Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kiwi world premiere

The world premiere of the documentary Brother Number One, a film following Rob Hamill's journey to Cambodia to find out the truth of what happened to his elder brother, Kerry (pictured) who was murdered at Tuol Sleng, will take place at the New Zealand International Film Festival on Sunday 24 July in Auckland. Hamill, an Olympic and Trans-Atlantic champion rower, and director Annie Goldson have made a number of trips to Cambodia to complete the documentary footage including an appearance at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal where Hamill gave testimony in the Comrade Duch trial. The film is 97 minutes long and includes interviews with survivors, eyewitnesses and perpetrators. Find out more at the film's website.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Proud as punch

I know I said I'd finished with the football stuff but it is the World Cup, it only comes round once every four years and Cambodia did themselves proud this afternoon with a 4-2 win over close neighbours Laos, which gives them a great chance of meeting the big guns of China in the next round, if they can get a positive result in Laos on Sunday. I think it'll be a tough one to call, especially if Cambodia give any free-kicks in and around the box, as Laos have a deadly marksman from that range. Don't expect Cambodia to go all the way to the 2014 finals in Brazil, but today's result will mean that the Khmer football fans can puff out their chest for a few days and feel some pride in their football team for once.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

A legend unfolds

With the drama unfolding in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal courtroom outside Phnom Penh today, there were finishing touches being added to a new film theatre in the city center at City Mall, next to Olympic Stadium. Expected to cater for expats and educated Cambodians, the Legend movie theatre will attract its audience with the latest Hollywood blockbusters, with prices starting at $4 a time, in much more comfortable surroundings than found elsewhere in the city. The theatre is costing $1.5 million to build and will have 3 screens, 300 seats and will open on 7 July with the film Transformers 3, part of which was filmed in the Kingdom. I must admit to not being much of a movie-goer or watcher and its obvious that the theatre will take some time to bed-in especially as new films are usually available on DVD for very cheap prices in the video stores around the city pretty quickly after their release. However, if they can make the movie-going experience something special for the audience to enjoy, then it might have a chance of success. Certainly, the number of upwardly mobile Khmers who can stump up $4 for a ticket is on the increase.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Moly departs too

Soon to be gone but not forgotten, Vuth Chanmoly
Following closely on the heels of Chey Chankethya leaving these shores to study in the United States, another star of the classical and contemporary dance fraternity here in Phnom Penh will also be on her way soon. I couldn't make it but tonight was the leaving party for Vuth Chanmoly, who is moving to live in France following her marriage last month. Moly as she's known, has been a leading light in the classical field for many years, completing her BA in 2003, specializing in the male and giant roles, travelling the globe and touring with the Royal Cambodian ballet as well as following her mother, Soth Somaly, as a teacher at the Secondary School of Fine Arts. She has also turned her hand to contemporary dance as well and included an appearance in Where Elephants Weep, which received great acclaim when it was performed in the capital. I know Moly will be missed by so many friends, her work colleagues at Bayon TV and fans alike.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shut up

There's been way too much football-related talk on this blog in recent weeks. This will now cease. If you want the footy stuff, go here with the rest of the soccer-chat hooligans. One of the reasons was that my involvement with Phnom Penh Crown took me to Singapore, whilst this afternoon sees the final match of the first half of the current league season here in Cambodia, not that you really want to know that. Oh yeah, I forgot that I said the football talk would cease. I have the memory of a goldfish. So it has. From now. More naughty monkey stories please. Actually one of my teeth fillings has just broken, so it'll be a trip to the dentist for me next week. One of my pet hates. Grrr.
On the music front, the Kampot music festival is taking place this weekend with the Cambodian Space Project, obviously, doing their thang alongwith lots of other music bands if you happen to be down on the south coast. I'm not. I'm in Phnom Penh watching football. Whoops, there's that goldfish memory again.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Case 002 kicks-off

The prelim trial of four of the most senior Khmer Rouge leaders - Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith (the only woman) and Khieu Samphan - will begin here in Phnom Penh on Monday. It's expected case 002 will take years as the 4 have all denied the array of charges against them. That's if the defendants last that long. They are in frail health and their ages range from 79 to 85 years. One difference in this trial will be that convictions, or acquittals, will be delivered against the accused as the trial proceeds, effectively shortening the trial into bite-sized chunks. It's also good to hear that the Khmer people will have their say after judges allowed 3,850 civil applications for reparations to be included. Plans to indict more of the 'most responsible' Khmer Rouge cadres beyond the high profile five, in cases 003 and 004, have floundered in recent months with investigating judges paying lip service to pursuing the evidence and individuals involved. The cost of the court to date has been around $100+ million and so far we have Duch behind bars for less than 20 years.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Roots return

