Preliminary Official Election Results – Article from the BBC

Majority for Cambodia PM
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has won an overall majority of the popular vote in the country’s general election.
The Cambodian electoral commission said that Hun Sen’s party received 2.45 million votes in last month’s poll – just over 40% of the vote.

However the major upset was the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) polling 1.3 million votes and overtaking the royalist Funcinpec as the main opposition party in Cambodia.

No party managed to gain the required two-thirds of votes needed to control Cambodia’s national assembly.

And under Cambodia’s complex proportional representation system, the votes must be translated into the number of seats that each party will be allocated in the 123-member National Assembly before there is any formal declaration of the winner.

A spokesman for the electoral commission said the seat allocation will probably announced between 14 August and 6 September, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Alliances needed?

Hun Sen has vowed to stay in power even if he cannot find coalition partners to govern with.

The BBC’s Tony Cheng says that negotiations are most likely under way to forge alliances needed.

Sam Rainsy has previously said that he would never join a government with Hun Sen.

Although there is a possibility his party may join Funcinpec, previous attempts have ended acrimoniously, our correspondent adds.

Both opposition parties expressed dissatisfaction with the way the poll was conducted, but say they will make official legal challenges before calling for street protests.

Uncertainty in Cambodia’s last general election in 1998 led to street protests and violence in which several people were killed.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/08/08 03:34:12 GMT

Continue reading Preliminary Official Election Results – Article from the BBC

Free and Fair Elections

The following article is what I read in today’s newspaper. I found this to be very serious. The article indicates that CPP officials are recruiting activists (“strongly built bodies”) in Kandal province (which is what surrounds the capital), offering them almost 9 dollars (which is a fortune for villagers in Cambodia) to come to Phnom Penh and demonstrate in support of Hun Sen. Similar demonstrations after previous elections clashed with opposition protests, involved grenades and left many people death. Those guys came with bamboo sticks furnished with nails to make sure the message is understood. The message is that Hun Sen remains Prime Minister and any attempt to protest against him will be violently suppressed.

This is scary enough. However, the article indicates that demonstrators will gather at the Monument of Independence and at the Ministry of Interior. This would be sort of uncomfortable for me, since the Monument of Independence is close to where I live and the Ministry of Interior is actually where I work. And what is in between is my way to work.

At the Ministry of Interior it is very obvious since the election that security measures have been tightened. In addition to the usual (low wage) police members of the so-called Flying Tigers unit of the military police patrol on and around the compound and guard the gates. They are equipped with strong motor bikes (Honda Nighthawk). Two officers are sitting on one bike, both have sticks and the backseat guy got an AK 47.

I took the following picture shortly after the election almost two weeks ago. This is on the compound of the Ministry of Interior and I was kind of skeptical whether or not I should put this online. On the parking spot are some motor bikes of the “Flying Tigers”. Today there are six police trucks with officers waiting on standby.

I actually went with our project driver to those officers at the gate to ask whether I could take a picture of them on their motorbike. Of course I was ready to give them money. However, they were not very friendly and refused.

In addition I cannot but mention that what I keep hearing and reading regularly is the opposite of what constitutes “free and fair” elections. At the same time particularly international observers have announced preliminary results indicating that the election was more or less exactly that: free and fair. I want to stress that anybody I meet, both Cambodians and expatriates, appears to believe that the election was in fact quite the opposite of any meaningful standard of “free and fair”. However, I hope those election observers stay a bit longer to observe how the election result gets implemented.

Uneasy Workers Demand To Be Paid Early

Garment workers troubled by rumors of imminent political unrest and street fighting demanded an early pay day this week, while teacher and worker unions reported that CPP officials have demanded their signatures on petitions endorsing the preliminary election results.
Cambodian Labor Union Federation President Som Aum on Wednesday said his members want early salary disbursements to ensure financial security over the weekend because workers are uneasy that politically stoked fighting could erupt. He said workers will strike at two factories on Friday if managers do not pay their wages.
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union President Chhorn Sokha said Wednesday she would consider striking, as union affiliates from 22 factories have demanded salaries but have not been paid.
The Labor Ministry advised factories to pay workers earlier than planned to ease tension stemming from rumored fighting, said Labor Ministry spokesman Ker Soksidney. But Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia Deputy Secretary General David Van said factories may not meet the demand due to complicated overseas money wiring services.
CPP activists armed with slingshots are prepared to enter Phnom Penh today or Friday to support Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership in the next government, said Kandal province’s Koh Thom district Deputy Governor Keo Vibol.
Keo Vibol, a Funcinpec member, and local Sam Rainsy Party official Hay Lork said CPP district Governor Mao So ordered CPP commune chiefs to recruit 10 “strongly built bodies” from each village. Activists were offered 35.000 riel (about $ 8.75) to gather at the Interior Ministry and Independence Monument, Keo Vibol said.
Mao So would not confirm whether trucks were ready to enter the city. “I don’t have any plan yet, but if the two political party activists hold a demonstration to oust Prime Minister Hun Sen, I will gather my forces against them,” he said.
To garner workers’ support for the CPP, Labor Ministry Department Secretary General Oum Mean allegedly asked union leaders to sign a petition endorsing the election last week.
Som Aum, Chhorn Sokha and National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia President Morm Nhim said they were called to Oum Mean’s department July 28 to sign a petition supporting the election results. All three said they refused to sign. “What ever political party will win the election, if the local and international election observers announce it is acceptable, I will support the results. But I won’t sign the petition,” Chhron Sakha said.
Oum Mean said he did not know about the petition.
Rong Chhun, Cambodian Independent Teachers Association president, said last week principals in nine schools in Phnom Penh pressured teachers to attend political meetings, where they were forced to fingerprint petitions endorsing the CPP’s election victory.
CPP Education Ministry Secretary of State Im Sethy said school principals may be pressuring teachers to join the CPP, but dismissed Ron Chhun’s claims of forced party endorsements.
Continue reading Free and Fair Elections

Mekong Islands, Kieng Svay

This is Sunday. Initially the plan was to go with the moto driver/tourism student to Kampot, which is almost 200 km from Phnom Penh at the sea. This would have been a challenging thing to do on one day, but challenges are what we were looking for anyway.

