Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cracking down

Cambodia's PM has told his ministries and police chiefs to crack down on violent youth gangs who are causing havoc in the cities and countryside. I haven't seen much evidence of these gangs myself, until last night. Whilst the city was in boisterous mood with pockets of the Preah Vihear 1-year celebrations breaking out all over, I witnessed what appeared to be an unprovoked and cowardly attack on a teenager riding his moto along Sothearos Boulevard, in front of the colourful water-fountains. The traffic was snarled and at a standstill when at least half a dozen youths jumped off their motos and started punching and kicking a single youth, who was knocked from his moto and onto the ground. The assault lasted only a few seconds but I saw at least two of the youths using their unbuckled belts to inflict blows. As quickly as it had started, it was over, the youths jumped on their motos and sped away, cheering and giving each other high-fives. It was clear that the attackers knew each other, whether they knew the victim, I don't know but it was a sober reminder that youths and violence make common bedfellows in whatever city you find yourself in. I welcome any moves, however strong-armed they may be, to nip this in the bud.
Instead of watching the Preah Vihear celebrations on television last night, with a massive rally from the Olympic Stadium being beamed across the country, I went to watch a slideshow and talk, Khmer Abroad by photographer Stephane Janin at Java Arts Cafe. Janin moved from Phnom Penh to live in Washington, USA, a couple of years ago and has been documenting the ordinary, everyday lives of the Khmer diaspora in Washington, Lowell and Long Beach ever since. His blog has much of his work available to view. He intends to continue his work for another year before moving to France and beginning the same project there too.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mixed bag

Flags flying above Preah Vihear - the pride of a nation
A mixed bag of 'stuff' this morning. Tonight I will poke my head into Java Arts Cafe again for the Khmer Abroad, talk and slideshow by photographer Stephane Janin, who used to host the Popil Gallery in Phnom Penh and now lives in Washington, US, documenting the lives of the Khmer diaspora. You can get a good feel for his work by visiting his blog. On Monday, a new art exhibition will open at Reyum featuring the paintings of local artists Khun Sovanrith and Ven Savat. The Reyum Gallery near the National Museum provides a great opportunity for Khmer artists to expose their work to a wider public. Later this afternoon, the Olympic Stadium will play host to the 1-year anniversary celebrations for the award of World Heritage status to the temple of Preah Vihear. The place will be awash with the cream of the country's elite as well as top names like crooner Preap Savath and many more. Long rambling speeches, music, patriotic songs, dance, speeches from military leaders, fireworks, more speeches, expect the lot. It's on tv so I won't be there. Oh, and at 11am this morning, the PM has called for bell-ringing, drum-beating and banner-hanging to herald the actual time of the listing. And I'm told there will be traditional dancing at Preah Vihear too, well at Sraem, some 20kms away. An interesting snippet emerged yesterday when two Thai tourists were refused entry to Preah Vihear. In fact, Thai tourists have been banned from the temple until the conflict has been resolved, on the pretext that they might be spies. Finally, the Khmer Rouge trials took a backwards step yesterday when civil party witness Ly Hor gave a less-than-convincing display about his time at S-21. So much so that Duch claimed the man was already dead and challenged the witness testimony. Ly Hor said he was held at Tuol Sleng for one month but was sketchy in his recollection of his time there. It also called into some minor doubt the evidence provided by DC-Cam, whose officers have worked tirelessly for more than a decade to uncover the truth about the Khmer Rouge and presented much of the evidence for the tribunal.

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