Hun Manet Accepts Dictator Tag, Water Festival Draws 5 Million Fans, 58-Year-Old Flunks Exam
Good morning, Cambodia. It's Friday, December 1, and this is your Weekly Dispatch.
MUZZLE UP: The CPP-led campaign to squelch dissent has led to self-censorship across the Kingdom, with many people too afraid to speak out. Local rights groups called the situation a “witch hunt.”
TUNED OUT: Defiant NagaWorld casino workers were hoping to catch a break after Hun Manet urged employers to smooth out labor relations. Instead, his cabinet flatly rejected their petition.
PADDLE ON: It was all great vibes and booming business as 5 million people welcomed the long-awaited Water Festival, bringing record profits. Here's to hoping the economic good times are back.
Henry Kissinger may have shared the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to end the conflict in Vietnam — but for Cambodia he was Dr. Death.
Kissinger authored “Operation Menu,” the illegal bombing of Cambodia that killed thousands and opened the door to a Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975. The former Secretary of State was reportedly unburdened by the death and destruction that engulfed the Kingdom.
He was one of the last Cold Warriors, a polarizing icon who inspired strong words around the world. “Once you’ve been to Cambodia,” said Anthony Bourdain, the chef and author, “you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.”
Cambodia is washing its hands of dirty energy.
Hun Manet announced plans to scrap a proposed 700MW coal-fired plant — replacing it with an 800MW natural-gas project — while pushing to retire the Kingdom’s three coal-burning plants ahead of schedule.
Environmentalists applauded the move, cautiously. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, and processing and transport releases nearly as much greenhouse gas as coal. Even so, it emits less pollutants and toxins, making it overall far cleaner.
Cambodia is working toward the goal of using 70% renewable energy by 2030, up from around 60% today, and becoming net-zero by 2050.
Are any national cuisines better than Cambodia’s? Not this year. Not at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
“SAOY: Royal Cambodian Cuisine,” by chef Rotanak Ros, won the prestigious Best of the Best Award and top prizes in the Asian Books and Heads of State categories.
Saoy (pronounced “sowy”) means “eat” in the royal vernacular. The book is dedicated to Princess Norodom Rasmi Sobhana, who wrote “L'Art de la Cuisine Cambodgienne” in 1960, and its 220 pages revisit many of her original recipes, including some of the finest dishes ever served in the Royal Palace.
Tell the Dispatch: What’s your favorite Khmer restaurant? Your favorite dish?
The flood of 5 million visitors to the Water Festival brought welcome relief to businesses still recovering from the pandemic. A cricket and tarantula seller reportedly took home $500 during the three-day festival, while beer sales skyrocketed and riverfront establishments reported record profits. Police said 22 died nationwide in road accidents, but no major incidents were reported in the capital.
Hun Manet doesn’t mind being called a dictator. The prime minister, sounding a lot like his father, said he was determined “not to let the people die, not to let the country go backwards like when we lost peace.” If that makes him a dictator, so be it. He said the label suits him just fine.
The Phnom Penh Court sentenced Sam Rainsy to eight years in prison for incitement and plotting to overthrow the government. The exiled opposition leader now faces more than 150 years imprisonment on countless charges, all widely viewed as politically motivated. Convicting him has become something of a ritual for the courts, and more charges are certain to follow.
The government is on a “witch hunt” to silence the media, say the CCHR and Camboja, a campaign that has led to widespread repression of free speech and self-censorship among journalists. The groups called on the government to reinstate suspended media, release imprisoned journalists and overturn the laws used to silence dissent.
The prime minister’s cabinet rejected a petition from the NagaWorld workers’ union, despite Hun Manet having called for speedier resolutions of workplace conflicts. Chhim Sithar, the union’s leader, is serving two years for incitement. The union vowed to continue the fight.
Health officials in Kampot reported two cases of avian influenza: a 21-year-old woman who died and a 4-year-old girl who remains hospitalized. Authorities warned residents against handling sick or dead birds.
The Kingdom’s oldest high-school student, a 58-year-old from Banteay Meanchey, failed her final exam for a second consecutive year. Hem Sinath is working to become a general education teacher, which requires a high-school diploma. She vowed to study harder and pass next year.
BACKPAGES: From The Cambodia Daily Vault
November 29, 2003
A Thai appeals court ruled Friday that jailed Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Yoeun must be extradited to Cambodia to face charges related to a 1998 rocket-propelled grenade attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s convoy, officials said.
3 Questioned in Shooting After Car Crash
November 28, 2003
Court officials have questioned three men who were traveling in the vehicle that slammed into a parked truck in Phnom Penh on Oct 27, killing one and injuring four others. Following the crash, a gang member opened fire with an AK-47 rifle and killed two passers-by, an investigating judge said.
November 26, 2003
The decline of gem trading and illegal logging around the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin has severely damaged the border town’s once-lucrative prostitution business, local brothel owners lamented Monday.
November 26, 2003
Two men on a motorbike, one carrying a K-54 pistol, entered Old Stadium after a football match Tuesday morning and fired into the air after shooting at nearby cars, police and witnesses said.
November 25, 2003
Popular Cambodian singer Touch Srey Nich, who was shot three times by unidentified assailants on Oct 21, remains in critical condition after more than a month of medical treatment in Bangkok, a government official said Monday.
In 1968, Solange Brand traveled across Asia as she made her way home from a three-year stint working in China. On her way, she stopped at Angkor capturing a series of captivating photos that are now on display
Photos: Henry Kissinger, public domain. Water Festival, Cambodia Daily.
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