Analysis and Comment on the
Society and Politics of Cambodia

Articles from 2000

Articles from 2001

Articles from 2002

Articles from 2003

24 November 2004--Traffic Costs

Government statistics for 2003 report that 824 people were killed in traffic accidents in Cambodia while another 2,714 were seriously injured. However, the Asian Development Bank, in a news release this week said that "Official statistics grossly underestimate the actual numbers of persons killed or injured in road accidents" in Cambodia. The ADB estimates that Cambodia loses $116 million a year to vehicle accidents. That is 3.2% of the nation's gross domestic product, and the highest such figure in Southeast Asia. A high figure is not surprising to anyone who has experienced the chaos of Cambodia streets and drivers where there is little sense of proper driving, and almost no enforcement of even the minimal driving regulations on the books.

Return to Top of Page

1 November 2004--Cambodia, Haven for Terrorists?

A report of a United Nations Security Council committee last week warned that Cambodia could become a focal point for terrorist activity.  The committee report also warned of concerns about terrorism possibilities in Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand, but focused mainly on Cambodia.  Noting that Hambali, the head of Jemaah Islamiyah, spent six months in Phnom Penh before being captured in Thailand, the report said that the main worries in Cambodia were the lack of anti-terrorism legislation; the country's poor law enforcement climate; its porous borders; and corruption.  An advisor to the prime minister downplayed the fears.

Return to Top of Page

25 October 2004--Legitimizing the Government

In July, after a one-year deadlock in which there was no Cambodian government because the three political parties could not agree on a power-sharing arrangement, a compromise was worked out and a new government was formed. The sweetener in the deal was a promise that more of the opposition party members would get top government posts. Of course none of the ruling party were going to give up their posts. The solution? Create more high-level posts! Several ministries were divided and three new ministries appeared: the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training; the Ministry of Women's Affairs; and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation. This despite the fact that there was no legislation allowing the government to form new ministries. Little legalities like that didn't bother anyone but now this week the new legislature, the National Assembly, is going to pass a series of laws to retroactively make the new ministries legal.

Return to Top of Page

22 October 2004--Cambodia's Corrupted Judiciary #3

Only in Cambodia...  The DDP office is having a problem with a deaf policeman!  A man in a police uniform, apparently deaf and trying to use sign language, walked into the building and into the classrooms one day several weeks ago and frightened staff and students.  Today he was back, reeking of alcohol, but didn't get into the building.  And when he saw me, he hurriedly got up and left our yard.  We are trying to find a way to keep him out without putting our staff into dangerous situations.  Probably the first step is to get his name, or his photo, and then go the police(!) to complain.

How a deaf man could be a policeman in this country where people with disabilities are not allowed even to study to become teachers because they would "frighten the students" is beyond me.

Return to Top of Page

16 October 2004--Cambodia's Corrupted Judiciary #2

"Battambang province's deputy judicial police chief...came to the defense of five of his anti-drug trafficking police officers currently under investigation for extorting thousands of dollars from people they arrest" is the lead of a recent article in The Cambodia Daily newspaper.

"My officers are innocent," said the chief. "Whatever they have done during arrests, wherever they have been to work, they got orders from the boss." Notice the second statement has nothing to do with the first, since corrupt police officers must pay a portion of the money they extort to their superiors. In the law enforcement climate in Cambodia, if the second statement is true, it could very well be that the first is false.

The probe into the conduct of five officers was prompted by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee's filing a complaint with the courts about two instances in which the police officers are said to have force arrested people to pay huge (for Cambodia) amounts of money.

Return to Top of Page

12 October 2004--Cambodia's Corrupted Judiciary

The presiding judge of Phnom Penh Municipal Court recently acquitted a Canadian and a Dutchman of charges of pedophilia. Cambodia is widely known as a sex tourism destination and many children are abused, especially by foreigners. The NGO Action Pour Les Enfants filed complaints against the judge because in the case of the Canadian, there exist e-mails he wrote to a friend in Vietnam describing his sexual activities. There are also photographs of the Dutchman in sexual activities with young boys. The judge, in dismissing the cases, said there wasn't evidence of the crimes, even though the police of the Interior Ministry apparently "certified clearly that Mader is a pedophile."

The general public has little faith in Cambodian courts, said the director of the Cambodia Defenders Project. "The common view is that we don't believe judges" due to a widely held perception that bribes are paid to ensure results. No one trusts the courts."

