Rampant injustice can be almost too much to bear

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The unfortunate victim of extortion for a crime that he did not commit has been working at this pool.

The 18-year-old pool attendant at my gym is gawky, gangly and unusually skinny.  No taller than my chin, he has kind of a goofy smile that always accompanies his dependably friendly greeting when we run into each other at the facility.

His was only one of two recent incidents that are symptomatic of rampant injustice in Cambodia.

I got to know the young man — call him Chan — when his job was to clean the equipment on one of the gym’s floors I visit.  I since have seen him frequently when he stands outside the glass doors at the entrance of the pool, where he has been assigned for more than a year.

On March 13, Continue reading

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Police corruption in Cambodia comes home to a friend

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Always hard at work, our underpaid constabulary.

A Khmer-American friend of mine acknowledges that he made a mistake when trusting a Cambodian acquaintance.  That trust has cost him well more than $1 million, a loss he can ill-afford.  Not many ordinary Khmer-American businessmen could.

From what I gather, my friend — call him Hak — doled out monthly payments to the guy.  The man — I’ll call him Vwibol — apparently was to lend that money to other Cambodians at admittedly exorbitant, but commonly charged, rates.  (The details that Hak provides tend to be kind of vague, so I am not even positive about the nature of his monthly investments.)

Every month, Vwibol would return some thousands of dollars to Hak. But the money stopped coming in September.  Vwibol says Continue reading

Wheels on the bikes go round and round

Do you see a light or helmet? At least this guy doesn't have to juggle bags full of food from the handlebars on busy Amsterdam Avenue.

Add me to the legion of Manhattanites who complain about cyclists who race the wrong way on streets, barrel along sidewalks and ignore traffic lights.

My complaint is about the men — only men, I think — making deliveries on bicycles and their employers.  I should say that I sympathize with those folks, whose jobs, such as they are, must rank among the worst in the city.

Living on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side, where a plethora of restaurants means a plenitude of bicycle deliveries, I am unusually cautious when crossing that thoroughfare.  I pause, look both ways, step into the street and look again and again as I venture to the opposite side.

That was my practice the other night on my way home from the gym.  Despite my vigilance, however, Continue reading