Hun Sen never gets stuck in traffic

March 2, 2009 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

It was hot and I was looking for shade as I walked down Sihanouk Blvd. I thought I’d sit inside the Independence monument since the benches with any amount of shade were all taken by youth and moto-drivers. I damned the planners of the park for not planting more trees. But the monument was accessible only to “staff.” There was even security sitting inside of it. So I found a shaded place on the grass, with Independence monument behind me and Wat Lanka to my left.


I’ve seen it several times. First the police block the traffic and a minute later the procession of cars passes through. Several jeeps followed by a beaming black Mercedes, followed by another car or three, and finally proceeded by a motorbike or several (more security I suppose). Sometimes, the last in the parade is a jeep-truck for the police to cram into after fulfilling their executive obligations. And so it goes. I speculate that the whole route through Phnom Penh is like this, with police blocking every intersection a minute before the procession arrives. This takes a lot of man-power and coordination. I wonder if it’s necessary. How much protection does a prime minister need?


A small dirty looking boy came to sit with me. His name was Rothana, one of the most common male names in Cambodia. His little sister, who came soon after, had a more difficult name.

The first time I saw these children was when I passed their sleeping bodies beside their mother on the sidewalk. Then I watched a coconut seller cut open two coconuts for her. I wasn’t sure if he was donating them or whether she’d paid for them. Judging from her rugged appearance I didn’t think she could afford them. Her husband, I later learned, is a construction laborer – a dangerous, unstable job that pays a whopping $3 a day.

I gave Rothana a sheet out of my notebook and a pen and encouraged him to draw. A Swedish tourist came to sit by me and then a Khmer 20 something year old. Imagine: me, a Swedish 29 year old, a 10 year old boy, and a 20 year old Khmer man engaged in conversation in the midst of a grass lawn that runs parallel to a traffic polluted boulevard.

I was no longer using my notebook so Rothana had full use of it. I watched in horror (at myself) as he used page after page, caring little for conservation or making the most of each page. He even started to draw on my writing! It was like a motor had been turned on inside him and he couldn’t help himself from leaving his mark on every page. Did I reprimand him? I knew I should and could (despite his lack of English) but I didn’t…

Rothana with his father and sister

Rothana with his father and sister


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , , , .

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