toa BLOG

rooms & food
Siem Reap
click image for more information

Previous blogs/Cambodia Updates...

Blog - Month 5

Blog - Month 4

Blog - Month 3

Blog - Month 2

Blog - Month 1

Hysteria, press freedoms, AirAsia, rumors, visa deals

Every Blog / Cambodia Update: August 2001 to the present

the toa Blog

May 2006


HEY YOU! Why just read? Talk, too. Head over to the talesofasia Discussion Forum and toss in your 500 riels worth. Some items from this blog are also cross-posted to the forum for further discussion (or not).

Want to help stop the illegal trade of Khmer artifacts? Sign the petition to encourage the Thai and Singapore governments to sign the 1970 UNESCO convention on heritage protection. Link is here: http://www.heritagewatch.org/petition.php

The toa blog - May 27, 2006

No 3G phones please, we're Cambodia and we're moral

In a move which has caused some minor injury to my chin, PM Hun Sen has, on the urging of a handful (a very small handful) of wives of people with too much money and influence, banned 3G phones on the grounds that the video capabilities of this new technology was too much for Cambodia's unsophisticated morality and would be used to spread pornography.

I am not making this up.

It had even been reported several days ago in the lead-up to this nonsense, that certain wives had even expressed fear that the technology could be exploited by women wanting to send nude images of themselves to their husbands. So, who has Hun Sen's personal mobile number, anyway? Sok An's?

And have any of them ever seen the internet? I bet their husbands have.

Anyway, this very select, elite, and quite insecure women's group have no doubt put the squeeze on their husbands' testicles (sorry, no video available) and have addressed their self-esteem and insecurity issues to the detriment of the entire country, which only benefits from the technological advances available with 3G phones, as if anyone would need this explained to them.

MobiTel, Cambodia's largest mobile telephone service provider is in the process of investing US $10 million on 3G technology. Kith Meng, the company's big guy, was reached in the USA for comment. He had no comment. He was dumbstruck and speechless. Like most of us.

An unnamed company spokesperson did manage to pull his chin off the floor and say a few words to the effect that this wasn't going to encourage businesses and that nowhere else in the world has this happened where 3G has been introduced (and probably nowhere else it will).

Like most utterly nonsensical actions (remember the bar closures of 2001?) compromises will be made, cake will be served, bones will be thrown and 3G will one way or another return to Cambodia and probably in a matter of a month or three. But then again it wouldn't be Cambodia if on the road to progress one didn't make two wrong turns, blow out a tire, sideswipe a cow, drive two hours down the wrong side of the road, miss the exit, backtrack through a rice field, and pull up in front of the destination while still driving in reverse.

Anyone seen my video camera?

That road

The Poipet - Siem Reap road is starting to look like a real construction project. Nearer to Poipet, the work is a little slower as the areas along the side of the road are being de-mined again. This is entirely a precautionary measure - would you go digging with heavy equipment in an area that was once known to have mines without making first a precautionary sweep? Neither would I. Farther east, the culvert and bridge work is well underway, trees that once framed certain segments of road have now been removed, widening has begun, and the occasional and expected traffic jams have arrived.

No word yet whether the road project will be banned on the grounds that vehicles could be carrying pornographic materials across provincial lines.

Also along that road

Electricity. Apparently EDC Siem Reap has finally come to their senses and realized that they will never get their generators up to snuff and it's time to look elsewhere for the necessary amount of power needed to keep a couple of hundred Angkor Royal Apsara Princess Bayon Kingdom Hotels glowing. So they're getting electricity form Thailand. Doing so requires running lines for about 130 kilometers as at present, the power lines from Thailand only go about 20 kilometers into Cambodia from Poipet. If you have any doubts as to this project head west from Siem Reap and have a look at the skyscraping electric poles going up alongside the highway. And the caravan of trailers bringing them in.

It'll be an eyesore alright, but hey, if it keeps Siem Reap glowing - something they are unable to do during peak season - and even better, has any positive effect on our electricity costs (presently about 21.5 US cents per kwH), well, we'll live with it.

No word yet whether the project will be banned on the grounds that electricity can be used to facilitate the transfer of pornography.

