Articles on Cambodia

By Rich Garella

Most of the articles here are from The Cambodia Daily, where even as an editor I did write the occasional article. Many of the articles and opinion pieces I wrote during and after my tenure there are posted here. Those on Cambodia and the Internet are in the Cambodia and the Internet scrapbook.

The articles here are as they appeared, except that I've fixed a couple of really minor mistakes which were annoying the heck out of me.

Opinion pieces:
Coke Adds Life to Atlanta Olympics - April 15, 1996
Rape Is a Reminder of a Line That Can Never Be Erased - July 12,1996
Cambodian Children Misused in Slorc Welcome - October 18, 1996
International Women's Day: Index Listed Deeper Problem - March 14, 1997
Letter: Hun Sen and Theng Bunma -June 17, 1997
Letter: Kassie Neou and the Cambodian Elections (click link, then scroll down) - Bangkok Post, May 4, 1999

A Tragedy of No Importance - March 29, 2005

Royal Breakfast Celebrates King's Birthday - November 2 1995
Khmer Paper Ordered Shut - Dec 17, 1996
King Clarifies Position on Pardon for Sirivudh - Dec 19, 1996
Paper to Resume Publishing After Apologizing for Article - Dec 23, 1996
PM’s Cabinet Urges ‘Action’ Against Critical Newspaper - Jan 2, 1997
Travel: Hawaiian Islands Take Visitors to a Place Frozen in Time - Jan 7, 1997
‘Urban KR’ Revelations Appear to Draw King’s Skepticism - Jan 9, 1997
Serei Kosal Lends Protection at KNP Openings - Jan 20, 1997
Political Shifts Leave Gem Mining Unabated - Jan 24, 1997
Travel: Rediscovering Route 10, Cambodia's Lost Highway - Jan 28, 1997
Ranariddh Renews Attack on Mouly, Official Media - Jan 31, 1997
Feature: Woof! Dog Is on the Menu in Phnom Penh - Feb 19, 1997
Karen Refugees Protest Slorc Incursions Into Thai Camps - February 19, 1997

November 2 1995
Royal Breakfast Celebrates King's Birthday
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

[with bonus notes by yours truly, who was really only hoping to take pictures of the first part of all the following, but since I forgot to put film in my camera I had better not pose as a photographer anymore.]

Under the golden roof of a pavilion within the sprawling Royal Palace grounds, more than one hundred high government officials enjoyed a breakfast Tuesday in honor of King Norodom Sihanouk's birthday. The breakfast followed the traditional 9 am ceremony in which King Sihanouk and Queen Monineath, along with many of the most notable political figures in Cambodia, served rice, baskets of fruit and other treats to a long line of Buddhist monks. This year there were 73 monks, for the King's 73rd birthday.

After the saffron-robed monks were shuttled away in cars and minibuses, the small crowd of dignitaries and their wives, clad in traditional purple silk pantaloons, along with several [rather scruffy and definitely underdressed] journalists [who were really surprised they were allowed in], joined the royal couple in the pavilion.

There they were treated to a musical variety show featuring both Khmer traditional and pop music. A smooth rendition of "Misty" was accompanied by a light rain outside--and Prince Norodom Sirivudh on his gleaming white guitar.

Sirivudh then offered his soulful interpretation of the American classic, "Feelings." The King, seated at the head table with the Queen, co-Premiers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, and National Assembly President Chea Simm, half rose from his seat, clapping and cheering at the end of each song. Senior statesman Son Sann smiled appreciatively from his place immediately behind the King.

As the assembled guests finished their French pastries and coffee, the King arose from his seat. The well-wishers followed suit and filtered past the royal couple, who warmly thanked each guest for coming. [The King's handshake felt cool, which I am told means that I will have a long life]

Outside the gates of the palace, in the park and along the riverbank, thousands of other Cambodians made preparations for their day of celebrating as well.

And none of them that I saw had any purple pantaloons on, that's for sure.

king exits palace - 21k

April 15, 1996

Opinion: Coke Adds Life to Atlanta Olympics
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

On Tuesday in front of Phnom Penh"s majestic National Museum, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Princess Marie unveiled Cambodia"s cultural contribution to this summer"s Olympic Games in Atlanta. Under a red canopy beneath the blazing sun, before an audience of officials, schoolchildren, and apsara dancers, loomed a Coca-Cola bottle two and half meters tall, encrusted by Khmer artisanship.

"Very elegant," said the prince. "This bottle is the symbol of our Khmer culture." Indeed, the bottle"s exterior features teak carvings, paintings of village life, and even a reproduction of Angkor Wat, Cambodia"s most famous cultural site.

The culture that created Angkor has recaptured past glory with a Coke bottle of truly Angkorian proportions, which will take its place at the "Coca-Cola Salute to Folk Art" in Atlanta.

What glories shall be on display there? One can only anticipate. A gilt Faberge Coke bottle that recalls the Russian czars. A totem-pole Coke bottle from Canada. A brigade of reclining Buddhas, seated Buddhas, Buddhas from all over Asia tipping back Cokes. From Italy, a frescoed Coke featuring the Last Supper, in which Judas, already feeling pangs of guilt, hands Christ a final Coke. A Coca-Cola Eiffel Tower next to somber, stony Cokehenge. From the US, of course, The Real Thing: an unadorned bottle of Coke. Finally, in a tribute to the ancient nation that gave the Games to the world, the pantheon of Coke bottles can be enshrined in a soaring Grecian temple, supported by Coke-bottle caryatids.

Together, these Coke bottles will not only attest to the rich variety of human artistic achievement, but they will bear witness to the indomitable human spirit celebrated by the Olympic Games. Athletes from around the world, testing themselves, pushing their bodies to their limits in competitions which take place, ultimately, in the arena of the human soul, will thank Coke for the chance to represent their countries.

