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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko]: 23 October 1992

The Gecko]: 23 October 1992

 

 

The recent arrival of Japa-nese troops in Cambodia has been more than matched by

a tidal wave of journalists who are now scouring the countryside looking for a good

story. The Gecko notes that while the boys from Nippon are so far behaving with propriety,

some of the foreign hacks could use a bit of disciplining themselves.

One report from Kompong Som has it that a distinguished member of the press corps

tried unsuccessfully to bribe a brothel owner so that a bevy of prostitutes would

await with open arms the arrival of the first contingent of Japanese engineers. It

would have made for a great photo, the Gecko was told.

Undaunted, the seasoned scribe-never at a loss for ways to spice up the news-just

happened to have his own Japanese flag, one harking back to the days when the Japanese

navy ruled most of the Pacific. As the troops were about to disembark, the flag was

given to a Khmer child standing on the dock. Not to miss out on any chance to capture

"the truth," more than a dozen photographers rushed up to take the tot's

picture, which likely played on front pages all over Japan.

When Prince Sihanouk, Akashi and more Japanese troops arrived at Pochentong last

week the press corps, at times, seemed like a pack of wild dogs. Pushing, shoving

and a few too many elbows in colleagues' ribs are apparently the prerequisites for

getting the news back home. One local scribe was literally mauled as the press pack

pounced on Prince Sihanouk before he departed, with her wristwatch ripped off her

arm in the melee.

No one ever said that being a journalist was an easy job but a Post reporter is still

shaking his head over an incident last week. Minding his own business while pedalling

through town, the cyclist was blind-sided by an UNTAC police vehicle taking a right-hand

turn and forced off the road.

Perhaps a simple enough mistake, but when the reporter encouraged a little more caution

on the road, the UNTAC policeman took offense. A chase ensued and the policeman proceeded

to race after the bicyclist all over town, forcing him off the road three times,

while at one point shouting "I'll get you."

An official complaint was filed with UNTAC military police but, when followed up

two days later, the word was "We have no way of finding the vehicle. Come back

Monday."

The Gecko hears that UNTAC pilots flying into Stung Treng are a bit on edge these

days. While commercial flights were cancelled at the end of August because the runway

was in such a sad state, the U.N. is still making daily landings. According to a

Frenchman who makes the run up north regularly, planes fly over the landing strip

once before setting down to see if there are any new potholes. The pilot mused nervously,

"It may take a plane crash before anything is done about it."

Speaking of flight information, the Gecko notes that the code used for flights by

S.K. Air is "DK" which also happens to be the commonly-used abbreviation

of the Khmer Rouge's official name.

There's been an administrative shuffle in Trebeng Meanchey, the capital of Preah

Vihear Province. Up until last week the town was included as part of Sector III,

under the control of the Pakistani battalion. For some unexplained reason a shift

was made so that it is now part of Sector IV, which is controlled by the Uruguayans.

The local citizenry may be a bit confused but at least they're happier. The Uruguayans'

first act upon arrival was to set up a water treatment plant and distribute clean

water to one and all, something the locals haven't had in who knows how many years.

The U.N. is attempting to show its best face around town. A memo posted on office

walls advises UNTAC staff not to "park in front of areas of ill repute"

as it is "bad for the image of the U.N. and morale of UNTAC personnel."

With 161 cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported by UNTAC personnel during

the month of September, this one may be hard to enforce.

The Gecko heard an interesting story from a Malaysian businessman the other day.

Apparently, while negotiating a deal with a Phnom Penh official, the Cambodian principal

mused how he "already had an American Express card but would really like to

have a Mastercard." The deal was signed-it included a new credit card with unlimited

use and no responsibility for paying the bills.

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