The Gecko wants to know what the UNTAC P.X. is doing selling fruit juices produced
The Malaysian-run store to the north of Phnom Penh offers liter packs of apple and
peach juice made in the ostracized state by the Budimka company. Does the P.X. know
something about the U.N. sanctions that we don't?
You may have noticed the proliferation of new nightspots and entertainment palaces
in Phnom Penh, but two establishments in particular have caught the Gecko's eye.
The first aims to soothe the tortured limbs of the growing expatriate population.
The 69 Sauna/Massage parlour, located on St. 352, offers a 45-minute rub down for
$20. The Gecko hears that the name, believe it or not, refers to the hours that the
"institute" is open: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Makara Cafeteria chain is a completely different ball game. If you're looking
for a nice cup of espresso and some snacks, think again before entering the group's
two outlets opposite the Pailin Hotel and near the Olympic Stadium.
The Makara is in fact Cambodia's first video games arcade, with one armed bandits
thrown in to boot. Next time you drop 100 riels into the outspread hand of a street
kid in downtown Phnom Penh, give a thought to the Makara-youngsters are the biggest
On the subject of catering establishments, tourists and any red-blooded male planning
to visit Siem Reap and the Angkor temples will be delighted to hear what the Aseana
Hotel Group has in store for the Grand Hotel, which it is renovating and managing.
An information leaflet issued by the group boasts that among the facilities and guest
services offered at the venerable hostelry will be a "Brassiere Restaurant and
The Gecko heard from the UNTAC navy boys about a bit of genius at work, of late,
up north on the Mekong. Confounded by the regularity of riverine banditry, UNTAC
set up a sting operation that proved quite successful, although not without a high
level of risk.
The UNTAC ambush was sprung as follows: two UNTAC soldiers boarded a ferry, one of
the many which carry people up and down the Mekong, and which are visited frequently
by unofficial "tax collectors."
The craft headed upstream, followed at a discrete distance by other UNTAC sting crafts.
As expected, the ferry was stopped by "bandits," in this case soldiers
in Hun Sen regime uniforms who proceeded at gunpoint to put the squeeze on the passengers,
one by one.
After working their way from stem to stern, the crooks came face to face with the
two blue berets. The bandits then fled the boat and sped for shore with the Zodiacs
in hot pursuit. Muscle-flexing followed: the Hun Sen soldiers first fired in the
air, then at the ferry, and finally at the UNTAC boats in hot pursuit.
As UNTAC wisely retreated, one can imagine the banditos having a good chuckle.
Little do they know that the U.N. is likely to have the last laugh. The whole episode
was captured on film and the appropriate Hun Sen military authorities are now being
presented with some not-so-humorous footage of their boys in action.
Speaking of soldiers with loose trigger fingers, the Gecko heard about some recent
antics at a cantonment site in Sector IV. Situated serenely at the junctions of Routes
19 and 13, some 20 kilometers east of Stung Treng, Site 403 is known in the local
UNTAC military parlance as "Whiskey One."
While none of the 400 Hun Sen soldiers from Regiment 17 are actually cantoned, relations
between the Khmer and Uruguayan troops manning the site are generally quite jolly.
Soldiers from both armies can be seen splashing about in the local swimming hole,
known as "Chicken Egg Creek," which has one of the more idyllic cafes in
Cambodia nestled on its shady shore.
However, several weeks ago, one whiskey at cocktail hour wasn't enough for some of
the Hun Sen soldiers. After more than a few too many rounds, happy hour devolved
into a mortar attack on the 30 hapless Uruguayan troops down the road.
Lt. de Leon, the senior Uruguayan officer present, was not amused. "With tracer
rounds passing three meters above our heads we all dove into the bunkers," he
The culprits were arrested by the Hun Sen army's regimental commanding officer and
have been sent to Stung Treng for punishment.
The Uruguayans have no hard feelings; friendly "Amigo" bears hugs are still
readily proffered and Chicken Egg Creek is back at full capacity.