Even Geckos need vacations. Ours was on holiday recently-hence the absence of a Gecko
column last issue for all those readers who were wondering what happened.
With the rainy season coming to an end, the Gecko has been musing about the possibility
of a "dry season" offensive, along with just about everyone else in Cambodia.
The question of major new fighting, rather than just the sporadic stuff that has
been going on almost daily for the last five months or more, has reminded the Gecko
about sandbags. If the shells start dropping in your neighborhood, it's good to have
a few of them around to sit behind.
All the UNTAC sector battalions were told to bring their own before their arrival
in Cambodia. Everyone followed orders, but the Tunisian battalion, not to be caught
unprepared, brought theirs already filled with sand.
Apparently the customs boys at the Bangkok airport-always on the lookout for drug
smugglers-had a heck of a time poking and probing the weighty sacks since they couldn't
figure out why anyone would want to transport a ton or two of the Sahara desert to
Cambodia. Sounds like somebody got sold a few bags full of it!
Regrettably, the available supply of sandbags in-country was insufficient to meet
the growing demand when fighting flared up around Phum Kulen in the north last June.
The United Nations put in an order for 10,000 from a local supplier hoping to chopper
in some of the bags to Preah Vihear province to protect their military observers
who were a bit too close to the action.
The promised two-day delivery didn't raise too many eyebrows, but when the dealer
said it would take an additional two days to unload them at an UNTAC warehouse in
Phnom Penh, the chap in charge thought he'd better check things out. The bags had
arrived on time but much to his chagrin he found a whole crew of Khmers unloading
the 10,000 bags one by one. After all, how else could you deliver that many bags,
especially if they were already filled with sand?
Despite all the problems after the phase II cantonment, UNTAC has not lost its sense
of humor. Military force commander Lieutenant General John Sanderson, when posed
a tricky question about desertion rates, told eager hacks the other day that his
men preferred to refer to them as "Self-demobilized soldiers."
A young Brit in the catering trade here found out the hard way that it does not always
pay to complain to the Cambodian police.
As daredevil Dave was riding along on his moped the other day, a car almost forced
him off the road and he responded by kicking at the paneling of the vehicle. The
driver got out and a slanging match erupted, prompting our hero to complain to a
The Cambodian driver muttered some words in the vernacular, whereupon a scowl of
anger creased the face of his uniformed countryman, who commandeered the bike and
demanded a fine of U.S. $300 for its release.
Pleas failed to move the copper and it was only with the help of a friend that the
full story came out: the driver had told the policeman that the foreign devil was
professing that the Cambodian fuzz to be worse than the Vietnamese-sacrilege indeed.
The fine was cut to U.S. $50 after the British lad pledged in writing that he thought
the local police were the finest on earth.
The Gecko has heard that this might be a good year to get a university degree in
Phnom Penh. It used to be that if you were having trouble making the grade you could,
with an appropriate fee, buy your diploma.
However, this being an election year, rumors are that no one will need to take final
exams and all "fees" have been waived. The Gecko guesses that this is called
higher education in a neutral political environment-that is, the less fear one has
about graduating the more time there is to spend figuring out who to vote for.
In the on-going race to come up with something different to attract wandering night
owls with pocketfuls of dollars to spend, the Gecko bemoans the fact that a new bar
in town called the Beer House is offering virgins for sale.
The price is negotiable although the Gecko heard that bargaining starts at $700.
The foreign-owned establishment has numbers of private "karaoke" rooms
that have lots of beds in them but few chairs. Could the powers-that-be in this fair
city please put an end to this kind of nonsense?
Ever wondered what Prince Sihanouk's North Korean bodyguards do in their spare time?
Drink Chinese beer, and karate chop piles of bricks, according to our mole in the
No doubt this is seen as essential training for dealing with the horde of booze-soaked
hacks that makes their life such hell when Samdech is touring town.
The Gecko hears that a one-person protest is in the works to be staged against the
Department of Posts and Telecommunications.
Fed up with letters arriving at destinations having been opened and then re-sealed
with scotch tape, the UNTAC employee plans to stand in front of the DPT with a placard
expressing outrage against mail tampering.
Finally, the Gecko turns to the case of the two missing journalists.
Attempts to touch base and shoot the breeze with the Cambodia Times' two ace reporters-
Michael O'Hara and Genevieve de Casagrande-proved elusive.
Over a jar in the Gecko Club a kindly soul revealed all: O'Hara and de Casagrande
are none other than the august organ's star hacks, Kevin Barrington and Barbara Smith.
Pretty clever, eh?