At the very end, a quiet attendee raised his hand and praised the gathering. He was from one of Cambodia’s Ministries, I believe it was the Ministry of Interior. It was not clear if he was attending in a private or public capacity. But that’s Cambodia for you.
In the 1980s and 1990s, there were weren’t so many books and films about contemporary Southeast Asia in the West.
To be considered a scholar of Cambodian history, the first step was to simply read everything on the topic. And there wasn’t that much explicitly about the country or the area. It was simply “read everything, watch everything”.
Today I’m pleased to observe that’s not entirely possible. There are many more books, publications, films, comics and music. And many more in the voices of Cambodians themselves.
This is a cheesy Disney TV movie. Those who can speak Khmer won’t hear much of it. But as people have pointed out, it was an attempt to show real-world situations, and one of the very first opportunities for Khmers to recognize themselves in the media.
A lazy Sunday afternoon. I’d just finished a yogurt shake at the Blue Pumpkin and was strolling off my topor on the riverside. In jeans and a t-shirt, I look like any other foreigner, possibly a tourist.
“Hello!” hailed the fake monk.
He didn’t realize I’d met his type before. New face, same outfit and scheme.
In Cambodia, real monks don’t solicit money in English from tourists.
Nor do they wear socks.
I whipped out my smartphone to take a picture.
“NO!” he shouted, and ducked into a nearby shop.
I was waiting as he came out – shouting ‘No!’ again.
And tried to ask another foreigner for money.
He quickly backed off seeing me still there, taking pictures.
Something to hide?
He was quite upset at the camera, but seemed to realize it would have been un-monk-like to grab it.
He hurried off down the street for easier targets. I waved at him as he looked back.
I would like to suggest a hash tag for tracking these scammers: #fakemonkPP
Addendum May 02:
The following weekend, I was having lunch and spotted another ‘monk’. He was politely escorted out of the café.
Note how the security guy takes off his hat and regains from touching him. Looking like a monk gets you the deference accorded to a monk.
But this ‘monk’ was not polite in turn. He was quite (physically) insistent that I delete the video I’d taken with my phone.
He even managed to get in the door again, and tried to indicate that the video I’d taken should be deleted. However, he could not express this sentiment in Khmer, despite repeated attempts to engage him.
He did slap down a Chinese language document (and emphatically pointed at it), seemingly as a way to indicate that he was legitimate.
Perhaps he is a member of a Buddhist organization, and dresses like a monk to accentuate it.
(I didn’t get a photo of this: he was quite angry and could have grabbed my phone.)
The heart of the issue (for me) is that something just doesn’t seem right. These guys are too ‘professional’. There are lots of people in need, and I’d prefer to see my donation go to someone who truly needs it.
So… what kind of monastic order accepts monks who are aggressive in their behavior and is sending them to Phnom Penh?
Why are these monks getting into restaurants while ordinary (and obviously) Khmer street beggars are firmly kept out?
Keep your camera phone handy.
I attended in 2010, made new friends, and learned cool new things.
Oh, also: under a year later, I got a job based on the knowledge I’d acquired there.
I returned in 2013 to share what I learned with Open Development Cambodia, completing the circle.
Others are similarly enthusiastic. Here is a home-made film from 2013′s session.
Would I recommend you apply? Heck yeah.
If you are at the intersection of information technology and social change, give it a go.
Here are some links to past Mekong ICT adventures, and below you can find some sketches I’ve drawn.
Mekong ICT Camp is a biannual training workshop on information, communication, and technologies for citizen media, community health, and civil society development in Mekong sub-region.
The 2015 camp is a five-day activity will bring together the eventual six existing development projects from each Mekong countries and provide them enabling environment to work with their team mentors and partner to sharpen their solutions. The team has 5 days of the camp to turn ideas into a prototype with the help of the camp facilitators who provide process guidance, monitor the progress, and ensure that all team are on track. At the end of the camp, each team will present their work in front of the judges as well as other stakeholders.
Expected participants are Developer, journalists, and social workers. Participants are welcome from every countries and territories, although large of the allocation will goes to Mekong sub-region, which including Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan, China.
The 4th Mekong ICT Camp 2015
Date: 8-12 June, 2015
Place/ Country Leaning Resort, College of Innovation Thammasat University, Chonburi, Thailand.
Organised by Thai Fund Foundation in partnership with Opendream and Foundation for Internet and Civic Culture
The main themes for this year is: BIG DATA
For those from the Mekong-region: we will sponsor all your travel, accommodation and program costs, but we ask for a contribution of USD50 from each participant.
This also includes people who are originally from elsewhere but currently working in projects that related to developments of Mekong.
Small numbers of PARTIAL sponsorships (camp fee and accommodation, but not travel cost) are available for people from outside Mekong.
Participants, once selected, will be entitled to subsidy and/or reimbursement for a round-trip ticket from your residence, visa application, food and accommodation. All documents and materials for courses will be provided.
*** Application deadline is April 5, 2015. ***
For the ease of processing, we only accept Online Application.