However, the plan did not materialize. I gave my passport to the headquarter for visa extension and it is currently with I do not know which corrupt ministry. I knew that ‘lucky! lucky!’, the Chinese company where I usually rent a moto, does require its customers to leave their passports with them as some sort of security. However, when I came here last time they accepted my ID card and I had no reason to believe they would not do so this time. However, they did not accept it. I assume this is sort of related to the election. I read in the newspaper that many moto rental businesses have put their moto to save places. They are afraid that they loose their assets as soon as post-election riots start. This is exactly what happened after the last election. I realized that most of ‘lucky! lucky!’s motos are in fact not in the shop. I tried to convince them to give me a moto but I failed. So we tried several things, including trying to get my passport from the headquarter, which failed, too.

It was almost lunchtime when we had to face the fact that we would not get motos today. However, my co-traveler got a moto, which is however not a heavy duty one. Due to that and the fact that halve of the day was already over we had to settle for something less challenging than Kampot.

So we decided to visit the Mekong Islands. This is only a few kilometer to the northeast from Phnom Penh. I took the following picture when we passed the so-called Japanese Bridge in the north of the city, close to the French Embassy and Funcinpec headquarters.

This is another petrol station of the notorious company Sokimex. Although this is outside Phnom Penh they seem to be concerned about riots. Those fences in front of the truck can be quickly employed to prevent demonstrators from entering. I observed that any Sokimex station is secured with those fences during the night.

This is the place were the ferry to the Mekong Islands leaves. It is only about 15 km from Phnom Penh, shortly before one reaches Khady Chah. I have seen those large wooden boats very often. Mostly they seem to be in use to transport timber and other agricultural and forest products from the provinces to the capital.

Most of those people seem to live on one of the islands. I assume they went with some goods to the market in Phnom Penh in the morning and am on their way back home.

This is when the ferry arrives at the island. There is some turbulence when passengers try to leave the ferry while others try to get on.

This is how the road looks most of the time.

Of course we found a pagoda, too.

I got the impression that foreigners do not come here very often. Those youngsters seemed to be pretty amazed just by my sight.

Much of those islands seem to be covered with plantations of mostly bananas and papaya. I heard those farmers can achieve a good price on the urban market particularly with papaya.

This is when a short shower of rain hits us. However, after few minutes it is over.

This island was rather small and we started to look for the next one. We found this guy who offered to give us a lift to the other bank.

We kept driving for some time. However, after we passed a small bridge the road turned very muddy. It became increasingly difficult to drive the moto with two people on this road. After we almost fell a few times and got pretty dirty we decided to continue walking. However, even that turned out to be quite difficult. Some villagers told us that the road is becoming worse further down the way. So we changed our mind and decided to drive back to the ferry and travel to another destination.

This is when we pass the bridge on the way back. I felt sorry for those guys on the moto. They were just two as well but they had loaded their moto with huge sacks of something that seems to be quite heavy. After I saw the road a few hundred meters from here I do not think they will make it without falling and getting very dirty.

The ferry was at the other bank and we had some time to spend before we could pass the river. So we got us a soft drink at this place. We got into some conversation with local people. Later a woman appeared offering all sorts of hand woven scarves made of silk and cotton. I learned that making one scarf takes her about one week. Although I really do not have much use for it I bought a cotton one (3$) because I felt after she showed me all those products I cannot just refuse. My co-traveler is occupied with cleaning his clothes from the nasty ride.

This is when the ferry finally arrives.

This is when we arrive back in Phnom Penh and pass the Japanese bridge. A number of speed boats are waiting at the bank.

Those are the shacks of some fishermen. From what I have seen so fare those people are likely to be ethnic Vietnamese or Muslim Cham.

Since it was only early afternoon we decided to visit Kieng Svay as well. In order to do so we have to pass Phnom Penh and cross the Mekong again at the bridge in the south of Phnom Penh. Kieng Svay is a place where mostly local people hang out for recreation. I have been there before, but alone and only for a short time.

This is in front of Funcinpec headquarters. There are three boys of about 14 years traveling on a moto. This is quite a common sight. Frequently I see children (yes, girls as well) of hardly 12 years traveling with some routine and not exactly slow on all sorts of motos.

Railway Station.

This is how living chickens are transported.

There is still significant police presence, here at Hun Sen Park.

Since our moto was pretty dirty my co-traveler decided to give it a wash. We went to this place, where mostly women work really hard. The price for the quite extensive washing service is just about $0.125.

This is on national road number one with direction to Saigon.

I provided a picture of this construction side earlier. This will be by fare the biggest pagoda I have ever seen.

Finally we made it to this place close to Kieng Svay. This is one of the recreation destinations for (better of) urban Cambodian people. There are beautiful flowers and plants as well as good numbers of all sorts of birds all over the compound. It is located about 20 km outside Phnom Penh. Families come here to picnic in those huts close to the water. Some people were fishing. For some reasons I liked the place.

We spend about two hours and had some food. Than it started raining heavily. And there was no indication that the rain would stop anytime soon. We waited for quite some time. When it started getting dark and was still raining we decided to kick of and drive home.

Co-traveler looks sort of tired for some reasons.