The new Black Roots release - The Reggae Singles Anthology
I'm a big fan of British reggae particularly bands like Steel Pulse and Black Roots. The Pulse boys tell me they have been in the studio now for a while cutting their next album, which is long-time coming. Their last studio album, African Holocaust came out in 2004. Yes, seven years ago. To be honest they gig so much that it must be murder trying to find enough time in the studio and they are perfectionists which doesn't help. As for Black Roots, they split in the mid-90s and surprise, surprise, they got back together last year for a few gigs. With more live appearances on the roster, they have re-activated their own label, Nubian Records and will be releasing a double vinyl, limited edition with CD and DVD, blah, blah, in early September, called Black Roots - The Reggae Singles Anthology, a 16-track album spanning the group's greatest tunes. It'll be thirty years since the band released their first 4-track EP, which of course I have in my possession, alongwith everything else they've ever released. When I said I was a big fan, I wasn't exaggerating. The new release will come with a 16-page booklet, packed full of previously unpublished photos of the band. The DVD will be of their 1986 live show from a video called Celebration, which I already have, of course. The release will be through Bristol Archive Records with the full support of Nubian Records - a nice piece of mutual love and appreciation. Find out more about Black Roots here and here.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For bookworms

A couple of new books on Cambodia have just reached the bookshelves with another, long-awaited one, due in November. Let's mention the latter one first. Vendrome Press will publish Temples of Cambodia: The Heart of Angkor (above) soon enough. Written by Helen Ibbitson Jessup and with photos by Barry Brukoff, this 248-page coffee-table tome has nearly as many photos and will set you back $65 no less. It's been due for quite a while. Already out is a novel called Chan Kim by author Ilan Herman, a 372 page novel containing bits of mainstream fiction, romance and magic and centering on a survivor of the Khmer Rouge years. Fresh out the door just two days ago, is the first-ever Eyewitness Travel Guide to Cambodia and Laos by DK Publishing on their special flexiback paper. These guides are very popular, swish and slimline, both the book itself and the information it presents. A pity they had to team up with Laos though.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kethya makes the move

Chey Chankethya (right) teaching one of her students at the School of Fine Arts in January
On the dance front - I haven't said that in a while with all this football going on - the first-ever Cambodian dancer to get the green light for a Fulbright scholarship has packed her bags and headed over to the States. For the next three years, Chey Chankethya will study at the University of California in LA, towards her master's degree in choreography. At 26 she's already a veteran of countless contemporary dances here in Cambodia and across the globe, having originally trained in classical dance, as a student and then a teacher at the Secondary School of Fine Arts. The Fulbright program is funded by the US government to allow foreign students chosen for their academic record and leadership qualities to study in the States. Chankethya began her dancing life at the age of six and graduated in 2005. She also holds a BA dgree in English and as one of the country's top classical dancers has performed internationally for many years before turning her talents to contemporary dance, leading a group of nine dancers in her own ensemble, Trey Visay (Compass).

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Can we forget today please?

What an absolutely crap day. I'll explain more later but being beaten 4-0 by your nearest rivals and playing like a bunch of tarts makes it a day to forget as quickly as possible. Days like these, I really hate. If only the ground under my feet would swallow me whole.
Crown coach Bouy Dary was expecting more from his team than he got this afternoon
Okay, I've calmed down a little from my earlier tantrum. Phnom Penh Crown lost 0-4 in Singapore against a very good team last week. This afternoon we met Naga Corp and suffered the same scoreline, but against a team who are practically a one-man show, and we allowed it to happen. We knew exactly what to expect and we still failed to stop it. That's the galling part of it. Okay, so the pitch was a shit-tip after the federation changed the venue at short notice, and the referee was so one-sided he was practically leaning over, but they are just excuses. We have to look inward and ask ourselves why we didn't deal with the situation professionally. Everyone says we are the top team in the country but we looked far from it in the first 45 minutes today. A long way short. Naga were up for it today and we looked half-hearted at best. Some will moan that we don't have a coach at the moment, and that's the reason, but that's crap. The players are the same players who went unbeaten for the first 7 games and who won through to the finals of the President's Cup, they know the drill, they are being coached in the interim by someone who knows what he's doing, so it's actually the players who must stand up and be counted, now, when it matters most. They can still redeem themselves and go into the mid-season break at the top of the table, if they beat National Police on Saturday. If they play anything like they did today, then that will be a tall order. To be honest we need the break, we've played a lot of games over the last few months and in Singapore and this afternoon, we looked jaded. We need one final spurt and then they can rest.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Back to face the music, or not

A final photo before we left Singapore. LtoR: Kouch Sokumpheak, me, Thul Sothearith, Phoung Narong.
Just woke up after falling asleep and I've missed the Cambodian Space Project gig at Equinox tonight. Darn it. My body must be telling me something. I arrived back from Singapore at lunchtime and went straight to the two C-League football matches at Olympic Stadium this afternoon. I could feel myself dozing off whilst watching. The Singapore trip - I went as one of the 24-person strong Phnom Penh Crown squad and support staff - was good, apart from the result of course. I won't bore you with that again. Last night we all went to watch one of the other Singapore Cup matches, with a team from Thailand playing a Burmese team, who were also staying at our hotel. The Burmese team, Okkthar, won and were cheered to victory by a very vociferous crowd. Goodness knows where all those Burmese fans came from, there must've been nearly a thousand of them. My mobile phone died on me whilst I was in Singapore and without a watch (I don't own one), I went through most of yesterday without knowing the time. I take the time for granted but when I didn't have it yesterday and again this morning, it was really quite disconcerting. The television wasn't any help, nor was my battery-challenged laptop, so I rang the hotel switchboard at regular intervals to find out the time. I've just heard that Crown's next two matches have been switched from the Olympic Stadium to the Army-controlled Old Stadium, where the pitch is sub-standard, to put it nicely. We play Naga in the season's most anticipated match on Monday afternoon and we have to play on a pitch that would be out of place even in parks football back in the UK. The football federation here continue to astound me with their behaviour.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Phnom Penh Now

It was past midnight when I finally got online. The match didn't go well. Phnom Penh Crown lost 4-0 to a better team on the day, Singapore Armed Forces. So we are out of the Singapore Cup at the 1st hurdle. Disappointing but a good, and sobering experience nonetheless for all concerned.

