Monday, March 31, 2014

Giving back to the Community

PPCFC's very own poster-boy model and footballer, Bin Thierry, takes the HIV test
Community engagement is a poncey way of saying connecting to the locals. And Phnom Penh Crown football club, of which I am the press officer, is far better than any other club in the country at doing it. In fact I'm quite proud of how much we get stuck in. For the past two nights, a few of our first-team players, the head coach and some of our staff have gone up to Kompong Chhnang to deliver messages and show support for the HIV Prevention Program we are running along side our friends at the SALT Academy. The target audience are High School students from all over the country, more than 2,700 of them, who are in Kompong Chhnang for the High School National Championships. Basically the message is, if you are having unprotected sex, get yourself tested, use condoms and do not look down/discriminate against those who have HIV. It's not something that is talked about much in conservative Cambodia, so its important we lend weight to this important message and our players and staff have thrown themselves into it. They've even got HIV tested too. It's been the same with the One World Futbol Project that we've been running for the past month - delivering indestructible futbols to schools and organisations - where our senior players and Academy youngsters also take part in running football sessions with boys and girls. This is exactly what every professional club in the country should be doing, giving their backing to projects that benefit the community at all levels. Our players are in a privileged position, they play professional sport for a living and need to put themselves up as role models, which is exactly what our club is doing.  Good stuff PPCFC, leading from the front. Oh, and we're currently top of the league table as well.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Climbing the ladder

Kimberly Pal, making waves in Hollywood
California-based Kimberly Pal is a hard-working Khmer-born actress who is one of the leads as well as executive producer of a new film, Hollywood and Vine that will come out later this year. She's appeared on a bunch of television shows in the States such as Teen Wolf and worked with actors like Johnny Depp and Robin Williams on various films in recent times. Let's hope she continues her rise up the Hollywood ladder. Catch a quick look at her latest film @


Monday, March 24, 2014

Best of

River of Time makes it onto most people's 'best of' book lists when it comes to Cambodia and Indochina. It's so evocative. You can read more about River of Time author and journalist Jon Swain's love affair with Indochina on his own website @

I had to post this...a short performance by one of Cambodia's Living Treasures, dance master Em Theay, for a forthcoming documentary, Year 33. She not only danced in the royal ballet but was also an accomplished singer, and in later life, one of the few teachers to survive the genocide. The sooner someone writes this adorable lady's detailed biography, the better. Here's the video @

Travel Guidebooks on Cambodia are plentiful these days and two of the longest established ones, Lonely Planet and Rough Guide will be bringing out new Cambodia editions this year. The latest LP version should be out in 6-8 weeks time while Rough Guide will be on bookshelves a little bit later, around August time.
Audrey Magazine have featured Soma Norodom in their latest edition, spotlighting Soma's soon to be launched Foundation, which will help with sponsoring education opportunities for disadvantaged children. More @

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Then and now

LtoR: 1978, 1982 and 2013 - click to enlarge
To bring the curtain down on mug-shots of myself, I thought I'd do a then and now, with pictures taken of me in 1978 (aged 18), 1982 (aged 22) and last year (aged 53).


Friday, March 21, 2014

Sue & her students

Sue Guiney in mid-flow at tonight's event, in high definition
Sue Guiney read two excerpts from her latest novel, Out of the Ruins, at Meta House this evening as part of the launch of her book in Phnom Penh. Sue is coming to the end of her annual writing workshop with Anjali House in Siem Reap and invited six of her creative writing program students to join her on stage, where they each read out their own compositions, either poems or short stories. The extracts were from the latest Anjali magazine, issue 6. Reading the magazine, there are some talented young writers under Sue's wing. Anjali do great work supporting the creative passions of street kids in Siem Reap.
Sue and her six students, who all read extracts from the latest Anjali magazine

