Boutros Boutros-Ghali came and went recently. Remember his visit? The Gecko does.
Mostly because everyone in town had something to say about it, all of which seemed
to coalesce around an enormous, collective shrug of frustrated disappointment. Those
left shaking their heads the most just happen to work for the Secretary-General,
with more than a few of the UNTACers muttering, "Ah gee, thanks boss, we're
out there risking our lives and all you can call for is more 'dialogue, persuasion,
negotiation and diplomacy'."
Does anyone know whether the U.N. chief's briefing papers included the last three
weeks of SitReps so he could really get a sense of what's been happening here lately?
Hello, Earth to New York, come in please. This is Cambodia calling and we have a
not-so-small problem over here that needs some immediate attention. Over. The Gecko
wonders if the response to date hasn't been a "Good morning, United Nations.
Please leave a message at the sound of the beep."
You have no trouble knowing when you reach the border checkpoint, CV-10, in Rattanakiri.
The road leading to the frontier looks like the remains of a major explosion in a
cigarette packaging factory, with both sides of the dirt track littered for several
hundred meters with shredded Jet cigarette cartons.
Traders come to the border, park their trucks and unpack thousands of cartons of
Jets daily, with the butts then stuffed in every odd corner of every vehicle going
east, all this in the full light of day. Doors are taken apart, rice bags and any
other kind of luggage are crammed with Jets. In fact, most of the several hundred
people living at the border are camping out in makeshift huts made from Jet cardboard
boxes, which are also jettisoned before the crossing.
After checking out of Cambodia the "entrepreneurs" drive on to the Vietnamese
checkpoint, pass through customs with some time consuming how-do-you-dos and on into
the Central Highlands where the per package mark-up is a buck. It's a good thing
nobody can figure out there's something illegal going on otherwise the Vietnamese
might have to spend more time collecting less taxes.
By the way, in case you were wondering, its not the U.N.'s job to stop the smuggling
of cigarettes at CV-10. Their job is logs and once in a while they have to stop a
truckload of live turtles, which are also on the list of banned exports to watch
The Gecko says to be on the lookout for the snowballing influx ofjournalists parachuting
into the country, many of whom barely know what country they're in. If you have the
extreme misfortune to run into one of these characters be prepared to get peppered
with intense, penetrating questions like "Who's Akashi?"
Speaking of journalists, some who've been here the longest have put in express mail
orders for flack jackets. $1,600 a pop.
Cambodia is now a prime destination on the backpacker circuit. The Gecko heard that
one would-be Marco Polo was sighted in Kompong Cham, barefoot with Rasta dreadlocks.
The compass-less lad is reported to have turned to someone at the airport there with
the query "Hey man! Which way is Laos?"
If the numbers of global adventurers coming to town is on the increase, the Gecko
hears that the numbers of, apparently, not-so-well healed tourists is declining precipitously.
This may not be so bad for the guard at Banteay Srei temple in Siem Reap who's been
grumbling that visitors are stealing "Danger Mines" signs and taking them
home as souvenirs. He's tried to explain that the signs are there for a purpose.
Regrettably, to no avail.