TAKEO-In a marshy field about 40 miles south of Phnom Penh, Richard Hradsky-Fisher
faces problems that most expatriates here don't have to contend with.
"I suspect my polarization is not perfect," he shouts into a telephone
to his counterpart in Tokyo, wiping sweat from his forehead. "I'm fixing on
Singapore, and I think they might have a cross-pole problem."
He makes quite a bizarre picture. Tall and bearded and wearing a white shirt buttoned
down to his wrists, he leans against the doorway of a tiny wooden shack built beside
a few coconut trees. The floor inside is littered with empty beer cans, tins of spaghetti
meatballs, tea bags and packets of custard cream biscuits. It's like a bedsit in
Camden with tropical posters stuck over the windows.
But behind him are ten gleaming cases crammed with electronic equipment, and at the
back of the hut are four satellite dishes, pointing up into the ether.
Like "Q," the mad inventor in James Bond films who gives 007 the latest
new-fangled gadgets to save the agent's life, Hradsky-Fisher seems totally oblivious
to the incongruity of the situation.
"I can give you one more DRB, but then you are on maximum pow-er," he shouts
into the telephone again, holding a finger in his free ear to block out the sound
of the diesel generator.
On a low wooden platform in front of the hut, two Cambodian soldiers doze in the
afternoon heat, their AK47 rifles hanging on a nail in the wall. They turn out to
be the guards Hradsky-Fisher has hired to protect his "equipment"-$250,000
worth of television satellite broadcasting hardware, installed in the middle of nowhere
in the Cambodian countryside.
Hradsky-Fisher works for BrightStar, a British company that supplies satellite links
for TV companies "anywhere in the world." He has come to Cambodia under
a two-week contract with TBS television in Japan, so that Japanese viewers can get
live pictures of their troops arriving in Takeo, eating their first meal, and bedding
down for their first night in their tents.
Japan is very interested in these details, because it's the first time in nearly
50 years that Japanese troops have been stationed outside their own country.
Their last venture into Asia left them with a major public relations problem. So
several hundred Japanese journalists have converged on Cambodia to cover this momentous
event, and they are sparing no expense.
Hradsky-Fisher will not be precise, but he says his two-week contract is costing
the television network "hundreds of thousands of dollars-it's not a cheap operation."
In addition to the T.V. satellite link, he has a satellite telephone to coordinate
At the moment, he explains with his hand over the telephone receiver, he is trying
to sort out an alignment problem with Tokyo, and the reference signal from Singapore
seems to be giving him trouble. So is the English-language ability of his interlocutor
"What do you mean 'what is my situation?' Do you want latitude and longitude?"
he asks, rolling his eyes in despair. "Oh, you want to know what the weather
Hradsky-Fisher is the technical coordinator for the broadcasting link. He has brought
an engineer with him from London as well. "I do the exotic, or special trips,
" he says. "If something goes down here and I can't fix it, the whole thing
"Boost carrier," he says, as his engineer fiddles with some nobs.
Outside a couple of water buffalo stretch their necks over a rope around the satellite
dishes, trying to sniff at the strange new additions to the local scenery. They are
"How do you receive me now?"Hradsky-Fisher yells.
Across the field a few tents have already been put up by an advance team of Japanese
soldiers, who are preparing for the main body of troops to arrive in a couple of
days. Hradsky-Fisher has to have the system working perfectly by then.
"This is the only way of getting pics out of the middle of nowhere, fast,"
A Japanese TV producer-wearing full combat fatigues and looking more battle-ready
than the timid Japanese soldiers-appears from nowhere and starts asking about the
satellite link, but Hradsky-Fisher is still talking to the man in Tokyo about DRBs.