However, it was not raining as bad anymore. I was lucky to sit on the back of the moto partly protected from getting wet by the back of the driver.
Continue reading Mekong Islands, Kieng Svay


This is Saturday. I went to see a few of all those Wats in Phnom Penh. One of the moto drivers gave me company. He studies tourism and appears to be well educated and interested.

I though this is a beautiful temple. It belongs to Wat Sarawan, which was among the first five Pagodas in Phnom Penh. This particular temple is from 1936. Unlike most major temples in Phnom Penh it is not yet renovated. However, it does not seem to be in a particular bad shape. However, my companion told me the head of this pagoda is sort of uneducated and wants to replace this beautiful temple with a modern concrete one. For a student of tourism this is irresponsible. I realized in many places that it is quite a common praxis to replace old temples. So it is not easy to find really old pagodas. I do believe many of those temples, among them this one, should be kept because they are bearers of history and cultural identity.

This monk was standing near the gate of the temple and my companion arranged for a short conversation. He is 30 years old and came two years ago from I forgot which province. The pagoda gives him the chance to live in Phnom Penh and to study. What he studies is Pali and English. He smiled skeptically when I asked him whether he wants to remain a monk for all his live. He indicated that he would prefer a rather worldly career.

This is inside the temple. There are many Buddha all over the place. The structure is decorated with complex ornaments.

Walls and the ceiling are covered with paintings representing scenes from the live of Buddha. Some people where praying in the temple so I avoided using the flash. This is why I could not take pictures of those beautiful paintings properly.

There was a group of monks sitting in one of the corners when we entered. This group did not exactly embody the persistent images of monks I have. One of them had fixed a hammock to the pillars, was laying in it and listening to pop music with his walkman. Apparently all of them had made themselves comfortable. I commented something like ‘those are quite modern monks’ which my companion felt free to translate. They found it funny. All of them were not even properly dressed, wearing only the bottom part of their robes. The guy in the window dressed up for this picture whereas the two other guys preferred not to be in the picture. I should stress that I do not want to spoil the images of Buddhist monks here. Rather I try to give an authentic picture of my experience.

This stupa is standing next to the temple. I learnt it is only since recently that the head of the pagoda allows monks to actually live in it.

This is at the bottom of this stupa, where a group of people is having a relaxed discussion. Only about halve of them appear to be monks.

After we visited this pagoda we went to the next one, which is close by Wat Ounalom. It was raining by the time we arrived. I mentioned earlier that my companions spend about 8 years of his live in a pagoda and it was in this pagoda where he has spent those 8 years. So he knew many of the people and the environment quite well.

He introduced me to some monks. Because it was raining they invited me to join them in one of the many houses on the compound, which apparently serves as some kind of living room. There were a number of monks watching soccer on TV. However, not only monks, but some students as well. We got into some kind of conversations. The monks where sort of sluggish and it was not easy to keep it going. However, I asked some question about them being monks and got some interesting answers. Only one of them intended to remain monk for all his life. He does so because he thinks this is a good way of helping sinful people, promoting his religion, and developing the nation. When I asked him what he thinks about other religions and their members he told me any religion is valuable and helps people to act good. When I asked him how it is to live up to the strict rules that apply to monks he told me when he is bored of being a monk he quits for some time to do what he cannot do while being a monk.

Since those monks were not very enthusiastic about conversation I ended up having a conversation with one of the pagoda boys. He is 19 years old, came from the countryside as well and studies English. His English really was pretty good, unlike the English of many people who claim to study English. He pointed out that all those restrictions for monks do not apply to him and that he does not intend to become a monk. Interestingly, all of those monks and students had exercised their right to vote. More interestingly, the pagoda boy kept the secrecy of the ballot while the monks who did not pointed out that they voted for change and for Sam Rainsy. I was surprised because I heard earlier that monks are not supposed to be partisan. However, those young people appeared to be both knowledgeable about and interested in current political affairs to a high extent.

Later another man arrived who was maybe 40 years old. He was not a monk and dressed rather like a clerk. I did not bother to start a conversation with him. I learnt that he is actually policy maker working at the Senate. This sounds better than it is because the Senate does not seem to have much influence in Cambodia. However, this guy is in touch with ongoing law making and turned out to be a very good chat.

Quickly the current political situation became subject of this conversation. Nobody in the room seemed to be a strong supporter of a party other than Sam Rainsy. I asked the Senate person whether or not he expects violent demonstrations after the official result of the election is announced on August 8. Without hesitating he said yes. We spend quite some time elaborating on the options of forming a government right now, how likely an intervention of the king might be and how likely a three party coalition is. This seemed to become more interesting to the monks as well and from time to time one or the other of them participated. However, at this point boxing was in TV and some of them spend close attention. Later I learned that the Senate guy actually teaches law at more than one university and has a very good standing among the monks of this pagoda. And I learnt that he actually lives on the compound of the pagoda. Once again politics and religion appear to be closely tight to each other.

I cannot present the entire discussion here. However I found most of those monks quite politicized and some pretty active in thinking about contemporary politics. All of them appeared to be rather skeptical of the current government. I start to understand that those wats are so much more than just physical structures housing meditating monks. Many and diverse people live here and pagodas are in various ways influential institutions serving important purposes. Among others they serve as housing for poor university students.

When the rain stopped we continued our tour through the compound of this pagoda. Unfortunately those monks did not want me to take a picture of how they spend their time in their living room.

This stupa is said to house an eyebrow hair of Buddha himself. This might sound rather not very exciting. However, eyebrows seem to have some meaning among monks. Monks do not only shave their head but their eyebrows as well. From what I understand this is to abandon worldly enjoyments. It is meant to prevent monks from looking handsome or in some ways attractive to women. Monks do not shake women’s hands.

This is inside the stupa. Somewhere in here is the eyebrow hair but I do not know where exactly. The candles upfront are said to burn about 3 month.