Imagine a sprinter, digging into the starting blocks, drawing strength and hope from the proudly waving Coca-Cola banners. In the next lane a rival emblazoned with the symbol of Nike, the former Greek goddess of victory now engaged in the manufacture of athletic shoes. In the stands, cheering throngs hoist brimming plastic cups of Coke, while all over the planet television viewers join in by quaffing Cokes along with them.

Their Cokes are purchased, with local money, from local bottlers. They in turn pay license fees to the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company, which sponsors the Olympics. We are not buying Cokes, we are buying into a holy communion.

Thus the nations of the world will honor this new deity of the Olympic Games. They will drape their god"s image in their emblems, as nations have done through the ages in order to stake their claim to powerful, life-giving forces.

Coke has swept across the world more thoroughly and more quickly than any religion. Why shouldn't it now take the place of Zeus atop Mount Olympus?

July 12,1996

Opinion: Rape Is a Reminder of a Line That Can Never Be Erased
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

Another line has been crossed with the reported rape last weekend of a French woman in Phnom Penh by an Cambodian man who forced his way into the house she shared.

It is the first rape in memory of a Western woman by a Cambodian man, but the incident is only the latest in a series of perceived barriers breached, each one to the shock of the expatriate community. Robbery, armed robbery, housebreaks, and now rape-each of them once seemed so unlikely as to be almost impossible.

For many expatriate residents, it is a loss of innocence-an innocence that may have been naive. As King Norodom Sihanouk has warned, we live our lives here and cannot hope to escape local realities. Despite the studied segregation from Cambodian life that many of us maintain, we are not completely insulated.

Even if this is the first rape of a Western woman by a Cambodian man, it follows many rapes of Western and Cambodian women here, by Western men.

Rape, and fear of rape, is a fact of life for Western women, who are raped on dates, beaten by boyfriends, abused by family members. This is as much a fact here in Cambodia as it is in our native countries.

Rape, and the fear of rape, is a fact of life for Cambodian women too. The law does not protect them from the abuses of their husbands. They are sold into forced prostitution, where they are subject to abuse by Cambodian men, Western men, men in general.

This tragic event also brings into sharper focus a widely recognized double standard that is particularly acute for those of us who report the news. An attack on a Westerner, a person from an industrialized nation, will receive greater attention in the press, and spark more outrage, than a similar attack on a Cambodian. And I say Western, not foreign, because had the victim been Chinese or Vietnamese, coverage in the English-language and international media would have been sparse or nonexistent.

That double standard is enforced by the economic inequities of a world in which poor countries like Cambodia are forced to cater to the desires and sensibilities of rich ones populated by Westerners with their tourist and investment dollars.

That line, the line between rich and poor, between Westerner and Cambodian, is the line that we in the expatriate community usually perceive most acutely.

But with this rape, last weekend's assailant has drawn for us a different line and drawn it deeper: the line between all men and all women. This is the line between those who rape, and those who are raped, and it is painfully apparent to each of us which side we are on.

For most women, this is not news. Men-Western and Cambodian alike-may need a reminder. It is an ugly line, but it cannot be ignored.

Rich Garella is the Graphics Director of The Cambodia Daily.

Here is a related NPR report, Nov 1996. You will need RealPlayer to hear it.

Oct 18, 1996

Opinion: Cambodian Children Misused in Slorc Welcome
Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

It is said that in children one can see the future of a nation. If so, the children lined up along the road from Pochentong Airport on Wednesday bear ill tidings for Cambodia.

The children were given signs to welcome Burma’s hated Than Shwe. Next to portraits of the King they raised portraits of this tyrant.

There is nothing wrong with those children. The problem is in the direction Cambodia and its leaders appear to be taking.

Ever since Burma's State Law and Order Restoration Council, or Slorc, annulled the 1990 elections they lost to Aung San Suu Kyi, they have cast their lot among the most repressive of the world’s regimes. No horror is beyond their reach. They drag people from their houses and imprison them without trial. They torture detainees and let them die without medicine, trial or contact with the outside world. They enslave men, women and children at random. And those are the crimes we know about--they restrict the press and all information that isn’t state-controlled.

From Burma they have created Myanmar: a country whose people live in terror of the whims of a paranoiac regime. For anyone who lives in Cambodia, it should sound all too familiar.

As Cambodia’s next round of elections approaches, the world is taking the measure of Cambodia’s dedication to free elections--one reason for the attention focused on Than Shwe’s visit here by the international press.

Cambodia’s leaders may deny that the lavish welcome given to the criminals from Myanmar is an endorsement of their policies.

But just as Slorc’s thugs make no apologies for strangling Burma, the Cambodian government seems to feel no shame about welcoming them. If the use of children to welcome Slorc was a cynical, empty gesture, let the government announce that in public.

And let them keep Cambodia’s children in school, learning how to prevent the horrors of dictatorship. Than Shwe’s Myanmar could be an excellent case study.

Rich Garella is Managing Editor of The Cambodia Daily.

Dec 17, 1996

Khmer Paper Ordered Shut
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

The Ministry of Information has ordered the newspaper Neak Prayuth to stop publishing for 20 days after the paper published a “deprecating” article about Second Prime Minister Hun Sen that the ministry said violated Cambodia’s 1995 press law.

But the publisher of Neak Proyuth, Sam Vuthy, issued a statement Monday evening contesting the ministry’s interpretation of the law.

The article, under the headline “Hun Sen Is Worse Than a Dog,” appeared last Friday, five days after the second prime minister made a speech in Kompong Speu which asserted that his dog understood English.

In its suspension order, which went into effect Sunday, the ministry stated that the article deprecated the honor of others, thus violating Chapter 2, Article 10 of the press law--but did not name Hun Sen. Article 10 does not provide for suspension of publication rights, although it does specify that false allegations about public figures, published with malicious intent, are libelous.

But Sam Vuthy, whose paper is aligned with Sam Rainsy’s Khmer Nation Party, argued in his statement that the article is protected under Chapter 1, Article 4, which states that articles which merely reproduce or summarize official statements may not be penalized.

“Hun Sen said that seeing that his dog can speak English, that’s why he himself learns English....That means he is worse than his dog, doesn’t it?” the publisher argued, adding that the newspaper will continue publication.

Oct 18, 1996

King Clarifies Position on Pardon for Sirivudh
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

King Norodom Sihanouk has stated once again that he has no intention of pardoning Prince Norodom Sirivudh--as long as Second Prime Minister Hun Sen withholds his approval.

The release of the statement comes only three days after Hun Sen threatened “war at Pochentong Airport” if the prince returns without having been pardoned.

Hun Sen clarified his position the next day, saying that if the King were to grant Prince Sirivudh a pardon, he would support it, and even buy a first-class ticket for the prince to return.

But in an interview Tuesday with the staff of his own monthly bulletin, the King appears to cede the initiative to Hun Sen, making it apparent that the second prime minister can determine whether a pardon for the prince is possible.

“I do not grant and will not grant any amnesty to people who HE Hun Sen does not pardon because it would not be any good for Cambodia if the King and one of “his” prime ministers became two enemies,” the King told his unidentified interviewers.

The King is permitted by the Constitution to grant pardons himself, but has maintained a policy that both prime ministers must approve them first. First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has already said he would do so.

In the interview, the King also described the case of the 1994 coup plotters, Prince Norodom Chakrapong and former generals Sin Song and Sin Sen, pointing out that he “took into account” Hun Sen’s opposition to a pardon--and did not grant one.

Dec 23, 1996

Paper to Resume Publishing After Apologizing for Article
By Rich Garella and Saing Soenthrith, The Cambodia Daily

The Ministry of Information has lifted its suspension of newspaper Neak Proyuth after a meeting Friday resulted in a written apology by the newspaper for an article it published, according to Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for information.

“They recognized that they used a strong word and they asked to resume and I granted it,” said Khieu Kanharith on Sunday.

The secretary of state expressed satisfaction with the outcome, and added that it is not the aim of the Ministry of Information to shut down newspapers.

Neak Proyuth, which normally publishes on Monday and Friday, had been ordered to suspend publication for 20 days, effective Dec 15, after it published an article titled “Hun Sen Is Worse Than a Dog.”

The newspaper canceled its Dec 16 issue as staff studied the 1995 press law to determine if the order was legal, said Oun Sokhom, the political editor. That evening, the newpaper’s publisher, Sam Vuthy, released a statement arguing that the order was not legal and that his paper would publish Friday. But on Wednesday, Khieu Kanharith stood firmly behind the ministry’s order to prevent Friday’s issue from being distributed. If the newspaper attempted to publish, he said, “we will shut down their office, and take their newspapers.”

In his statement, Sam Vuthy argued that the title of the article only summarized the meaning a speech made by Hun Sen on Dec 8 in Kompong Speu, and was thus protected by the press law.

In its suspension order, the Ministry of Information cited a chapter from Article 10 of the press law, which defines libel and the penalties a court may order after a successful libel suit.

However, the only press law article giving the ministry the right to confiscate issues and suspend publication is Article 12, which gives the ministry those powers when published information affects national security and political stability.

Jan 2, 1997

PM’s Cabinet Urges ‘Action’ Against Critical Newspaper
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

First Prime Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s cabinet has urged Ieng Mouly, the minister of information, to take “any necessary action” against a newspaper that published an article critical of King Norodom Sihanouk, Prince Ranariddh and others.

The letter, signed by cabinet chief Ly Thuch, refers to an article in issue No 20 of Sang Kros Cheat, or National Salvation News, and says that the article used “bad words to falsely charge” the King, and unfairly criticized Prince Ranariddh.

Sang Kros Cheat is generally supportive of the CPP.

A banner across the top of that issue read, in part, “The Sirivudh case is a trick of Samdech Sihanouk!”--apparently a reference to controversy which is raging over whether Prince Norodom Sirivudh should be allowed to return to Cambodia.

The article continued, saying, “Sihanouk’s political trick is not one to bring the people [and] the nation, to development, but a bad trick to jail and torture others.”

The cabinet statement did not suggest which law or article should be used by the ministry to discipline the paper.

The Information Ministry is still considering a subdecree that would clarify portions of the 1995 press law that might apply to this case. Chum Kanal, the president of the League of Cambodian Journalists, commented Wednesday that the subdecree must be passed before punitive action is taken.

“A penalty cannot be imposed on the newspaper, because the subdecree on the press law has not been adopted,” he said. “This is only a warning from the ministry to the editor to reduce the bad words.”

Another article in the Dec 20 issue criticized those who become monks temporarily in order to cheat others, avoid public disgrace and save money. Accompanying it were photographs of Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, the president of the Khmer Nation Party, during their recent stints in the monkhood.

In December, the Ministry of Information was set to suspend another newspaper, Neak Proyuth, which generally supports the KNP, for publishing an article deemed to violate the 1995 press law, headlined “Hun Sen Is Worse Than a Dog,”

In that case, the newspaper’s publisher apologized, and the ministry relented. (Additional reporting by Vann Roeun)

Jan 7, 1997

Hawaiian Islands Take Visitors to a Place Frozen in Time
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

Odd currents of history and their fascinating results are a fact of life in Cambodia. If you’ve learned to like them, you’ll find plenty to like about the Hawaiian Islands.

Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach area seems to be frozen in the American 1950s. The streets are thronged with gray-haired retirees in golf pants and happy, wide-eyed nuclear families, all gazing in wonder at the dozens of hotels, clever street performers, and cheap trinkets dangling from sidewalk carts.

What’s surprising is that there is no sign of the faded paint and weather-worn charm of other period survivors such as New York’s Coney Island. Nearly everything in Waikiki looks as if it was erected, painted or injection-molded just yesterday. The streets are perfectly paved, and squeaky-clean enough to walk barefoot.

It’s the perfect place for members of a society at the peak of its success to reward itself for a job well done--just before everything goes downhill.

Don Ho is still playing at the Beachcomber, and on the beach itself, deeply tanned teenagers jog down to the water, toss their boards into the surf and paddle out in hopes of a wild, hang-ten tube ride. But the tiny swells hitting the beach don’t always measure up to the mighty, tsunami-like pipelines seen on television.

It’s just as well, because these surfers are just as likely to be visiting from Kansas or Kobe as they are to be natives of Hawaii, where surfing was invented.

Waikiki’s biggest fans are not Americans looking for their past, however. About half the tourists strolling the pavement in Waikiki are Japanese, and their contribution to the thriving tourist economy has changed the face of Waikiki.

Hawaii has long been a popular setting for 1950s-style “white weddings” with Japanese couples, but now newlyweds can follow up their nuptials with a visit to the Western Shooting Association, an indoor pistol range with a Japanese noodle shop downstairs. In fact, all over the Waikiki strip are shopfronts with signage only in Japanese.

It’s possible to find cheap lodgings right in Waikiki. Sprinkled among the sky-scraping modern hotels are a number of hostels offering dormitories rather than private rooms. One of the cheapest, the Seaside (419 Seaside Ave) charges just $10 a night.

But far more common are the giant luxury hotels, many operated by an indigenous chain called Outrigger, named after the stabilizing pontoon on a Hawaiian dugout canoe. There are so many hotels that Waikiki’s skyline looks like a mini-Manhattan.

The Outrigger hotels are almost as numerous as the scores of ABC convenience stores which line Waikiki’s streets. As many as three of these stores may be found on a single block. Each one features the same array of garish beach wear, monkeys carved out of coconuts by skilled native artisans, sunscreen and plenty of soda pop. Each one is crowded with tourists. The next logical step would be pre-filled shopping baskets stacked up by the register, priced and ready for purchase.

Waikiki isn’t the only part of Hawaii that seems misplaced in time. Frequent flights from Honolulu land at Keahole Airport on the Kona coast of Hawaii, the “Big Island” (Honolulu is on the island of Oahu).

Because it is younger geologically than the other Hawaiian islands, the Big Island has not yet developed extensive beaches and coral reefs--that’s what gives it its timeless quality, and frees it from the tourist hordes that clog Waikiki.

The island is just over 10,000 square km--roughly the size of Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri put together, and almost as lightly peopled.

But unlike Cambodia’s northeast, Hawaii is growing. One of the island’s two active volcanoes, Kilauea, spews lava daily into the Pacific, expanding the island’s area as the lava shelf builds up and cools.

hawaii volcano All over the island, the birthing scars of this new land mass are evident as huge, barren lava fields. You can hike through jungles to volcano craters and traverse their twisted, fragmented surfaces, still hot to the touch. Or you can drive up 4,500-meter Mauna Kea, where 11 huge observatories jut heavenward from a reddish, Martian landscape sharply delineated by the deep blue depths of the thinning atmosphere.

A breath-taking scramble between patches of snow, and you are on the summit of the highest mountain in the Pacific and the largest mountain on Earth.

Far below, vast cattle ranches, run by Hawaiian cowboys whose ancestors were trained a century ago by Mexicans, spread across the western highlands.

On the east side of the island, frequent rain drenches the steaming rain forests around Hilo, home to one-third of the island’s 100,000 people.

Hilo is also the best bet for inexpensive lodging, with several small hotels and guest houses. The drier Kona coast on the west, with its dozen or so beaches, has expensive resort hotels instead.

Also along the western coast are numerous archeological sites, including the massive temple ruins of Hawaii’s ancient Polynesian culture. While they don’t match Angkor’s temples as wonders of the world, they are a place where Hawaiian and Cambodian currents--fascinatingly--meet.

Jan 9, 1997

‘Urban KR’ Revelations Appear to Draw King’s Skepticism
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

Claims that there has been an underground Khmer Rouge network operating for years in Phnom Penh appear to have drawn King Norodom Sihanouk’s skepticism.

In an annotation to a Dec 25 Agence France-Presse (AFP) dispatch reprinted in his monthly bulletin, the King seemed to express doubt as to whether a rebel group claiming 10,000 operatives would not, somehow, have made itself notorious and feared.

“An immense network of K[hmer] Rouges in the towns, and they haven’t committed any acts of terrorism,” the King noted in French.

Next to another section of the article, he observed that members of the urban network were “innumerable and coming in successive waves to HE Samdech Hun Sen.”

The second prime minister first introduced the urban terrorist group at a ceremony at his residence on Nov 16.

Spokesmen for the group, who said they were longtime Khmer Rouge members, promptly implicated Sam Rainsy and his Khmer Nation Party with the rebels, and claimed that First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh had asked Khmer Rouge rebels to delay their defection to the government.

In a further annotation to a section of the AFP article describing the underground members’ accusations against Sam Rainsy and Prince Ranariddh, the King wrote that “This is, to say the least, very amusing.”

