Wayward Pines and the balcony highdive

Gated communities are very much like the cantonments that were set up on the outskirts of Indian cities during the days of the British Raj – a place for whites to live peacefully without being bothered by the natives. In Thailand these gated communities are called “Moobahns” and the people who live in them are called “Moobahnians”. The Thai word “moo bahn” means “village”. Which is ironic considering that the last thing a resident in the Wayward Pines Moobahn wants to see near his house is a Thai villager (unless the villager is cutting the lawn).

Moobahnians on facebook, like their British Raj antecedents, are not very bright to start with. In addition they tend to be very old, it is estimated that the average age of a facebook local community member is 86. They have very little knowledge of anything beyond their compound wall. On facebook these old fogies form tight knit groups that reinforce their own prejudices and imbecilic beliefs. A perfect petri dish for the senile dementia virus. Plus being old, and nearer to God, they think they need to do something to compensate for a pointless life of self indulgence. This, of course, makes them the ideal target for a Phishing attack.

Its easy enough, any boy can do it. In fact the average Chinese 12 year old (or an American 18 year old) has sufficient computer skills to pull off this scam. Just make a website clone of, say, the Chumphon Evening Gazette, (which normally carries banal features about local road closures and special offers at Tesco – stuff the old fogies love). There is even a software tool that will do this for you. Into the clone you insert an new element: somebody’s daughter/best friend/pet hamster has been robbed/injured/raped by natives, and is now in jail/hospital/the vets, please go to http://www.scamhosters/givemunny.com. Here the fogy will be asked to make a bank transfer to Connery Scamman to help pay medical bills/hire a lawyer/buy a ticket to fly the animal home.

To find out what happened next, go to Private Tye, a satirical Thai site that should become required reading for anyone contemplating living in Southeast Asia.


Classic photos of Cambodian dance


Princess Bopha Devi (daughter of Sihanouk, a noted dancer)


Krut, roi des oiseaux (Garuda, king of the birds)


Kinnara et Kinnari (mythological bird-creatures)





“The mkot for the feminine role”


Flying apsara




Dancers, Siem Reap


Hanuman the monkey king and Golden Fish


Dancers, Phnom Penh


Kinnari dance at the court of King Norodom, 1866. Dancers on the stage, musicians to the far left, king and dignitaries seated in foreground, servants on hands and knees behind – they would in fact have been slaves, as slavery was not officially abolished till some years later.

Source:http://kampot.over-blog.com/, an invaluable repository of old Cambodian photos.



Are Cambodians afraid of foreigners?

This is a post from a blog that I stumbled across on a blog called It’s Adventure Time, and it’s by Molyka Rom (“Molly”), who describes herself as “a communications manager and a Cambodian lifestyle Blogger/writer.” That’s about all I know. She sounds intelligent, vivacious, and young – and makes me feel very old. And to my surprise, she says that Cambodians are scared of foreigners. Intimidated by them. Maybe resent them a  little. I’ll just give highlights – read the full post here.

Molly’s words begin now….


Will there be time that Cambodia can actually do things by themselves? If you asked me whether I am Cambodian. Of course, I am Cambodian, and because of that, I am very frustrated how Cambodian are always scared of foreigners, and do everything to satisfied them– even though it means we’re the owner of the land?

…Deleted a few paras about a video telling what fun things foreigners can do in Cambodia – like, shoot guns; Molly is pretty impressed and wishes she could do this too…

…In Cambodian perspective, we think that foreigners are cool, fun, friendly, adventurous, handsome, beautiful, crazy or even dangerous and scary! …

In Cambodia, we like to serve foreigners. By serve here I mean, we’re in favor of foreigners, and allow them to do things that they wish to. We think that foreigners mostly from the developed countries; therefore, they’re rich and educated and creative (while they are actually not, sometimes). So, we mostly accept the opinion from them whether it is bad or good.

Cambodian are kind. We try to bargain thing for foreigners. We help foreigners when they ask us to help or even offer some help without asking. We try to speak English to them because we thought that it’d be beneficial for us to practice more English until some of us here do not use our language properly because mostly we just forget how to use it well, since everything is available in English. Everywhere here in Cambodia always has English language available. If you go to coffee shop here, you might not find a menu in Khmer. It’s just full English. And it doesn’t make sense in a way when we try to call it in Khmer language. For example, instead of calling in Khmer way of Strawberry Smoothies “Strawberry kalok”, we just call it “Strawberry Smoothies” just like foreigners when we order things in the coffee shop. …

Some Cambodian young people think that it’s always cool to hang out with foreign friends. Why? Because we can do reckless thing that we cannot when we hang out with only Cambodian friends.

