Saturday, May 15, 2004

Here I am in possibly the world's hugest adult adventure playground. Not that that is necessarily a good thing. Somewhere in this land resides Gary Glitter including his desire for young children - and I bet he can get them here too. Not that I've seen any of that sort of thing, but the law here is just a word - actually I don't even know if there is a Khmer word for 'law'. Anyway, should one drive down the wrong side of the road at night with your headlights switched off and a huge reefer billowing pungent smoke everywhere, you might solicit a smiling wave from the police - but probably not any hassle. The pizza restaurants here serve "happy" pizzas. Pizzas are inanimate so as such aren't happy, but the consumers of them certainly will be after half-an-hour or so...

Now most politicians might have you believe that such a situation is a recipe for crime, murder and general mayhem; however Phnom Penh is a laid back and friendly city where the locals smile and say hello but occasionally try to dislodge monkeys from the trees around Wat Phnom by shaking the trees and laughing. Which isn't very nice. But at least they aren't shooting each other which is pretty good news for any philosophical anarchists as the sheer amount of weaponry left over from the years of the Khmer Rouge is huge (so I'm told).

Phnom Penh in all its sprawling glory

The average wage here for many is $20 a month so some creative military types have used that military surplus to their advantage by setting up shooting ranges for tourists to try hand guns, M15s, Rocket Propelled Grenades, and various other miscellaneous weaponry. I can't remember the prices but one chap who has already visited it told me that RPGs are $200 and that the cow is an extra $50... Shocking. I've yet to meet anyone who thinks that murdering a cow or chicken for a laugh is actually funny or fun - but I don't speak to the hunting types who populate Britain's countryside. The most visited range is near the Killing Fields - and anyone who's seen that cannot possibly relish the idea of bloodlust. I will take in this horrible scene of human suffering on Monday or Tuesday.

Backed by the Chinese and the Thais, the Khmer Rouge murdered two million Cambodians in a period of radical Communism starting from 1975 until 1978. In Cambodia in 1975, Pol Pot declared the calendar should start again at year zero. If one spoke a foreign language or even wore glasses you would be for the chop. Which is almost literally true as the cost of the bullets was beginning to get too costly. Babies would frequently get bludgeoned to death because they were not born into a peasant family. Thankfully the Vietnamese invaded and overthrew the Khmer Rouge at the end of 1978. And so bitter were the Americans towards the Vietnamese that they actually helped the most extreme Communists in world history maintain a guerilla war through the eighties merely because it was Vietnam who had brought it all down. The British backed the Americans through all this of course, and the Chinese as usual were throwing money towards the cause of evil as well.

Elections did not return to Cambodia until 1993 and the Khmer Rouge did not disappear until as recently as 1998 with the death of Pol Pot. Murders from the years of Pol Pot are estimated to be as high as three-and-a-half million. Cambodia is now an up and coming country, which is youth dominated and which wears a smile. It is really uplifting to see the people getting back onto their feet and enjoying life. That is why Phnom Penh is one of the most exciting places I have ever been to.

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