eerie, graffiti-splashed destination in its own right.

Saigoneer Getaways: Vietnam's Subterranean Wonders | Saigoneer

The dense, untouched forests of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province hide some of the world's greatest underground geological formations. Beneath the park's stunning limestone mountains lie Son Doong, the largest cave on the planet, and Hang En, the third-largest behind Deer Cave in Malaysian Borneo. ...

[Photos] Taipei's Ghostly Disused Leprosy Sanitarium | Saigoneer

Details Published on Tuesday, 04 July 2017 12:00 Written by Michael Tatarski. Photos by Michael Tatarski Taipei is known as a highly advanced, efficient city famous for modern marvels such as the Taipei 101 and a fantastic metro system. On the outskirts of the city, however, things can get a little more gritty.

[Photos] A Peek Inside Da Lat's Abandoned Franciscan Mission | Saigoneer

Details Published on Thursday, 25 May 2017 16:07 Written by Michael Tatarski. Photos by Michael Tatarski Da Lat is rightfully beloved for its cool climate, pine-scented air and verdant mountains. However, there is more to this popular Central Highlands city than just natural escapes.