Good Evening Cambodia: Rub Me Down

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Good evening Cambodia,

Today is Wednesday, March 28th, 2012.

This evening on my way out the house to buy my daily ration of Angkor beer, I witnessed the most disturbing sight. I was walking by landlord’s house, which sits on the bottom floor of a four-story French colonial villa, when I saw my 55 year old lard-ass of a balding Chinese landlord sprawled out on the floor in his undies, getting a rub-down from his live-in maid. What was even more unreal to me about the scene was that his wife, a 45 year old lard-ass of a Chinese money-mama was sitting there, over-seeing the massage while drying her hair in a towel. I dunno about you guys, but old Whiskey Brain’s missus wouldn’t knowingly allow another woman near my fat ass in our home, let alone direct the affair. Now I know maids rubbing down their employers is probably a fairly common thing in Cambodia, as many households have live-in “maids”, who in reality, are actually a lot more like severely underpaid household managers. In many instances the maids get to know their family well, so well that they even become kind of, and note the words kind of, part of the family. Now, I’m not some sort of moral values freak or ethnocentric madman, but what I saw tonight with Chairman Tub-o-Lard disturbed my poor western sensibilities.

Since I moved to Cambodia, I have been perplexed about the relationships between live-in maids and the people that employ them. I know the typical scenario for a live-in is that a girl from a poor family is taken from the provinces, usually when she is in her teens to early 20s, to live with a more well-off family in the city. Sometimes the girl is even related to her new family, say a cousin or auntie maybe. Sometimes the girl goes to the family through brokers; sometimes she is sent through vague word-of-mouth social connections and ends up being abused or even worse. The relationship between the woman or girl and her new family is ambiguous at best from the get-go. Many of the girls just show up, not even knowing what their salary or work conditions will be like after they arrive. Most of them are underpaid, making between $60-$100 a month. The girls are many times over-worked and under-socialized, having little to no opportunity for social life outside the home. The only thing the girl knows going into the gig is that if she comes to live with a family in the big city, then she will escape the day to day drudgery and boredom of rural Cambodian life. Hell, she might even think she has a shot at getting herself educated. Clearly many of these girls have gotten the short end of the stick in these situations and have willingly or unwillingly traded one sad existence for another.

In the News

Hun To Complains

Hun To has filed a complaint with the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh regarding the publication of a damning article, admittedly skimp on details, that linked him to a drug trafficking and money laundering syndicate in Australia. Hun To has vehemently denied all charges in the press and is asking the paper for a retraction or evidence that what the paper has printed is true. He told the Phnom Penh Post,  “This complaint is to ask the paper for clarification and to show the proof to me. If they don’t, I will seek a lawyer and file a lawsuit.”

2011 Drug Arrest Figures Released

2011 was a busy year across the board for everyone involved in the drug trade in Cambodia. According to the Phnom Penh Post, police arrested 1300 people on drug charges in the Kingdom in 2011. In 2010 there were 864 drug-related arrests. What was surprising for me was the number of convictions. Authorities in 2010 convicted just 251 people of drug related charges but the number of convictions in 2011 sky-rocketed to 951. Authorities seem to be cracking down. The Cambodia Daily had some interesting figures on the actual number of drugs and what type the police had confiscated over the last year. I don’t have the paper in front of me to give you the actual numbers and the Daily still doesn’t have a functioning website in 2012, but lets just say that ice is the overwhelming drug of choice in Cambodia.

Quote of the Day

“China strongly opposes the internationalisation of the issue and the raising of the issue in an inappropriate place,” Pan said, adding that China also “strongly opposes countries outside the region interfering in the issue”. – Chinese ambassador to Cambodia, Pan Guangxue laying out China’s position on the South China Sea territory dispute its having with other ASEAN countries, ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned trip to Cambodia this Friday. Presumably this week’s ASEAN summit would be one of those “inappropriate place”(s) for discussion that Pan is referring to.

Song of the Day

Photo from here

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