Expat-advisory.com
have just posted this article by David Stout, in which I get a mention. I must've met and spoken to David but for the life of me I can't remember it. Here's the article:

Phnom Penh Now by David Stout

Once known as the Pearl of Asia, Phnom Penh is shedding its lascivious 'off the rails' reputation to reclaim the moniker. As the bus crosses the borderlands, I anticipate the Kingdom of Wonder, as it’s so often been branded. I’ve never been to Cambodia and the country’s reputation seems to have spiraled out of control in conversations I’ve heard among people across Southeast Asia. Stories involving drugs, guns and/or harlotry repulse listeners. Many show little interest in returning to Phnom Penh. Others spin their yarn with rapacious indulgence about their time spent in the capital of a country rebuilding itself in the wake of one of the gravest atrocities of the 20th century.

As I step off the bus, the city feels raw and alive, but also coy and serene. With less than two million residents, the municipality has kept the quaint feel of a town. Its wide, tree-lined boulevards seem immune to the anarchic traffic that plagues cities in neighbouring countries. “Life’s normal here now,” says barber Penh Chhet who’s been cutting hair for the past four years on Street 30. “It’s more developed and better.” According to Chhet, the city has changed a lot in the last 10 years he’s been working here. There are new buildings, more cars and the infrastructure has steadily improved. While he admits to being a low man on the totem pole as the city develops, he says he is able to make enough for his family with his vocation.

The seediness vividly described in books like Off the Rails in Phnom Penh seems to be, at least on the surface, cleaned up and no more pervasive than in other regional hubs. The city appears to be on the right track — gone are the days residents fired AK-47s at approaching thunderstorms; the neighbourhoods in Tuol Kork district that were once filled with cheap brothels have been gentrified and filled in with villas; armadas of Lexus SUVs, with their gaudy logos plastered to their side doors, cruise the streets. There are chic boutique hotels, bars that serve up top shelf martinis and lounges where you can order surf and turf specials.

Meanwhile a dozen cranes are scattered across Phnom Penh’s skies in between villas and lotus-shaped stupas, which are only a stone’s throw from shabby concrete Soviet housing units that were built in the 1980s. Pulsating markets overflowing with Buddhist trinkets, scarves and karaoke DVDs salt the capital. Like most cities with character, the architecture is awe inspiring. There are colossal Buddhist temples and administrative units and villas built by the French. The Royal Palace is quite the sight. If only the tiles, golden stupas and quiet garden paths had a voice. These walls have been home to royal ballets and hosted heads of state. During the Khmer Rouge’s grip on the country, when the capital was evacuated, only Prince Sinhanouk, his wife Monique and their two children lived on the grounds. As if under house arrest, they were given daily provisions of fish and vegetables, did their own daily chores, raised a garden and planted banana trees. Today, the estate once again welcomes tourists and hosts diplomats and leaders during State visits. The newly refurbished promenade on the Mekong has yet to be overdeveloped like those in Bangkok or Singapore — scents of jasmine and lemongrass can be inhaled at all hours during a tuk tuk ride.

A Rollercoaster
That’s not to say the city doesn’t maintain its fair share of bizarre features. Near Sisowath Quay, barbers use a sterile portrait of B-rate, supporting actor Kevin Connolly, most known for his role in Entourage, to lure customers in for a trim. The brand names of water bottles are utterly inexplicable: Pop Zone, Steve the Quality Flow and Eurotech — the latter sports a Union Jack logo with dolphins swimming over it. And how many capitals outside of China have streets named after Chairman Mao? Or restaurants owned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea where you can eat kim chi and dumplings while women play slap bass, sing patriotic songs for the Dear Leader and pluck out Let it Be on a traditional harp?

“The 1990s were kind of a rollercoaster… kidnappings and coups, ups and downs,” says Nick Ray, coordinating author for Lonely Planet’s Cambodia edition. “After the end of the civil war, tourism boomed”. “I was scared shitless, but on the other hand I was completely exhilarated with everything I saw. I was hooked,” says product manager at Hanuman Tourism, Andy Brouwer, in reference to his first visits to the country in the mid-1990s. After his first trip, Andy began making yearly pilgrimages back to the Kingdom before finally leaving behind his 30-year banking career in England and relocating to Phnom Penh. At this time, he says, things were ‘alive’. “You have to get an appreciation for what happened to this country in the 1970s, where literally — I know its cliché to say — they had to start from year zero,” says Andy, who has observed the wide range of developments in the country over the last 17 years. “At least cows aren’t getting blown up anymore.” “You can have all the sophistication you want when you want it, but also you still really know that you’re in Asia. It’s quite raw,” adds Nick. “It’s been zoomed into the 21st century very quickly.” According to the writer, the last decade has seen the streets revamped with investments in flood control and better sewage facilities.

