An interesting Saturday…

Yesterday turned out to be a very interesting Saturday. President Biden flew in on Air Force One in the morning for the ASEAN summit meeting held in Phnom Penh this weekend. He is Catholic and I had read that he tries to go to mass on Sundays wherever he is, so I was not too surprised when the US Embassy here asked me to have mass with him yesterday. The time for the mass changed three times during the week but finally we had a morning mass at the Raffles Hotel where the United States delegation was staying.

President Biden is a very warm and personable person, a good human being guided by gospel values. We had a group of ten people for mass, staff from the White House and the Phnom Penh U.S. Embassy. At the end of mass, noting that it was lunch time, President Biden invited me to eat with them!
This is The Beast, the vehicle used to transport President Biden on the ground. It rated its own separate enclosure on the grounds of the Raffles Hotel. I was hoping they would offer me a ride home in The Beast but I had to settle for the usual tuk-tuk.
The U.S. delegation took over the entire Raffles Hotel and made many adjustments. Here the main lobby and reception desk is blocked off by partitions erected to move people like me through security. Secret Service personnel were everywhere!

Quite an interesting day!

More than one problem here…

On the surface, this lead-in to an article in the Khmer Times seems hard to believe–that there could have been police raids on 10,000 gambling dens IN ONE MONTH! I doubt those gambling sites were all set up that month so this looks like an on-going problem. And it may well continue to be a problem if only 200 people were sent to court as a result of 10,000 raids. If there is such minimal enforcement and consequences, why stop running a gambling den?

Banned…except when they are not

An article in yesterday’s Khmer Times newspaper makes it pretty clear that right-hand drive vehicles are banned in Cambodia. In other countries “banned” would mean you can’t use them. But this is Cambodia:

  • About 10 or 12 years ago a law was passed outlawing right-hand vehicles.
  • About a year later in one of his famous rambling speeches, the prime minister declared that actually right-hand vehicles could keep operating.
  • It is not uncommon to see right-hand cars on the streets here.
  • The government even issues a special license plate for right-hand vehicles–which are illegal according to the law that is ignored.

Now in the same article with the above headline, the PM says:

  • Right-hand vehicles will no longer be allowed to be imported into the country. Meaning that all along, even though they were banned they were still able to be brought into the kingdom.
  • The right-hand drives can continue to be used but now the drivers have to pay taxes on them. Meaning that previously, if you drove an illegal right-hand vehicle, you didn’t need to pay taxes while the legal drivers did.
  • More than half of the R-H cars here have been converted to left-hand drive but that will no longer be required.
  • “He also urged the people not to import right-hand drive cars anymore.” So much for a ban.

Awareness of Autism

One of the things the Catholic Church can do in a mission context is take the lead when new situations are encountered or society gains a new awareness. Such an area in Cambodia is autism. So much is being written about autism in the US and there are so many programs set up to work with children with autism. It’s a rather new issue in Cambodia—the awareness of autism, not children with autism who have always been there.

Many of the Catholic parishes now have programs to help children with autism and their parents, and today at the quarterly meeting of the Catholic Alliance for Charity and Development, a subgroup working on disabilities discussed an upcoming program to be presented by an experienced practitioner from Australia.

Aviation Woes

These are not aircraft waiting to take off. They’re parked.

During the Covid crisis, US airlines received $50bn+ to keep them afloat and ready to resume operations. Now the money is gone, the airlines are not ready, crews are not available and trained. The aviation industry blew it big time and the traveling public has paid the price literally and figuratively.

This is a taxiway at the Bangkok airport, filled with parked aircraft. I saw at least three such parking lots.