Good Evening Cambodia: Khmer New Year Catch-Up

Its hard to forget there is poverty in such luxury.

Good Evening Cambodia,

Today is Thursday, April 5th, 2012.

Sorry I’ve been slack on posting the piece. One of the site’s users has been concerned about my absence. For those of you crapping your pants for a new edition, your wait is over – but at the same time, you need to check where you’re at and what time of year it is. This is Cambodia, and in keeping with local customs and traditions, there will be no over-achieving from this slouch, especially at this time of year. If I were out in the provinces, I would have already knocked off for my bi-yearly two week bender. My loyal readers are lucky I’m still busting my balls up here in the big dirty, trying to make those final dollars before the Exodus from the city begins.

The week before Khmer New Year is one of the busiest times of the year in the Kingdom. The whole damn country is on the move, that or anyone who’s not is trying to hustle up enough cash to prove their worth and get on the move back to the provinces. Bosses are expecting some sort of yearly results and employees are playing catch-up from their year of “play Facebook” and “go province” to meet those demands and get their final pay for the year. So while old Whiskey Brain has been admittedly slack, take it in stride and find comfort knowing that a few million Khmers are pulling the same stunt as me right now, just trying to get out of this week alive and get out the hell out to the provinces. It’s the dead middle of the dry season, it’s hot as tits out here in the Jungle, and we all need a break right about now.

Its hard to remember there is poverty when you're surrounded by such luxury.

In other news, the ASEAN economic conference being held in the capital is thankfully winding down. Traffic this last week on Mao Tse Tung has been a shit-show, with several businesses along the street being forced to close to accommodate traffic coming and going from the ASEAN summit. I haven’t seen so many cops out in force in Southeast Asia since I witnessed a coup in Thailand in 2006. I have to say, good show boys. Way to make ASEAN officials think you actually have control over your population and that things are on the up and up. Thankfully for you, the ASEAN delegates were easily wooed by Lexus pick-ups at the airport, duty-free booze, cheap taxi girls, fancy meals, jets to Angkor Wat and trips to the casino to realize exactly what this place is about, or maybe they did realize exactly what it is all about and they just don’t care. It’s always impolite to insult your hosts by bringing up such sensitive issues when they are giving you such nice things and taking you to such amazing places. 

VOA is reporting that Cambodia’s opposition parties are saying Burma’s election should serve as a wake-up call to Cambodia. The article quoted Kem Sokha, leader of the Human Rights Party as saying, “Cambodia must change its system, or people today will turn toward uprisings for change.” Yes, and when exactly does Kem Sokha expect this to happen? While I do see a lot of discontent with the level of wages in the country and land grabs by the government, I don’t see enough of it to trigger some sort of “Khmer Spring”.  The protests occurring at factories and land grab sites are on the micro-level and issue specific. This is unfortunate for those expecting change in Cambodia. What I do see is a disjointed opposition expecting an apathetic populous to do their dirty work for them. Until Cambodia puts forth a respectable opposition, Burma will be a hard mold to follow.

Federal agents in New York have seized a 1000 year old Cambodian statue valued at nearly $3 million from Sotheby’s auction house. According to the New York Times, federal agents claim in a civil suit that Sotheby’s put the statue up on the auction block even though they were aware the statue had been stolen from a temple in Cambodia. The New York Times reports that Sotheby’s even rejected Cambodia’s claim to the statue as late as 2011. What a bunch of dirtbag culture thieves.

Meng Saktheara, director-general of the General Department of Industry,  says people need to take pride in the unique qualities of genuine Cambodian products in order to compete internationally. While I do agree with Mr. Saktheara’s message wholeheartedly, in order for people to take pride in the unique qualities of genuine Cambodian products, Cambodia actually needs to make unique products, with unique characteristics that can’t found easily elsewhere in the world. Right now, Thailand, Vietnam and China dominate the unique product market in Cambodia and that’s what people, foreigners and Cambodians alike are buying. Change the product and change people’s minds.

From the Phnom Penh Post: “After a week of global media reports dissecting Cambodia’s relationship with China, Prime Minister Hun Sen had apparently had enough yesterday – lashing out at the media and analysts he termed “crazy” in what proved an unexpected conclusion to the 20th ASEAN Summit. The premier spent a good part of the concluding press conference defending his government from claims that China was buying its support.” Uhm, are you kidding me? Did you forget who built you this 30 million dollar monstrosity? After all, it’s the very building where ASEAN held conferences earlier in the week.

"The Council of Ministers" - China's 30 million dollar "gift" to Cambodia.

In casino related news from the Wall Street Journal:

“The nation of 15 million people has more than 25 casinos, but most are small affairs in rough-and-tumble border towns that cater to hard-core Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese gamblers. Now, as the country continues to stabilize after political chaos in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, developers are pushing ahead with more-ambitious resorts hoping to attract a broader clientele. But some skeptics say the odds of success are long.”

The article is a brief and uninformed look at the development going on at Bokor and casino development that’s going on in general in the Kingdom. What the WSJ forgot to mention, and what financial news agencies often forget is that development comes at a huge cost. Sometimes it’s hard to see that when you’re only thinking about the bottom line, like writers at the WSJ often do. If the writer would have researched his article a bit better, he would’ve also written on the toll that all this development is taking on Cambodia’s sovereignty and it’s people, as in China buying up huge swaths of Cambodian natural reserve land to place casinos on. You know, the kind of land China is buying from Hun Sen in return for fancy ministry buildings like the one I just showed you. But as Hun Sen told us, there is no price on Cambodia’s sovereignty.
Post-modern nightmare being planned at Bokor - not being done by the Chinese but by the Sokimex Group, which also manages the Angkor Wat complex and several luxury hotels in the Kingdom.

Quote of the Day:

Dr Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, Deputy General Secretary of Council for Land Policy at the Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning & Construction, speaking to the Phnom Penh Post said: “Actually, it is not only our youth that lacks the prospect of buying houses – but also all over the world. For instance, in Norway, where I have been, if youth want to move out from their parents’ houses, normally they are supposed to rent the places.”

Song of the Day: 

ASEAN Limo Photo from here.


  1. […] Independence were probably just as “stew’d in corruption” as the Cambodian elite, who at this time happen to be selling off the general sum of their forests and cities to the highest…, in exchange for the promise of converting the country into a gambler’s […]

  2. That's not the Council of Ministers Building in the picture, it's the Prime Ministers office, built with government funds.

  3. Thanks for the comment Hank. The article has been updated. The writer claims he was drunk and unaccountable and that it may happen again. Apologies from the mgmt.

  4. First Good Evening Cambodia: "a new feature on our site called, “Good Evening Cambodia”. The feature will be a daily to semi-daily breakdown/rant (depending on peoples interest) on what’s happening in Cambodia"

    Taking the piss is The Whisky Brain. Once a month at best. lazy sod.

Leave a Reply