Only a couple of years ago, the tallest structure in town belonged to the Intercontinental Hotel, at 16 floors, which was built in the mid-1990s. Now there is the Canadian Bank Tower, at 24 stories, and condominiums on Diamond Island that are up to 30 floors high and more developments in the pipeline. “We believe there is a future in Phnom Penh,” says Bruce Koenig, marketing executive at the newly opened Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra. The US$50 million alabaster-coloured massif is the first five-star hotel to open in the capital in over a decade. While the establishment will provide an additional option for up-market travellers, as Koenig explains, the hotel also has its sights set on the business class and the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions sector. “Companies are coming back to Phnom Penn,” says Koenig. And according to the young executive, a direct flight from Paris to Phnom Penh on Air France commenced in March after being discontinued for more than 10 years.

Survivors
While the beaches, temples and atrocities have put Cambodia on the map, the magnetic force of the people is what inspires. They are survivors. And after four years under brutal, forced collectivisation that killed an estimated two million people and nearly two decades of civil war, the fact that Cambodia is still standing, nonetheless progressing, is a testament to the strength and dignity possessed by its people. The cream-coloured frangipani blossoms on the trees at Tuol Sleng and the Choeung EK Genocidal Centre are reminders that after so much atrocity and loss, something beautiful can forge its way to the surface. People survive and rebuild. “When I was young I was handsome,” laughs 62-year-old Aom So Kai, who grows lemongrass near the eastern banks of the Mekong, a few kilometres out of town. “I was born here so have lived here a long time.” Once a solider for the Lon Nol regime, Kai says he spent three years, eight months and eight days away in Battambang Province digging ditches at the Khmer Rouge’s forced labour camps. “Every day I thought I was going to die,” he says. But he returned home and brought his mother back to the land that she raised him on. At 82 years-old, his mother Roet Thai still manages to crack out infectious giggles with betel nut tucked into her cheek while reminiscing about growing up in the area and what it was like to be afraid of tigers that roamed the paddies. Kai might only have a few teeth left in his smile, but after so much turmoil, he is still able to throw out jokes at will.

As I sit near the banks of the Tonle Sap during the cool, late hours, a packed boat cruises down the centre of the river. Its passengers belt out Sin Sisamouth’s surf rock classic Mou Pei Na via karaoke. With its sentimental lyrics, catchy riffs and duets, it’s a quintessential slice of the laid back, cosmopolitan way of living that was prevalent in Phnom Penh before the Khmer Rouge; a snapshot of a resurfacing lifestyle. “What day is it?” my travel companion asks as we watch the boat pass. “Sunday,” I respond. “Good for them,” he says.

Places to Eat & Drink

Fish
Corner Street 108 and Sisowath Quay
With minimal décor and a central location, this surf and turf hub will leave you more than satisfied. The owner also operates a hotel next door.

Sugar Palm Restaurant & Bar
House No. 19, Street 240
Located on one of the trendier streets, Sugar Palm gives Khmer and Pan-Asian staples contemporary flavours.

Metro
Sisowath Quay at Street 148
With great martinis and excellent seafood and starters, Metro is one of the premiere venues to enjoy up-market drinks and eats in the capital.

Khmer Saravan
325 Sisowath Quay
It may be a little low key, but Saravan is a great place to get your taste buds whet with traditional Khmer staples.

Foreign Correspondents Club
363 Sisowath Quay
With more tourists than correspondents here, the views of the Mekong and National Museum makes this open air venue a must for a drink. Get here for happy hour.

Score
No. 5, Street 282
A sports bar of colossal proportions with gigantic screens and imported billiards tables from Shanghai.

RESOURCES ON THE GROUND

Expat Advisory Services
www.expat-advisory.com : While the site covers cities across the region, it’s based in Phnom Penh so knows the city well. Filled with articles, reviews and general advice, this site is essential if you’re planning a trip to Cambodia.

Andy’s Cambodia
blog.andybrouwer.co.uk : Maybe one of the most-read expat blogs in Phnom Penh. Andy is obsessed with all things Cambodian — from the Royal Ballet to the development of the country’s football league. Check it out for the insider’s knowledge on the latest film screenings, book releases, concerts, etc.

Pocket Guide Phnom Penh
www.cambodiapocketguide.com : A small, keep-in-your-pocket guide book that is a great resource for anyone trying to search out the city. Pick it up free of charge at restaurants, bars and shops around town.

Accommodation

Top End
Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra
26 Old August Site, Sothearos Blvd., Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Khan
Chamkamorn Tel: +855 23 999200
www.sofitel.com
The 201-room hotel is imbued with architectural nostalgia from colonial Indochina while the establishment's interior decor is sprinkled with Southeast Asian art and chic furnishings. With a handful of luxury restaurants, recreational grounds and business facilities, the city's first five-star hotel to open in more than a decade is all set to host high-end tourists and business travellers.

