Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 25 July, 1997

The Gecko: 25 July, 1997

The Gecko: 25 July, 1997

After the airport was trashed, the contractors in charge of its renovation moved

in quickly to set things right. Assured of tight security provided by armed guards,

they put in new split air-conditioners, wiring, lighting, etc. costing many thousands

of dollars. When they showed up last Friday morning, every single bit of equipment

- including the light switches - had been stolen.

** Several well-wishers want to send their congratulations and thanks to the

French doctors at Calmette. During the "unusual events" of July 5-6, the

surgeons worked tirelessly around the clock, non-stop to deal with all the wounded

who were brought there.

** The "C" word is likely to be bandied about for some time. A few

definitions may be useful for those trying to follow the debate. Coup: an unexpected

and successful stroke. Coup de grace: 1) a death blow, now usually a bullet in the

head to make sure an executed person is dead; 2) a finishing stroke. Coup de main:

a surprise attack. Coup de maître: a master stroke. Coup d'état: a sudden

and decisive measure in politics, especially one effecting a change of government

illegally or by force. Coup de théâtre: 1) a theatrical hit; 2) a surprising

or sensational trick. Coup d'oeil: a quick glance. Coup de téléphone:

a telephone call.

** How do you retain a sense of humor during difficult times? Make up jokes

and tell them to your friends. The latest to make the rounds of the capital is short

and sweet. Question: What's the name of the newest political party in Cambodia? Answer:

Hunsenpec.

** Some of the Funcinpec ministers who decided to stay in Phnom Penh and sort

out a new government have had to find new digs as their houses were looted. Several

are putting up at the Hotel Inter-Continental, but staff there say they dont know

what rate they are being charged.

** Gen Nhek Bun Chay was called by Mobitel on July 5 at his Tang Krasang base,

told his account was reaching its credit limit and that he should come in to settle

up. Sources say he replied: "I can't come to your office today, I'm too busy

fighting."

** Australian Defense Attache David Mead has been trying to calculate how

many guns are out and about. After some exhaustive checking he figures that around

500,000 small arms, including AK-47s and M-16s, are in the Kingdom, which averages

out to one gun for every five male adults. Mead calculates that 250,000 are in control

of military units. The other quarter million, he says, are "out of control".

** The Germans are a meticulous lot. When the German-funded aid workers were

told to pack up and head home the insurers wanted to make sure all personal effects

were duly accounted for before the packing crates disappeared into some possible

netherworld of the international shipping lanes. One harried fraulein said she spent

a whole day taking pictures of all her gear and was even obliged to count the number

of lipsticks in her makeup kit.

** Sydney Schanberg, the former New York Times correspondent depicted in the

film "The Killing Fields" came to town a few weeks ago when the "Where's

Pol Pot?" media wave was peaking. He was doing a 10,000 word piece on Cambodia

for Vanity Fair but that's not the story.

When he left the country on July 11 amid the crush of people at Pochentong Airport

trying to flee en masse he noticed a white guy with several Khmers side-stepping

the immigration queue and heading straight for the official at the front. Ever vigilant,

Schanberg jumped in to protest. A flurry of harsh words were exchanged with a number

of onlookers trying to get Sydney to cool it, especially since they knew that the

white guy was a human rights worker and the Cambodians he was escorting were senior

government officials who'd been in hiding fearing for their lives.

Reflecting on the decades-old debate about whether Schanberg could have gotten Dith

Pran out before the fall in 1975, one observer who witnessed the verbal fray said:

"I wanted to tell him 'The guy is trying to get people out. Something you didn't

think about'."

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