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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 11 August, 1995

The Gecko: 11 August, 1995

 

Stephen Hayward sent this in from Hong Kong: Mark Blake, one of

Cambodia's more colorful characters passed away from many family and friends in

Thailand on May 1, l995.

Many of you who will read this would have met

Mark in Phnom Penh and would surely remember a young man in his prime full of

ideas and often scatty (a word he used often) intellect who was often found as

company over a glass of beer or two.

Indeed, it was the very spirit and

creativity of Mark which led to the building of the Foreign Correspondents Club

which is now home to all those pen happy souls who were very much a part of

Mark's life in Cambodia. The FCC is now not only a place for journalists but a

tourist attraction and visiting spot for Cambodians, expatriates and travellers

to sample the gentle ambiance created by Mark.

It is ironic that Mark

should finally come to rest in a Buddhist country as despite travelling the

world many times over and working in countries as far apart as Australia and

France, he was continually drawn to Buddhist countries and spent some of his

happiest times in Burma, where he worked on the legendary Strand Hotel, and

Cambodia.

It is hoped that your learned paper will print these few words

for Mark in your natter-cum-opinion column entitled the "Gecko" as Mark would

also be remembered for setting up that other famous watering hole in Phnom Penh,

the Gecko Club.

It seems every armchair pundit and their brother had

some comment on the Warren Christopher visit. A Western diplomat, commenting on

the perceived lack of support from the U.S. in helping stem the tide in human

rights erosion here in the Kingdom said "we feel so alone."

A

Khmer-American called the Secretary a "sissy" and said "the U.S. isn't

interested in taking a stand on anything" while adding that "if the Republicans

win (in 1996) then something will happen."

There's another side to this

coin. The Gecko was told of a conversation between a U.S. State Department

staffer and a member of the Cambodian Parliament. The MP wanted the US to cut

off aid to the Kingdom as a means of pressuring the government to do more to

protect human rights. The conversation was as follows (sort of):

MP: You

must cut aid to pressure the government.

US: Should we cut the funding

for the rehabilitation of Route 4?

MP: On no, not that. We need

that.

US: How about funding for democracy training for MPs?

MP:

No, no, not that. That's important.

US: What about funds for training

judges?

MP: No way, no way, no way. That's critical.

US: So, maybe

we should cut support for teacher training?

MP: Oh no. Can't do

that.That's a top priority.

US: How about cutting the emergency rice

donation?

MP: Impossible, impossible. The people need it

urgently.

US: So?

MP: So. Er...um...well... gee?

The

Christopher visit resulted in one first, at least according to Secret Service

agents. When the Secretary visited the Palace to meet with King Sihanouk, one

agent was asked if he'd ever had to coordinate security arrangements with North

Koreans. A terse "No" was the answer followed by the teeniest, tiniest glimmer

of a Cheshire cat smile.

Talking to KR defectors is always an interesting

experience. One of the boys currently in Dei Eth for re-education, who'd spent

ten years in the jungles of Siem Reap province, said he'd met Ta Mok and

described him as "very cruel." He said the one-legged commander was so severe he

was afraid to look him in the face. The defector had also met Nuon Chea and said

Chea's current position in the DK was "minister of interior."

The

defector also said that in 1987 he'd come across a herd of about 100 kouprey

near Preah Sa'ah at the foot of the Dangrek mountain escarpment. He shot and

killed one which provided "several hundred kilos" of meat for he and his

cohorts, but, he said, the same year Ta Mok banned the killing of kouprey and

wild elephants (which were also numerous) because they were so rare. Alas, he'd

never seen any rhinos.

Martin Flitman has a new high-tech, digitized

beeper on which he can receive messages of up to 100 characters. Some of his

friends, who wanted to test out the system, tried to send him the following

secret transmission: "Please send the encyclopedia."

However, the master

decoders at beeper headquarters managed to break the code and Martin received

the actual message intended, which was "Please seen we in faculty."

You

too can send your own special message to Martin. Just call 64646 and ask to have

your cryptic greeting relayed to pager #656. Martin is waiting eagerly to hear

from you.

Overworked? Stressed out? Losing too much sleep because the

size of the ozone hole over the Antartic is getting larger? Fed up with the

Phnom Penh Post? Try taking a day trip to Phnom Chiso and enjoy the

sights.

A 460 foot high hill jutting out of the Takeo plains, Phnom Chiso

has a beautiful 14th century temple on top. Hawkers next to the temple sell hard

boiled eggs, grilled chickens and cold sodas, beers or bottled water. After

working up a sweat to reach the peak, you can rent a bamboo mat, sit under an

aging Bodhi tree and soak up emerald green vistas stretching all the way to the

Vietnamese border.

To get there, take Route 2 south from Takmau and

after about 35 kilometers just keep your eye open for a hill which juts out of

the rice fields like a plump mango sitting on a banana leaf. The turn-off on the

left is about three klics after you pass the hill.

A resident on Street

19 behind the National Museum says a new no-litter enforcement program was

recently put in place. First a sign was put up telling residents to make sure

they dumped their garbage in a bin. Then three guys with AKs stood guard for

several days to make sure everyone got the message LOUD AND CLEAR.

The

KJA wants to salute Bert Hoak of Bert's Books fame (and now Bigger & Better

Guest House) for his donation of a computer printer.

There's speculation

in some quarters that RCAF troop strength may be much less than even the

quasi-official figures. However, with many KR defectors simply getting a new

uniform and going back to the field on the government side, these "new" recruits

are filling the ranks of units who didn't actually exist. In any event, the only

way to really know the actual total is to go out and count - one-by-one.

One final note. The Gecko bids a fond farewell to François Torrès after

his three year plus stint in Phnom Penh. A man of wit and intelligence, an

erudite and thoughtful encapsulation of creative, undaunted energy, he will be

sorely missed by all his friends. Hope to see you in Beijing, François!

 

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