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

Hats off to exceptional international film festival

Opening night of the Cambodia International Film Festival. Source: CIFF/Vann Channarong

Opening night of the festival at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Theater. Source: CIFF/Vann Channarong

The Sixth Annual Cambodian International Film Festival Is a Hit

Despite my expressed vow to avoid writing during the holidays, I was so captivated by the sixth annual Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) that I had to share with you my enthusiasm about the event, which was held in disparate Phnom Penh locations Dec. 4-10.

Not only was the festival organized with the precision of a three-star restaurant kitchen, but the quality of most of the films I caught was dazzling.

There reportedly were more than 130 from 34 countries in all, none costing more than $1 for admission, and I cannot explain why this was the first festival I’ve attended.  Only jet lag and ignorance of the screenings kept me from seeing more than the eight or nine (four in one day!) that I caught last week.

Cambodia International Film FestivalAngela Jolie Pitt, Continue reading

Investment in construction surges against all odds

Source: Phnom Penh Post

Source: Phnom Penh Post

The biggest disincentive for investing in land and new construction in Phnom Penh ought to be, in my view, how much of it is taking place. I have written several times in this space about the swelling bubble that I believe I am witnessing.

The bubble notwithstanding, other reasons would seem to militate against considering a building project in Cambodia, and I’ll get to those factors in a minute.

It is my belief that the dimensions of the growing bubble are clear: Construction and real estate investments achieved 13.75 per cent more growth in the third quarter over the same time last year. The government puts the combined worth at $1.752 billion, an increase in value of $1.54 billion over the previous year.

That recently persistent growth somehow has occurred despite Continue reading