Return to Top of Page

8 October 2004--King Sihanouk Abdicates

King Norodom SihanoukYesterday, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the son of King Norodom Sihanouk, announced that his father was abdicating the Cambodian throne.  The king has repeatedly and increasingly more frequently threatened to step down, both because of his advancing age and medical problems and because of his frustration with the fractious and inefficient politics of the government.  A nine-member Throne Council is supposed to pick a new monarch, but no legislation was ever enacted to instruct the Council on the process to be used for selection so much confusion and squabbling can be expected.

Return to Top of Page

5 October 2004--Immunizations to Save the Children

According to official government statistics, one in eight Cambodian children dies before the age of five, usually because of preventable diseases such diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, and measles. Some NGOs would put the figure much higher, maybe one death out of every five children. In January, 2003 the government instituted a program to immunize all infants under the age of one with the seven standard vaccines for polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, and measles. Only 40% of the children are fully immunized against these diseases. However, misconceptions and lack of understanding among the very poor in remote rural areas has hindered the effectiveness of the campaign, although compliance is much better now than ten years ago. Polio was declared eradicated in Cambodia in 2000 and measles is the next target.

Return to Top of Page

2 October 2004--Smoothing the road for corruption

The road infrastructure of Cambodia is terrible and severely hampers the ability of farmers and merchants to do business. Often, getting supplies or selling products by road, if possible at all, is extremely difficult and expensive. But the advent of better roads doesn't necessarily guarantee a better business climate. In Kandal Province, residents say they no longer have to use boats, motorcycles, and bicycles to move goods along the formerly potholed and muddy road, but now they have to contend with unofficial checkpoints and unofficial taxes imposed by corrupt police and customs officials.  Businessmen and farmers who object have their vehicles seized and a fine imposed.  One farmer commented: "Before, the road was difficult but it was easy to do business. We could escape the police."

Return to Top of Page

16 September 2004--Is there any wonder why the UN criticizes the Cambodia judiciary?

There was a strange juxtaposition of articles on the front page of The Cambodia Daily today. In the upper lefthand corner, under a headline PM Assails UN Criticism of Judiciary, Prime Minister Hun Sen boasted about Cambodia's legal system and complained about the role of foreigners in attacking the system. Foreign governments have requested that the tribunals for former Khmer Rouge leaders involve foreign jurists because the "Cambodian judiciary is widely perceived as being prone to political interference, corruption and incompetence."

Then in the bottom righthand corner is an article headlined Hun Sen, Three Senior CPP Officials Join Bar. The Prime Minister and three ruling party officials were sworn is as lawyers despite questionable qualifications. The law on Bar membership says that members must possess a bachelor of law degree or a law degree considered equivalent. At best Hun Sen has a number of honorary degrees from little-known foreign schools although he has not completed a formal high school education. The head of the bar association said they had evaluated the educational credentials of the four newest members and found them equal to real law degrees. Others said the bar association's approval was equivalent to stamping tin as gold.

Return to Top of Page

13 September 2004--Khmer Rouge Trials On Hold--Again

Last week the Cambodian government announced the return of a UN delegation to continue with preparations for a trial for the leaders of the Khmer Rouge responsible for the deaths of so many Cambodians. Now the government has abruptly canceled the visit, saying they will wait until the National Assembly ratifies the law establishing the tribunal.

Some observers suspect the cancellation has to do with the small amount of foreign money that has been promised for the trial proceedings. The suspension could be the government's way of showing displeasure. Donor countries have in the past year expressed dissatisfaction with the projected large budget for the trials, calling it bloated and encouraging corruption.

Return to Top of Page

15 August 2004--Corruption in the Baby Business

The level and brazenness of corruption in this country is unbelievable. Here are some paragraphs from a recent newspaper article about bribes paid to Cambodian government officials to facilitate adoption of Cambodian babies by foreigners. Information about the payoffs comes from court records from the conviction of Lauryn Galindo in U.S. court on various charges resulting from her work as a baby-broker.

Documents Point to Bribes in Adoption Scandal
(from the Cambodia Daily, 6 August 2004)

Convicted baby-broker Lauryn Galindo directed payments of up to $3,500 to government officials for each of the hundreds of adoptions she facilitated in Cambodia, according to documents made public as part of her recent plea bargain in U.S. court.

Court documents showed that of the $10,500 to $11,500 fees Galindo charged US adoptive parents, "approximately $3,500 of these funds were used, in part, to pay Cambodian ministry clerks, employees or officials to facilitate the adoption process in Cambodia."

..."There is every reason to believe that these payments were bribes, given the fact that the government has stated that it does not charge adoption fees," [said the head of a local human rights group.]

...According to the court documents, which Galindo signed June 23, an unnamed government official received money directly from US adoptive parents to the official's Phnom Penh bank account.

...If the fee was standard for each adoption, as court documents suggest, Cambodia officials may have profited $2.45 million during the time Galindo operated in Cambodia.

...Nim Thoth, a CPP [ruling party] secretary of state for the Ministry of Social Affairs, dismissed Licadho's allegations of bribery, but said he would investigate since it is illegal for the government to charge fees for adoptions.

...Officials in the ministry's child welfare department declined to comment, referring all questions to Minister Ith Sam Heng. When asked about adoptions Thursday, Ith Sam Heng hung up the phone. Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Long Sisalo, who oversees foreign adoptions, did not answer calls....

Meas Sophat, director of the government's Kean Khleang orphanage in Phnom Penh, which worked with Galindo on some adoptions, said foreigners--with the exception of US and British citizens--can still adopt children if they organize the adoptions through the government, without using an agency.

"I don't like agencies because agencies are no good," he said, declining to elaborate.

Return to Top of Page

25 May 2004--Factual Indicator of Cambodia's Plight

The government has approximately 325,000 civil servants including teachers, police, and ministry officials. To raise their salaries to $100 a month--from the current average of $30 a month, the government would have to find an additional $143 million each year.  Even if the political will exists, there are other problems: an opposition party estimates that the government pays salaries to 70,000 "ghost workers," names that appear on government payrolls but who either do not exist or do not work for the government. And a World Bank report says that nearly $400 million is lost each year through corruption and unpaid taxes.

Return to Top of Page

16 May 2004--Priority: People or Polls?

The following paragraphs are an excerpt from an article in the Phnom Penh Post last August:

Dengue higher as cash goes to electioneering

Statistics from the Ministry of Health (MoH) show that less than 10 percent of the budget had been disbursed to central and provincial health services by mid-year.  The head of the ministry's budget division said the money was instead being used to aid "election campaigns."

Several health professionals said the result is that the country is now suffering a dengue outbreak far worse than last year.  Figures from the government's dengue control center show the number of new cases has jumped 56 percent, while deaths have almost doubled.

Te Kuy Seing, the secretary-general of finance and budget at the MoH, said the reason for the delay in disbursements was that the government was focused on the election.

"The government has to contribute to the election campaign. We have to have our priorities," he said, adding that the six-month delay to several ministry programs was normal.

Return to Top of Page

14 May 2004--Nepotism, Alive and Well in Cambodia

An excerpt from an article in the Cambodia Daily (13 May 2004):

Minister of Commerce Accused of Nepotism

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh has temporarily replaced his chief of Cabinet with his daughter, a ministry official said, sparking claims of nepotism by opposition lawmakers.

Cham Nimol, 24, who formerly served as deputy director for the Commerce Ministry's Foreign Trade Department, replaced Sous Sambath as acting cabinet chief last week, Mao Thura, the ministry's director general, said Wednesday.

"There is no law against someone who is related to the minister, working together in the same ministry," said Mao Thura. "It is a normal case in our society. This is something we can't avoid."

Cham Nimol's mother, Tep Bopha Prasidh, is the Ministry's director of administration, and her brother, Cham Borith, is deputy director general for Camcontrol, which inspects the quality of imported and exported goods.

"...Cham Nimol was the right person to replace him," Sous Sambath said. "I think for the moment, only the minister's daughter is able to handle my work," he said....

Return to Top of Page

29 April 2004--Hope in the Fight against Landmines

Aerial surveys, sniffer dogs, landmine-clearing machines, and human de-miners are some of the methods that have been tried to rid Cambodia and other countries of the scourge of landmines that were laid down decades ago but still continue to kill.  Now tests are being conducted on a new anti-mine weapon--a weed that turns red in the vicinity of buried ordnance. Read about it here.