Mid to Top
River 108
#2, Street 108
www.river108.com
Just a stone's throw from the capital's main promenade and next to the strip full of high-end eateries, this boutique venue is for travellers looking for a more personal experience. Outfitted with minimalist designer furnishings and a glass atrium, River 108 provides its patrons with a petit sanctuary in the heart of the city.

Budget
Hometown Hotel
Address: #35, St 172, Sangkat Chey Chum Nas, Khan Daun Penh
www.hometown-hotel.com
Clean, centrally located and reliable. While some backpackers prefer to stay on a shoestring budget, Hometown proves that spending just a few dollars more on a room can go a long way. Situated in downtown Phnom Penh, the hotel is within walking distance of several of the city's famed sites.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The latest from S'pore

The Crown players (in red) get instruction from the coaches (in blue) this morning
The internet is still as expensive as yesterday. However, I'm using someone's else's connection, so free for me. The Crown players were up for a series of early morning warm-up exercises in front of the hotel before breakfast, followed by a team meeting to discuss tactics, lunch and now some rest before we make our way to the ground for tonight's Singapore Cup match against the Armed Forces. The players are in good nick and expect to do well. Pitting ourselves against better opposition (on paper) is something Crown are keen on doing on an on-going basis, it's one way to improve our own standards and show where we need to go in the future. More later after the match, if I can get online.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Singapore

The Crown team pose for a photo, complete with their club scarves
We're in Singapore but the internet access at the hotel is appalling. Hence the delay in getting online and the limited time I have available. It's taken me 45 minutes just to get access to type this drivel. We flew from Phnom Penh after lunch on one of the cheapo airlines. Then picked up at Changi Airport and whisked off to our hotel, the Albert Court Village Hotel where a late buffet lunch was waiting. There was little time to rest as the players and officials boarded the bus again for the 35 minute ride to the Armed Forces Stadium at Choa Chu Kang for a training session on the pitch and under floodlights. The pitch is flat, though the ground is open-sided on three sides, with a pretty imposing stand on one side. There's a large running track around the pitch. The players ended their session with some penalty kicks as the match tomorrow will go to 90 minutes, then extra time and then penalties if necessary. On our return to the hotel, and after a late dinner, the players had to formally register with the Singapore FA and each player had to undergo facial recognition from the FA official before they tootled off to bed and we continued with a manager's team meeting to iron out the finer points for tomorrow. Takahito Ota arrived as we finished, he was held up in Phnom Penh awaiting his Cambodian visa, and as we were chatting with Jean Roger Lappe Lappe, the former Crown striker who was staying in the same hotel as us with his current team, Okkthar United from Myanmar. The players will be up and out for a run at 8am tomorrow morning. I can't see me taking part.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Making waves

Tomorrow I fly to Singapore for a few days with the Phnom Penh Crown football team. We have a 20-man playing squad and five club officials making the trip. We're taking part in the invitation-only Singapore Cup and will play on Thursday evening. This morning we had a meeting to thrash out a few final items before the team will head for the airport tomorrow. I've only been to Singapore once before for some urgent medical treatment, so this time will be more leisurely and linked to my favourite pasttime. It's an important game for Crown as it pits us against one of the very best teams in Singapore and gives us an opportunity to put our name in front of a new audience. Crown are a go-ahead club, we want to make waves in Asia and involvement in competitions like this and the recent AFC President's Cup allows us to do exactly that. We've already qualified for the final rounds of the President's Cup and there are murmurs that the closing stages of that competition may find their way back to Phnom Penh, which would create even larger waves. But first we have a job to do in Singapore. I'll bring you more from the trip in future posts.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Naughty monkeys

A few of the monkeys on St 102 who have been shipped off to a new life in Koh Kong
Phnom Penh residents around Wat Phnom and the Post Office area will be pleased to hear that the 'naughty monkeys' that quite literally terrorize the locals and passing tourists have been rounded up and shipped off to a forest in Koh Kong. The authorities used tranquilizer darts to subdue some of the monkeys, though it was the bigger, fatter ones that caused the most concern. "They are dangerous macaque monkeys. They bite people and tear up roofs and destroy electrical cables and poles. We have a hard time in getting them because they are a big gang of naughty monkeys," said the commune chief. Initially the captured monkeys were taken to Phnom Tamao Zoo but they refused them as they were scaring visitors, hence the hand off to Koh Kong province. The monkeys have long been a problem at Wat Phnom where the attraction of easy pickings from tourists and locals alike was a magnet for them. Residents around the Post Office area also had to keep windows and doors locked to avoid the pesky primates from stealing.
Someone who isn't a naughty monkey is Maggie Eno. In fact, far from it. She's just been recognised for her sterling work with the charity organization M'Lop Tapang since 2003 with one of the highest awards by the United Kingdom, the MBE, announced yesterday in the Queen's birthday honours list. Hats off to Maggie for this prestigious award and recognition of her efforts.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sleepyhead

As usual my weekends are mostly taken up by watching football at the Olympic Stadium, on both Saturday and Sunday. The games begin at 2pm and carry through til 6pm. However, I was torn between the two C-League matches on offer this afternoon or going to the Tuol Kork training HQ of Phnom Penh Crown, where the first team team were playing the rest of the squad ahead of our important Singapore Cup match next week. I decided on the Olympic Stadium and watched a giant-killing act as Prek Pra defeated the mighty Naga, so that turned out well. I was also planning on going to Meta House tonight to watch the Facing Genocide film at 7pm - it's a film about one of the Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan, currently awaiting trial for crimes against humanity - but I fell asleep and missed it. That'll teach me not to have such late nights.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Kattenburg's view

Dave Kattenburg is the author of the excellent book Foxy Lady that I reviewed recently. He's also a journalist in Canada and here he pens an article for The Vancouver Sun newspaper.