This is what appears to be some sort of halo. It is cheap electronic from plastic including tiny chains of lights which run constantly from the periphery to the center and back. In subtle and not so subtle ways the religious institutions in this country seems to be subject of significant changes.

This is a laying Buddha above the door to this stupa. I learnt that it is old. This Buddha as well as the others in this stupa has been newly painted. This, however, seems to be subject of controversy.

This building houses the head of Cambodia’s Buddhist hierarchy. I heard that his predecessors have been quite intelligent (“clever”) while he is not.

This is a stupa next to it housing the remains of an earlier Patriarch.

The roof in the background belongs to the main temple of this pagoda. It has two stories and an “Angkor Wat style” roof. It is built in the 70s and not exactly a master.

Afterwards we went to this Khmer place close to riverside to have some food. My companion is on his phone, which he holds in high regard.

Continue reading Pagodas

Wat Lanka

I did not take many pictures recently and just shortly share the following ones:

This is in front of ‘my’ guesthouse on Wednesday evening after there was quite some rain. The guy on the moto is one of the many moto drivers working around where I live. The late sun is shining on one of the gates to Wat Lanka in the background, underlining its intensive color.

This is street 51, neighboring street 278 in which I live. To the left is the same gate from the previous picture taken from another angle.

This is on Thursday evening. In the background is Wat Lanka. It is among the first five pagodas established by King Ponhea Yat in Phnom Penh in 1422 and is with more than 200 monks among the largest Wats in town.

Continue reading Wat Lanka

The Week Following the Election

During the last days I went by moto a few times through the streets to take some pictures. This happened during my lunch break or in the evening. There is, however not much apparent change on the street. The picture remains the same. People appear to be doing what they usually do. Maybe a bit more silent or carefully than on other days. There is still significant police presence which has rather increased during the previous days. People appear to ignore police, however, most people seem to be very aware of that there is police. And many of them seem to question the legitimacy of those measures to discourage demonstrations and protest.

It is getting boring and after this I stop presenting pictures of police cars and motor bikes.

Maybe I give a few comments on how the situation develops. Preliminary election results by the official body NEC indicates 73 seats for CPP, 26 seats for Funcinpec and 24 seats for Sam Rainsy Party. CPP released very similar results. However, those results are contested by both Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec and they condemn the NEC for issuing these numbers. The official result is due only on 8th of August. Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy appeared to be

The dilemma is the following: the CPP did not get enough votes to form a government on their own. That is, they need a coalition partner to form a government according to the constitution. At the same time both parties Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy made clear that they would be willing to form a coalition but not if Hun Sen becomes prime minister. Sam Rainsy even came up with a plan for a three party coalition government, in which the current president of CPP would become prime minister and Sam Rainsy his deputy. Since the CPP president is an old man, Sam Rainsy would likely be the one who controls the government. Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy appeared to be quite united shortly after the election but this seems to change already. According to today’s news, all Funcinpec ministers of the current government already signed resignation from the government. Hun Sen made clear in this case all of them would immediately loose all their salaries and privileges. This is a sensitive point at Funcinpec, because they spend quite a lot of money but do not have much. So they rely on CPP money. Hun Sen made also clear that he would see any attempt by Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec to form an interim government would as attempted coup and use violence to prevent it from happening.

Most mainstream election observers indicate that they take the election to be some sort of free and fair. This is important because without them confirming the election results the outcome of the election would not have much credibility. However, there really is ample room to question whether this election has been free and fair, even in the absurd Cambodia context.

However, Hun Sen made very clear that he does not intend to step down. He even claimed in a rather feudal manner“ I am the government”. So if he does not have enough seats to govern with only his party he needs Sam Rainsy or Funcinpec to join the government.

There are not many options to overcome the deadlock. In a very similar situation after the 98 election the king stepped in and made both Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh his prime ministers. This happened only after long weeks of political stalemate and massive violent demonstration in Phnom Penh. However, Ranariddh won the popular vote and Hun Sen just did not want to give up power. More grotesque, he executed a coup with which he (the prime minister without the popular vote) ousted Ranariddh (the prime minister with the popular vote. Later on Ranariddh joint the government again for various reasons.

This time, the king had strongly indicated that he would not step in. So I am not sure what the remaining options are to form a decent government. I think either Funcinpec or Sam Rainsy change their mind or there might be a constitutional amendment enabling Hun Sen to govern without the two thirds of the vote. For the time being Hun Sen expressed that he would continue business as usual, with or without Funcinpec.

I found the following web page to be a helpful resource for relevant and up to date articles on Cambodia from various sources:

This is Tuesday at lunch time. Sam Rainsy headquarters seems to be doing fine.

Still, there is quite some police around at Hun Sen park. Hun Sen park is sponsored by prime minister Hun Sen and located along Sihanouk Boulevard between Norodom boulevard and Sothearos Boulevard.

This is police at the Royal Palace close to the National Assembly.

This is opposite from the Royal Palace at the Mekong River.

Between Royal Palace and National Museum.

Police at the south side of Royal Palace.

And at Sihanouk Boulevard

The following is Wednesday at about the same time. I save my comments since there is not much change and the places are basically the same.

The Ministry of Justice is located almost in the middle between Royal Palace and National Assembly.

In the evening I went with one of the moto drivers through the city. I have not been doing that for some time and was surprised to find that many people are out to enjoy themselfes one way or the other. Phnom Penh people seem to enjoy their motos very much and in the evening many people go on a cruise with their friends. Traffic is not very hectic in the evening but rather slow. Again, this traffic seems to consist not so much of people traveling from A to B but of citizens just cruising the city. Particularly young people. We spend quite some just floating around with all the other peoples on their motos. We passed through all areas of the city and finally ended up in this Khmer restaurant close to the riverfront, where we had some food.

