Siem Reap Scene: 2 Jul 2009

Siem Reap Scene: 2 Jul 2009

Content image - Phnom Penh Post


Emmett McHenry, general manager of Sokha Angkor Resort.


Emmett McHenry, general manager of the Sokha Angkor Resort, was taken aback to hear that his hotel is the crux of a sensational conspiracy theory regarding the resignation of Co-prosecutor Robert Petit from the Khmer Rouge tribunal last week.

A small human rights NGO claims that Petit was forced to resign after Prime Minister Hun Sen held his family captive at the Sokha Angkor Resort one month ago. The Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity Network (CACJE) made the accusation in a letter to ECCC trial chamber Judge Silvia Cartwright, which was posted on Cambodian news site Khmerization last Friday. The letter states that according to "witnesses", Petit's family members were "held against their will ...  in Siem Reap city" one month before Petit gave notice. "They were locked in the five-star Sokha Hotel. But they were not authorised to leave." The letter, as posted by the site, states that "Hun Sen police" paid all expenses for the Petit family. But McHenry told the Post the story was nonsensical. He said government officials and security were present at the hotel about one month ago, but rather than taking part in a kidnapping they were there for the 18th technical session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor - an exhaustive two-day pow wow about temple research overseen by UNESCO and the Apsara Authority.

If Hun Sen really wanted to exact cruel and unusual punishment on the Petit family, he would have dragged them to the Sokha Hotel and forced them to sit through the conference.  


The Centre for Friends Without a Border this Friday is to launch its latest exhibition, "Ideology in Paradise", featuring the work of award-winning photographer Hiroshi Watanabe.

Los Angeles-based Watanabe's exhibition presents a vivid, unbiased account of North Korean culture and everyday life.  

Watanabe made several trips to North Korea between 2006 and 2007, intrigued by the myths told of the North Koreans during his childhood.

Watanabe's innate curiosity drew him to North Korea to investigate the legitimacy of these claims.  While travelling there, Watanabe consciously put aside preconceived notions in order to capture truly representative photos.

Critics have praised "Ideology in Paradise", and Lesley Martin wrote, "... the experience of looking at Hiroshi Watanabe's images is eerily like stepping into a social realist painting: the ruddy-cheeked young girl playing the accordion, the traditional gowns in brilliant pinks and greens of dancers swirling beneath the omnipresent image of the dear leader and the DPRK flag. One is quietly lulled into the sense that life in North Korea might, in fact, be just as it appears within the frames of these images - normal. Watanabe has published eight books and his work is displayed in the permanent collections of several major US museums.


The annual hotel general manager reshuffle is under way, with the most surprising news coming from Richard Yap, the Malaysian GM of Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, who is to return to Singapore to continue his MBA studies. He said he expects to leave in late July and that a replacement GM has been earmarked from another Raffles Hotel but not yet confirmed. "There's no particular reason why I'm leaving. It's not because the market is bad or anything," he said. "I've been with the hotel for seven years, and I feel like it's time to move on."

Hanno Stamm, the German former GM of the Victoria Phan Thiet Beach Resort and Spa Hotel in Vietnam, replaced Raphael Guillien as head of the Victoria Angkor Hotel two weeks ago.  Guillien is taking leave before starting a new job in Phnom Penh as overall chief of the FCC group.

As reported last week, popular Hotel de la Paix GM Nick Downing confirmed he will be replaced some time this year.

Meanwhile, at the Prince D'Angkor Hotel, yet another GM has quit, once again in almost record time.

Following the rapid departure of Australian Ken Williams, his replacement, Swiss appointee Eugen Diethelm, has also suddenly quit, leaving the hotel without a GM for the third time in less than a year.


Dr Joost Hoekstra is running what he says he believes is Siem Reap's first and only private practice operated by a Westerner. The Naga Healthcare International Medical Centre opened in early June, and he said he's already attracted an appreciative patient roster of French expats. The Dutch doctor has been in Cambodia for 11 years and has worked with the Angkor Hospital for Children and the Naga Clinic in Phnom Penh, as well as consulting for NGOs. Before landing in Asia, the doctor spent five years in South America, four-and-a-half years in Africa and three years in Holland. Cambodia, he said, is his last stop.

Hoekstra was hoping to treat a steady parade of limping, temple-hopping tourists suffering from sprained ankles and diarrhoea. But setting up in the off-season means that he's mainly dealing with expats suffering from high blood pressure or stomach bugs. "For me, Cambodia is an easy country," said Hoekstra, "especially compared to Africa and South America."