P HNOM Penh rolled out the red carpet, and dozens of banners and flags and a
small army of cheering fans, to lay on the ritziest of welcomes for Australian
Governor-General Bill Hayden last week.
From the moment Hayden and
entourage arrived at Pochentong Airport on April 27, he was feted in a manner
not seen since the King's long-awaited return to Cambodia.
Met by King
Norodom Sihanouk, First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh and a host of
other dignitaries, Hayden was escorted past an elaborate, well-drilled Royal
Cambodian Armed Forces honor guard.
He was led down a trail of red carpet
to the largest stretch limousine - jet black, with a Beverley Hills designer
number plate - ever seen in Phnom Penh. Hundreds turned out to greet him.
University students lining the streets along Pochentong Road - others had
earlier been trucked to the airport at 2pm, to await his 5pm arrival - were
joined by curious onlookers.
The route from the airport to the Cambodiana
Hotel, where Hayden stayed, was adorned with Cambodian and Australian flags.
Banners proclaimed "Long Live Australia", "Long Live Cambodia" and "Long Live
Solidarity and Friendship" between the two.
That evening, Hayden attended
a Royal Banquet in his honor with King Sihanouk and Prince Ranariddh.
following morning, he traveled with the King and Prince - in a 30-car motorcade
with 14 police motorcycle outriders around the limousine alone - to the National
Museum for one of the highlights of his visit.
A ceremony marking the end
of an Australian-funded, three-year renovation project at the museum was held
before a large assembly of Royal and government dignitaries.
afternoon, Hayden met National Assembly officials including Chairman Chea Sim,
before meeting with both Prime Ministers, who hosted a dinner for him that
The following day was spent visiting two NGO children's centers,
the Silver Pagoda, and, in an unexpected move, several markets. He bought
silverware at the Russian Market and jewelry for his wife at the New
"It wouldn't have been much cheaper if we had sold them to
Khmers," said one woman who charged him $250 for a platinum bracelet and a pair
of earrings inlaid with precious stones.
"We sold them to him on the
understanding he was a guest of the Royal Government," she said, adding she
would have charged $280-$300 if she had wanted to make a profit.
sellers said they were given a few tips by Hayden's Khmer escorts, who visited
them shortly before his arrival. "They told us we should sell real gems, not the
Later that day, Hayden hosted a reception for Phnom
Penh's Australian community at the Cambodiana before watching an artistic
performance hosted by King Sihanouk and Prince Ranariddh. He left Cambodia the
Hayden - who has a long relationship with Cambodia
dating back to his time as Foreign Minister in the 1980s - stayed away from
political topics during his time.
"There's a long way to go...but there's
more promise, there's more reason to be optimistic than pessimistic," he said in