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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 17 May ,1996

The Gecko: 17 May ,1996

A top secret document was recently leaked to the Post by an alert reader. Called

the "Typical Non-Governmental Organization (TNGO) Briefing Sheet", the

document is believed to be given to new TNGO workers upon their arrival at Pochentong

and covers a wide range of guidelines and advice for everyday life during their stay

in the Kingdom. Included on the briefing sheet are:

** In order to understand the Cambodian people better and show our solidarity

with them, we at TNGO are committed to fully sharing their living conditions. However,

there are a few minor exceptions to this guideline. TNGO will provide you with a

maid, a driver, a spacious villa, guards, a cook, air-conditioning, a car, a fax

machine, a photocopier, a personal computer, e-mail, a mobile telephone, a furnished

office, a tax-free Western salary, Western medical and dental care, free airline

tickets for home leave twice a year, Western food, and exemption from all taxes,

fees, and custom duties, etc. - but with these trivial exceptions your living conditions

will be identical to those of actual Cambodians.

** Certain tasks have been divided up among the NGOs in Phnom Penh by nationality.

Thus the Japanese NGOs are in charge of promoting racial tolerance while the Australians

have been assigned the job of stamping out child prostitution. The French are in

charge of fostering international cooperation among aid donors. The Brits lecture

on granting asylum, using Hong Kong as an example. America, home to half of the world's

lawyers and the O.J. Simpson, Menendez brothers and Rodney King trials, is in charge

of law reform.

** Exposure to Cambodian culture is easy - and fun! TNGO recommends that you

spend all your free time hanging out with other Westerners at the FCCC, Red, Heart

of Darkness, Irish Rover and the Ettamogah Pub. Optional extra credit: on your way

to and from any of these local cultural centers, you may chat with your Cambodian

driver.

** You are here to give advice and to express your opinions - do so loudly,

and firmly and at every opportunity. Never mind about the Cambodian response; after

all, if Cambodians knew what to do, you wouldn't be here, would you? TNGO does, however,

ask you to respect the following minimum standards: You must have been in Cambodia

the length of time indicated in order to give advice at the corresponding level:

20 minutes - any civil servant; four hours - members of the National Assembly; eight

hours - Ministers, Secretaries of State; 12 hours - Prime Ministers.

Exception: The good news is that if you have ever read a book - any book at all -

about Cambodia, these waiting periods are waived, and you can begin giving advice

immediately!

** In the unlikely event of a conflict between two NGOs (such as the recent

most embarrassing split of opinion on the Mekong River Project), the CCC for NGOs

has developed a simple, easy to remember tie-breaking rule: The more left-wing NGO

automatically wins.

** TNGO encourages dormitory-style bull sessions about political science,

democracy and politics in the abstract. On the other hand, TNGO does not approve

of any current Cambodian politicians - people who have won elections and who have

been going to work and actually accomplishing things every day for many, many years.

Remember that you have been asked to come to Cambodia to philosophize, lecture and

pontificate about democracy and politics, NOT to actually do anything.

** TNGO is committed to promoting the Rule of Law in Cambodia. We expect Cambodians

to obey and respect all the laws we write and impose on them. Note: This does NOT

apply to you or your friends while you are in Cambodia. If you want to smoke grass,

sleep with members of the same or opposite sex of any age, including children, etc.,

go right ahead! Rule of Law applies only to Cambodians, NOT TNGO workers!

** Perhaps during your work here you will be able to help TNGO answer the

single greatest puzzle about our work: why so many Cambodians feel our work has no

value and would gladly chuck the lot of us in the Mekong in exchange for a single

Malaysian investor with the vulgar knack of actually creating jobs for Cambodians

and thus alleviating the suffering of the Khmer people. TNGO has already spent -

solely for the benefit of the Cambodian people, of course - $3.5 million to organize

academic conferences to address this enigmatic problem at universities in Lyons,

Berkeley, Ithaca, Oxford, Paris, and New Haven, but the answer continues to elude

us...

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