The Gecko has trouble figuring out where to begin. He's inundated with so many
rumors from day to day that he doesn't have the time to sort out fact from fiction.
If anyone ever doubted Cambodia's ability to be productive one would only have to
look at the rumor industry to conclude that this country could be one of the most
productive nations on earth.
The Gecko has gone to great lengths to determine whether or not the KR have 122 mm
artillery within range of Phnom Penh. The original source was supposed to be a "we've
seen them." Certainly Pol Pot would like us to believe so but whether the rumor
has any merit or not is the subject of endless debate. It really doesn't matter now
because just the possibility of such large weapons within shouting distance is having
its effect. People are scared.
All the APCs parked around town for two days didn't help either, although if anyone
took the time to think about it they would sleep more soundly because all those who
are worried about these things shouldn't have to worry about SOC hardware aimed at
them. It's not.
The troops on the street late at night are actually quite friendly. Stop and talk
to them and you might even meet some quite nice young Khmers who are just trying
to do their job, who really don't want to kill or be killed, and who would much rather
be home with their family and friends watching TV and hanging out. You know they're
underpaid-and they know it too. It won't hurt you to share a cigarette and have a
The Gecko wonders if somebody shouldn't start a road report service. Forget the weather,
it's whether or not you can travel on Route 6 or 5 that matters and the updates need
to be hourly. The Gecko heard one update on the road to Kompong Thom, "Sure
you can take it, if you want to come home in a box."
Civilians at UNTAC HQ are a bit ticked off, especially since some of them got notice
that they would have to be IPSOs. The UN couldn't find enough people to come out
to Cambodia and risk their lives so they turned within and started telling people
"Hey, UNTAC wants You!" Some people were a bit reluctant to take the job
and a mini revolt has been brewing in-house for days. One disgruntled, on-loan bureaucrat
described UNTAC as being led by a system of "Zombie management." He couldn't
figure out who was talking to who and said the boys at the top didn't want to hear
anything from anybody more than two rungs below.
Speaking of IPSOs, the 900 plus who were brought up to speed in Pattaya were given
a great intro on Day 1. Subjects of discussion included mines, security, evacuation
plans and potential medical problems. Quipped one insider, "Basically, everything
we could do to scare them we did on the first day." If you see greenhorns walking
around with their new flak jackets looking a bit panicky, think IPSO.
If you want to know what paper you can trust, the Gecko advises that you take Rasmei
Kampuchea with a grain of salt. They reported on May 1 that AFP's crack reporter
Sherri Prasso was having an affair with KR press spokesperson Mak Ben. You figure
The U.S. ambassador had a unique chance to liaise with the Khmer Rouge a few weeks
ago. He was driving on the USAID-funded road up in Beanteay Meanchey only to find
himself held up at a KR roadblock. You can be sure that the grant agreement to fund
this motorway didn't include the setting up of DK toll boths on one of Cambodia's
most driveable laterite highways.
A British UNMO has found a creative way to keep himself busy up in Banteay Meanchey.
He's been orgnizing ox and buffalo-cart races. With the help of an Imarsat phone
link, punters back home in the U.K. have been sitting on the edge of their seats
waiting for the results. Apparently, Racing Times now checks in like clockwork to
see who the winners are.
Some travel agents in town may be suffering from the drop in tourism but a few others
can't keep up with all the new business-Khmers fleeing the country before the elections.
Nervous residents of Phnom Penh are coming into one office and peeling off hundred
dollar bills like there's no tomorrow, which is exactly what they're worried about.
To the great delight of one agent, nobody is quibbling over airfares.