The toa blog - May 18, 2006

The censors comes to their senses

Further to the May 17 entry, the film censorship board voted 6-5 on appeal, not to cut the final ten minutes of "The Da Vinci Code" which opens in Bangkok, and around the world, today. Still, five votes in favor of the slice is a bit scary, though. [See: Bangkok Post full story].

That said, hopefully we can all get on with our lives and see what movies we want and pass on those which we don't. Seems easy enough.

Not surprisingly, yesterday's entry did generate a complaint or two in my e-mail box. Did I unnecessarily insult Christians? Well, if you're not part of the censorship crowd then you should not feel insulted because I wasn't talking to you. On the other hand if you are part of the censorship crowd and feel insulted, well too bad. Many people, self included, felt very insulted by your attempts to tell us what we can and cannot see.

I defend your right to tell your version of history, your religion, your fictional stories, your ideas of what is and isn't true... so please, allow the rest of us to tell ours. Is that asking too much? I should hope not.

Is Angkor Wat the Temple of Doom?

Have a look at this story: http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=2&subID=529. Sensationalist or not? The points presented are in fact, pretty accurate. Siem Reap does have prostitutes, freelancers as well as dozens of brothels which cater primarily to Cambodians. Siem Reap does have drugs, how often have tourists complained of motodrivers offering them drugs in the "Bar Street" area? Siem Reap does have increasing petty crime problems and bag snatching is indeed a growing concern. And Siem Reap has developed a whole area of bars and restaurants (though I would argue it's present state would be a prime candidate for a case study in a tourism development seminar of how not to build an entertainment zone).

Now, tell me... think hard now. Name me ONE major tourist area in Southeast Asia where you won't find prostitutes, drugs, petty crime, and some sort of nightlife?

Right. I can't think of one either.

But really, all that said, the greatest concern in Siem Reap would still be either a traffic accident or getting trampled to death by a Korean or Japanese tour group.

The toa blog - May 17, 2006

Paranoid Christians seek more control - so Dan Brown must have got it right.

"The Da Vinci Code" opens worldwide Thursday and Thailand hasn't been spared the controversy as the religious zealots, yes Thailand has a few, sick their Thought Police on the rest of us. From yesterday's events, we can only assume that the We Believe in Religious Freedom and Tolerance So Long as It's Our Religion and Our Tolerance people bribed the Thai Board for the Protection of Religious Special Interests, Sexually Oppressed Old Ducks, Generally Socially Conservative Twats, and Insecure Government Officials, more commonly known as the Registration Division of the Police Department which is in charge of enforcing a 75-year-old film censorship law, as they successfully (if only temporarily) have forced the final ten minutes of the film to be cut for screening in Thailand.

According to the report in The Nation newspaper, Chawana Phawakanant, a member of the censorship panel, said the final scenes in the film would be cut because they would have affected the faith of Christians. Hmm... is this an admission that perhaps their faith is a little weak in the first place? No wonder they don't want anyone to see the film.

They also said that some of the Thai subtitles had to be changed and they demanded a disclaimer be placed at the beginning of the film that the movie is a work of fiction. And according to Manoch Jaengmuk, chairman of the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand, certain scriptures in the Bible would also be displayed on screen both before the film begins and at the end. Yeah, scripture, that'll show 'em. And who gets to choose the scripture, anyway? And why?

Christian celebrities in Thailand were quick to rally issuing a statement that the film and the book deliberately insulted Jesus. Well, that's fine, and just how do you know this? Did any of you ask Jesus personally whether or not He's insulted? Go on, ask Him.

But the ultimate in hypocrisy comes from singer Cheewin "Boyd" Kosiyabongse who had previously stated that 'anyone who had never had the "Jesus experience" would be easily convinced by the inaccurate content in the film,' was then quoted, "I wouldn't watch the film myself. It feels like someone is insulting my father. I see no reason to view it." Well said, Boyd. You don't want to see it, then don't see it. You make your decision and leave the rest of us alone to make ours, fair?

Finally, Worrayut Kijbamrung, of the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand, said the film violated Jesus Christ and was against Christian teachings. And which teachings would that be? Maybe it's time to bring back the Dear Dr. Laura, later Dr. President Bush letter that's been circulating the internet for quite a few years now:

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

So basically, once again, we have a case where a certain minority of individuals find it necessary to impose their beliefs on others, controlling our access to information and ideas, much as Dan Brown accuses the Catholic Church of in his novels. If you want to ban the movie, fine, ban your own flock (anyone else see the irony of associating Christians with a flock of sheep?) from seeing it, but let the rest of us make up our own minds. My religious views are already well entrenched.

