Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New arrivals

Big thanks to Sue Guiney who has just sent me a kindle edition of her latest book set in Cambodia, Out of the Ruins, published by Ward Wood Publishing. Sue is in Cambodia at the moment, she comes every year to do writing workshops with the kids at Anjali House in Siem Reap. And will be in Phnom Penh to give a reading at Java Arts along with a Khmer poet called Phou Chakriya on Thursday, 20 March, at 6 pm. It's a date. Serious kudos to Sue who does a great job in passing on her skills and support to the Khmer writers of the future.

I also received an advance review copy of Thierry Cruvellier's The Master of Confessions: The Making of a Khmer Rouge Torturer - yes, its about the trial of Comrade Duch - from William at Monument Books. It should be on sale at Monument late next month for $25. Hardback edition, 326 pages, published by ecco/HarperCollins.

Met a rep from a new hotel recently opened in Pursat town, midway between Phnom Penh and Battambang and felt a pang of sorrow for the hotel, the KM Hotel, and how they will fill their 148 rooms in a town that people, generally speaking, whizz through on their way to somewhere else. Highway 5 aint too bad these days and you can do the PPenh to BBang trip in about five hours. You might stop for a bite to eat in Pursat, or for a wee, but to be honest, the only tourist this hotel will see is a Khmer one. Foreigners stopping a night in Pursat will be, hmmm, let me think, a big fat zero. Then another rep arrived from a new hotel to open later this year in Siem Reap. 5-star and to be called J7 Hotel, after the famous Khmer king, yet I'm told the hotel will be designed in a classical neo-Roman style. Duh!...J7 and it'll be Romanesque. I don't get it.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Clay figurines on display

The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh's excellent movie that is up for the Best Foreign Film Oscar next week, will be out in cinemas from 6 March. From today there is an exhibition of photos and the small clay statuettes that figure so prominently in the film of his time under the Khmer Rouge, at the Bophana Center in Phnom Penh, until 4 March.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quick-witted banter

Dave Johns was on top form at CodeRED
Dave Johns' quick-witted banter went down really well with me at the CodeRED debut of the Cambodia Comedy Club at their new home Tuesday night. A Geordie by birth, he was just the ticket, generating belly laughs from many. I loved him. He involved the audience in his act and pitched it just right, breaking into song at regular intervals. A veteran at stand-up, he knew how to work the punters and did it brilliantly. The Buffalo Sisters in the front row will remember this gig for a long while. One of the best acts we've seen. He could've easily done another half hour. His teammate on their Asian tour is Johnny Candon, billed as one of Ireland's finest, who didn't quite reach the heights of his travel partner. His material was okay, though his set seemed to finish all too quickly after one of the audience flounced out in feigned outrage. Dave Johns was definitely a hard act to follow tonight. Sometimes it happens like that. 
Johnny Candon found it a bit more tough going in Phnom Penh

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Koh Ker revealed

The broken staircase to the top of Prasat Thom in 2001
Great news for travellers to Koh Ker, 130kms northeast of Siem Reap and Angkor. After falling stones made the staircase unsafe a few years ago, the wonderful views from the top of the 40 metre-high sandstone seven-tier pyramid of Prasat Thom have been out of bounds. However, news just in tells me that a brand new wooden staircase has been erected and fifteen visitors at one time, are being allowed to climb the steep stairs to the top. The views over the surrounding forest and west to Phnom Kulen are fabulous and if you don’t mind heights, it’s definitely worth the climb to the top. There is a wooden platform at the  postage-stamp sized summit for extra safety. The pyramid is almost Mayan in appearance and is an amazing feat of engineering from when the Koh Ker complex was being constructed by King Jayavarman IV from 928. The Koh Ker period is known for its impressively large sculptures and some of the biggest Shiva lingas in the country, and just over two hours drive from the main Angkor Park. The photograph of Prasat Thom was taken by me in 2001. The staircase was broken, rickety and downright unsafe. I took my life in my own hands to climb to the top and then down again, in the dark after sunset. I still get the shakes when I think about it now. One slip and I would've been a goner. Fortunately I kept my nerve. Let's hope the new staircase is made of sterner stuff.

