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Normality increasing

Normality increasing

The Editor,

As we all know only too well, traffic in Phnom Penh is, has been for some years,

totally chaotic, ruleless and obstreperous. As more and more, bigger and faster (and

more pricey) cars and motorbikes appear on the road, somewhat miraculously it must

be said, this "panh-hah" is set to reach Bangkok-like proportions soon.

To quote one of my more sardonic Khmer friends, the "normal" is becoming

"more and more normal".

One is used also to this pandemonium's becoming even worse when some Boss with his

motorcade temporarily takes over the whole boulevard...or rather, it is the Big Cheeses,

Themselves, who own it and kindly let simple mortals use it when They do not need

it.

But today, 16 October, really took the biscuit. Mohavithei Tou Samouth and parts

of Lénine and USSR (sorry, I do like those old-fashioned names) blocked, and

a veritable bedlam elsewhere in the center of Phnom Penh... But then this was an

historic occasion. A Shwe Himself, Burma's Matchbox A Pot, was honouring Phnom Penh

with His fragrant, wholesome presence.

Countless school children were lining the streets along which the worthy gentleman

was due to strut. A very useful paedagogic and civic experience: children who are

repeatedly made to stand for hours in the sun (or rain, or cold) to welcome a visiting

grandee are extremely unlikely later to feel any love or even respect for paramount

leaders, their institutions and their pomps... much as they may, at the time, enjoy

the opportunity too learn even less at school!

It would seem that the epochal visit is mainly a touristic one, and aims to "market

the attractions of Burma and Cambodia together". I would assume that tourism

in this context essentially means Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek, and whatever equivalents

Burma may have to offer.. and no doubt forced labour would allow a faster, more efficient

"development" of Cambodia's beaches and other resorts. It goes without

saying that by 'development' I mean high-rise hotels, 'son et lumiere', fake minority

and other crafts, charmingly voyeuristic visits to tribal zoos...and hamburgers,

Bratwurst and chips everywhere.

No doubt Samdech Earl Marshal A Shwe can tell Cambodian politicians how to set up

a reign of... order. Perhaps even in the area of traffic: just put up fences everywhere,

manned by democrats with AK47s, preferably Chinese equivalents. And of course get

rid of all those foreign-paid demagogues and opportunists (no, that's what other

Fuhrers call Jose Ramon Horta) who write inflammatory letters and want to exercise

their so-called right to demonstrate peacefully when it is the authorities' solemn

duty to protect Honoured and Honourable Guests from any exposure to unsavoury truths.

- Philippe Hunt, Phnom Penh.

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