(My comment: reckless things? What reckless things? I never deliberately do reckless things. Maybe just dumb things because I don’t know any better. Are Cambodians under the impression that foreigners are being thrilling wen in fact they’re doing dumb things because they don’t know?)

We are always treated well when we’re with foreign friends, and despite whatever we do, it’s always fun to be with foreigners because no one will actually judge you the way they judge us when we’re with Cambodian friends. Old people here might not like it, but to young people having foreign friends are like the coolest thing ever.

(Editorial comment: So we’re a force for social dislocation? Is that a good thing? “Cool” has a lot to answer for.)

We try to adopt the Western behavior and attitude, but again this actually depends on people. So, I cannot say that everyone is like that. Well, some Cambodian may try to influence our culture to foreigners by teaching or showing around what Cambodian like to do. Like I said, it’s actually depending on what kind of people they are.

But since we’re kind, helpful and everything doesn’t mean foreigners can do thing as they want. I mean, excuse me if this post offend to anyone that might come across this post, but I believe as foreigners, yes, our country is a paradise to you. Everything is cheap, you can do whatever you want with the cash you have, but at least show some respect to the culture, to the country and to the people here. Take aside foreign tourists, but what frustrated me the most that urges me to write this post since the beginning is that I wonder why Cambodian people let foreigners dominant over our land in terms of everything.

(Like, for example, riding your motorbike with no clothes on.)

This afternoon I check one resort in Kompot where it is soooo beautiful and surrounding by mountain, beach, all those beautiful scenery on Facebook. Then, I saw a post where there is a Cambodian asking “Can Cambodian stay there too?” I cringed a little bit.

(Only a bit?)

Why are you scared of them? … They might be weird but there’s nothing to scared about them. I am just frustrated and sometimes unsatisfied how we always serve foreigners, provide them good hospitality, and please them in any way, while Cambodian never actually get to do this themselves. Or even worse, some services treat foreigners better than Cambodian who actually want to experience thing just like foreigners do. I can say it is unfair, literally unfair to Cambodian to not to experience beautiful, fun and weird things or activity just like foreigners do.

I notice that whenever there are a lot of foreigners in any place, say restaurant or in any place that have foreign dominance, Cambodian will cringe away, and just never involve in it. They will be very awkward and do not know what to do in there. Or just, I don’t know, acting weird, and just go to find other place. They DO NOT like to go to a place where foreigners dominant. But again, as Cambodian, I feel it is not fair in a way that foreigners can do much more in Cambodia than Cambodian can do to the country.

(To understand the next bit, it helps to know that Molly is a student of media – she wants to be a doco film-maker).

Expats here get pretty famous and have their face in every social events here just by creating something new and different. Their name can actually boosts up to the sky without trying hard. (Sorry if it offends to anyone while reading this). But it is true. We understand that Cambodian is still young in everything, and that the human resource is still lacking. Therefore, we still depend on foreigners to take lead in every project. This is sad in a way that Cambodian people still prefer foreign services. For instance, in education system, some people prefer to have foreign teachers …. Or just say, they’re creative and open-minded. I, myself, also prefer to study with foreign teachers, too. … And this case does not apply only in education system, but almost every sectors –name it, private sector, NGO sector etc.

Most of leading, professional media institutions are dominant and organized by foreigners, when it’s actually about Cambodia. It is really sad in a way that foreigners know much more than we Cambodian do because we do not dare to take a giant step to see what behind the story of the country, or have a courage to do so because of some pressures that I shall not mention. But, in my opinion, I just want to see Cambodian actually do thing by themselves without the need of foreign assistance. And, while saying this I hope that when Cambodian actually do things by themselves, they can do as good as foreigners do. Creative, professional with good quality. Once we have this qualification, I hope we can actually enjoy things that foreigners can enjoy here. To be able to go and see nice resort, eat in good restaurants, have fun partying the way we want without being judged just like what foreigners do to our country, and prove that Cambodian also have people who are open-minded and have the quality that is independent enough not to bother foreigners to advise on it. It’d be fun, wouldn’t it. However, at the same time, that doesn’t mean that I hate foreigners or wish to make Cambodian hate against foreigners. I always appreciate foreigners who try to provide us assistance and bring a better change to Cambodia where we’re in need of help. But this post is to remind Cambodian people to actually have a confident to themselves to speak up, and make things happen. Or just, being more independent.