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Wildlife adventures

On screen, getting down and dirty with Lucky the elephant artist

The video of the behind the scenes wildlife encounter tour at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center outside Phnom Penh, has just been posted onto YouTube by Hanuman Travel TV. Here's a screen grab of yours truly getting a t-shirt painted by Lucky the elephant. Watch the video.

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Getting shirty

Facebook friend - not
Had to mention an episode on facebook which made me grimace. The guy in charge of the Boeung Ket v NagaCorp match on Saturday was Thong Chankethya, regarded by FFC officials as the best referee in the country and on the FIFA list, which is why he got the big game. His handling of the match, with half a dozen yellow cards, was okay(ish) though some theatrics by a few of the players should've been punished in my view. An incident of note took place in the 2nd half when he was brandishing a yellow card for an infraction and speaking to the player whilst making a note. At the same time, the team took the free-kick behind his back and moved the ball on at least ten yards before he turned around and carried on as if nothing had happened. I found it very surprising and worrying at the same time. He had not completed the cautioning process, he had not blown his whistle to restart play and yet allowed play to carry on regardless. I made this point in a Facebook post and the man in black responded. I responded again and so did he. This is a FIFA referee afterall, someone at the top of his profession. I'll let you be the judge. Obviously criticism is something he's not used to.

Me: The referee in question allowed an incident in the game which I've never seen before. He let play continue behind his back whilst he was booking a player and then turned around and carried on. I've never seen anything like it even in schoolboy football. The assessor will have a field day.
Ketya Ref: Andy Brouwer: You should read law of the game. You are not assessor....you are just a fucking crazy fan of football..
Me: Nice language by the way. I have read the laws. And I've been watching senior football for over 40+ years and never seen an interpretation of the laws like that. Fans are the bread and butter of football, you should not be so quick to abuse them.
Ketya Ref: I want to tell all fan of foot ball : the all i said not for the real fan of foot ball . Just only one person , He is is Andy Brouwer ...

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Saturday, February 15, 2014


The Chamroeun sisters on stage, in black & white
Watched and listened to Krom at The Doors tonight, as they played one of their fairly rare live gigs. They confirmed the great news that they will be on a European tour later this year with the UK included. The Chamroeun sisters were soulful and exotic as ever, making me think of a siren of the sea drawing you into a watery grave with their bewitching voices - ok, just me then! Seriously their voices take you to another world. I also love the combination of guitar finger plucking, saxophone and accordion. It just sounds right. Listen out for the song Passion - I love it. Great stuff, which should attract a much larger audience than it does. And those that do come, would be better served to keep their voices a little lower when the band is on. It distracts me, so goodness knows what it does to the band. Always a pleasure to see Krom on stage.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On the stage

Coming up very soon; the Cambodian Space Project are back in town and will perform at Equinox on Valentine's Day, Friday 14 Feb, from 9pm. The following evening, Saturday, Krom are back on stage at the Doors (near Wat Phnom) and they will kick-off at 8.45pm. On Tuesday 18 Feb the next bout of the Cambodia Comedy Club will be housed at a new venue, CodeRED, opposite NagaWorld I'm told, 8.30pm start at a slightly increased price of $10, though you get a free drink. The two imported comics will be Ireland's Johnny Candon and quick-witted Englishman Dave Johns. I think it'll be a good one.