I defended Mel Gibson and his right to make "The Passion of the Christ" and I would also defend the right of any Christian group to come forth with their own film based on whatever Biblical angle they chose and I might even watch it - I like historical fiction. So will you give me the same respect and let me decide for myself what is and isn't appropriate, what I will and won't believe, and let me choose my own paths to God, whether I choose to take one or not?

In any event, it was reported this morning that the order to cut the final ten minutes of the movie is now under appeal and a final decision is pending.

For the record, I've read "The Da Vinci Code" and I've read "Angels and Demons". The former kept me turning the pages, if only for the interesting premise raised by the author. As for the latter, I was enjoying the story until the end which I found very disappointing and excessively contrived. I do not consider Dan Brown to be a particularly good storyteller, but I do like the issues he raises.

You can see the two stories on the The Nation's website here: (Controversial Hollywood film "The Da Vinci Code" will be screened in Thailand, but with the final 10 minutes cut out at the request of local Christian groups.) and here: (Colombia Pictures appeals cut on "The Da Vinci Code").

The toa blog - May 10, 2006

Nations and neighbors

For a short moment there it looked as if another Thailand/Cambodia squabble was poised to explode. And unlike the January 2003 nonsense at least this time there was actually a real issue and not just some dumb rumor.

A thoroughly lame attempt at mixing a reality TV show with a ghost story resulted in the utterly tasteless Thai movie Ghost Game where a group of game show contestants are supposed to spend time in some old ghost-filled Cambodian prison that bears perhaps a little too much resemblance to Tuol Sleng, and hence by default, these are the ghosts of genocide victims.

Not surprisingly, the Cambodia reaction was not positive, and there's no reason why it should have been. Genocide is not a game, nor fodder for a third-rate horror flick. It's an international tragedy.

In the face of criticism, the filmmakers did issue an apology saying they never intended their story to focus on Khmer Rouge genocide victims which doesn't really explain why they visited S-21 and even asked the Cambodian government for permission (understandably denied) to film there?

Several reports on the movie and the Cambodia reaction appeared in English-language newspapers in both Thailand and Cambodia. For the most part, the reports covered a response from Cambodians that was fair and balanced, and one quote was particularly brilliant. This was quoted in The Bangkok Post from a soldier identified as Loung Nhoung, "If they were neutral, they would make a film about Thai authorities killing thousands of their own people in their 'war on drugs'," Definitely add this to my list of movies I'd like to see. Maybe some Cambodians should make it?

For whatever it's worth, the movie, released in Thailand two weeks ago and already banned in Cambodia opened to some really lousy reviews and is already heading to an eternity of obscurity.

But that's really not the point. The point is why some Thai film makers would come up with such a ridiculously insensitive film in the first place? Of all the possible ghost and prison angles why would they choose a neighbor's quite real genocide horror to create a quite unreal third-rate horror flick?

I suppose it stands as another example, as if we needed another one, of how little these two neighbors seem to understand each other.

Well, welcome to Asia, land of harmony where the Thais hate the Burmese and the Cambodians, the Cambodians hate the Thais and the Vietnamese, the Vietnamese hate the Cambodians and the Chinese, the Chinese hate the Vietnamese and the Japanese, the Japanese hate the Chinese and the Koreans and the Koreans hate everybody.

From the outside looking in, that is, not being of any Asian ethnicity or nationality and observing all the neighborly hatred in this part of the world, it really comes across as so petty and childish sometimes, manifesting itself with words and actions more expected from a four-year-old.

Where Cambodia and Thailand are concerned after years of living and working in both countries, when it comes to their neighbors I think both sides have their heads planted firmly up their asses and both should be taken out back and smacked around a few times until they can learn to treat their neighbors with more respect.

And it's always the other side's fault. They steal our cars. They look down on us. They come to our country illegally. They disrespect our culture. They are robbers and drug dealers.