Meanwhile, remaining hard-line Khmer Rouge deny the existence of the underground wing. Within days of the Nov 16 revelation, Khmer Rouge radio called the story “vulgar” and a “theater play.”

On Dec 30, a Khmer Rouge broadcast stated that false claims by one man posturing as a Khmer Rouge agent was another ploy by “Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and his master, Vietnam” to implicate Khmer Nation Party (KNP) President Sam Rainsy.

That broadcast was apparently referring to Reach Sarithisak, who on Dec 28 was ejected from the KNP.

Later that day, Reach Sarithisak held a press conference during which he maintained that all original members of the KNP had been recruited by the Khmer Rouge, and that for the past 15 years he had been working as an operative under senior Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok to destabilize the government.

Next to a Cambodia Daily article on Reach Sarithisak’s announcement, the King seemed to indicate that he concurs with other assessments of the former KNP member’s trustworthiness.

By a sentence describing Reach Sarithisak’s admission he has served two jail terms, the King wrote that the former KNP member, cited in the article as admitting to two jail terms, is “a criminal out of prison.”

The day after his own revelations, Reach Sarithisak--along with two other alleged leaders of the Khmer Rouge underground, Saing Sophearak and Men Sophat--was named by Hun Sen as a key informant who could help solve a series of political murders that occurred before the 1993 elections. Members of Funcinpec have accused the Hun Sen’s CPP of complicity in the killings.

“Now they have come out and all the mystery surrounding the 1993 elections will be revealed,” said the second prime minister in a speech given in Krangyov, Kandal. He added that a report would be compiled about the election violence and sent to United Nations officials. (Additional reporting by Chris Decherd and Laura Ngo)


A controversial law passed in 1994 made it illegal to be part of the political organization or military forces of the Khmer Rouge.

Both Sam Rainsy and Prince Norodom Sirivudh, both then prominent Funcinpec National Assembly members, were vocal opponents of the law.

Sirivudh, now in exile, could return to Cambodia and join an alliance as well, provided he receives a pardon from the King--an unlikely circumstance as long as Hun Sen withholds his approval while the King insists on it.

The unheralded appearance of urban Khmer Rouge coincided with increasing signs of movement toward an anti-CPP election coalition, comprising Funcinpec, the KNP, and Son Sann’s BLDP faction, and possibly former rebels aligned with Ieng Sary.

Jan 20, 1997

Serei Kosal Lends Protection at KNP Openings
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

BATTAMBANG - With protection provided by First Deputy Governor Serei Kosal, the Khmer Nation Party (KNP) opened eight offices Friday and Saturday in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

At the first office opening Friday on Battambang town’s riverfront, KNP President Sam Rainsy spoke to a crowd of about 200 supporters under the watchful gaze of about 20 heavily armed RCAF troops described in a KNP statement as “armed forces which support national independence, peace and democracy.”

Serei Kosal, Funcinpec’s outspoken top official in Battambang province, had been scheduled to take part in the late-morning ceremony, but did not attend.

Instead, Sam Rainsy and his entourage paid the deputy governor a visit at a house at the edge of Battambang town, where he was coordinating the movements of troops under his control.

After warmly greeting Sam Rainsy, Serei Kosal indicated that political tensions--which came to the boil late last year--are still running high. “We have to show that Funcinpec exists,” he told the group of KNP members and attending journalists.

Between rapid-fire bursts of orders to the RCAF officers standing around him, Serei Kosal decried the balance of power within the coalition government, saying that the coalition should be re-assessed. “If we have co-prime ministers, and co-ministers of defense, why not ‘co’ at all levels?”

Asked if he had received any instructions from Phnom Penh or from other provincial officials with regard to the KNP office openings, Serei Kosal said only: “No, I decide. Myself.”

Sam Rainsy’s group then traveled west on Route 5 to open two offices in Bavel and one in Samraoung. At each location, troops provided by Serei Kosal were stationed nearby during the blessing ceremonies and speeches.

Festivities and the erection of a KNP signboard were cut short at one Bavel office after reports that the owner of the house had been intimidated by unidentified agressors the night before, KNP steering committee member Tioulong Saumura said Sunday.

“He was a little scared. Instead we put the signboard on a smaller house off [Route 5],” she said.

Meanwhile, KNP Secretary-General Khieu Rada successfully opened four party offices in Banteay Meanchey on Friday and Saturday, added Tioulong Saumura, who is also the wife of Sam Rainsy. Escorted by a small contigent of Serei Kosal’s soldiers, the KNP opened two offices in the provincial capital of Svay Sisophon and one each in the towns of Ochreuv and Mongkol Borei.

Jan 24, 1997

Political Shifts Leave Gem Mining Unabated
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

Gem mine at Pailin
Thai-operated gem mines continue to sift the soil a stone’s throw from the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin in Battambang, where thousands of rebels joined the government in November.

One gem company manager in Chanthaburi, Thailand, was cited by Reuters in the Bangkok Nation this week as saying that each company still pays 220,000 baht ($8,500) per month to former Khmer Rouge commander Y Chhien, who has been named Pailin’s mayor.

Um Samy, Serei Kosal and Nam Tum--respectively the governor, first deputy governor and second deputy governor of Battambang--each denied on Wednesday any knowledge of who owns the land where the mines operate or who is being paid for mining rights. Y Chhien said Wednesday that he expects the gem mining companies to be licensed in the future. (Rich Garella and Van Roeun)

Jan 28, 1997

Rediscovering Route 10, Cambodia's Lost Highway
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

In 1989, travelers flooded to Berlin for the fall of the wall that divided that city for 28 years. They went there to pick up brightly colored chips of the wall, and to feel history being made.
The break-up of the Khmer Rouge might prompt like-minded travelers to wonder how they can get in on this piece of history--and pick up similar souvenirs. For now, one answer is Pailin, which became the rebels’ gem and timber capital after they captured it in 1989.
Pailin provided a backdrop last November for an elaborate ceremony in which thousands of former Khmer Rouge rebels officially joined the RCAF.
The old highway from Battambang to Pailin, Route 10, may be the most dangerous in Cambodia. The territory was mined for years as the rebels defended their stronghold against repeated government offensives.
The first 40 km of the highway is rutted and cratered. Trucks, motor scooters, bicycles and oxcarts wander crazily as they seek the least damaging course. Checkpoints staffed by soldiers exact small change from each vehicle. An experienced driver can negotiate his way through at minimal expense and risk.
The small market town of Sdao represents the end of the line for the less-hardy vehicles. Then the population thins out as Route 10 rises into the rugged hills that protected Pailin from government offensives.
Leftover tools of war litter the roadsides. The shell of an armored personnel carrier and the rusted carcass of a tank serve as makeshift shelters. The guns of those vehicles are silent, but other detritus of war is still as deadly as the day it was used.
Kilometer after kilometer of terrain is marked off-limits by warning signs. Teams of deminers in green or blue uniforms pore over carefully staked-out rectangles of earth, like gold miners working their claims.
The checkpoints gradually become more military in style. Most consist of a small campsite with a tent and a couple of hammocks. Some have small artillery pieces. The soldiers are easy with their smiles, especially if they see a foreigner. But they can be quick to fire--in the air, one hopes--if their requests are ignored.
Part of getting through checkpoints is offering the services of the vehicle. Usually that means giving a soldier or two a lift down the road to another camp. It can also mean taking on a load of dug-up land mines--not a comforting thought when the truck hits an especially severe bump. The mines are used to clear other sections of the road.

Near Treng vehicles are detoured onto a small track, which looks as if a bulldozer carved it out only recently.
Now and then the track crosses over Route 10, reduced to a swath running through the dense woods. A footpath meanders along it, through a golden carpet of wild grass. It is heavily mined.

Near Pailin the track rejoins Route 10. The roads improve dramatically, thanks to years of Thai logging. Dozens of tracks, their red dirt surfaces imprinted by huge tires, lead off to the sides.

Pailin cinema
Pailin’s single main street slopes down from a small hill topped by a colorful but decayed wat. Wide gaps between the shop fronts tell the story: Years of war have left Pailin a near ghost town.
That’s what some travelers coming here may be looking for. The defection of the rebels in charge of Pailin has allowed the road to be opened. Through it the government is trying to breathe life back into the town.
What passes for a market--a gaggle of vendors gathered by a tree in front of the town hall--is soon to be replaced by a wooden market building, locals say.
At the north end of town, one building is being renovated for use as a meeting hall. A small hotel is being made ready for guests. Rooms are quoted at $15--a bit steep considering the outdoor bathrooms and the lack of any amenities beyond a bed.

From its rooftop another Pailin can be seen: the gold-rush town--or more exactly, the gem-rush town. Around the plateau on which the town sits is a sea of dirt being sifted by heavy machinery.
A five-minute walk brings you to the gem mines. Men, women and children pick intently through heaps of tiny stones, searching for the glint of a ruby or a sapphire. Trucks from Thailand rumble along gravel ramps above deep pits full of slurry.
Conveyors lift mounds of dirt and pour it through sluices, sifters and screens, seemingly in an effort to sift through every cubic centimeter of Pailin’s soil. In the mud, dozens of men dig holes, sink makeshift cofferdams of timbers and dive in, flinging handfuls of grey mud up into buckets for hand-sifting.

Just as enterprising Berliners sold chips of their wall to travelers searching for a piece of history, these Pailiners may offer you the perfect souvenir of their battered town--a ruby in the rough.

Apologies for that ending. For many more photos of the Pailin area, see the site of Patrick Hawley, who was traveling with me.

Feb 19, 1997

Ranariddh Renews Attack on Mouly, Official Media
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has lashed out once again at the Ministry of Information, headed by minister Ieng Mouly, this time attacking national television and radio broadcasts for showing him less often than Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The speech, addressed to about a hundred Ministry of Information staff gathered at the prince’s residence on Wednesday, came the day before the official groundbreaking for upgrading facilities at TVK, the national television station, and at national radio.
Construction on the new facilities, which are primarily funded by aid from Japan, is scheduled to continue through March 1998, coinciding with the run-up to national elections.

“We are [building up to] an election campaign,” the prince said. “I request that national radio and TV not be inclined to parties. If they are, they are not national radio and TV. They cut my speeches, and for the other one, why [do they] let him speak?” he asked, referring to Hun Sen.
In a speech delivered Tuesday in Kandal province, Prince Ranariddh threatened to “take measures” against Ieng Mouly, and demanded to know why he has “allowed papers with no addresses to keep their offices open.”
The 1995 press law requires newspapers to register their addresses with the Ministry of Information.

In an aside to his speech Wednesday, which was broadcast Thursday on privately owned CTV-9, the prince briefly adopted a lighter tone, explaining that he did not want this part of his speech carried on television.
“Some have asked me...prince, why don’t you remove Ieng Mouly? He often plays [speeches of] Hun Sen three or four times, and yours very little.
“I responded that it doesn’t help the second prime minister much,” the prince said, bringing up Hun Sen’s widely reported threat to greet a returning Prince Sirivudh with 45 tanks at the airport.
“I don’t remove Ieng Mouly, in order to let him continue helping the second prime minister--I’m kidding, don’t play [this speech]. Cut this part out,” the prince said.