This guy came from the country side to Phnom Penh after he finished high school. Since his family does not have much money this was possible only because he could live at the Pagoda. He has been living there for about 8 years, 6 of those years as a monk and according to strict rules. He quitted when he started to study Tourism about two years ago. After his study he wants to go back to Siem Riep to start a business. He likes to live in Phnom Penh but does not have ‘relationships’ (family) here.

The following picture are taken only a few hours ago (Thursday evening) from the Monument of Independence.

The temple in the background is Wat Lanka, close to where I live.

This is to the south.

This is Hun Sen part to the east. Behind the park is the Mekong River.

This is one of Hun Sen’s residences.

Those are mostly Phnom Penh people enjoying their motos.

Continue reading The Week Following the Election

One Day After National Election

Today is Monday and I agreed with the UNDP driver to go on another ride thought the city to catch the mood. We went first to a computer shop close to Central Market. This was to find somebody who can fix the problems with my network card.

We are heading north on 51st street. This is about 9:30 am. The brownish facility straight ahead in the middle of the road is the security fence of the US Embassy. Their compound appears to be the most intensely secured in town, not only in election time.

Still on 51st street.

Streets appear to be a bit more crowded than yesterday.

Central Market

Significantly busier than yesterday.

Monivong Boulevard

Police men behind a tree with Funcinpec advertisement.

Straight ahead is the Monument of Independence

Sihanouk Boulevard, much different from yesterday.

Norodom Boulevard

There are a number of police men behind the Land Cruiser.

Straight ahead at the junction a good number of strong police motor bikes are waiting.

People told me those bikes belong to the “Flying Tigers” unit of the Military Police. There are two helmets on each. I did not see the police men, but I am sure they are not far.

This is Sothearos Boulevard and behind the Toyota Camry upfront a number of Military Police is waiting.

This is opposite from the National Assembly, where two police trucks are parked. The wall behind them is the fence of the Royal Palace.

This is the front side of the Royal Palace.

Another police truck is parked in the shadow of the tree.

Behind this pavilion is the Mekong River. In front of it is still another police truck waiting. Police men blend with the crowd in the pavilion.

This is the northern part of the Palace compound, where yet other police trucks are waiting.

Riverside. This is where most tourists are.

We are heading further north on Sisowath Quay.

Wat Phnom in the north of the city.

Still not very busy.

Not much action at the Hotel Le Royal.

And not at the governors residence either.

This is the French Embassy.

This is the road leading up the Japanese Bridge over the Mekong in the north of the city.

Funcinpec headquarters.

The French Embassy is neighboring Funcinpec headquarters.

This is the place where people go to buy spare parts for their car. This spot looked much different yesterday.

This street neighbors France Street, on which we are heading south.

People seem to be doing what they usually do.

Wat Phnom again.

Ministry of Public Works

Railway station.

Police station close to where Monivong and Russian Boulevard meet. There is a good number of police trucks parked inside.

In the background is Central Market

Charles de Gaulle Boulevard.

Wat Sampao Meas

This is the Olympic Stadium. It is closed right now. The fact that it is closed was subject to much election campaigning. Funcinpec and CPP leaders accuse each other of being responsible for the unfavorable deal with the company that is supposed to develop the area.

Monireth Boulevard, where many demonstrations took place in the past.

Hotel Intercontinental in the south west of the city.

Mao Tse Toung Boulevard

Vietnamese Embassy

Another Sokimex petrol station ready for riots.

This road leads up to the other major bridge over the Mekong River in the south of the city.

Mostly poor people live here.

This is the Ministry of Interior. Under its authority are most of the department concerned with police. My UNDP friend told me that he was here in the morning and saw many riot police officers waiting on standby behind the ministry. We did not try to take pictures.

This is the main entrance to the Ministry, guarded by several police men. Ironically, this is where I work. Usually there is not so much police around. Sometimes the police men guarding the compound ask me for money. I found this very disturbing and talked to my colleague. He explained to me that those police man earn only about 15 to 20 $ per month and cannot make it without support. Therefore, I should feel free to contribute.

This is the Thai Embassy. There where massive riots in January destroying the entire interior of this building and the Vietnamese Embassy as well. Maybe I talk on another occasion about how those riots where caused. However, the Cambodian government made clear it would not mind paying for the damage of about 30 Mill. $.

I really wonder how this mob was able to enter a building as secure as this one.

This is the Japanese Embassy

This is where the Senate and several central government agencies are located.

Sam Rainsy headquarters. From preliminary election results it looks like Sam Rainsy will be the strongest party in Phnom Penh. However, they have no chance to become the strongest party in this election. The interesting question is rather who is second strongest party behind CPP. Most people think this will be rather Funcinpec than Sam Rainsy.

This is again where Sihanouk and Sothearos Boulevard meet and where those police motor bikes are waiting at the junction. They have gotten company from another police truck.

This is close to where Hun Sen lives.

This is Sihanouk close to the Monument of Independence, where another police truck is standing in the shadow of the tree straight ahead.

Sihanouk Boulevard

Continue reading One Day After National Election

Election Day in the Afternoon

I called the UNDP driver in the afternoon to go on another ride through the city. I thought he is a good choice today not least because he has the UNDP radio which presumably delivers relevant and reliable information.

He had the following information: the office concerned with security at UNDP reported that two grenades where found at about 11 am. One of them actually exploded in front of Funcinpec headquarters but nobody died or was injured. The other grenade was found in the area of the Royal Palace and did not explode. UNDP sort of advised its employees to stay close to where they live.

We started at Norodom Boulevard. I have never seen this road as quite as this.

This is Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. The guys upfront are not members of the National Police, but of the Military Police.

