Many of us go by familiar sites in Phnom Penh without ever knowing their history and significance.
Look at Photo 4 above. It’s a picture of the old Catholic cathedral in Phnom Penh that was torn down by the Khmer Rouge. You have been by its site a million times but probably weren’t aware of its history. In the #4 photograph, the photographer is standing on Daun Penh Avenue, facing west. His back is to Wat Phnom, on his left is the present U.S. Embassy, and on his right is the Sunway Hotel. He is taking a picture of the cathedral located on Monivong Blvd.
Photo #1 is a close-up picture of the cathedral as it looked in 1962. Photo #2 is a picture of the present Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications which was built on the site of the cathedral. In 2000, there was a large government radio tower where the cathedral had been located, but then the tower was moved and the Ministry of Posts was built in its place.
Photo #3 is what is today called the Municipality or City Hall. In 1962 it was the headquarters of the M.E.P. mission group. That is the French mission society to which Bishop Olivier belongs. M.E.P. had responsibility for the Catholic Church in all of French Indochina (Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia), and they built their headquarters right next to the cathedral. In Photo #3, the orangish building to the left of City Hall is the Ministry of Posts which replaced the cathedral.
After all the wars, the government took over the M.E.P. headquarters and kept it for themselves. Today you can ride by the City Hall building on Monivong to get a glimpse of Phnom Penh’s past and of church history in Cambodia. The former M.E.P. headquarters building (now City Hall) is on the west side of Monivong Blvd, across from the Raffles Hotel. It is easy to spot the former M.E.P. building because the fence along Monivong has crosses built into it.
Two days ago the government imposed another round of business closures. It’s not a general lockdown but all non-essential businesses are to shut their doors for two weeks. The graph above, from VODenglish.news, shows why. We have had restrictions since 15 April–including three weeks of lockdown–but the graph seems to get worse, not better.
This big grey building housed a karaoke center pre-Covid-19. Then when the government closed all such gathering places, they reopened as restaurants–at least officially. Stories keep appearing in the papers of the music still going on inside. This place placed the name “LA Restaurant” over the entranceway and hung up a sign of various dishes, and, voila, a restaurant! During the morning marketing time, vendors fill the street in front of the hall.
The graph above, from VOD, indicates that all is not well with the Cambodian government’s efforts to slow down the spread of Covid-19 in the kingdom.
On the other hand, the government has made some good moves. Within ASEAN, Cambodia has vaccinated more people than any other country except Singapore. And Cambodia has from the start included us foreigners living here in their vaccination plans. In this picture a member of our English Catholic Community gets his second injection.
The Khmer Times is a pro-government newspaper so it was rather surprising to find this editorial rather strongly criticizing the government’s handling of the restrictions caused by Covid-19. Click here to read the editorial. Notice, though, that the writer was careful to applaud the prime minister while speaking ill of his “minions.” The writer’s harsh comments are very valid.
And here is the prime minister himself saying the police have done a good job.
One of the problems with controlling the spread of Covid-19 in Cambodia is the porous nature of the borders with Vietnam on the east and Thailand on the west. A good number of Chinese make their way to Vietnam and then illegally cross the border into Cambodia while on the Thai border, there are numbers of people going both directions, some with the reported help of the Thai military.