The same day Ieng Mouly, Minister of Finance Keat Chhon and Japanese Ambassador Shohei Naito ceremonially poured the first concrete for the new TVK facility.
The Monivong Boulevard facility is to serve both TVK television and radio, replacing a structure on Street 242. Two studios will be included, one for news and one for other programming--“featuring Cambodian values, traditional culture, and performing arts,” said Naito.
Ieng Mouly praised the contributions of France, Australia and Unesco for broadcast equipment and training, and praised the efforts of TVK staff.
“They have worked very hard to produce Cambodian programs for Cambodians,” he said.
“The single biggest obstacle they have had is the lack of a proper television station and studio,” he added.

In his speech Wednesday, Prince Ranariddh pointed out that both Japan and France have insisted that their aid to the radio and television projects be used in “a neutral framework.”
Japan “has let me know, and perhaps also the second prime minster, that it has requested the Ministry of Information to be neutral; if the politics is not neutral Japan will stop equipment aid to the TV station,” he said, adding that he supports that position. (Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)

Cut from published story:
High foreign content in Cambodian broadcasts has drawn criticism from various quarters. In early December, a group of university literature students complained to the Ministry of Culture about the quantity of Thai programming on TV-5, which is owned jointly by the Ministry of Defense and the Thai Mica Media Co.
And on Jan 7--the Liberation Day holiday instituted in 1996 to commemorate the ouster of the Khmer Rouge regime from Phnom Penh by primarily Vietnamese forces--Second Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the Ministry of Information to push television stations here for more Cambodian-made programming, citing excessive foreign influence.
The TVK facility is to be equipped with video editing equipment, seven news cameras and a radio control room to receive and edit foreign broadcasts. The $12-million project will also improve microwave signals between the production facility and TVK’s broadcast antenna site in Tuol Kork, overcome problems that now disrupt the broadcast signal during rain, and provide for the renovation of TVK’s broadcast facility in Sihanoukville.

Feb 19, 1997

Woof! Dog Is on the Menu in Phnom Penh
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

In Phnom Penh, plenty of opportunities await those who pride themselves on a sense of culinary adventure. If you’ve been searching for new challenges, it may be time to turn to perhaps the most loyal ally of the human species through the ages: Canis familiaris, the faithful dog.
Despite fervent and repeated denials by Cambodians, who often claim that only Vietnamese and Thais have a taste for the flesh of man’s best friend, Cambodia’s varied restaurant scene is not lacking in cuisine of canine provenance.
Two such establishments can be found not far from Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Don’t look for anything fancy, or even indoors. Just look for the big bubbling pots of fragrant dog stew.

Penthoeun, the proprietor of the unnamed shop at No 460 Street 310, estimates he has personally killed about 30,000 dogs--seven a day--since he opened in 1980. He pays up to 20,000 riel each for live dogs, which are usually brought to him from the countryside in a sack. After tying a cord around the dog’s neck, he delivers a sharp blow with a stick just below the ear. Then, without further ado, Rover is ready for cleaning--and the pot.

The result, chien au gingembre, has an unsubtle yet engaging piquancy that sits up and begs for attention. Each bony morsel is bathed in an oily sauce that fortunately does not conceal the sharp, irregular bones--reminiscent of goat. You’ll find the flavor lingers in your mouth for hours.
On the side, don’t miss the sliced liver, a surprisingly delicate, smooth-textured treat without the overbearing richness of most internal organs. Follow it up with the finger-sized bowel segments, packed with peanuts in an unidentifiable gooey matrix. They’re great for dipping, and the tough, elastic intestinal wall makes them a challenge, as well as a treat.
For a better appreciation of the fibrous and surprisingly beef-like flesh, try a whole hind leg. This is a meal in itself, but at a slightly higher price: 4,000 riel for one that looks as if it came off a Dalmatian.

There’s no reason to confine yourself to Penthoeun’s limited menu. For 10,000 riel, Penthoeun will be happy to kill and clean any dog you bring him. Since the use of dogs for scientific experimentation has such a long and glorious history--remember Pavlov?--you might as well adapt your favorite recipes.
It should also be pointed out that it is not impossible to get cat. Penthoeun says he has never been asked for it, “but if a customer wants, we will find a cat and prepare it.”

For all of the readers who are wondering, no, Penthoeun does not have a pet dog.
“If I had a dog as a pet and someone came and took it, to use as food, I would be embarrassed,” he explained. Indeed, his career choice has done nothing for his public image.
“I keep a low profile with my neighbors,” says Penthoeun. “Killing and cooking dogs, it gives me a bad reputation, but what can I do? It’s just my kind of business.”

If you find your mouth watering, head to 460 Street 310, and ask for “sahch chika-eh” (meat-dog ). Take-out is available, but unfortunately Penthoeun does not have a phone, so you can’t call in your order.
Warning: If you want to catch your meal yourself, take care. Last July Phnom Penh municipal police questioned two construction workers in connection with dog-napping, according to a Khmer-language newspaper report. The report said that the construction workers had not been making enough money from their daytime jobs, and they had turned to stealing dogs at night and selling them for their meat.

Feb 19, 1997

I wrote this one in Mae Sariang, Thailand, after a long day's drive north from Mae Sot, where the event below took place. I was on my way with my friend KT and her fiance to the Burmese student rebel camp (for more, see the Burma page). I faxed this to the Daily, which got a rare staff byline on an international story. Ah, the little ways we amuse ourselves.

Karen Refugees Protest Slorc Incursions Into Thai Camps
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily

KHAY KE LOK, Thailand - Karen refugees in a camp near Mae Sot on Monday protested a series of incursions into the border camps by Burmese troops and Karen forces that support Burma’s ruling junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council ( Slorc).

