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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko; 24 Februaryh, 1995

The Gecko; 24 Februaryh, 1995

The Gecko; 24 Februaryh, 1995

 

All due apologies to film-maker Rithy Panh, the government and the French

Cultural Center for this column's most recent foible. The Gecko has been

dutifully informed buy one and all that the recent cancelled showing of the

"People of the Ricefields" at the French Cultural Center was not due to the long

arm of the law but rather the result of a broken projector.

Untold tales

of UNTAC heroism. Some stories about UN bravado have taken a while to

surface-others may never be told. Here's the latest that's recently come to

light: Back in early '93 in Pursat a couple of Brits and their interpreters were

taken hostage by the Khmer Rouge. After stopping the two UN vehicles the KR

ordered all the Khmer to strip and then told one of them to drive. The

interpreter said he didn't know how but the "white guy" did. Off they went into

the jungle for two days, while some of the UN staff were left to hike it back to

Pursat town to tell the tale. On hearing the plight of his colleagues, a French

UNMO captain in Pursat decided to act-and his first response was not to ask

UNTAC HQ in Phnom Penh for advice on what to do. He corrals some Malaysian

pilots who just happen to have a helicopter at hand and they head off into the

bush following a dusty trail, looking for the jeeps. The vehicles were spotted

and the KR fired a few rounds at the choppers but the French UNMO had already

developed a shrewder plan. Armed to the teeth with 60 or so plastic, empty,

liter-sized Sprite bottles-still scented with the sweet smell of petrol-he

stuffed them all with the power of the written word and the KR were

carpet-bombed with messages in Khmer which said "Let them go, we're not here to

do something bad." The plan worked. The boys wwere released. The KR got some new

canteens which will last for decades, and UNTAC/HQ was, fortunately, still in

the dark - all though they've been chuckling ever since about one hostage crisis

that was solved without a lot of international fretting and local fizz.

 

Are Khmer-Thai relations strained? Just ask the flight manager for Thai

International in Bangkok who when asked what other alternatives there are to get

to Phnom Penh, says to passengers: "RAC? They have big problem. They've gone

bankrupt."

The latest mine awareness exhibition at the FCCC is catching a few

on-lookersw off guard. As a visual supplement to Tim Grant's striking photos,

the bar is filled to the gills with wheelchairs. Said one recent visitor: "I

thought there was a conference on the disabled going on. I looked at one guy's

legs twice to check and see if he'd lost one."

If you're at Calmette at night and the power goes off it seems that there is

more to worry about than just bumping into walls. Staff there have been known to

park motos in their offices and you might find yourself in the dark facing a

headlight coming at you down the hallway. Pedestrians beware!

Reports from northern Siem Reap province say that the KR are now taking

advantage of Thai plastic clothes pegs, with tin foil on the clip ends so they

can be used to remotely detonate artillery shells as above ground booby

traps.

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