Return to Top of Page

22 April 2004--Another summary of the bad news

The NGO A.D.D. (Action for Disability and Development) has produced their annual report for 2003.  In a section called the Country Context, they summarized some of the situations influencing Cambodia's development:

  • Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Approximately 40 to 45% of the population earns less than $1 per day (Ministry of Planning, 2001)
  • A study in 2000 by the Ministry of Education and Youth shows illiteracy rates in excess of 60%
  • Cambodia has one of the lowest rates of health service utilization in the world. On average there are 0.35 medical contacts per individual with public health services in a given year. (USAID, 2001)
  • There is no specific law related to people with disabilities (PWDs). The draft of the first legislation to protect the rights of PWDs is waiting for submission to the Council of Ministers.
  • There is no common understanding on the rate of PWDs: 1.7% according to MOSALVY; 15% according to the World Bank.

Return to Top of Page

7 April 2004--Friends in Pyongyang

Cambodia's King Sihanouk is out of the country at least three or four months a year, with reports saying that he is spending that time in Beijing for health reasons.  He maintains a residence in the Chinese capital and also has another in the North Korean capital Pyongyang.  The North Korean news agency reported this week that the king will be traveling to the hermit kingdom to celebrate the April 15th birthday of the communist state's late founder, Kim Il Sung who died in 1994.  The Cold War politics created strange alliances in Asia as battles were fought with proxy states.  The former government of Cambodia turned to North Korea when the Eastern Bloc countries were the only ones that would recognize the Cambodian government after the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese occupation.

Return to Top of Page

25 March 2004--Not Meeting Poverty Goals

Yesterday Prime Minister Hun Sen reported the Cambodian government will not meet the UN poverty reduction goals it set for itself four years ago.  The only three of twenty-five goals the government would "probably" meet are: slowing the rate of AIDS infection; putting principles of sustainable development into national policy; and reducing the impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance.

That is the good news.  The bad news given in the report is more extensive:

  • Poverty will remain widespread
  • Access to education will be limited
  • Natural resources are being degraded at a worsening rate
  • Health and sanitation standards are "unacceptable"
  • Infant mortality rates have not improved in the last decade
  • The poverty fell just 3% from 1994-1999, from 39% to 36%.

The United Nations defines the poverty level at $1 per day per person, but in Cambodia it is calculated at $0.50 per day which makes the last statistic all the more damning: More than a third of the population doesn't even get 50 a day to live on.

Return to Top of Page

19 March 2004--"Viva March 1970!"

On March 18, 1970 then-Cambodian King Sihanouk was driven from power by Lon Non with the help of the US CIA.  Now once again King of Cambodia, Sihanouk wrote yesterday on his website of the "extremely successful coup d'etat." In sarcastic comments one writer described as "tongue-in-cheek," the King said that Khmer Rouge supporters still in Cambodia should thank Lon Nol and the CIA because "without the Putsch of Lon Nol and this unforgettable March 18, 1970, there would not have been Pol Pot-ism."  The king also wrote that the governments that followed the Khmer Rouge should also thank Lon Nol's coup, "without which there would have been neither the colonization of Cambodia [by South Vietnam] nor the unstoppable loss of our territorial integrity by our three neighbors."

The king is right on target with his comments.  The United States' intervention in Cambodia and its support of the coup against the king was one of the greatest influences preparing the way for the Khmer Rouge.

Return to Top of Page

18 March 2004--"We're sorry. That number is not in service."

The government of Cambodia is approaching Japan for $9 million to build a fiber optic cable from the port city of Sihanoukville to the capital Phnom Penh.  Installing the cable would improve the country's landline services, "considered dismal by almost any standard," according to the local newspaper.  Cambodia "remains one of the least connected countries in the region and perhaps the only country in the world with mobile penetration rates double that of fixed line penetration," according to The Cambodia Daily.

Return to Top of Page

12 March 2004--Children of high-ranking officials--#1

From the Bangkok Nation newspaper today:

The son of a high-ranking Cambodian official is the prime suspect in a spate of slingshot attacks on Westerners in Phnom Penh, local media reports.

Police think the son is taking shots at Westerners after a run-in with a foreigner, but they don't have enough evidence to make an arrest. Well, they probably do, but they're certainly not stupid enough to arrest the son of a high-ranking Cambodian official.

The slingshot perpetrator is most active around the Royal Palace, National Museum and riverfront, where the chances of hitting a Westerner are higher.

He uses a high-powered slingshot--also known as a wrist rocket--to launch projectiles such as marbles and ball bearings at unsuspecting foreigners.

Return to Top of Page

28 February 2004--The Problem of Roads in Cambodia

Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into Cambodia from foreign donors for the construction of roads and bridges. There is little enough to show for it. But even the roads that were built have not been maintained and are quickly crumbling away. At a recent conference in Phnom Penh to discuss a draft Road Law, one government official commented: "I believe that the country lost about $300 million out of a total $500 million spent on constructing roads so far. This is because we don't have funds to maintain them on time."

