In Cambodia, dealing with refugees remains hot issue

Sitting left to right, Brooke, Siphan, Coghlin, Tai.

Sitting left to right, Jim Brooke, Phay Siphan, Denise Coghlin, Billy Tai.

During a panel discussion last week, four individuals failed as expected to arrive at unanimous agreement about the world’s refugees in general and, in particular, the four who have arrived in Cambodia from Australia.

Former New York Times journalist, Jim Brooke, a friend who is editor of the year-old Khmer Times newspaper, stuck to the theme of a column in which he denigrated the men, women and children who braved the perils of crossing the high seas to enter Australia from distant shores.

Those souls have made it only to the independent nation of Nauru, where some 1,000 of them are held in a detention center run by Australia in what are described as deplorable conditions akin to a concentration camp’s.

Saying that Australia has the fifth highest per capital income in the world, Brooke characterized the migrants as Continue reading

Evil former Khmer Rouge official, 82, gets royal sendoff

The cremation of Cheat Sim occurred at the top of this structure.

The cremation of Cheat Sim occurred at the top of this structure, completed over two weeks.

Chea Sim was only president of the ruling party in Cambodia, yet he was remembered last week in a ceremony befitting a head of state following his death at 82.  The day of the funeral, June 19, was declared a national holiday; however, it was not strictly observed.

There were pomp, circumstance and elaborate decoration at his cremation in a park in the center of Phnom Penh.

Unfortunately, Continue reading

Because of construction, there goes my neighborhood

This villa, a block from my apartment, exemplifies what is being lost in my neighborhood.

This villa, a block from my apartment, exemplifies what is being lost in my neighborhood.

Demolition, renovation and new construction in my neighborhood of Boeung Keng Kang 1 (BKK1) is transforming an area that many expats favor into one that is becoming hard to recognize.

This former villa, which had become a restaurant, is across the street from the house in the top photo.

This former villa, which had become a restaurant, is across the street from the house in the top photo.  (Warning: Numerous images below.)

What is happening here at a dizzying pace merely reflects a situation in which property development in Phnom Penh has soared and, along with it, prices.

Investors in residential buildings in prime neighborhoods such as mine drove land prices up in the last half of 2014 alone by Continue reading

My heart went out to a cat with her litter of three

Begging for food outside the café, Brownie,before she was able to gain weight.

Begging me for food outside Brown , “my” cat before she gained weight.

If I didn’t travel so much, perhaps I would have invited home the stray and her two tiny surviving offspring.

I spotted the mom perhaps two months ago at the Brown café I frequent.  A calico, she was painfully thin and suffered from diarrhea.

From the employees and parking attendants who have come to know me because I am at the coffee place so often, I learned that she had given birth.  But the kitties were nowhere to be seen in the cluttered staff room in which she had taken up residence.  Nor was she always around.

I named her — what else? — Brownie, began purchasing food for her and enlisted the Brown staff to look after her during my absences.  But I was worried that the waif, who was nursing until a couple of weeks ago, would soon become pregnant again.

Thus began a saga that pretty much ended before dawn Sunday morning Continue reading

Bundle up for month-long cold spell, health officials say

ThermometerCambodians joke that the country has but two seasons, rainy and hot.

It turns out that there is a third one, according to the health authorities.  They have issued warnings about a cold spell that is expected to last until early next month.

By “cold,” they mean as low as 13 degrees Celsius (55.4 Fahrenheit) in mountains that are hours on the road from Phnom Penh and 22 degree Celsius (71.6 Fahrenheit) in the capital city. Continue reading

This is big week in Phnom Penh, too big by magnitudes

Boat races and fireworks are highlights of the three-day Water Festival.  (Photo: The Cambodia Daily)

Boat races and fireworks are highlights of the three-day Water Festival. (Photo: The Cambodia Daily)

The peak of the rainy season is supposedly long past, but it seems that nobody told the monsoon master.

When there is a downpour here, the rain roars so loud that it wakes many of us, including me, from a deep sleep.  Time to close the windows to just a crack.

Although the season normally ends around now, my first such experience of it seems significantly out of sync with the usual situation.  Hours-long deluges and days of off-and-on rain over the last couple of weeks have proved to be the exception to what I understand to be the rule.

It pours down even as a three-day holiday approaches this week.  The aptly named water festival takes places during the first week of November, when the river called Tonle Sap reverses direction, a phenomenon new to me.

Sometimes the rain is so heavy that Continue reading

Journalists, NGOs wrestle with their conflicting needs

ruom 2

Both staff and freelance journalists and individuals who work at nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) jammed a discussion last week about working together. (Photos: Ruom Collective)

An intriguing organization that specializes in social reportage throughout Southeast Asia sponsored a thought-provoking conversation between NGOs and journalists last week.

The idea, promoted by the impressive Ruom Collective enterprise, was to create an understanding of how each “side” could work together better than they perceive occurs now.

At Meta House, the German Cambodian Cultural Center in Phnom Penh, the event appealed to me because I worked for substantial periods of time on both sides of the desk.  It was a worthy event, though I’d heard many of the same issues explored previously and repeatedly over many years.

On the one hand, the journalists understandably wish for unfettered and unfiltered access to the NGOs’ operations, their clients and their finances.  “Transparency” is a word that surfaced frequently during the earnest discussion, which lasted until a deluge forced an end to the Wednesday evening session after approximately 75 minutes.

On the other hand, the NGOs seek Continue reading