Naked & Afraid - Cambodia edition (two people, stark naked, in the Koh Kong jungle) should be shown on Discovery channel in March. I've heard the lady involved was/is a real looker, well maybe at the beginning - but after 21 days in the jungle, the end result might be a bit different. Find out what the Phnom Penh Post had to say about the show @ http://www.phnompenhpost.com/lifestyle/naked-and-afraid-survival-contest-filmed-koh-kong.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

A great loss - Bun Heang Ung

Back in 2006, ace cartoonist and animator Bun Heang Ung portrayed me on a motorbike at Angkor Wat and gave me an animated banner for my own website. He did it because he could draw just about anything. A man of fantastic talent was Bun Heang Ung, who I am sorry to report passed away yesterday after a prolonged illness. His own story and his drawings are recorded for posterity in the book, The Murderous Revolution (co-written with Martin Stuart-Fox). My sincere condolences go to his family - we have lost a great artist and a real gentleman. I have written many times about Bun Heang Ung, which you can read here.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Savy - Revealed

Savy released her first single, 'About A Boy,' on iTunes and other major digital retailers on 1 February, as well as her video on YouTube. The Cambodian-born singer will perform at the first annual Cambodian Music Festival in Hollywood on 3 August. I thought it was time to find out more about the artist who is causing quite a stir both in the States and in her homeland.

Your name, family, singing - tell us more...
It's Savy Som but I just go by Savy. My first name seems to be challenging enough without complicating the matter of throwing in my last name. I've asked my parents what my name means in Khmer and so far, they don't have any good answers for me. It's such an awesome coincidence that I was born in the same place (Battambang) as the Queen of Khmer Rock n Roll, Ros Sereysothea! I'll leave that as the only parallel drawn between us though because she is a legend. Sacred. I am just a mere mortal. My parents love Cambodian music, and my brother plays guitar. He actually helped me write my second single. My sister is a brilliant fine artist. The Khmer artistry runs deep through my family, but I'm the only one who could never shut up when the radio is on.

Singing is something I've been doing since I was four. It was never encouraged though. My mom literally told me to stop singing and that I didn't have a good voice. They are the sweetest people apart from that opinion, the thing is that Asian parents are very practical and can be critical. But they're on board now. It only took 28 years. My first audition was for a school play when I was eight. Every season I try out for all the reality singing shows, American Idol, The Voice, America's Got Talent. I've been a feature singer in cover bands but I've never had the opportunity to be a full-time musician due to having to work a day job since I was a teenager to pay those pesky bills.

I'd like to earn a comfortable living as a full-time musician. It's what I love doing the most and I'd do it for free, so being paid for it would be a fantastic bonus. I've been working in hospitals in the clinical lab as a phlebotomist (collecting blood samples) since I was eighteen. I love helping people and being there during someone's time of need and duress. I was laid-off from that job in July and I moved in with my brother in order to reduce expenses, so I could focus resources on getting my music out there. I've spent every last dime on it, so it's all I really have at this point.
Your song, About A Boy...
I write all the lyrics, harmonies and the majority of the melodies. 'About A Boy' was co-written and produced by an amazing team in Los Angeles with which I've had the good fortune of working, Liz Hill and Wesley Avery. I wrote 'About A Boy' when I had just started seeing someone that I was feeling delighted by and hopeful about. It didn't work out but I'll always have that song as a snapshot to that time and emotion. It reminds me that great things can only come to those with an open heart. Never stop believing in love. It's the only thing that lasts. Knowledge and love. I live for those things. I will readily admit that I have an unyielding passion for pop music! I used to hide it as a guilty pleasure, but I realized that pop music is one of the few styles that fires up the love I have for performing and honing my craft. While pop is comprised mainly of corn and cheese, it can serve as a reminder to never take things too seriously in life. Life is inherently difficult and you have to find outlets to lighten up the doorstep. Music isn't designed to crack the mathematical equation for cold fusion, it's designed for fun!

I plan to promote the song where ever the music takes me. It's all about connecting with people and I want to be in places to promote what is fun and positive. My tracks are concert quality, so I perform solo for the ease. A band would be ideal though because I learned to sing and perform with live musicians. My second single is an up tempo space travel analogy. I'm in pre production for the music video right now and I'm super excited to start filming! I love Star Trek (The Next Generation) and other space travel anthologies. I enjoy nearly anything written by really smart intellectuals that have a lot of wit and heart. I'm a huge nerd.

