Cambodia For Sale

The Cambodian Daily, as well as reporting the Maldive Cabinet Meeting, also revealed that the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, has just borrowed $500 million from the Chinese government. Large parts of the country have been sold to wealthy government officials, the Chinese, Russians and even the Gulf States.

Not even the islands are exempt from this sell-off. A few months ago notices began to appear in the village and round the shore line warning that the land was now the private property of an investment company, nominally Cambodian but with unknown origins. Companies within companies like Russian dolls.

Here on the mainland the effects of this development are everywhere - huge hotels and holiday complexes going up along the beaches and the communities who lived there until the bulldozers moved in are living in tent villages, waiting to be moved on yet again.

I went to visit a gigantic hotel complex owned by a Russian oligarch who is currently in prison on charges of paedophilia and his assets frozen. He is building a vast marina, hotel and apartments as well as a bridge to one of the islands where more apartments are being built.

The Cambodians take the protection of their children very seriously and have no desire to go the way of Thailand. Notices, in English and other european languages are everywhere, warning of the penalties.

The main political party here is the Cambodian People's Party and the country is effectively a one-party democracy. So much so that 60% of the electorate didn't bother to vote at the last election. The population is overwhelmingly young. I've seen only two grey haired people since I arrived. Everyone is under 45.

I have just met Cedric Jancloes, who has lived in Cambodia for many years and is a producer for Cambodian television, working in current affairs. He says that there are just the glimmerings of more freedom to comment and question in the media and one of his programmes is unique in being allowed to discuss Cambodian politics with a greater degree of licence than has ever been allowed before. Cedric knows a lot about the spiritual side of Cambodian life, and told me that he is committed to 'working to rebuild the country's values and culture through media'.


  1. I am learning a lot here. This is making me check more of this out. Cambodia is becoming visible.
    Do you think these experiences would ever appear as a context for other writing? No doubt it will (and is) there in your poetry.
    But being me I can see a novel there that would enlighten so many people

  2. Thanks for your comments WEndy. I've no idea how these ideas will filter through eventually - I'm on input overload at the moment. Feel free to borrow though - or why not come out here yourself? I can see several novels ......


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