Freedom in Cambodia

It was a good time to be in Cambodia — Angelina Jolie was strutting around Angkor Wat as Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft and a band of insurgents was shooting up the capital, Phnom Penh. Both events I missed, squandering a real opportunity to sharpen my journalistic teeth. But I did keep up with the rumor mill, as it relentlessly disseminated hearsay via the usual assortment of expats that populate desperate countries such as Cambodia.

By all accounts Angelina Jolie did exude an aura of invincible beauty, as you would of course expect from the thespian chosen to play Lara Croft — that front-loaded action woman from the Tomb Raider computer game. I just wonder if she needed to be digitally enhanced at all.

Eight killed, fourteen wounded, and hundreds arrested without warrants is not so amusing; but the way it all happened does make for a funny story.

FreedonInCambodia2A few days before the shootout, I arrived in Cambodia, at a desperate town in the south west corner of the county, on the coast, just over the border from Thailand. Roadless, charmless, and more or less foodless, this jungle town didn’t fill me with much excitement for the rest of the county. I checked in at the least dirty hotel and filled my belly on rice gruel from the stinking market, tumbling haphazardly through a putrid ditch in the centre of town. The food didn’t kill me; and due to the fact that I slipped back into my hotel before dark, neither could the locals. Continue reading

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