If anyone has ever wondered why UNTAC's image among Khmers seems to be on a steady
slide downward, a story the Gecko picked up recently from an internal UNTAC document
should put the icing on the cake. The tale, as reported to an UNTAC employee by a
Khmer hotel worker in Phnom Penh goes as follows:
"A Bulgarian UNTAC soldier, on holiday from Prey Veng, was standing in the doorway
of the hotel. He was drunk. An old man, over seventy years old, came up to the soldier
to beg some money. As the old beggar joined his palms and raised them, the soldier
grabbed him by the shirtfront. He pushed the old man onto his knees, unzipped his
fly, and started pissing on him.
"An overseas Khmer staying in the hotel also witnessed this. He walked over
to the soldier and punched him square in the face, opening a cut above the soldier's
eye. So the soldier went to report the incident to CIVPOL. They arrived, four of
them, and they spoke to eye-witnesses including myself. They sent the soldier back
to Prey Veng. That was it."
The same hotel worker revealed a host of other stories about UNTAC soldiers who were
notorious for bringing prostitutes in for a night and not paying them. He said the
hotel management had a constant headache dealing with a lobby full of angry prostitutes
demanding their pay and driving away guests.
The UNTAC document also relates the comment of a local teacher who asked: "Do
you know what the people now call UNTAC soldiers?" Answering her own question,
she said "they call them 'mercenaries' (tahean chhnuol), because they came to
Cambodia only to collect their salaries."
One young man interviewed in the report said: "If this were l975, the students
would be out in the streets demonstrating to kick UNTAC out of Cambodia."
The Gecko has heard that the Bulgarian battalion is about to be "rotated"
home. Word has gone back to the Bulgarian government that the next batch of troops
that arrive had better be quite a bit more up to snuff. Apparently, for political
reasons, UNTAC has said, privately, that it can't just expel the entire battalion
but when troop levels begin to be dropped permanently, the Bulgarians will be the
first to ship out.
The Gecko has heard that some of the Thai soldiers manning the border crossing at
the Poipet-Aranyapathet border may be a bit out of joint these days. One group of
NGO employees working in Cambodia, who were trying to re-cross back into Cambodia
after a brief visit to Aran, were detained for five hours with a whole host of implausible
reasons for the detention offered and a few unpleasant threats made concerning the
possibility of "going to jail." Two of the detainees were even ordered
to sweep the floor.
The presence of Thai Yoyar Massage, with its lights blinking brightly every night,
has apparently irritated too many SOC officials driving by on their way to the National
Assembly or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The establishment has been told to close
its doors and move elsewhere to a neighborhood more suited to such enterprises.