This is Monivong Boulevard, one of the major veins of this city. Again, I have never seen this road as quite. To the right is the local station of the National Police, to which also the truck upfront belongs.

Also neighboring streets are not busy at all.

Monivong, extremely quite

This is one of the few places where expensive cars are sold located and is located at Monivong Boulevard. Looks like they made bad experiences.

This is around central market.

Usually this is one of the busiest places in town with mostly local people.

This is one of the voting stations. I figured that the easiest and least suspicious way to take pictures would be not to stop the moto.

This petrol station is run by the local company Sokimex, which is said to be associated with CPP. The same company collects the very significant entrance fees at the most important tourist side in the country, Angkor Wat, which is also at the heart of current Khmer national identity. Looks like they made bad experiences, too.

This is Norodom Boulevard, another major street in which beautiful houses are located.

This is in the afternoon close to Funcinpec headquarter at Monivong in the north of the city, were Monivong meets the Japanese bridge. I provided pictures of this place earlier. It is the traffic circle with odd revolver monument in the center.

The truck in the picture belongs to the national police. It has a number of banks on its backside and is capable of transporting many police men relatively fast and ready for action.

Neighboring streets are extremely quite.

This is Funcinpec headquarter, where supposedly one of the grenades exploded without hurting anybody. This was said to have happened at about 11 am. This photo was taken at about 4:30 pm.

Road 70 in the north of the city extremely quite.

Military Police at Conf. de la Russie Boulevard.

Those government buildings are located very close to each other. There is a clear presence of police at various places but not so much higher than usually.

Headquarter of the Armed Forces

Ministry of National Defense

Coucil of Ministers

Norodom Boulevard

Central Market

Wat Phnom. This is a major tourist attraction and usually very busy with tourists and locals on weekends.

This is where the elephant usually is. Some tourists like to go on a ride on his back. However, this fellow is not here today. There would not be much business anyway.

We stopped at a small stand to have some soft drinks. While we were sitting suddenly a convoy of about 20 strong motor bikes with men from the Military Policy with AK 47’s emerged and drove slowly around Wat Phnom. I was too slow (and too careful) to take a picture while they were passing very close to us. I found this a strong demonstration of police power. Given that this is Election Day I found this borders political intimidation.

However, the voting stations had closed at 3 pm already and this is maybe 5 pm. I mentioned earlier the statement of the head of the National Police to use force to prevent post-election protest demonstrations from happening. This might be meant as a signal of determination to execute this policy. However, those heavily armed soldiers do not belong to the National, but the Military Police.

Again, I did not take a picture when they passed close by. I took this one after they had circled Wat Phnom and went back on Norodom south, which is to say downtown. The guy on the moto is turning his head to follow the leaving convoy.

This is us. In between us is the helmet I bought about one week ago for about 17 dollars.

Surely, children are still playing in the street. This is while we are heading south on Sisowath Quay.

This is among the touristiest places in town and busier than other places I saw.

The front side of the Royal Palace where supposedly a grenade was found in the morning, which did not explode.

The National Assembly. This street has seen violent protests in the past and is likely to continue to do so during the next days.

Those folks sitting over there are members of the Military Police.

And so are those guys on Sothearos Boulevard.

And those people over there. This is close to the Monument of Independence and not far from where Prime Minister Hun Sen lives.

The temple in the background is Wat Lanka, one of the oldest pagodas in Phnom Penh and close to where I live. Today there is a polling station located on its compound.

I have never seen Sihanouk Boulevard so quite. This is where many shops located whose customers are mostly expatriates and rich locals.

Continue reading Election Day in the Afternoon

Election Day in the Morning

Today is Election Day. I went in the morning at about eight to have breakfast. Later I decided to get a moto, drive around in the city for some time and take photos.

This is the royal palace. There is not much activity today, but other than that it does not look so different from other days.

This is the Hotel Cambodia hot very far from the royal palace in the riverside area.

This is the opposite side of the street. Not much activity here as well.

This is the Buddhism Institute, if I got it right. I am not sure what this organization is actually doing.

This is the ‘park’ in front of the Institute. The signs says that this park is actually sponsored by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Prime Minister does not live fare from here.

This is close by where very poor people live. This is where migrants from the province start their urban carreer.

My moto driver had to go back to pick up another customer at 10:30 am. So I decided to go back to my place as well. I shortly met the other customer. This apparently was one of the more freaked out travelers. He wanted to go to the shooting range. This place is about 10 km outside Phnom Penh and one can shoot all kind of weapons here, among them rockets for only 20$. I found it rather a perfidy to engage in this kind of activity on Election Day.
Continue reading Election Day in the Morning

One day prior to National Election

Yesterday in the late afternoon I decided to go on a moto ride through the city and take some pictures of what is going on. I had just taken off with the moto driver when it started raining badly.

This is the polling station closest to where I live.

A number of big cars was parked in front of it.

Initially I wanted to take pictures in various locations in the city in order to catch the mood one day prior to Election Day. It did not stop raining and we found shelter under the roof of a house close by. There was not much to do and I started a discussion with the moto driver.

This guy is 35 years old and ensured me he is really poor. We spend about one hour here I believe and I listened most of the time to his urgent report. His parents where killed under the Pol Pot regime when he was seven years old. They were forced out of their home province and had to work hard in the rice fields. They had to eat only what they found in the forest and sometimes rice with just uncultivated grass. He has two brothers and two sisters. He would like to marry but is too poor. Moreover he would like to marry his sisters to somebody but he is too poor. “Poor people don’t get married happy” he told me. He has been saving money for about seven years to become independent and marry. During these seven years he has accumulated 600 dollars. He tries to save one dollar every day and plans to marry once he reaches 1500 dollars. During the conversation he lowered this number to 1000 dollars.