What about your Cambodian roots...
I felt very Cambodian growing up, my parents raised me with a lot of the old world values, have respect for elders, to work really hard, be thoughtful, and observant. For me, that's what it means to be Khmer, that when you walk by a seated elder, you stoop to show deference for their life experience. Being Khmer is a warmth of spirit and inviting people to share your meal. I love our food, it's the best in the world! My mom can cook like nobody's business. I'm getting hungry just writing about it. My parents are both alive and live in California, as well as the rest of my family. My family is small, like most Cambodians, we lost a lot of people during the war.

There hasn't been a day of my life that Cambodia does not occupy my mind. I have always wanted to go back but haven't returned mostly because I've had to work and pay every last bill on my own. There's also an emotional component to my return that is tinged with sadness from what my family went through. But I'm ready to go back now, especially if I have something like music to share! Hopefully that will expedite my inevitable return and make it sooner than later.
You can watch Savy's YouTube video of About A Boy @ http://youtu.be/1BbH157f-9A. A big thanks to Savy for taking the time to answer my questions and for allowing me to use her photographs. Nrg FM89.0 have been playing Savy's single exclusively in Cambodia. Listen @ https://soundcloud.com/nrgfmcambodia/savy-about-a-boy.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cleveland investigates

10thC Hanuman from Koh Ker - picture courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art
I bumped into the curator for Southeast Asian art at the Cleveland Museum of Art tonight who has been in-country, visiting as many Khmer temples as possible and getting the low down on Khmer art and history. With the recent news media going crazy for stories of looted Khmer art pieces, other items being returned and so on, Cleveland have been doing their own research on the pieces that they have in their museum, back in the United States. A look at their collection online via their website, identifies a number of Khmer items from pre- and through the Angkor period, including this 10th century sandstone Hanuman figure, supposedly from the Koh Ker complex. The figure has no feet so if the piece did come from the Koh Ker site, specifically the Prasat Chem temple, there should be a pedestal or base that would fit snugly onto the sculpture that is in Cleveland. Despite searching the site and discussing in detail with Apsara, no pedestal could be found. It is commendable that Cleveland have actually got off their arse and conducted their own in-depth investigations over here. If they can prove provenance showing that the piece wasn't obtained illegally, then it doesn't look like this Hanuman will be coming home anytime soon. You can see the Cleveland collection for yourself @ http://www.clevelandart.org/art/departments/indian-and-southeast-asian-art.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Team photo time

PPCFC senior team squad with technical staff
It was team photo time at Phnom Penh Crown this week. Or so I thought. It turns out that the people responsible for the shoot weren't even considering a traditional team photo at all. So we had to organise one at very short notice. He's the result. From the front and one from the rear. No time for the staff, including the press officer, to join in.
Behind the scenes


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Savy's Video

Here it is. Savy's first single - About A Boy - and a video of the lady herself romping on the sand with a bunch of friends. You can't go wrong with a catchy, pop song for your debut. I'd love to see this become a smash. The song was released on iTunes yesterday.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

More from the Court

And another one. Hybrid Justice: The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, to be published this month, will show how the Khmer Rouge Tribunal was created and how its unique legal and institutional features and political in-fighting have often impaired the court’s ability to deliver credible justice, connect to victims, manage resources responsibly, and leave a positive legacy for the rule of law in Cambodia. Authors John D. Ciorciari, and Anne Heindel have put together a 464-page tome and University of Michigan Press will publish it.

Shippen's informative and entertaining text illustrated by his distinctive and highly personal photography presents a wide-ranging introduction to the many facets of Cambodia for resident and visitor alike. The main text is accompanied by sidebars or box stories that highlight details of particular interest, provide anecdotal information and give a lively and reader-friendly look to the book. 160 pages.

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