The camp at Khay Ka Lok, where 7,000 Karens have lived since 1984, was attacked January 28 by 60 Slorc troops and 47 soldiers of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), said Saw Tennyson, a Karen National Union (KNU) commander.

Karen kids at Khay Ke Lok
The Thai guards at the camp gate did nothing to stop the attack, he said.

“First [the attackers] went to the market and broke things and looted,” he said. “The Slorc commander was drinking beer during [the attack]...the soldiers shot their guns in the air and beat people with their rifle butts.”

Nobody was seriously injured in the attack, but the attackers set fires which burned 690 houses and other buildings, he added.

On Monday, about 1,500 camp residents, led by monks holding portraits of the King and Queen of Thailand, marched across the charred ground and household remains in the heart of the camp to reach the rally site atop the foundations of the camp’s school.

They formed a square, facing a loudspeaker on a wooden pole and an oil drum that served as a stage. Many held placards asking Thailand for more protection from Slorc incursions.

One of the speakers was camp leader Mary On, the vice chairwoman of the Karen Refugee Committee and a former major in the Karen National Liberation Army. Like other refugees, she was careful not to criticize their treatment by Thailand.

“We have lived here peacefully for 13 years,” she said. “The Thais still have human rights in their hearts. We are happy to be with them, as refugees.”

“The refugees are human beings,” said Tennyson, the KNU commander. “The Thai government should stop Slorc and support the refugees.”

March 14, 1997

This next one was an opinion piece printed in the Daily. Coming as it did only days after I officially left the paper, it caused some inaccurate theorizing about why I was no longer on the masthead--not to mention a certain amount of debate in the newsroom. Anyway, it was coincidental.

Opinion: Index Listed Deeper Problem
By Rich Garella

International Women’s Day seems to have brought into focus some of the issues facing women in the workplace in Cambodia--perhaps into sharper focus than some would like.

In the modern offices that supposedly represent Cambodia’s hope for future development, the reception desk is almost inevitably occupied by an attractive 19- to 26-year-old female. Positions offering upward mobility are usually reserved for men.

Meanwhile in the thriving brothel sector, the preferred age range for female employees in the world’s oldest profession is even lower, closely corresponding to the likelihood of career advancement.

Many Westerners here, especially those whose avowed purpose is to aid Cambodian development by deed and example, have been able to identify the problem, thanks to years of work by many in their own societies.

But Westerners should hesitate before they relax on their laurels. In Western-run workplaces, the problem is far from eliminated, though it has been driven deeper into the shadows.

Friday’s edition of The Cambodia Daily, in which a page featuring articles relating to Women’s Day was indexed on the front page under the heading “Babes” is an illustrative case.

To chalk it up as an editorial flub implies that the respectful way in which the paper usually refers in print to various sectors of society is a facade.

Assuming that the staff responsible for publishing a major newspaper in Phnom Penh does not collectively dismiss women as “babes,” then either it is a case in which a single employee used a term not normally used in the newsroom and let it get into print, or it is a case in which the usual form of joking discourse has leaked out of the newsroom onto the front page, into daylight.

Wherever they work, those who dismiss problems such as this one with shallow references to “political correctness,” should try to look a bit deeper. This is not about lists of forbidden words, it’s about considering the effects of what you say before you say it. It’s also about running a productive workplace rather than maintaining a hostile atmosphere.

Often the jokes and juvenile humor are used by insecure people, usually men, to shore up their own sense of self-worth at the expense of those who seem less able to defend themselves. It’s their ticket to the in-group, a short-cut to better acceptance.

But few are blameless. Other employees fail to challenge it for fear that they will be marked as not “one of the guys.” Managers--or even managing editors--can make this error too.

Naturally, women in male-dominated workplaces find it extra difficult to be one of the guys. And since popularity and acceptance are important to success on the job--including getting promotions--women can find themselves under strong pressure either to participate actively in their own humiliation, or to silently resent it, and accept an implicit limitation on their speech.

If you are one of the people who think it does no harm, then take this challenge: Ask yourself how much you or your workplace benefits from this form of workplace humor. Then go to each of your co-workers, in private and in sincerity. Promise to respect their opinion, and ask them to tell you how they feel about it.

Rich Garella is the former managing editor of The Cambodia Daily.

June 17, 1997
Letter: Hun Sen and Theng Bunma
(printed in The Cambodia Daily, June 19)

I would like to call the attention of readers to a set of statements that bear on the shooting of a Royal Air Cambodge jet on the tarmac of Pochentong Airport on April 7, an event reported to have been witnessed by numerous people.

"If Theng Bunma has committed a crime, if there is proof, I will have him arrested. I have arrested generals and leaders in the CPP before. They were involved in the abortive coup of July 1994. They used to be friends with me for many years. If I can arrest them, why not Theng Bunma?" --Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, interviewed by Dominic Faulder (Asiaweek, June 13)

"I lost my temper and control and had to shoot one of the plane's tires. I wanted to shoot more of them, to make sure that all were flat, but there were a lot of passengers surrounding the plane." --Theng Bunma, interviewed April 8 (The Cambodia Daily, April 9)

"Any person who intentionally defaces or attempts to deface the property of others is guilty of the misdemeanor of intentional defacement and faces a punishment of one to three years in prison. If the defacement is minor or the property of little value the punishment shall be reduced to two months to one year." --Article 48 of Cambodian Criminal Law

"...Every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law, enjoying the same rights, freedom and fulfilling the same obligations regardless of race, color, sex, language, religious belief, political tendency, birth origin, social status, wealth or other status." --Article 31 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia

Let us see whether words can be trusted and laws can be enforced in Cambodia.

Rich Garella
Phnom Penh

photo by DV2 go to top of this page

go to new site entrance

e-mail me your comments