Before I started to write this post, I thought to myself whether my post will boost up some nationalism or cause any controversy since this topic is very debatable. This post is not to raise the hate against foreigners or whatsoever, but I just write what I have in mind, and whether or not you agree or disagree with this, feel free to give your argument or click like or share it to your friends to know about it, I don’t know. And this is it. 😀

Suffer the little children

“Suffer the little children” is a post on Rupert Winchester’s blog The Mighty Penh. He talks about orphans in general (in the Cambodian context of course) and specifically about a trip he’s taking around Cambodia for a charity he works for (he’s doing the annual reports for donors who sponsor individual kids). Very interesting stuff. I’ll quote it in full, with Rupert’s permission, as it’s not very long.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been travelling around Cambodia talking to orphans, for the annual sponsorship reports sent to people who stump up a small monthly amount of cash via the charity I work for, to help pay for a child’s basic needs: rice, soap, cooking oil, salt, washing powder, education and so forth.

Oddly, most of the children aren’t actually orphans: their parents have given them up as they’re too poor to look after them. Which makes my mind boggle a bit. The children range in age for about six to 19. Some of them are very disabled and will never live an independent life; others are bright and motivated and bursting with life and enthusiasm, waiting to get out into the world and become engineers and dentists and translators.

One orphanage is set up for kids with HIV, which you might imagine would be rather bleak, but the children are so funny and playful that they’re a delight to be around, even if it’s only for half-an-hour or so each once a year. They’re clean and just-about fed, and all of them are provided with anti-retroviral drugs. Nevertheless, two of them had died of AIDS-related illnesses since I saw them last year, which was a bit of a shock.

Orphanages here in Cambodia can be snakepits. Unscrupulous locals set them up, look for poor children, take them off their parents and open their doors to tourists who want to coo at the little people and hand over donations, which quickly disappear into the owner’s pockets. The government occasionally bust one of these when the children’s conditions get too bad, but it’s rare. Even worse is when a predatory paedophile from the West arrives and sets up an orphanage, giving him ready access to lots of delightful little children. It happens more than you think.

Of course, all the orphanages I deal with operate at the very highest standards and with the utmost probity. But that can be a rarity in this country. Travelling around the provinces with my colleague Saroen, it was fascinating to hear first-hand about the corruption so many people here take utterly for granted. Like which chains of petrol stations are owned by which government minister’s wife and so pay no tax. Or how that police car (pointing at a proper police car) is actually a fake, and is used for transporting illegal luxury wood to dealers in Vietnam. It was quite an eye-opener.

But later, sitting by a quiet village pond watching swifts dart across the skies and the vast thunderheads well up in the far distance across the perfect deafening green of the Cambodian countryside, or sitting in a roadside shack at dusk eating boiled corncobs and watching out for rock pythons, it seems like there are probably far worse places to be.

Unless you support the Cambodian football team, who lost 0-6 last night to Syria. Syria! Go Angkor Warriors!

Cambodia playing Syria? The world is a small place.

Life in Phnom Penh’s Prey Say prison (again)

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Prey Sar, from Google Earth. Main entrance is the small orange rectangle at the bottom-centre

I’ve previously blogged about Phnom Penh’s jail, Prey Sar, here (posts on Khmer440 from one of the prisoners) and here (a “prison diary” previously published in the magazine Bayon Pearnik some years ago).

I’ve now discovered a third first-hand account of life inside, and it’s the best of all – it’s illustrated. It appeared as a blog in July 2011 and ran for only a five posts, between July 27 and July 31. Posting was done by smartphone. I have no idea why it stopped appearing, but perhaps the blogger’s cellmates told him he was putting them all at risk – the guards can be very sensitive about these things.


First post: Arrives, forced to change to prison uniform (it was blue then, now it’s orange). Double walls topped with barbed wire – and he’s surprised by how pretty it is inside, with gardens and pathways. But this isn’t the actual prison, just the approach to cell block A, where those yet to be sentenced are held. As he walks down the path with its border of gardens and lawns the noise increases, all coming from a few dark barred windows. “[T]housands of voices shouting from within the dark holes of the beautiful facades of the buildings.”

He enters block A. The noise is horrendous. Guard opens a cell door and pushes him in. He glimpses a crowd of faces, like an overstuffed elevator, all looking. He says … well, what do you say? He says “Hello!”


At this point let me make an editorial comment. Prison populations are made up of the bad, the mad, and the sad. That’s not my phrase, it comes from a famous writer who is also a prison doctor. That man also said that the mad and the sad vastly outnumber the bad. Is it so in Cambodia? I don’t know. But our bloggist is lucky, he found a friend, someone he’d known on the outside. This friend is his protector, his patron. They even share the same T-shirt. Don’t laugh, you’d be surprised how important a T-shirt can be in Prey Sar. And so ends Day 1.

And these are some of the photos he took. I feel a little uneasy putting them up as I might be invading someone’s privacy, I don’t know, but privacy doesn’t seem to be a thing you get much of in Prey Sar.