Burger King unleashes a torrent of like restaurants

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I never have darkened these doors. In fact, the only one of the restaurants in this post that I have tried is bbq, below, because of a two-for-one promotion. That eatery is part of a Korean chain, and the food certainly is memorable. Memorable, yes, but I have to say it is not so in a good way.

When Burger King opened its doors two blocks from my apartment in January 2014, I tweeted half seriously, “There goes the neighborhood.”

Little did I know.  And how much do I regret that I unwittingly had foreseen what would ensue. Burger King cranked open the floodgates that caused an inundation of fast-food restaurants — which enjoy throngs of young Khmers starting late in the afternoon — along a four-block stretch of a street that parallels mine.

Our mid-rise apartment building is, I hear, only about five years old.  The lot it occupies apparently was a banana plantation prior to construction, and the greenery it provided exemplified my neighborhood.  In no small part because of our building boom (soon to be bust, I think) and the growing profusion of restaurants, gorgeous tropical trees are vanishing apace.

When we moved to the Boeung Keng Kang I area at the end of 2013, one of the chief attractions Continue reading

With politics and human rights, expats have a problem

eople protest the detention of four human rights workers and an election official on Monday morning near Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison. Source: Phnom Penh Post

A few activists protest the detention of four human rights workers and an election official on Monday morning near Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison. Source: Phnom Penh Post

It is a debate that has persisted since long before I started making Cambodia my home: What should expats do or say when they object to the actions of a foreign government that permits them to live in its country?

The question surfaced again here in Cambodia when a Facebook “friend” posted a story that has dominated the three English-language dailies for days.

A subsequent report in the Phnom Penh Post on Wednesday centered on a speech in which the prime minister said he might seek to have five jailed Cambodians forgiven for their entanglement in what has been dubbed a sex scandal concerning the acting president of a political party opposed to his ruling one.  Hun Sen’s remarks followed Monday’s arrest of civil rights activists essentially for wearing black shirts as they headed to a demonstration in Phnom Penh to call attention to their plight.

If civil society groups hold back during legal proceedings, suggested the price minister, the arrested individuals could be released from custody on one condition.  He said:  Continue reading

Killer disease remains an open secret in Southeast Asia

‘. . . most of the time, the patient has already passed away.’

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The bacterium that causes Melioidosis.  Source: Eye of Science

There may be some folks who call a disease that still kills the “Vietnam Time-Bomb.”  More than 300 U.S. servicemen who fought in Vietnam were infected with it.

Melioidosis, as it is known medically, caused their deaths.  It may be Southeast Asia’s most quiet killer, a stealthy predator.

The deadly disease occurs throughout the world’s warm climes; in Southeast Asia, it is especially present in northeastern Thailand and perhaps less so in Cambodia as far as can be known.  Because it lurks with so little public awareness, physicians here don’t tend to look for it in ailing individuals, and those patients just perish, often within days.

“In Cambodia, we think 70 per cent Continue reading

Police in Phnom Penh are paid like piece-workers

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Motorcycles parked, police officers can only hope offenders will stop.  (Source: Khmer Times)

The traffic police officers here receive a salary, albeit a low one consistent with the paltry pay that the vast majority of Cambodians receives, if they are fortunate to have a job.

The police might be forgiven for thinking that the government pays them to work, so work they do when moved to stop slouching on the job in order to attempt an arrest of motorists who break the law.  Although their salary is just part of the job’s rewards, they paradoxically seem to be less than dedicated to pursuing offenders.

The police in Phnom Penh are notorious for Continue reading

Students throng event promoting studies in U.S.

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High school students surround tables at which college and university recruiters tirelessly offered answers to their questions for up to five hours at an EducationUSA fair last week.

The enrollment of foreign students is an essential source of revenue for most colleges and universities in the U.S.  Having once been in charge of communications for a university, I can report that Asians long have been a lucrative source of tuition.

Thus it was that I attended a recruiting “fair” sponsored by EducationUSA at a fancy Phnom Penh hotel a week ago.  As the Web site notes, the organization — which charges educational institutions for their participation — is a product of the U.S. government, and a laudable one at that:

EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries. The network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. EducationUSA also provides services to the U.S. higher education community to help institutional leaders meet their recruitment and campus internationalization goals. 

Given the level of enthusiasm and energy that I witnessed in the crowd of more than 1,000 students, most still in their school attire, I came away from the event Continue reading

This blog post was supposed to focus on graffiti alone

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  Spotless: Security guards, who usually double as parking assistants, ensure it.  They are everywhere.

One of the striking characteristics of Phnom Penh is the near absence of graffiti.  Strikingly stark walls undoubtedly tempt a mischievous segment of the population, yet an overwhelming proportion of those walls remains pristine.  The relatively few exceptions tend to be on fences surrounding construction.

How can there be so little defacement, I have mused, though to my credit, only briefly?

I have concluded that one reason has to be Continue reading

Khmer Times unapologetically commits plagiarism

thumb_PC240023_1024There were numerous reasons that I declined to work at the Khmer Times on three occasions starting more than a year ago.

One was how much I have come to value my free time.

The other reasons were more complicated.  For one thing, I had a viscerally negative reaction to Continue reading