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S-21's mug shots

For many, the Khmer Rouge regime's brutality has come to be symbolized by the multitude of black-and-white mug shots of prisoners taken at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands of enemies were tortured before being sent to the killing fields. In Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia, author Michelle Caswell traces the social life of these photographic records through the lens of archival studies and elucidates how, paradoxically, they have become agents of silence and witnessing, human rights and injustice as they are deployed at various moments in time and space. From their creation as Khmer Rouge administrative records to their transformation beginning in 1979 into museum displays, archival collections, and databases, the mug shots are key components in an ongoing drama of unimaginable human suffering. David Chandler has this to say about the book: “Caswell pays homage to the subjects of the heart-breaking mug shots taken at a Khmer Rouge prison and examines the impact that the photographs have had over the years on different viewers. Her humane, sophisticated, and unblinking book sharpens and enhances our understanding of the so-called Pol Pot era.” 246 pages, published this month by University of Wisconsin Press.

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Idling's storm

A political thriller set in 1950s Cambodia, Song for an Approaching Storm, is published this month by Pushkin Press. Author Peter Fröberg Idling's first book, Pol Pot's Smile (2006) was a critically acclaimed work of literary nonfiction published in eight languages. He trained as a lawyer, and was working as legal advisor to an aid organization in Cambodia when the idea for his first book came about. His long anticipated first novel is also set in Cambodia, but like the debut, blurs fact and fiction in order to tell a remarkable story.

The Daily Mail Online reviewed Song for an Approaching Storm and had this to say: Set over a month in 1955 as Cambodia embarks on its first democratic elections, the story is told through the eyes of three people. Sar is in his 30s, a communist who has infiltrated the Democratic party, hoping to gain a position of influence, and who will one day change his name to Pol Pot. Sary is his main adversary, both politically and romantically. An advisor to Prince Sihanouk, he has his eye on Sar’s fiancée, the beautiful and enigmatic Somaly. Some say it was because Sar’s heart was broken by her fickle behaviour that he eventually became so radicalised. The author is a lawyer and biographer of Pol Pot who has worked in Cambodia and has a thorough knowledge of this fascinating and troublesome period.  He has produced a beautifully evocative and compulsive book in which the lyricism of the title reflects the prose of the narrative. Who would have thought I could read about Pol Pot in a sympathetic light?  But such is the power of this must-read novel.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Battambang beckons

Normally I stay home and relax during Khmer New Year, as Phnom Penh turns into a ghost town for a few days. This years KNY is effectively 5-days worth with a weekend preceding the three official days of 14-16 April. So I've decided to make the most of it and to take myself off to Battambang for a few days R&R and will be resting my head at one of the city's top spots, the Bambu Hotel. It will be great to meet up with Sak and his family again and revisit some of the city's best known sights, even though I've seen them a dozen times before. Battambang has always been one of my favoured destinations in the country and I'm looking forward to it. If you've not seen the Bambu Hotel before, watch this video.

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River Monsters

River Monsters' Jeremy Wade in action
A couple more television projects via Hanuman Films in Cambodia. Currently filming in Siem Reap is the Sky series 50 Ways To Test Your Mammy, following the adventures of a 70-year-old mother and her son undertaking a series of adventurous stuff including ziplining at Angkor. Next month, the well-known River Monsters program with Jeremy Wade will be in-country and on the hunt for a river monster, what else. I think this will be part of season six of this massively popular series. Angling is extremely popular in the UK and Jeremy recently completed a road-show around Britain including a sell-out show in my hometown of Cheltenham.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

70s selfies

The order is actually LtoR 1977, 1976 and 1978 - click to enlarge

I just found these three pictures, stuffed inside an envelope and tucked inside a book, that haven't seen the light of day for more then 35 years. Photo-booth pics of yours truly with then-fashionable long hair in 1976 (I was 16 years old), 1977 and 1978. The selfies of their day.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Hanuman keeps busy