Even the illegal immigration problems are full of hypocrisies. The Cambodians have often criticized the Thai government's treatment of Cambodians entering Thailand illegally (getting shot is a real risk) but ask a Cambodian how they should treat Vietnamese entering Cambodia illegally and the answer may not be all that different from what the Thais do to Cambodians.

Please, all of you, get over yourselves. You're all accidents of history anyway.

Am I the only one who thinks the world would be a much better place if we did away with all nations and borders?

What's nationality anyway but a creation and instrument of control for governments. Anyone see the irony in the perpetuation of an artificial entity that in some cases was created by a government half a world away that hasn't ruled the people of the nation it carved out (or up) for half a century? The irony of nationalistic fervor and spirit over a creation of a colonial power whose expulsion is still celebrated? That nationality is an instrument of control which violates the basic human right of mobility? While ethnicity can often be determined by one's appearance, identification of nationality requires the inspection of a government-issued document? That the ability to exercise the basic right of mobility (and I do contend this is a fundamental human right, regardless of what most governments might think) is determined almost solely by the accident of one's birth? Why is it, I, as a US national enjoy considerable greater freedom of mobility than a Cambodian national? And this difference is undeterminable until a government official inspects a document.

Imagine a world without borders. No illegal immigration, no trade deficits, no third world debt (How much money does Mississippi owe New Jersey?). It bears consideration.

America's been in the news quite a bit recently over the issue of immigration reform.

For the record, here's my take on the immigration issue:

I support amnesty for all illegals who can demonstrate a stable work history and have no criminal record. Put them on the track to citizenship (if they want it, if they don't, just give 'em their Green Cards).

Immigration reform should be making it easier for people to enter the USA not more difficult. America is a nation of immigrants and should never forget this.

The Minutemen are a bunch of pathetic hypocrites who should examine their own families' histories before passing judgment on others. My family's presence in the United States is traceable to the 17th century, all the way to the Mayflower on my mother's side. I don't believe anyone was examining passports and giving out 30-day entry stamps when they arrived. They all just moved in. Guess that kinda sorta makes me the descendent of illegal aliens. Cool.

I'm heading to the States for the first time in three years next month. With the wife and son. My son, is of course, a dual national and carries both Thai and US passports, my wife on the other hand had to go through the visa process. Having now been through it, successfully, I am at a greater loss to explain the process than before. In hearing the mounds of horror stories of unsuccessful attempts to get their Thai (or Cambodian, or Vietnamese, or Chinese... or, or, or...) wives non-immigrant visas to the US I was expecting much of the same. No, we sorted out our paperwork, turned up for her interview, waited around for three hours, and in barely a minute of questioning, most of which was simply re-asking questions already on the application, she was approved for the visa.

Whether I like it or not we're still a world of nations and in this world some nations are of course, doing a lot better than others.

The The Fund for Peace Failed States Index 2006 report was released last week and out of a field of 146 ranked nations, Cambodia scored the 47th position, which seeing as we're still less than ten years from the fall of Anlong Veng, I'm not sure this is such a bad placement. There's no frame for comparison as Cambodia was omitted from the 2005 study. The five biggest failures are Sudan, Congo, Ivory Coast, Iraq, and Zimbabwe. Other regional placements are Myanmar - 18th, Indonesia - 32nd, Laos - 40th, China - 57th, Philippines - 68th, Vietnam - 70th, Thailand - 79th, Malaysia - 98th, Singapore - 133rd. The USA scored 128th. The five most stable nations are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, and Switzerland. Rankings are based on twelve indicators: Mounting demographic pressures, massive movement of refugees and IDPs, Legacy of vengeance - seeking group grievance, chronic and sustained human flight, uneven economic development along group lines, sharp and/or severe economic decline, criminalization or delegitimization of the state, progressive deterioration of public services, widespread violation of human rights, security apparatus as "state within a state", rise of factionalized elites, intervention of other states or external actors.

The website is here: http://www.fundforpeace.org/programs/fsi/fsindex.php

Recent Updates on toa

May 25: New section: collected from toa forum posts: Tezza's Thai Islands and Beaches Travel Bits.
May 10: Updated the Overland Cambodia/Vietnam Travelers' Reports section.
May 8: Malaysia: Added a section from a collection of toa forum posts on Tioman Island.

back to Cambodia

back to Home

All text and photographs © 1998 - 2010 talesofasia.com. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.