Man About Town: 31 Jan 2014

Man About Town: 31 Jan 2014

Man About recently obtained a plot of land containing two stately sugar palms conveniently placed at the rear of the property. But the mere presence of these trees has triggered outrage amongst some new neighbors, resulting in complaints and demands stretching over almost a year.

Firstly a neighbourhood man volunteered to cut down the trees, pointing out that several other neighbours who had sugar palms on their land had done ‘the right thing.’ He was quite taken aback when Man About declined this generous offer. As a sweetener he stressed that he would not take the timber, leaving it for Man About to do whatever one does with fallen sugar palm timber which, if nearby activity was anything to go by, was simply to burn much of it on the spot, leaving black sooty husks to slowly degrade in the elements.

A stand was taken and the trees remained standing. Subsequently a succession of people urged for tree removal. One Khmer man said the trees were simply unsightly, presumably ignoring the fact that these elegant iconic palms are, according to the Royal Embassy of Cambodia, a “national symbol” for the Kingdom.

Then a woman who was building a house next door demanded instant tree removal on the basis that an errant frond had blown onto her land injuring a labourer. Patently bullshit because if the worker had even the hint of the scratch a medical bill would be waved in Man About’s face faster than Hun Sen’s eye could blink.

But having read that the Khmer Rouge used the fronds to inflict assorted and unspeakable punishments, Man About attempted to alleviate rogue frond fear by investing $5 to get a man to shimmy up the trees and lop off any gust-threatened ailing threats.

To no avail. Complaints continued and while some people bothered to contrive arguments based on putative practicalities – such as a tree might topple and injure someone, or fall and “break” a house – most complainants simply suggested the presence of the trees was some sort of non-defined disgrace.

Never mind that the sugar palms, according to Cambodia Uncovered, represent “the 'real' Cambodia.”

Man About then raised the matter with an academic who chuckled softly and posited a theory about what may be the root cause of the problem. He explained that Man About’s land was in the middle of an aspiring middle class enclave where many inhabitants were intent on removing themselves from any hint of a rural or peasant past.

Sugar palms are normally associated with rice paddies and indeed, as the tract of land in question was reclaimed rice paddy, the last thing the newly emerged burghers wanted was to be tainted with was symbols that possibly hinted at déclassé origins.

“In other words,” the academic said, “You’re lowering the tone of the joint. And you’re a barang.”

And again, never mind that the sugar palms are a national icon.

By this stage, Man About, intent on keeping the trees, gritted teeth and prepared for battle, possibly even to the point of being chained naked to a tree in protest in the manner of activists of yore deep within the enchanted ferny forests of faraway Tasmania.

But this week came good news, with two reports – one from Samuel the realtor and another from Kaliyann the Khmer journalist – that local government has decreed that sugar palms can no longer be hacked down in Siem Reap without written permission from relevant authorities. This apparently follows a recent attempt to lop five sugar palms in the Angkor Park protectorate.

Can sweet victory be declared? Never presume because this is after all Cambodia. But for the moment, the susurrating sugar palms stand, gently waving their raggedy mop tops in the cooling breezes on a tract of land now dubbed Sugar Palm Haven.


  • Hun Sen’s China visit ‘a good opportunity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Beijing on Sunday to discuss economic and trade issues presents a good opportunity for the Kingdom to strengthen Chinese ties and counter punitive measures by the West, an analyst says. The prime minister’s four-day official visit to

  • Former chief bodyguard receives royal pardon

    The former chief bodyguard of late Senate president Chea Sim has received a royal pardon nearly eight years after he was sentenced to 15 years behind bars on several charges, according to a royal decree dated November 12, last year, and obtained by The Post on Wednesday.

  • Close to the edge: Hair raising pictures from Kulen Mountain

    A new hair raising attraction on Kulen Mountain has finally opened to the public, with people flocking to the protruding cliff edge overlooking green mountainous forests to take photographs. The giant overhanging rock is situated in an area known as Mahendraparvata – an ancient city of

  • US warned not to interfere despite successful meeting

    A senior Ministry of National Defence official said the Tuesday meeting between the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia Joseph H Felter and General Neang Phat had helped strengthen relations between the two countries’ militaries. However, a senior Cambodian People’