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blog Cambodia; blog the planet.

Jan 19, 2006

Shouts in the Dark

Shouts in the Dark Sometimes the rapidity of events nearly overwhelms your ability to blog stuff. * * * Been thinking how to explain to my non-Cambodia centric friends the story behind the recent arrests, and the positions of the different folks involved. The protesters seem to be making a lot more noise, there's not much spin from the pro-arrest camp. Jan 17: The newly-released human rights activists (Mom Sonando, Rong Chhun, Kem Sokha, and Pa Nguon Teang) head straight from Prey Sar prison to sipping champagne at the opening of the new US Embassy. Surreal. Reuters cites a spokesman for the Prime Minister as saying the release was ordered 'as a gift' for the opening. (You can find heaps of background and articles on this at the CAMNEWS archive. ) An optimist would say that this is a good sign. A pragmatic person would note that they're out on bail. A cynic would say that it's all political theatre by different polities of the upper class. A farmer might take a sip of sraa saa and ask, 'what's champagne'? * * * Earlier this week I'd asked a friend to research the rumor that police were arresting students for having dyed or streaked hair. Sounds like a real freedom of speech issue, yes? Numerous friends had told me this was a new rule that came straight from The Boss, but I had doubts. After a day of sifting through Khmer newspapers at the National Library? No hard evidence. My theory is the reason rumors take off so fast is that a) the literacy rate is low and b) people still rely on informal personal networks for information. (If not your friends and family, who can you trust - when over the last few decades the world has changed drastically?) Then the Cambodia Daily reports (Jan 19) that the Ministry of Information had noted some new rules for TV presenters, not students. Apparently this didn't stop the police from collecting a few 'fines' during the general confusion. (I wish the Cambodia Daily web site had regular additions, alas even Bayon Pearnik's Cambodia Dreary parody is more frequently updated.) * * * As I'm typing the above near the waterfront, about 6:30 PM, there's a sudden power cut. Quite a few of these in the last few weeks. Suddenly I hear crowd noises. Big crowd noises. I go outside and there's a procession of Sam Rainsy party members in trucks with candles, loudspeakers and flashlights. It looked like full election mode, with what looked like banners for the upcoming Senate campaign. (Voting is Jan 22, but it's become an issue of some controversy). There were dozens of vehicles and at least a hundred people, heading straight down Sothearos boulevard past the Palace. procession_big With the power out they completely grabbed everybody's attention, and I couldn't help but think, ''This can't be legal." I just couldn't imagine the government authorizing any campaigning by the opposition party, especially with the recent political mood so tense. I felt afraid - not for myself, safe in the crowd watching, but for what might happen tonight, and especially in the long term to these exuberant marchers. Soon after many of the same cars speeded back the way they came, no noise, no waving. The show was over. I tried to snap off a few digital shots but my flash wasn't working well. Also tried the camera's video feature, but all I got was a few seconds of headlights and audio. We'll see what the 'dead tree blogs' (newspapers) have to say tomorrow. For now? Once again, Jinja is first to break the story. I should get paid for this. Tags:

- jinja Link

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I blog about nonprofits -- but my blogging is also not for profit - don't get paid either!

But wow! Thanks for the coverage. Looks like it made Global Voices Roundups.

I'd be so curious to read more reflections about the arrests... although I understand and respect the reasons for keeping a low profile.  

Checking the morning papers, I see that a rally was authorized for Sam Rainsy party. So maybe this is less of an event than I thought. Pretty dramatic at the time though.
The new Senate election has been remarkably quiet, due to the CPP-Funcinpec coalition.  
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