The latest series of Naked & Afraid premiered on the Discovery Channel last night and the much anticipated Cambodia episode will be coming soon. Hanuman Films coordinated all the scouting for this shoot and selected the final remote location for the contestants to survive. After initial consideration of jungle areas as varied as Mondulkiri, Bokor and Chi Phat, they eventually settled on a remote location in Koh Kong Province about 45 minutes upriver from Koh Kong town. This ensured the crew had a convenient logistical base while the talent could still be dropped in a very remote jungle area with no human contact. The three-week shoot started in the middle of January with the two contestants being dropped in the jungle. Hanuman Films provided a large support team for this shoot, including a fixer and a local crew that included two medics, two runners and several boat drivers to get the crew in and out of the remote location. Watch the new series every Sunday. The latest series of Naked & Afraid premiered on the Discovery Channel last night and the much anticipated Cambodia episode will be coming soon.

Hanuman Films were also heavily instrumental in the filming of the new BBC Mekong series. Indus Films of the UK was commissioned by the BBC to produce a landmark series on the Mekong River and Hanuman Films was contacted as the line production company to assist with the four-part series featuring Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China. Hanuman Films line produced the first two episodes in the series covering Vietnam and Laos and provided advice and recommendations for the third episode in Laos. Popular television presenter Sue Perkins fronted the show and for episode 1 she journeyed from Ho Chi Minh City through the Mekong Delta and into Cambodia. She visited the incredible floating market of Cai Rang and met a survivor of Tuol Sleng Prison before travelling northeast to the majestic temples of Angkor and the Tonle Sap Lake. Sue and the Indus crew spent several days living in the village of Kompong Pluk, learning about fishing techniques and local lifestyles. The great lake is the heartbeat of Cambodia and the incredible rise and fall in its water levels are intimately connected to the rise and fall of the Mekong River. The lake is known to expand to five times its normal area during the wet season, making it a vital source of fish and protein for the Cambodian population. For episode 2, the focus moved to the wildlife in Cambodia and Sue joined a Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) organised by leading wildlife NGO Wildlife Alliance and the Cambodian government, on a wildlife bust in Koh Kong. She then travelled deep into Mondulkiri Province in the northeast of Cambodia where she visited the Elephant Valley Project (EVP) and learnt about their ecotourism initiatives to protect retired working elephants. In Kratie Province, she encountered rare freshwater dolphins in the Mekong River, as well as the rare Cantor’s Turtle. Finally the team travelled up to Ratanakiri to meet the minority people of this remote province and learn how dams and deforestation might affect their lives as the region develops. Filming has now wrapped on this new mini-series and it will be screened on the BBC later in 2014.

And of course, Hanuman Films have recently wrapped up production on their first feature film, The Last Reel, directed by Kulikar Sotho. Lots more about this exciting movie project very soon.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The girls get stuck in

4 of the best girls won prizes
Young girls playing football, or any sport for that matter, is a rarity. In my view, it should be actively encouraged but in traditional Khmer society, its frowned upon. So hats off to the young girls at Punheahok School in Boeung Keng Kang 1 who ran around like whirling dervishes on Sunday morning as part of the friendly football games during the event to introduce the One World Futbols to their school. It was great to see them having so much fun and especially the goal celebrations reaffirmed the messages of teamwork and enjoying sport.
Listening intently to the pre-match instructions

Everyone had to write their name on the board

Okay, lets get stuck in

There was lots of chasing the ball and running around in packs

A subdued team photo

A more typical girly pose

Its presentation time

Another worthy recipient of special prizes

The boys and girls of Punheahok School


Girls doing it for themselves

The girls giving their all in one of this morning's games
Spent a couple of hours with the Phnom Penh Crown Academy delivering One World Futbols and playing a series of friendly football games at Punheahok School in Boeung Keng Kang 1 this morning. Great fun for the kids, especially a large turnout of girls. They gave it their all. And then asked can they do it all again! The whole idea is to encourage more children to play football and the futbols are virtually indestructible, so they last for a very long time. Chevrolet are sponsoring 5,800 futbols for Cambodia and Crown are helping to deliver them to schools and organisations around the country. This was the second event this weekend after 80 boys attended a similar one on Saturday morning at Crown's RSN Stadium. I must admit it was good to see so many girls trying their best, most of whom had never played before, as football, and sport in general, isn't something that's overly encouraged in schools and by Khmer families for young girls. Most of them really got stuck in and at the end, the most successful won some small prizes, whilst a few were left in tears as they didn't win anything. "I ran so much I almost died. And I didn't eat any breakfast today," said one teary-eyed girl - so she got a consolation cap instead.
A much more subdued pose from the girls this morning