Return to Top of Page

27 February 2004--Misused Ministry Budgets #2

As mentioned in the previous article, the Ministry of Education got only 79% of its legislated budget in 2003.  Guess who didn't get the money that WAS spent?  The teachers.  Teachers--whose salary hovers around $25 a month--got less in wages in 2003 than in 2002.  Again, Education was a "priority" ministry for 2003.

Return to Top of Page

22 February 2004--Misused Ministry Budgets

The local papers, both English and Khmer, have been reporting the misuse of the budgets for the various government ministries as indicated in the provisional 2003 budget implementation figures obtained from the Finance Ministry.  None of the "priority ministries" identified for special attention last year spent all the money allocated to them.  But other government bodies spent much more than they were budgeted: The Council of Ministers (the cabinet posts) spent 109% of their money; the Interior Ministry spent 167%; the Finance Ministry spent 199%; and the National Election Committee spent 826% of what it had a right to!

But Social Affairs got only 96% of its money; Education got 79%; Health got 59%; and Rural Development got 54%.  The undersecretary at the Finance Ministry said that he had been instructed not to comment on the figures.  That's understandable when opposition figures charge that "It seems that the government always concentrates more on increasing power for themselves than developing the country. The ministries that allow them to keep power get easy access to money."  And other opposition figures make an often-heard claim that the various ministries need to bribe Finance Ministry officials in order to receive the money that is legally budgeted to them.

Return to Top of Page

19 February 2004--ADB: No Loans without a Legislature

The Asian Development Bank has issued a statement that no new loans would be approved for Cambodia as long as there is no legally functioning assembly (parliament) in the country. Elections were held July 28th, but without a large enough majority for the ruling party to govern by themselves, and they and the two opposition parties have since engaged in name-calling, lawsuits, and petty squabbling which have prevented the formation of a new government.

Return to Top of Page

12 February 2004--Bird Flu in Cambodia

Cambodia's Health Ministry asked potential donors this week for $130,000 to fight bird flu in the kingdom. Bird flu has been detected here in at least two places, but there have been no human cases so far. One worrisome fact is that a Cambodian woman died in Vietnam of what could possibly have been bird flu; she had the appropriate symptoms. Unfortunately her body was quickly cremated without taking any blood samples so her death will remain on the list of suspected deaths related to bird flu.  $130,000 is not very much to ask for tackling a major Asian health problem. The sum is low not because Cambodia has money already to combat the disease. Just the opposite. But doctors say that last year they acquired respirators and protective gear to deal with SARS which never materialized in Cambodia, and that equipment can now be used with bird flu. One problem in Cambodia is that humans infected with bird flu would have to be transported to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap where there are better-equipped hospitals.

Return to Top of Page

10 February 2004--Hun Sen's bodyguards killed but no investigation

Another example of the lawlessness and culture of impunity in Cambodia: Saturday two of Prime Minister Hun Sen's bodyguards were killed inside his big compound in Phnom Penh.  Bystanders said one guard was drunk and wouldn't leave his post, and the other, his friend, shot him with an AK-47 and then killed himself.  The district chief of police volunteered: "They were dead but police are not allowed to make a report."  The two men were quietly cremated on Monday. Hun Sen is said to have a special force of bodyguards numbering 2,000 men.

Return to Top of Page

4 February 2004--Political Impasse Continues

Elections for a new legislature were held on 28 July 2003, but the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, did not win enough of a majority to govern by themselves. The constitution requires that they form a coalition, but the other two parties, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, have refused to cooperate unless Hun Sen is not the prime minister.  The king has intervened several times but the squabbling still goes on. Meanwhile enabling legislation for the Khmer Rouge trials cannot be introduced; the Senate is running out of money; and other problems relating to a lack of leadership are mounting.

Now after months of name calling and accusations Hun Sen, Sam Rainsy, and other party leaders are suing each other in the courts.  It sounds rather tame and civilized in the English press, but it is reported that the Khmer-language press portrays a rougher struggle going on with a lower level of street language being used.  The political situation is deteriorating, people are starting to get frightened, and there is no prospect of an early resolution.