B.C. man's killers may finally face justice:
Four top leaders of Khmer Rouge regime to face UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh on June 27 - by Dave Kattenburg

It's unclear why Richmond native Stuart Robert Glass was sailing off the coast of Cambodia, back in August 1978, on a little yacht named Foxy Lady, when a patrol boat of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime appeared out of the haze. He might have been on his way to Bangkok to pick up a load of Thai marijuana. Perhaps he was just there for fun and adventure. Whatever the reason, Stuart Glass, who was only 27, was gunned down in a hail of bullets - the only Canadian to die, along with two million Cambodians, in one of the 20th-century's largest mass murders. The fate of Glass's pals, a New Zealander and an Englishman, would be far worse.

Now, 33 years later, four top leaders of Democratic Kampuchea - as the xenophobic Khmer Rouge called their regime - will face a United Nations-backed tribunal on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Their trial begins June 27. In July 2010, the tribunal sentenced Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch - the commandant of Democratic Kampuchea's preeminent death house - to 30 years in prison. In retrospect, Stuart Glass's family and friends aren't surprised the young Richmond man died the way he did. "If we did anything adventurous, we really were worried," recalls Stuart's cousin, Alec Dutt. "But Stuart was different. He would take on an adventure as if it meant something different." "I distinctly remember him telling me 'I've got a feeling that I'm gonna die young'," says Stu's old pal, Roy Delong. "And I'd say, 'Sure, right.' You kind of blow it off."

Glass was born in London, England, moving to B.C. with his family when he was five. In 1972, he returned to London to live, work and pursue risky ventures. In the summer of 1973, as he re-entered Britain from a trip to Morocco, customs officers discovered 176 pounds of plastic-wrapped hashish stuffed inside a false gas tank in his blue Vauxhall. Six months in jail didn't reform Stu. He travelled the Hippie Trail to India, and from there down to Australia, ending up in northern Darwin. There, he and a Kiwi friend named Kerry Hamill bought a traditional Malaysian yacht named Foxy Lady. Other contacts were forged. A local heroin addict named "Peter" (not his real name) claims to have hatched a plan with Stu to smuggle marijuana from Bangkok to New Zealand. The claim cannot be corroborated. What is known is that Foxy Lady sailed from Darwin to Singapore, and then up the Strait of Malacca to lovely Phuket. A few months later, on the other side of the Malaysian peninsula, Stu and Kerry met a young British wanderer named John Dewhirst. "Don't forget to come back," Christine Rohani-Longuet, now in her 70s, recalls calling out as the boys glided out to sea on the afternoon of Aug. 7, 1978. She would be the last friend to see them alive.

Five days later, near a speck of sand and forest named Koh Tang, Foxy Lady was seized by a patrol vessel of the Democratic Kampuchean navy. Glass and Kerry should have avoided the area. For years, the Khmer Rouge had been waging a vicious war against their arch-nemesis, neighbouring Communist Vietnam. Hundreds of boats had been captured and their crews "smashed." Just three months earlier, a pair of American yachtsmen had been arrested. Stu - spared the worst - was shot and killed in a hail of machine gunfire. Kerry and John were trucked off to Comrade Duch's S-21 death house for months of torture. In mid-October 1978, in front of a former evangelical church, their throats were cut and their bodies burned to bone and ash. Four more yachtsmen - two Americans and two Australians - would suffer the same fate in the regime's closing days.

