Cambodia has a lot of problems. From what you read in the papers, it would seem that one of the major problems–because of the frequency of the arrests and lawsuits–is VIPs being insulted.
The Cambodian government started distributing COVID-19 vaccines in early February and later graciously said that resident foreigners would be included free of charge, but the foreigner program has been fraught with confusion and delays. Click here for more background.
Does the government in Cambodia really think it necessary to build a special crematorium to burn the bodies of deceased COVID-19 victims? If washing hands for twenty seconds and spritzing with sanitizer can take care of the virus, wouldn’t burning the body more than have the same effect? The special crematorium will be just like the regular crematoriums except that it will only be used for coronavirus victims. Why make a special facility?
Last week the Cambodian government said that foreign diplomats, UN officers, staff at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asia Development Bank (ADB), and the World Bank (WB), as well as staff of international NGOs would be in a priority category to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Maryknoll Cambodia is an INGO, but the government hospital I went to on Sunday morning said they were closed because they had such crowds on Saturday. At another hospital on Sunday, this sign was posted (above): “No ticket. Please go to your own embassy to take application form before you come here.” No one know what it means. What ticket are they talking about? The embassies say they don’t know about the form referred to on the sign.
The government of the Kingdom of Wonder….
From January, 2020 to February, 2021, Cambodia experienced about 375 COVID-19 infections. Then on 20 February, two infected people started a series of infections and in the next two weeks another 600 infected people were found. Click here to see more background on this development.
Cambodia seemed to be blessed. It took a year to reach about 350 COVID-19 infections in the kingdom–and no deaths. Then on 20 February four Cambodians bribed guards and sneaked away from quarantine and started a surge of infections. In just five or six days 200 new infections were discovered and the numbers keep increasing.
Because of that all schools in Phnom Penh and Kandal Province have been closed and the prime minister has asked people not to come to the capital city.
One of the actions of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot was to abolish money, specifically the Khmer riel, the national currency. Partly because of that and partly because of inefficient handling of monetary policy after the Khmer Rouge were defeated, the riel never regained the trust and acceptance of the Khmer people. When a new post-Khmer Rouge government was established, the US dollar became the central currency in use in Cambodia, and it has remained as a fully legal currency until now. Transactions can take place in either the Cambodian riel or US dollars, and they are freely interchangeable.
Now, however, mostly for reasons of national pride, but also to give the central bank more control over the national currency, the government is encouraging de-dollarization and increased use of the riel. Recently to support use of riel, the government has discouraged the use of US $5 and $1 notes. After a period in which they could be exchanged for riel at no cost, the government has allowed banks to charge a fee to accept the $5 and $1 bills to create a disincentive for using the smaller US bills although they still remain legal.
That measure has had its intended effect. The majority of $5 and $1 bills previously in circulation for small transactions has disappeared. A typical transaction today is paid only with riel, or if a larger US dollar note is used, any change under $10 will be returned in riel. For example, if a person offers a $50 bill to buy an $11 book, the buyer will receive in change a $20 bill, a $10 bill, and the equivalent of $9 in riel. Smaller amounts of riel paper notes are also given because the Cambodian monetary system has no coins.
The incredible events in our nation’s Capitol Building are more than politics. They are also indicative of our theology. Here is a link to an article by Jim Wallis in Sojourners magazine. Read the full article and reflect on how to respond, but for me these were the ideas that struck me the most.
In addition to the political ramifications for our democracy of the attempted coup, there are also theological questions Wallis raised:
1. Truth is a central tenet of Christianity. “Does the truth matter to Christians and Christian leaders who supported Donald Trump?”
2. “[T]he biblical abomination of racism and its ideology of white nationalism…stands at the core of the Trump base…. This is no longer just politics, it is theological heresy, and one that needs to be exorcised from white Christianity in America.”
I encourage you to read the article.