Sunday, November 08, 2009

Still More on Phnom Penh & Cambodia

I'm not sure how they deal with their genocidal past in Camrybodia.  S21/Tuol Sleng where the Khmer Rouge did their photographing and some of their torturing is something of a tourist attraction.  Most of the people I saw visiting inside were foreigners like me but I did see a few locals.  All of the people outside were aggressive beggars waiting to pounce on the foreigners leaving. 

Pol Pot died of old age a free man and his henchmen are either free men or in the current government.  Most of Asia runs on an undercurrent of corruption that would be astonishing by US standards but in Cambodia it's right out there in in the open in such a festering cesspool that even I could smell it.  If a citizen attracts the attention of the Cambodian government and speaks out the government will sue them for defamation, and win.  If you sue them for defamation they'll sue you back for defamation for having sued them and they'll win. 

Another big problem in Cambodia is acid.  They supposedly use it in a process on rubber plantations but it has other more social uses.  Have a grudge against someone?  Just hire some goons, arm them with acid and with just a splash your victim will be taught a lesson they'll never forget (if they live).  Stories like this are easy to find:

There's a whole network of charities just for acid attack survivors.

Phnom Penh still suffers from the Khmer Rouge period.  Phnom Penh was abandoned for a few years and anyone who knew anything about maintaining it (plumbers, electricians, masons, mechanics, elevator repairmen, traffic engineers and planners, etc) was executed.  Today much of Phnom Penh's houses have no electricity, business all keep generators about the size of a small pickup truck out front or out back.  The country has no electric grid.  The government runs what electricity production and importation (from Thailand & VN) there is and charges at the meter about 4 times what electrical service costs in Thailand & VN but hey, someone has to pay for those $80,000 Lexus SUV's and fenced compounds I saw in Phnom Penh.

I flew to Phnom Penh from Bangkok, Phnom Penh makes Bangkok seem like the city of the future.  Bangkok is still a chaotic but loveable mess of a 3rd world city but it has reliable electricity, well stocked stores, modern rail mass transit, even taxis.  Phnom Penh, a national capital of 2 million has none of these things, not even so much as a city bus.  Gangs of street kids aggressively and persistently beg, in English, to pasty white faced me.  I've read that their money goes to glue and gasoline to sniff.

But for a foreigner like me Phnom Penh was memorable fun.  Good food, dollar beer, lots to see but I stayed in the part of town where the UN and the do-gooder NGO's live.  Parts of Phnom Penh that I saw to and from the airport unfortunately looked like 3rd world hell holes.

No comments: