As we all know only too well, traffic in Phnom Penh is, has been for some years,
totally chaotic, ruleless and obstreperous. As more and more, bigger and faster (and
more pricey) cars and motorbikes appear on the road, somewhat miraculously it must
be said, this "panh-hah" is set to reach Bangkok-like proportions soon.
To quote one of my more sardonic Khmer friends, the "normal" is becoming
"more and more normal".
One is used also to this pandemonium's becoming even worse when some Boss with his
motorcade temporarily takes over the whole boulevard...or rather, it is the Big Cheeses,
Themselves, who own it and kindly let simple mortals use it when They do not need
But today, 16 October, really took the biscuit. Mohavithei Tou Samouth and parts
of Lénine and USSR (sorry, I do like those old-fashioned names) blocked, and
a veritable bedlam elsewhere in the center of Phnom Penh... But then this was an
historic occasion. A Shwe Himself, Burma's Matchbox A Pot, was honouring Phnom Penh
with His fragrant, wholesome presence.
Countless school children were lining the streets along which the worthy gentleman
was due to strut. A very useful paedagogic and civic experience: children who are
repeatedly made to stand for hours in the sun (or rain, or cold) to welcome a visiting
grandee are extremely unlikely later to feel any love or even respect for paramount
leaders, their institutions and their pomps... much as they may, at the time, enjoy
the opportunity too learn even less at school!
It would seem that the epochal visit is mainly a touristic one, and aims to "market
the attractions of Burma and Cambodia together". I would assume that tourism
in this context essentially means Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek, and whatever equivalents
Burma may have to offer.. and no doubt forced labour would allow a faster, more efficient
"development" of Cambodia's beaches and other resorts. It goes without
saying that by 'development' I mean high-rise hotels, 'son et lumiere', fake minority
and other crafts, charmingly voyeuristic visits to tribal zoos...and hamburgers,
Bratwurst and chips everywhere.
No doubt Samdech Earl Marshal A Shwe can tell Cambodian politicians how to set up
a reign of... order. Perhaps even in the area of traffic: just put up fences everywhere,
manned by democrats with AK47s, preferably Chinese equivalents. And of course get
rid of all those foreign-paid demagogues and opportunists (no, that's what other
Fuhrers call Jose Ramon Horta) who write inflammatory letters and want to exercise
their so-called right to demonstrate peacefully when it is the authorities' solemn
duty to protect Honoured and Honourable Guests from any exposure to unsavoury truths.
- Philippe Hunt, Phnom Penh.