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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 18 December 1992

The Gecko: 18 December 1992

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

"hostage crisis."

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?

"Over 200."



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