The changes that have taken place in and around the New Market over the
last year have astounded even the Gecko. Day by day the facelift continues, spreading
out on all major roads leading away from Psah Thmay. While many foreigners mistakenly
refer to Phnom Penh's most important shopping bazaar as Central Market, at the very
least the French-designed edifice is the center of the current economic boom in the
nation's capital. Storefronts with new shiny signs are popping up like weeds.
The market itself is now adorned with "555" emblems on all roof facades,
just one indication of the field day cigarette companies are having in a no-restrictions
Internationalism seems to be the order of the day for many of the new or newly-improved
establishments near the market. The Hotel Singapore, Tokyo Motor Accessories, Bangkok
Foreign Clothing, and the Chiang Mai Boutique are just a few of the neon-lit names;
followed by the Hawaii Hotel, the Restaurant Jakarta, Indian Bazaar, and even Euphrates
The Gecko speculates that maybe Phnom Penh's good times are the talk of the town
along the riverbanks in Baghdad.
The Gecko, who says he's wrestled with the English language himself, notes some of
the more interesting evolutionary usages of one of the world's most cumbersome tongues.
There's a shop called The Picture of the Pleasant, which-you guessed it-sells pictures
of pleasants. The Gecko hears that another shop-Saling the Kinds of Diamonds-offers
weekend cruises to Cambodia's exotic carrot-shaped Isles of Kinds. Or have you seen
Phnom Penh's most extensive chain of clothing stores called "Up To Date Elegant
Wears." They have branches all over town.
The flap over the American flags in front of the Republic Democracy Khmer's office
(the one with the "Communism is Evil" banner) seems to have been resolved-at
least for the moment. The Gecko heard that the State of Cambodia tried to get the
U.S. Mission to "request" that the party take down the stars and stripes.
The Yanks said it was SOC's problem, not theirs. Anyway, there's two new flags out
front now. Still looking a bit American but the stars have been replaced by Angkor
Wat emblems which, er, umm, the SNC decided months ago no party could use. Maybe
CivPol should handle this one. They've got a reputation for doing the job.
The Gecko has heard some grumbling about the Department of Posts and Telecommunications.
One unlucky lad has been trying for eight months to lease a telex line from DPT.
He's gone back four times to check on the progress and has been told each time that
his application has been lost and could he please fill out another. In the meantime,
though, DPT would be happy to give him a new phone line for the bargain price of
An NGO worker in Svay Rieng told the Gecko that she has no problems getting about
town using Vietnamese. Everybody she needs to talk to speaks it.
While the skirmishing heats up in Kompong Thom the boys in blue are keeping their
cool. The Gecko overheard one radio exchange between a nervous electoral official
near the front lines and "Mother" UNTAC that went as follows: "We're
in our bunkers because our village is getting shelled. What should we do? Over."
"When the shelling stops wait 15 minutes and then go back to work. Over."
Speaking of keeping cool the Gecko heard that Mr. Akashi's security guards have prevailed
upon the Special Representative to have his car windows tinted so nobody can see
inside. Just a small precaution.
The big concern over at Pochentong airport has resulted in a memo from UNTAC threatening
to recommend that the base be closed if it isn't resolved immediately. It's not the
lack of adequate radar that is worrying UNTAC but rather the lack of adequate toilet
facilities. With the numbers of UNTAC personnel coming and going from the airport
skyrocketing recently the absence of toilets that work seven days a week is causing
more than a bit of grumbling. The toilets have been promised for months, but with
none in sight nobody is waiting.