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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Man About Town 05 APR 2013

Man About Town 05 APR 2013

Political activist Bob Geldof gobbed off too soon last month by pouring scorn on Earth Hour’s claims that it has become a global initiative. He told a Sydney audience that nobody outside of Australia is aware of it.

Earth Hour encourages households and businesses to turn off their lights for one hour to raise awareness about climate change. It’s the brainchild of the World Wildlife Fund and the Leo Burnett Sydney ad agency, and backed by Fairfax Media. It began in Australia in 2007. This year, the Earth Hour organisation claimed millions of people in “more than 7000 cities, towns and municipalities in more than 150 countries and territories” took part on March 23.

But Mumbrella media news service reported that Geldof, speaking at a One World Youth forum at the Sydney Opera House, said the project had not raised awareness beyond Australia.

According to Mumbrella, profanity-prone Geldof said, “We turn off our lights for Earth Day – Earth Hour fucking hell. Nobody outside of Australia knows about Earth Hour, believe me. We turn our lights off for an hour and then we see at our neighbours and they’ve left their fucking lights on and they’re ruining the planet.”

Man About then posted on Mumbrella’s site that Cambodia has certainly heard of Earth Hour. For the last few years several hotels have observed it – and this year in Siem Reap it was generously observed by Le Meridien resort.

Emmett McHenry, the gregarious general manager of Sokha Angkor Resort, also informed Man About that the hotel had observed the occasion.

Following Man About’s posting on Mumbrella, dozens of other posts appeared from far flung outposts throughout the globe, noting that Earth Hour has also been observed.

In fact the debate still rages on Mumbrella with new posts appearing even at the time of writing.

Perhaps the most vigorous posting came courtesy of  author Suzy Watusi who wrote, “Not only does Bob Geldof's music stink (as I'm sure he does - the man looks like his last shower was back in the Boomtown Rats' heyday many decades ago), he is an arrogant, obnoxious twat. Earth Hour may not be as wide-reaching as some initiatives, but it at least raises public awareness and shows people that they can make a positive difference without needing to chain themselves to trees or whatever.

“God, between him and Bono, they've got the 'pop-star-who-thinks-he's-the-second-coming' market tied up.”

The coming New Year marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Phnom Penh Post’s Siem Reap bureau – or perhaps more precisely the occasion marks the almost-opening of the bureau.

A lease for the premises had been signed just before the New Year in 2008, but a very Cambodia-naïve Man About, who first set foot in the Kingdom of Blunder in February 2008, was unaware of the down-tools effect the New Year has.

Hence a planned office fit-out was delayed for two weeks due to workers decamping for the holiday.

Then the fit out was delayed for another week due to a death in the owners family.

Then finally came the big day of moving in. But this was delayed by another day due to a dreaded power outage, And while this column is being written, Siem Reap languishes under another day-long power outage.

Nothing much has changed over the five years in some respects: in other respects the change has been enormous.

Perhaps the biggest change has been in Siem Reap’s international image. Five years ago travel magazines consistently reported that Siem Reap was simply a dusty appendage to the temples.

Recently, the vibe has changed – now travel outlets report that Siem Reap is one of the funkiest cities in the region. Here’s to more positive progress.



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