I’m back in Phnom Penh for reasons not worth going into.
Today, I went to Boeng Kak Lake, just north of the city centre. There’s a little tourist area by the lakeside with bargain-basement guesthouses and seedy looking bars. It seems to be the place to go if you’re looking to get high – I was offered weed six times in about as many minutes.
I didn’t buy any weed, but I did take some pictures of the lake:
That’s a mosque in the background. The whole area is quite dirty and depressing and is soon to be redeveloped. A local developer owned by a ruling-party senator has teamed up with a Chinese-owned investment company in a deal that seems more than a little shady.
Four-thousand families are due to be displaced and they aren’t happy about it. Or at least, they’re unhappy enough to make s0me banners:
There were only a few protesters today – many of them sleeping or sitting in groups chatting – but they’ve held larger protests recently and have threatened to boycott Chinese goods.
In Beijing, you occasionally see shops or houses with big ‘foreign journalists, please help us’ posters hanging in the windows. These properties have been earmarked for demolition and the occupants are desperate for coverage of their plight. Hanging a poster like that is a recipe for trouble, so the occupants always, without fail, cover the rest of the window with flags, Chinese Communist Party logos and portraits of Chairman Mao – to make it clear that they are limiting their criticism to certain local government officials and not to the Party as a whole. The Cambodian protesters did the same thing:
The colour pictures are of members of the royal family, and the black and white pictures are of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife.
Hun Sen, on an unrelated note, has six children: Manet, Mana, Manit, Mani, Mali, and Malis. In 2007, he publicly announced that the youngest child, an adopted daughter, was lesbian and had a ‘wife’ and that consequently he was going through the legal process of disowning her and cutting her out of his will. He followed this revelation by saying: “I urge parents of gays not to discriminate against them, and do not call them transvestites.” So, that’s alright then.
Previously, I wrote about how wonderful Phnom Penh is. I stand by that, but will just add that I may have been less enthusiastic if I hadn’t arrived by boat. The boat takes you to the most peaceful, attractive part of town – the riverfront – whereas, arrival by bus takes you through the chaotic, dirty, traffic-clogged side of the city. If you have the choice, I strongly recommend coming by boat.