He realized my interest in the election and told me extensively what he thinks about it. The richer get richer and the poor remain poor at best. The government only talks but does not do anything. He does not like the government. The main problem is corruption. Hun Sen is a bad man. Hun Sen is Khmer Rouge. Poor people do not like government. Government does nothing for them, only cheap talk. He wants a new government and will cast his vote for Sam Rainsy Party. Sam Rainsy will stop corruption. Sam Rainsy studied economics while Hun Sen did not.

He is afraid that there will be violence after election. In urgent gestures he explains how police and military shoot at angry protestors. He is very concerned this might be what happened once the election result is announced.

It did not stop raining but became dark. So I could not hope to take any more pictures and we went back to the guesthouse.

This encounter was maybe more informative than what I wanted to do initially to catch the spirit in the city. I felt very touched by this guys report about his life. It is hard to understand how people are able to stand the horrors he has seen. And I have no doubt that he is traumatized to a significant extent.
Continue reading One day prior to National Election

Cambodia Daily: Party Platforms

There is not much party program and not even ideology involved in the current election campaign in Cambodia. Typically, the campaigns try to promote their party leaders. In the case of the three big parties this is Prime Minister Hun Sen (CPP), Sam Rainsy (Sam Rainsy Party), and Prince Norodom Ranariddh (Funcinpec).

Once more I found the Cambodia Daily to be a reliable newspaper. They had contacted all parties and requested their profiles. Thy print the replies of about 20 parties, among them the three big parties.

I though it would be worth to provide those valuable pieces of party program here. Much could be said about those platforms and the high expectations they raise among the supporters of those parties. I think I may refer to it later. With regard to multiculturalism it is worth mentioning that both major opposition parties (Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec) play the nationalist card. “Illegal immigration” by Vietnamese people and issues of territorial integrity (with reference to both Vietnam and, to a lesser extend, Thailand) are high on the campaign agendas. Those platforms also reflect the different pressures which last on parties according to whether or not they participate in the current government (CPP and Funcinpec). Interestingly, the ruling party CPP’s platform is the only who mentions ‘hill tribe peoples’. However, the formulation ‘take care of the hill tribe peoples’ sounds rather paternalistic to me.

The following is quoted from the CAMBODIA DAILY, Saturday and Sunday, July 26-27, 2003-07-27


Implement the national policy of unity and reconciliation, strengthening peace and social stability, and seek justice for the people who suffered under the genocidal regime. Strengthen and promote democracy, the multi party liberal system, promoting free and fair elections, protecting the rights of liberty and freedom for the people according to the UN declaration on human rights. Respect Buddhism as the state religion and respect the rights of other religions, strengthening freedoms of the media and the rights of unions and vocational organizations. Strengthen the rule of law and law enforcement. Strengthen the commune councils and improve quality of public service at local level. Build up national defense by using Royal Cambodian Armed Forces as the core. Implement the free market economic policies. Ensure economic growth, encouraging internal and external investment. Increase employment rate. Increase salaries for civil servants, armed forces and workers according to growth of national economy. Foster private development and create new jobs. Develop agricultural sector and increase agricultural exports. Take care of the hill tribe peoples and increase services to vulnerable groups. Increase rights of women, the disabled and children. Combat trafficking of drugs and humans and stop domestic violence. Develop tourism to its potential. Continue to build pagodas, schools, health centers, roads, bridges, irrigation systems, electricity and water supply for the people. Develop peace and friendship with all countries based on principles of equality and respect for independence and territorial integrity. Improve cooperation with donor community and international institutions.


The Cambodians will enjoy a dignified living standard under a Sam Rainsy government that will immediately apply, and adhere to, the rule of law. The rule of law helps eliminate corruption that has artificially kept market prices high. For instance, without corruption, the price of petrol at the pump can be decreased to about 1.500 riel per liter, and prices of other utilities and products that use petrol directly and indirectly as production input will inevitably drop. The rule of law will also deliver justice in court for the people. Bribing judges to win a case is no longer a safe option for the rich. The people will also benefit from social justice. The party will tax the rich to pay for higher salaries for all teachers and public servants. The less-corrupt industries will deliver higher wages for factory workers. The retired, the handicapped and the poor will receive social security benefits that are funded by the tax revenues of the rich. Another major concern of the Cambodian people, the issue of territorial integrity, will be diligently addressed with peaceful and legal means. The national immigration law will be properly implemented for foreigners. Above all, the Sam Rainsy government would have a leadership team capable of, and fully committed to, making its policies work.


Ensure the sustainability of modern monarchy. Follow democracy and human rights properly. Strengthen peace and political stability under a framework of national reconciliation. Eliminate violence, robbery and crime by punishing criminals. Ensure a clean court system, neutrality and justice, and educate all levels of civil servants to understand their duties to serve people and avoid abusing power. Review any contracts contrary to the national interest such as border treaty upon Article 90 of the Constitution,, when Funcinpec has the majority in the National Assembly. Build the strategic roads along the borders and local development – pagodas, schools, hospitals and water supply. Follow the immigration law against illegal immigrants by cremating the new Ministry of Immigration. Strengthen the local administration in the framework of decentralization. Reform the public administration and structure of the Royal Cambodia Armed forces to be effective with good governance and transparency through the programs of capacity-building of civil servants, police and national forces to serve the nation neutrally and not under any political party’s influence. To strengthen the democratic regime and implementation of good governance and transparency, the party will hold a monthly public forum that requires members of Parliament and government members to tackle the people’s issues such as land abuse from powerful men and dishonest businessmen. Prepare questionnaires and debate between MPs and government members every fortnight. Parliament yearly assesses the achievements and government’s affairs before the national budget plan is adopted. Amend the Constitution to limit the prime minister’s term to no more than two mandates.”
Continue reading Cambodia Daily: Party Platforms

Kompong Cham, Kratie, Stung Treng, Banlung (Rattanakiri)

This time I went to Rattanakiri. I thought it would be a good idea to travel on the ground, particularly since I am here for only three month and cannot afford to spend so much time in the air. I divide this trip into more than one pieces and start off with our journey to reach Banlung.

