The Gecko heard one story that the media would have pounced on like a
pack of piranhas if they'd caught wind of it. They were probably diverted by the
One of the U.N.'s new MI-26s, on its way from Calcutta along with three others, got
lost and ended up almost out of fuel on a beach on the island of Phu Quoc in Vietnam.
The first three made it to Phnom Penh before sundown, the last was supposed to take
a turn at Koh Kong but somehow missed it and kept following the coast.
The sun went down and the chopper groped its way along the coast ending up across
the border in paradise at 10 p.m.. An alert went out country-wide to all UNTAC positions
to keep an eye out for a lost helicopter. The next morning, with no word on the chopper's
whereabouts, a C-160 took off and was given orders to "check the coasts."
After flying over two country's borders and heading towards no-mans land in Vietnam
the pilots asked "is it OK to cross Vietnamese air space." The reply was
given "go ahead." The plane circled the island once and then found the
chopper resting quietly on a beach.
The Russian flyboys would have been released pronto but because they weren't flying
U.N. colors there was a bit of a snafu. In spite of all the generous largesse provided
to the Viets by the Ruskies the fact that the chopper was still bearing Russian colors
meant a delay was necessary.
So much for a thank you to those who coughed up billions to help the Vietnamese in
their decades-long struggle against western powers.
Anyway, the chopper made it to Phnom Penh-finally-although their are rumors going
around town about a $10,000 hotel bill paid by the flyboys for their night on the
wrong landing zone. Who says the Vietnamese don't appreciate a dose of the free market
once in a while?
The Gecko ran into an UNTAC employee and asked "how's it going?" "Pretty
slow," came the reply. "What's the problem," queried the Gecko, "you
guys are supposed to be busy?" "Bad management," shrugged the global
civil servant. The Gecko ran into another disgruntled UNTACer who was submitting
his resignation, and muttered, "The whole system's a mess, I can't take it anymore."
Asia Watch, the famed human rights watchdog organization was in town recently. One
team member visited the provinces and came back to Phnom Penh saying that what the
country needed was more jails, perhaps a first for an entity that regularly berates
penal systems around the world with well justified vehemence.
In Kompong Speu both the KR and SOC are regularly taking bribes from road traffic
but there's a difference the Gecko is told. SOC soldiers take a fee from every vehicle
no matter how many times it comes through any toll booth, but the KR only charges
once per day which gives drivers the right to multiple crossings at any designated
checkpoint. What a discount.
With all the millions of mines spread throughout the countryside the Gecko was told
that Cambodians can now add American corporate ingenuity to the list of those who
need to be thanked for this mis-guided expression of generosity. Members of the mine
clearance teams say that the 72 Bravo mines donated by the Chinese include circuitry
and computer chips made by Motorola. The 72 Bravos are the mines that if tipped more
than 10 degrees explode immediately. The high-tech mines also have batteries with
a life¬span of 72 years which gives you a good idea of how long Khmers will continue
to lose life or limbs.
A U.N. military officer told the Gecko he was glad to have had the chance to spend
time at different sites throughout the country as it had given him some perspective
on the Khmer Rouge. After several months on the border with Vietnam he noted that
from what he had read and heard he thought the KR were quite barbarous but since
moving to another sector where regular contact was maintained with the DK his opinion
had changed. "The KR gets bad press," he said. "These guys aren't
all that bad."
The Gecko's caught wind of a number of rip-offs lately. Action Nord-Sud had $50,000
in cash stolen from its office and one of its employees conveniently disappeared
as well. The Gecko Club was also burgled; they lost about $2,000 worth of CDs and
equipment. The way the thief broke in doesn't give much comfort to those who've bought
padlocks on the local market as, apparently, the robber just used his own key to
let himself in and even locked the place up when he left. Finally, the Gecko's heard
that the chief of police of one of Phnom Penh's districts had his car stolen. There's
a brave crook for you!
This latest update on air traffic safety at Pochentong. The Gecko heard one of the
pilots on contract to the U.N. say that Pochentong was the most dangerous airport
he'd ever flown into. How many has he landed on?