Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Future pedestrian zone?

The former Central Police Station, now fallen into sad neglect
Tonight was the presentation of 150 Years of Urban Architecture at the French Cultural Centre and I stupidly thought it might be in English. How wrong was I. It was in Khmer and French, so I had to make do with the photos and maps on the big screen to get the gist of the hour-plus slideshow and talk. That'll teach me for thinking the CCF might've at last got the message that English is the second language of choice these days. The folks from The Heritage Mission, who took me on an architecture tour of the old French quarter a couple of weekends ago, were the presenters. Which reminds me, I still have many photos to post from that tour. So let's start now with a few views of the Central Police Station, which sits alongside the Post Office but these days, it's empty and surrounded by a green corrugated fence and large trees. I recall on my first few visits to Phnom Penh that the station was still functioning, or so it seemed. Today it appears to be waiting for the wrecking crew though it would be nice if the building itself could be saved and utilized. In fact how about making the whole Post Office area a pedestrian only zone and put some real effort into renovating the collection of old colonial buildings that line both sides of the street. It works in many other cities around the world, why can't it work here. Anyway, back to the police station. I'm told it was constructed in its colonial-art deco style in 1925 though an older building stood in its place beforehand. It has three levels and a terrace running alongside its roof. The current owner doesn't like visitors these days, so we had to view it from afar, well the top of the old Manolis Hotel across the street to be precise.
The door is open to the old station house but no one is at home
A ground floor view of the old police station on Streets 13 and 98, next to the post office
A side view of the old police station
The Heritage Mission presentation warned against the loss of colonial architecture like this building that has since disappeared from Norodom Boulevard in the past year



Blogger cat said...

dear Andy,
it seems you don't much appreciate the FCC organisation !... (reminding your previous post about the cambodian ballet) :):):)
et j'oubliais ...
peut-être devrais tu apprendre un peu le français ? lol

October 1, 2009 3:23 AM  
Blogger Yukanthor said...

Dear Andy,
A bizarre thing indeed to be confronted to French and Khmer in the French Cultural Center of Phnom-Penh ! As for me, I am proud to call French my heritage as a Cambodian while it seems that you're not so keen on acknowledging diversity, eh ? Well, India might be the place for you if you can't understand French nor Khmer but still want to enjoy a great tropical sun...
I personally see the promotion of English in it's asian versions as a way to erase beautiful particularities and cultures. Coke and KFC for everybody... Cambodia diserves better !

October 1, 2009 12:54 PM  
Blogger Chenda said...

Hi Andy,
Next time you go to the Russian Cultural Center, expect... Russian, maybe !

October 1, 2009 1:34 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

My dear Francophile friends,
I was reliably informed that the presentation would be in 3 languages. That information proved incorrect. Though I'm told it will happen in the future.
The CCF are slowly coming around to the idea that French will never upstage English as the most widely-spoken 2nd language here and elsewhere around the globe. They don't like it but its a reality. The sooner they embrace it, the better.
My friends do not share your rose-coloured view of the French occupation of Cambodia and the legacy it left behind. Too many French expats/visitors still think they run/own the country. And India has no interest for me - perhaps with your own interest in France, you should consider relocating yourself. As for English, we are talking about the language, not the American-style retail outlets and refreshments you refer to. However I am for diversity, just not with a French-tint to it :-)
Cat, I must learn Khmer before I learn anything else. French would be last on my list :-)

October 1, 2009 1:50 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Chenda,
I don't have a trip planned anytime soon, the Russians don't put on many cultural activities as far as I'm aware ;-)
See my comment on the suggestion that the presentation was to be in 3 languages, rather than 2....that would help explain my disappointment.

October 1, 2009 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

I think you and me are going in next time I will visit Phnom Penh. Love that building a lot, and there's more that area...

October 1, 2009 7:39 PM  
Blogger cat said...

andy, of course, as you're now living in Cambodia, khmer language must be better to learn for you than french !
cependant, parfois, quand je lis ton blog, j'ai l'impression de devoir m'excuser d'être française !... même si je ne suis pas responsable des actes des français au Cambodge dans le passé!

October 1, 2009 7:50 PM  
Blogger Yukanthor said...

Dear Andy,
I'm quite puzzled at your answer ! Why should French be eradicated from Cambodia ? Is it only because you don't speak it or because you have so much contempt for the French themselves ? Is it standard policy at Hanuman ? Whether you like it or not, my country was saved from extinction by the French when the English were backing Siam. In 1907, they gave us back Siem Reap, Battambang, Koh Kong, Steung Treng, Oddar Meanchey and they bled for that. They fought again in 1941 against considerable Thai forces and a French army battalion came again in 1992 to help us during Untac. Where were the English and their wonderfull language then ? The King Father Himself and King Sihamoni are great promoters and defenders of the French Language and therefore I wonder who you are to speak so strongly against a language that has official recognition in Cambodia.
I personally was saved by the French and lived in their country for a few decades. Now that war is over I came back to my homeland as an old man only to hear an Englishman advise me to relocate back to France !!! It is just shameful.

October 1, 2009 9:26 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Yukanthor,
you make me smile. this is a personal blog so why do you mention Hanuman...they've nothing to do with my personal views. Its all about personal preferences. You have your view on history, I have mine. In fact the British were just about to come and join the party in Cambodia but the French got in 1st if my memory serves me right. Though I'm not convinced we would've done any better.
If you think its shameful, then re-read your suggestion that I relocate to India. Kettle, pot, black...rearrange these words.
I never said French should be eradicated, I said they should realise that the big wide world is now speaking english and they should embrace it. Don't put words in my mouth that weren't there.
Actually a lot of my distaste is the way some French have treated, and still treat, Khmers. If you haven't seen it, you must wear rose-tinted spectacles.

October 1, 2009 11:09 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

hey Cat, no problem, I am half-joking when I diss the French...only half joking mind you. As a Brit I have an historical-based aversion to the folks on the other side of the channel, but I try not to let it dominate my life...LOL.
I could go on but Yakanthor might get even more angry with me.

October 1, 2009 11:14 PM  
Blogger Chenda said...

Hi Andy,
I have to agree with Cat, fairness toward the French doesn't seem to be your strongpoint... I see expats and tourists all the time and to me they're no different except maybe the Koreans who really behave badly !
The fact that the French rarely agree to speak your language when you admit that you speak neither French nor Khmer is hardly ground to condemn them. By the way, a little French at school would have taught you that "Hôtel des Postes" is my no means a hotel but a Central Post Office.

October 2, 2009 10:33 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Hi Chenda,
french was the last thing I was going to learn at school. I was too busy playing football. Thanks for your opinion, but I'll condemn whoever I feel the need to condemn. As for Hotel des Postes... I rest my case :-)
Ridiculous language.

October 2, 2009 2:10 PM  
Anonymous eric said...

Bon Soir, monsieur Brouwer,
Comment-allez vous? J'adore votre blog. Peut-etre un petit moins de football et beaucoup de madames...
A bien tot....

October 2, 2009 5:34 PM  
Blogger cat said...

khmer ... english ... french ...
we are just humans, aren't we ?

October 2, 2009 7:44 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Thanks Eric...good to see you are multi-lingual. Yes Cat we're all human but us Brits regard the French as a little less human than the rest (joke). You should hear what we say about the Germans....

October 4, 2009 1:05 PM  

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