Return to Top of Page

31 January 2004--Assassinated Union Leader's Killers?

A few days ago, the Phnom Penh police put out a sketch of a suspect in the killing of Chea Vichea, the union leader, but many groups were suspicious.  Most puzzled were the witnesses to the crime who said that they were never asked by police to give a description of the killer.  Then two days ago the police said they had arrested two men.  In a bizarre move they paraded the men before the press corps and allowed the journalists to ask questions for forty-five minutes before the men were led away.  A statement by a top police official may have been revealing when he noted that the Prime Minister had given them a week to find the culprits and they had done it in just three days.  Many suspect that under pressure from the government--itself under pressure from the international community, the police had rounded up two convenient suspects and charged them.  With the journalists the two loudly protested their innocence.  A day later one of them said that he was indeed the trigger man, but now even more people wonder if the two had anything to do with the killing and are instead just scapegoats.  No one was ever been arrested for any of the other five political killings that preceded this one.

Return to Top of Page

25 January 2004--Assassinated Union Leader's Funeral

On Thursday, the most prominent union leader in Cambodia, Chea Vichea, the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers, was gunned down in an execution-style killing while he was reading a newspaper outside a street stall a couple blocks from the Maryknoll center house.  Vichea was aligned with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party which immediately branded the slaying as a political killing and suggested involvement of the ruling party.  Several other Sam Rainsy officials have been murdered in recent months.

Chea Vichea funeral processionToday an unusual very public cremation was allowed by the government in a park near a major wat (temple). An estimated 15,000 people gathered in the park and walked to the site from the union's offices to place the body on a three-story pyre.  Dozens of Buddhist monks took part in the procession and the ceremony at the park.  Here the vehicle with the body approaches the park in front of Wat Botum.  Click for photos.

Return to Top of Page

23 January 2004--Police Corruption, Part 2

The day after I was stopped by the traffic police in the Maryknoll car on the way to the airport (see 22 January below), I was on my way to the airport again but this time on a motordupe (a motorbike taxi) with the driver that I hire by the month.  I had lent him the money to buy a new motorbike and at that time had tried to ask him if it was all legal.  It wasn't, and on the way to the airport the police waved us over and charged him 2,000 riel (50¢) for not having a license plate.  Of course, there was no receipt or proof that he had paid any fine which went into the policeman's pocket.

The system here is a bit ingenious.  Many, many vehicles don't have license plates.  And the police don't stop all of them without plates, which creates the hope in all the drivers that they won't be stopped.  With that hope they don't buy a plate, and they end up getting caught periodically and paying a "fine," but they figure that's cheaper than the plate which costs $20.  If the police stopped all the motorcycles with no tags, then everyone would get a license but this way the drivers for their part figure they have a chance of getting away and the police can still stop plenty and make lots of money.  So both sides feel they are winning and the system continues.

Return to Top of Page

22 January 2004--Police Corruption

On my way to the airport Sunday night to pick up Romane St. Vil, our new Maryknoll priest who is joining our Cambodia Mission Team, I was pulled over by a traffic policeman on one of the major paved streets.  He said I hadn't stopped for a red light although I was actually stopped dead still for the light when he decided to wave me over.  He said I didn't stop in the proper place and mentioned some word (maybe Khmer for "fine"? over and over.  I told him I didn't understand that word so he asked me for "Coca-cola" instead!  I figured it was worth that to avoid more hassle so I pulled out two one-dollar bills for him and his partner.  He saw the money and said "five dollars," and I told him I didn't have it and just offered the two ones.  He then countered that there was a third policeman over on the sidewalk so I gave him a third one-dollar bill and went on my way.  Life--and corruption--in Cambodia.

Return to Top of Page

10 January 2004--The Khmer Rouge cast a shadow 25 years on

January 7th was the 25th anniversary of the defeat of the Khmer Rouge.  (Or, if you are anti-Vietnamese, it was the 25th anniversary of the start of the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.)  By the time the KR were ousted by Vietnamese forces on 7 January 1979, some 1.7 million people had died under their rule.  Yet now, 25 years later, a tribunal to try the leaders of the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge group is still struggling to get underway.  The United Nations and the Cambodian government agreed in June to set up an international tribunal, but it has been delayed by the inability of the Cambodian Peoples Party, which won a majority in July elections, to form a new government, which is preventing the necessary legal implementations for the court to be passed into law.  The CPP may also be unwilling for the trial not to begin because it wants to let some of the KR leaders off the hook.

Return to Top of Page

Go to Cambodia main page
Go to Charlie Dittmeier's home page