It would take Stuart's mom 17 months to find all this out, in the Jan. 4, 1980, edition of The Vancouver Sun. "Canadian believed among victims: 12 'spies' executed in Cambodia," the headline read. Stuart's family never spoke publicly about his death. Having refused to recognize Cambodia's new Vietnameseinstalled regime, Ottawa was unable to investigate. Over the next 30 years, Glass would come to be known solely by his name and nationality. Duch's 2009 trial briefly retrieved the nine murdered yachtsmen's horrific stories from oblivion. The tribunal's second trial, due to start on June 27, may reveal more. One of the four aging defendants, Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, would have known about the young mariners. Pol Pot's right-hand man, Nuon Chea, was the one who ordered them killed and their bodies burned to ashes, Duch testified at his trial. The yachtsmen's families are glad to see justice finally served, but dismayed by the threatened dismissal of a third case involving the chief of the Khmer Rouge navy. Meas Mut, a self-professed Buddhist, says he knows nothing. However, Mut "lies about virtually everything, as far as I can determine," an informed tribunal observer quips.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen - a former Khmer Rouge officer himself - has stated that people of Mut's rank should not go on trial. Although the Canadian government has contributed $2.5 million US to the tribunal, it won't even confirm that a Canadian was killed by the Khmer Rouge. "We have no comment on this case," an External Affairs spokesman says. "As the full details of the investigation remain confidential, we cannot comment on whether a Canadian citizen has been identified as a victim." Meanwhile, Glass's family and friends are philosophical about the unfolding trial of aging Khmer Rouge chiefs. "They're going to die and face their maker," says one cousin. Roy Delong, who chummed with Stuart in the early 1970s, is less philosophical. "[Meas Mut] isn't someone we'd pursue to Pakistan and kill," says Delong. "If you don't pursue him, we might as well shut up. We sit here and talk high and mighty, preaching to others about human rights. Hey, one of our own citizens was killed. Let's put the guy on trial." Whoever ends up being tried for these 30-year-old crimes, some questions about Foxy Lady's last voyage may never be resolved. Were Stu and his pals travelling to Bangkok to pick up a load of "Buddha sticks"? What became of his body and personal effects? Questions like these hang like humidity over the warm waters of the northern Gulf of Thailand.

Dave Kattenburg is the author of Foxy Lady: Truth, Memory and the Death of Western Yachtsmen in Democratic Kampuchea - the first full account of Stuart Glass's life and death.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Turtle time

The golden royal stupa at the 100 pillar pagoda; sorry I don't have any snaps of turtles
Turtles were in the news today when rare softshell Cantor turtles were given a new home, to help with their fragile existence, at the 100 pillar pagoda (aka Sarsar Mouy Rouy) north of Kratie, in a compound known as the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre. The brainchild of Conservation International and the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, it's another step in a project begun by CI in 2007 that has already seen 1,000 turtle hatchlings given life. The new home will give sanctuary to four types of turtles until they are ready to be released back into the Mekong River. Local fishermen and communities have been educated not to eat or steal the turtle eggs and in fact to report the nests they find in exchange for small rewards. The 100 pillar pagoda in fact has 116 pillars after it was rebuilt in 1997. Destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime, only three wooden pillars are left from the original wooden wat built in the 16th century. At the rear of the pagoda is a large golden painted stupa dating from 1529 that is said to contain the remains of a princess who'd been consumed by a crocodile. Presumably there are crocodile remains inside it too.
Lightning deaths continue to occur throughout Cambodia. They came a little closer to home today when two people were killed by strikes in Phnom Penh. The current total of deaths this year stands at 78 and during the first five months of this year, lightning killed twice as many people as during the same period last year.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All the way from Canada

It took a month to arrive from Canada according to the postmark but a very welcome gift came in the form of a personally signed copy of Madeleine Thien's hardback novel, Dogs at the Perimeter, today. Published by McClelland & Stewart, this is Madeleine's second novel, the first was titled Certainty. Last year she received the Ovid Festival Prize, awarded each year to an international writer of promise. Her book has a Cambodian theme running right through the center of it and I'm looking forward to reading it, especially as it came direct from the author herself. The heroine of her latest book was a child in Phnom Penh when the city was emptied by the Khmer Rouge and in seeking answers to another person's disappearance, she returns to Southeast Asia in search for her own past.
I popped over to the Olympic Stadium this afternoon for yet another game of football. This time it was my team, Phnom Penh Crown beating the Cambodian U-19 team 6-1 in a friendly match. After the game it was back to the Crown Sports Bar on Street 200 for a bite to eat with the Crown squad as well as watching a couple of dvd's of matches played recently by our Singapore opponents, SAFFC, whom we travel to face in Singapore next week. Always good to know your enemy. SAFFC are known as one of the top sides in Singapore so we'll have our work cut out to make it into the 2nd round. The last time we met them we lost 8-1.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Popping out

International football and work as normal is the order of the day. I'll be nipping out for the football in mid-afternoon, to watch the Cambodian national team face the visiting Malaysian Olympic squad. Should be interesting; the Malaysians beat the Cambodian U-23s 4-0 in the SEA Games in 2009, the last time the two sides met at a similar level. Malaysia went onto win the SEA Games title even though they should've been kicked-out after physically assaulting the referee in an earlier match. This time around, they are sending their Olympic team over for a friendly match as Cambodia look to find their best line-up ahead of the World Cup qualifying games at the end of the month. To be honest I think the Cambodian coach, who is South Korean and has his wages paid by the Korean FA, has no idea what his best line-up is, even though he's been in the job for the last eight months.
The result of the match, in which the last twenty minutes was akin to water-polo rather than football after the heavens opened and deluged the playing surface, was a 1-0 win in Cambodia's favour. An early goal by Kouch Sokumpheak separated the two teams. The Malay team were pretty disappointing considering their previous history but credit to the Cambodians, they gave it their all and came out on top.
News just in concerns the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and the farce that Case 003 is and has become. The crimes against humanity case against Meas Muth and Sou Met is clearly not going to happen. The investigating judges have blocked the request of prosecutor Andrew Cayley to conduct more investigations, after he revealed that they had investigated bugger all up until now, despite the investigations being formally closed earlier this year. The two men in question hadn't even been interviewed. And the investigators weren't even mentioning them by name, therefore giving civil parties a cat in hell's chance of submitting their applications to be heard. After Cayley went public, over 300 people submitted applications, though those look likely to go the same way as applications by Rob Hamill and Theary Seng, and will get booted into touch. Effectively, it's a done deal. Machinations behind the scenes look set to allow Meas Muth and Sou Met a 'get out of jail' card and Case 003, and most likely 004, will not happen. It leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth when you think of all those people who believed the hype that the Tribunal would bring a sense of justice for Cambodia. Admittedly, we've had the open and shut case against Duch, the trial of the other four top leaders is due to happen sometime soon, though we can expect a long, drawn out courtroom battle, but other 'most responsible' members of the Khmer Rouge killing machine look set to keep their freedom.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

