Khmer Hip-Hop Flexes, Battambang Art Flourishes, Free SEA Games Ticket Drop
Good morning, Cambodia. It’s Friday, April 21, and this is your Weekly Dispatch.
HEAT STROKE: Climate change could cost the Kingdom at least $65 billion over the next 25 years, eating away more than 10% of GDP. Farmers and fisherfolk — what’s left of them — will be the hardest hit.
DEADLY WATER: A newborn Irrawaddy dolphin was found dead, the second fatality this year. Without extreme intervention measures, conservationists believe the critically endangered mammals face certain extinction.
SAFE SPACE: Khmer New Year was a smash. The Kingdom broke two world records and soaked the streets in water and talcum powder in an outpouring of national pride. It was too much fun for The Strongman, who called party foul on the water play and promised to ban it.
The U.S. and E.U. — the Kingdom’s two largest export buyers — said conditions were not in place for free-and-fair elections in July. If Western powers don’t accept the outcome, it would throw a dark cloud of uncertainty over the Kingdom’s economy — and geopolitical future.
Cambodia, in an unprecedented move, will give away tickets to the Southeast Asian Games, which begin April 29 in Phnom Penh. It also waived broadcasting rights and a $50 daily charge for athletes’ meals and accommodation.
More than 11,000 participants from 11 countries will participate in 37 events (see schedule). Host favorites include Kun Khmer, Bokator, and ouk chaktrang, better known as Cambodian chess. Efren Reyes, the legendary Filipino pool shark known as “The Magician,” will compete in carom, a three-ball billiard game with no pockets.
Tickets can be reserved online or at event locations.
More than 13 million revelers drenched the streets with water wars and talcum powder fights in the first unrestricted Khmer New Year since the pandemic.
Merrymakers in Siem Reap broke two Guinness world records. Cambodia smashed its previous record for largest Madison dance, with 4,999 participants. The first was set in 2015 with 2,105 dancers. The Kingdom also claimed the title for largest display of origami hearts, with 3,917,805 folded paper hearts around Angkor Wat.
The festival’s fantastic water fights could be the last. The Strongman called them dangerous and promised to ban them next year.
The military promoted Hun Manet to 4-star general, the Kingdom’s highest military rank, just weeks ahead of a planned run for parliament. The constitution forbids uniformed military from holding office, and the future prime minister candidate is expected to resign ahead of July elections.
Cambodia will lose some $65 billion to climate change over the next 25 years, according to the ADB. The Kingdom’s heavy reliance on fishing and farming, coupled with extraordinary levels of corruption, make it particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events and rising temperatures, the bank said.
Phnom Penh condo construction continues to sizzle. Real estate agents expect at least 65,000 units to be available by December, up from around 48,000 today. Buyers, however, remain scarce, and the government is scrambling to prop up the industry.
Khmer hip-hop is taking names. “Oun Oun,” the latest track from Tempo Tris, has racked up nearly 2 million YouTube views since its debut three weeks ago. La Cima Cartel, the rap collective, has had similar acclaim with a string of edgy rap songs released over Khmer New Year.
The Battambang art scene is flourishing, with a new generation of artists adding fresh spirit to the city’s long history of creative expression. Galleries and art schools have mushroomed, and the directors of the annual Chumnor Art Festival are working to turn the provincial capital into a full-time Asian arts destination.
Average life expectancy jumped to 76 years in 2022, up from 70 in 2020. Health officials credited a vastly improved hospital system equipped with better resources and technology. Life expectancy is 77 years in the U.S. and 78 in China.
A newborn Irrawaddy dolphin died after becoming entangled in illegal gill nets, authorities said. The announcement came just hours after environmental officials celebrated the discovery of the 4-day-old calf. Conservationists said the critically endangered dolphins face certain extinction unless extraordinary measures are enacted.
BACKPAGES: From The Cambodia Daily Vault
April 19, 2003
A World Bank official has dismissed charges of corruption against the bank’s country director for Cambodia after an internal investigation found nothing to substantiate the allegations, which were first published in an email newsletter widely circulated in Phnom Penh.
April 19, 2003
Rey lives in Phnom Penh, studies at Norton University, drives a Honda Wave motorcycle and likes to wear fashionable clothes. To all the world, Rey is a typical, 21-year-old middle-class Cambodian youth, though he’s a little stockier in build than most. In his free time, Rey likes hanging around with his friends.
April 18, 2003
Cambodian youths in both rural and urban areas have increasingly liberal ideas about sexual experimentation and drug and alcohol use, but often are too poor or do not trust staff at clinics to access public sexual and reproductive health services, according to a report issued jointly by the UN Population Fund and the European Commission.
The government has a ‘masterplan’ for the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, with tourist meccas built on land given to elite families while the poor and powerless face the bulldozers.
Cambodia’s reaction to the trilateral nuclear-technology sharing deal between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States can best be described as lukewarm. It would be an oversimplification to say that AUKUS will have no adverse effects on Southeast Asia.
Largest monkey farm in Cambodia meets demands for monkey specimens and live animals for years before being charged for wildlife trafficking.