This time I was traveling with the Administrative Assistant of our project. He was so kind to give me company and help me out with translation. I had arranged the ride to Kratie via minibus the other day. Kratie is about half the way to Banlung, which is the provincial capital of Rattanakiri. What we had to pay for the ride to Kratie was cheap 10 dollars per person. It was open how we would proceed from Kratie. Our expectation was that we would have to spend the night there and continue the journey the next day to Banlung via Stung Treng. Stung Treng is half way between Kratie and Banlung and the provincial capital of Stung Treng province.

We met at 6:15 am and went to the port by moto. We left at 7 am with the minibus. This is where we had food after we have been traveling for some hours and passed Kompong Cham already, which is the provincial capital of Kompong Cham province. The guy to the right is my co-traveler.

This is how it looks like when people cook

This is our quite comfortable means of transportation. The guy to the right is the driver.

This is how it looks like in Kompong Cham. There are many plantations of rubber and timber.

Those are the last cars of about 15 trucks accompanied by police cars. You don’t get to see police cars in the countryside very often and not in such high numbers. My co-traveler indicated this might have been Prime Minister Hun Sen himself.

This is how it looks like in our vehicle. The guy to the left in the very back is from Israel. We got to know him during this ride and met him later several times in and around Banlung.

We crossed a number of bridges which where mostly constructions similar to this one.

Those are pictures randomly taken with my camera out of side from the top of the car somewhere in Kratie Province. This ‘read soil road’ is not the main road but some sort of shortcut. Once in a while we pass a settlement of very simply shacks.

A truck had damaged the road and local people came to repair it.

We were able to pass after only a few minutes of waiting.

We arrived at the port of Kratie at about 11:30.

We learned that a speed boat to Stung Treng would leave at 12 and we managed to get tickets for 5$ (Khmer) respective 8$ (Foreigner), I believe. I was impressed to find this boat. It looked fast to me. Almost like an airplane. However, I was glad that this vehicle would not loose contact to the fluid ground.

Most seats in the boat were already occupied and I found it to be a privilege that we could travel on the roof.

Those are settlements along the river. There were a number of bigger ships as well, mostly wooden ones.

This picture shows a very specific weather phenomenon which I have not seen before. We are aiming at an area with very heavy and dense rain. This rain however is limited to a very small area and its boundaries can clearly be distinguished.

This is the cockpit of the boat.

I got myself a seat because I did not feel like having a shower. Moreover it became sort of stormy outside. Inside this boat is not so much different from an airplane.

This is the rain front from the other side. We hit a good number of them before we reached in Stung Treng. The boat is actually quite fast and reasonably comfortable. I heard this is particularly true when compared to the road, which is the other option for traveling from Kratie to Stung Treng.

After maybe one hour we reached this settlement, which I could not find on any map in my tourist guide.

The course of the boat was not steady and obviously the captain tried to avoid hitting the ground. I tried to figure out pattern in how he was steering the boat, but could not identify any. However, most of the time we were traveling very close to the main land.

It is about to rain again when we meet this boat. This happened a number of times to pick up passengers or discharge goods like chicken (more or less alive) or a spin for those long and slim boots.

Again, we travel most of the time close to one or the other bank. Frequently we pass side arms of the Mekong.

We pass those bigger wooden boats shortly before we arrive in Stung Treng. I have seen this sort of boat earlier close to Phnom Penh discharging wood. What seems to happen here is that they are loaded with something, most likely timber.

This is when we arrive in Stung Treng. A good number of people are waiting to promote guest houses and transportation or to sell snacks to travelers and carry cargo. Given this situation it does not generally appear to be a problem to find accommodation or a ride to the next destination.

It is still not even late in the afternoon. I was surprised how easy traveling to Rattanakiri actually turned out to be. It did not take us long to settle for a ride on the back of a pick up for 5 dollar per person. We have company of those people. The fellows on the ride hand are Frenchmen. The guy to the left is the guy form Israel I mentioned earlier. We had good conversations about the relationship between France and Cambodia today, about the United States and the war in Iraq.

This is how it looks like most of the time during the first part of the journey. Later on we traveled through partly dense and almost impenetrable jungle.

Another of those bridges. This exemplar is pretty long compared to most of the other bridges I saw.

This is when we have a break. At this point we are already pretty much in the forest. However, we passed numerous clearings apparently created by mankind involving fire. Most of the time there is a small house on those clearings, housing obviously pretty poor people. The house in the background is pretty much the wealthiest house I have seen on the way.

It is getting dark very quick.

At this point a number of short rains showers had already hit us. It is a bit colder around here and together with the wind caused by the speeding car it becomes kind of chilly.

The quality of the road was pretty poor and we had a hard time holding on to the car. I tried to take pictures of the road using a small stand on the of this pick up’s cabin. However, the flash is not strong enough.

However, shortly after this shot it started to rain very heavy and did not stop. This was about the strongest rain I ever encountered. This was an interesting experience particularly on the back of a truck. I was happy to have rain jacket. Together with my sunglasses I was even able to open my eyes. However, I did not see much. The jacket did not prevent me from getting wet. This was like going for a swim in a rain jacket hoping to remain dry. However, it helped me not to become cold.

It was still raining when we arrived in Banlung, which is the provincial capital of Rattanakiri. This was at about 8:30 pm. In general I was surprised that we made it here during only one day.
Continue reading Kompong Cham, Kratie, Stung Treng, Banlung (Rattanakiri)