CSP back in town

CSP on stage at Mao's
Last night saw the Cambodian Space Project back in town and strutting their stuff in a new music location for me, Mao's Bar, along the riverside. To be honest, there were too many television screens flickering away for my liking and one massive screen behind the band was showing some inane crap whilst they were playing, which was distracting. The audience was a good one, though I'm not sure how many were actually listening to the band. The short skirts of the waitresses are quite an alternative attraction. I much prefer Equinox as a live venue, where CSP will return on Saturday 18 June. The band whizzed through their excellent repertoire in two sets, with the crowd eventually coming to life and dancing towards the end. The band also had two new faces on sax and horn, but with CSP that's about par for the course. Great to see them back on stage and looking forward to the Equinox gig. I'm in Singapore the few days beforehand and hope my flight gets me back in time.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lathrop's Monsoon

If I don't get to hear about new books being published with a Cambodian theme, then a secondary source of info comes in the form of that man of books, and the Monument Books GM, William Bagley, who can be relied upon to give me the heads-up if miss anything. One such book is a new political thriller set in modern-day Cambodia. The title is The End of the Monsoon and the author, John Lathrop, spent quite a while living in Cambodia as part of his research for what is his 2nd novel. It's published by John Murray in the UK and came out last month.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

New branding

The new sign above the PPCFC club offices on St 200
Fresh from the news that Bojan Hodak has flown the coop to China, I went to the Phnom Penh Crown office this morning to have a chat with the new caretaker coach, Bouy Dary, picking his brains on what's happening off the field and his thoughts on the team for tomorrow's crucial match against the Army. Dary worked like a trojan during the recent AFC President's Cup to make sure arrangements went smoothly and I know he will put everything into his stint as caretaker of the first-team, whilst at the same time keeping a close eye on his beloved Academy boys. He's one of the most promising coaches in Cambodia, nay SoutheastAsia, and at 27 he has years ahead to make his mark. He has no desire for the top job at the moment, content to develop the club's ground-breaking youth Academy, but this experience will serve him well I'm sure. Whilst at the office on Street 200, it was good to see that the club office is now sporting a brand new sign outside. It's been a few months in coming and we had to amend the design when we changed offices recently, but it's now on show and will act as the magnet to help sell the club's merchandise, such as replica team jerseys, scraves, pennants and the like. We want to have our own club shop selling this stuff in due course, but small steps at first. The team will be off to Singapore in a couple of weeks and I'll be tagging along as press officer as we face one of the island's most formidable teams, the Singapore Armed Forces. Should be a good experience though.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bojan exits to China

Sniff, sniff...as Bojan (in red) heads for his next port of call in China
The worst news possible has happened. Well, for Phnom Penh Crown FC anyway. Not for Bojan Hodak, their head coach, who this morning is flying to China to become the assistant coach at the Chinese Super League champions and current leaders, Shandong Luneng FC. It's a fabulous move for him, Shandong are one of the very best clubs in Asia and he'll be working with his former coach at NK Hrvatski Dragovaljac, Rajko Magic, so they know each other very well already. Bojan took over at Crown in November and in the 14 matches under his control, Crown won ten, drew two and lost two. He leaves after guiding Crown through the qualifying stages of the AFC President's Cup and at the top of the C-League. He's been great to work with and made himself available at the drop of a hat to me and everyone else, his rapport with the players was excellent, so much so that some of them cried when he informed them of his decision yesterday morning. He had a story for every occasion and I'm sure his new adventures in China will bring him many more. I certainly hope our paths will cross again in the future. I had a chat with him last night to say goodbye as he flies out this morning with his wife and son, heading for Jinan in Shandong province, on the east coast of China. For Crown, the task is to regroup ahead of Saturday's important C-League game against the Army and the Academy head coach Bouy Dary will take charge of team affairs in a caretaker capacity until a decision is made on Bojan's permanent replacement.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On a downer

It's bleak and overcast outside as I type this, much like the news that has just broken but which I can't publicise until first thing tomorrow morning. It's football-related so will interest perhaps one man and his dog, and me of course, but it's put a downer on the day for sure. Especially, after I was boosted after hearing about a compilation ablum release coming out from one of my favourite all-time music bands, Black Roots, and a look back at one of the highlights of the cultural calendar at the back end of last year, the Winds of Angkor show with the YouTube video below. More from the Black Roots release later, as for the former, all will be revealed when day breaks tomorrow.

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