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Thayer's Devil

Nate Thayer has been promising us a book about his personal interaction with the top Khmer Rouge leadership for years. Sympathy for the Devil is the book and now he's seeking funds to complete a project that has taken 15+ years in the making. As he himself puts it: 'I have chosen to give a special focus on that area of Cambodian modern history which has been most neglected and misunderstood – the history of the Khmer Rouge told by the architects of the killing fields themselves. These include extended multiple interviews with all the remaining members of the core elite leadership of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.' The funds he's seeking amount to nearly $70K. You can find out more here.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Community engagement

Some of the boys and the PPCFC squad members enjoying their afternoon
Phnom Penh Crown undertook their latest community engagement project at 3G this afternoon, as they joined forces with Chevrolet and SALT Academy to officially launch the One World Futbol into Cambodia. Its the second event they've held but this was the 'official' one - which will see Chevrolet donate 5,800 of these nearly indestructible futbols to schools and organisations around Cambodia, including 15 schools in Phnom Penh. The distribution of the futbols will be through Crown and the SALT Academy, who operate out of Battambang. For today's event, two elementary schools in Phnom Penh supplied 80 young boys to play with the futbols, aided and abetted by the whole of the Phnom Penh Crown senior squad. After the press conference, the boys got down to playing the games and prizes were awarded to the top five teams in each of the two groups. Everyone had fun thanks to the organisation by the Crown staff and the local Chevrolet dealership.

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Heavenly Dancers

Photographer Arjay Stevens will present his latest photo-art book, Apsaras - Cambodian Heavenly Dancers, at Monument Books this Saturday, 15 March at 5.30pm. Having worked in Cambodia for more than fifteen years, in this publication he combines images of ancient Apsara bas-reliefs from the Angkor temples, with contemporary Apsara dance, and will talk about his inspiration for the book.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Life changing

David Puttnam at Meta House tonight
What a pity that I didn't get the chance to thank Lord David Puttnam in person for helping to change my life. Two of the films he created, The Killing Fields and The Mission have had major impacts on me personally. It goes without saying that my Cambodia connections have shaped my later years, but introducing me to the music of Ennio Morricone and Incantation through The Mission had a monumental effect on me as well. But it was great to hear him talk about the watershed film he produced back in the mid-80s and watched for the first time with a Cambodian audience in Cambodia. The snippets he gave and the answers he provided to the Q&A session afterwards were enthralling. Just wished it could've lasted a few hours longer! He's now a trade envoy to the Indochina region so hopefully he will be back again. 
A full Meta House watched The Killing Fields on blu-ray tonight

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Out of the Ruins launch

The Phnom Penh launch of Sue Guiney's latest novel, Out of the Ruins, published by Ward Wood Publishing, will be on Friday 21 March from 6-7.30pm at Meta House in PP. Special guests will be Sue, of course, and children from the Anjali House Creative Writing Workshop in Siem Reap, where she has been assisting the young Khmer writers of tomorrow. Everyone is welcome. Sue will also be appearing at a poetry reading at Java Arts Cafe on 20 April.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Last Reel soundtrack

Here we go behind the scenes on the new movie, The Last Reel with this exclusive look at some of the soundtrack recording in Phnom Penh late last year. Composer Christopher Elves and Director Kulikar Sotho teamed up with the Chamroeun sisters, Sophea and Sopheak, from popular local band Krom, to record the haunting melody for The Long Way Home, the film within the film that forms an integral part of The Last Reel:

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