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Cambodia has changed, and not for the better - true?

  • chopin

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    Haven't stepped foot on Cambodia for several years, read this on the latest experience:

    http://www.adventurouskate.com/cambodia-has-changed-and-not-for-the-better/

    Would like to hear from people who have been to Cambodia in the past 12 months to confirm it. I have friends who are planning for a trip there.....

    #1 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 08:26

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  • gregmccann1

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    I spend 3-4 weeks in Cambodia every winter break (been doing so for the past 5 years) and I have never been robbed, never had anything stolen from me, nor have I ever felt threatened. I think perhaps your friend was very unlucky.

    #2 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 10:21

  • Geer1

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    Man that article read like propaganda... Some ridiculous goings on right there, how the hell would a thief know to phone a tuk tuk driver after picking up a phone off the road??? I call BS...

    Cambodia imo was the friendliest safest feeling country out of the 4 I went to. I never once felt unsafe or saw anything to raise alarm. This was in late January this year.

    Heck the most uncomfortable I felt in Cambodia was when an old beggar lady was feeling up my muscles hoping I would give her some money...

    That isn't to say the odd things like this doesn't happen in Cambodia, I am sure they do. I just had no reason to feel threatened or worried any more then I do anywhere else.

    #3 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 21:50

  • MADMAC

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    Cambodia has definitely changed for the better. It's become much more prosperous over the last 15 years. People tend to focus on the negative, but the reality is per capita income has almost doubled since 2004. The distribution of this income has been uneven, but doubt the vast majority of Cambodians have seen a major improvement in quality of life. There is, and has been since the KR days, a fairly high rate of petty crime in Cambodia and the murder rate is right in line with the SEA norm - which is slightly lower than the US and higher than western Europe. I wouldn't let crime put me off, I'd just exercise reasonable caution (though I never did, and like Greer I was fine).

    #4 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 22:54

  • somtam2000

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    Completely bizarre post. So it's ok to hit children but Cambodia is getting worse for tourists? Just wow.

    I posted a comment on a related blog entry here but am leaving that original post well alone.

    Even suggesting obliquely that it's a good idea to fight off a thief in Cambodia is an especially bad idea. The thief will almost invariably have more to lose than you should they be cornered, as it is not unusual, when caught, for them to be beaten to death -- as appears to have happened in this case.


    Aside from that, what Madmac said.

    #5 Posted: 20/11/2013 - 00:49

  • chinarocks

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    Our resident Cambodia expert, sayadian, before he threw his toys out of the pram and left us for pastures anew, would beg to differ with some of the above analyses.

    I think it's hard for a tourist passing through, myself included (2.5 weeks), to gauge the levels of income inequality etc in a country. Suffice to say I saw enough beggars in my time there to suggest that there is a high level of poverty among large parts of society. Is there also not lots of deforestation being planned or, in some cases, already started? This, I understand, is to make way for ambitious Chinese-driven electricty projects.

    #6 Posted: 20/11/2013 - 04:28

  • chopin

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    Greer1: "how the hell would a thief know to phone a tuk tuk driver after picking up a phone off the road??? "

    - I supposed it was the other way round: the owner called her own number?

    #7 Posted: 20/11/2013 - 05:05

  • MADMAC

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    China, the week I spent in PP we had power outages every day. Every day. I have never had one in Bangkok, a huge city. So before we rag on Chinese hydro plants, unless someone is prepared to fork over the money to build something better... and I don't see you doing that.

    There's a lot of poverty in Cambodia. It's much poorer than Thailand. Depostic, psycho communist regimes have a way of leaving that as their legacy. It's still way better now than it was 15 years ago.

    #8 Posted: 20/11/2013 - 11:04

  • chinarocks

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    I wasn't "ragging" on Chinese hydro plants, rather I was just stating my belief that many poor farmers are losing their land to make way for such developments.

    As much as I'd like to, the reason I am not undertaking such a project is because I don't possess the firepower of the world's second largest economy.

    #9 Posted: 20/11/2013 - 11:52

  • gregmccann1

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    As far as the dams and the power outages go, not sure if it's true, but I've heard the power will be exported to Thailand. And as for the dams on the Sesan and Srepok Rivers, straight to Vietnam. Those large-scale development projects (dams, levelling protected areas to plant rubber trees) are being driven my people at the top and they will not be building schools and paying teacher's salaries with the profits.

    #10 Posted: 20/11/2013 - 18:47

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  • MADMAC

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    The arguement that large scale development projects don't benefit the average person is specious. Let's assume that said hyrdo plants do export power to Vietnam. Well, the Vietnamese need power too. And people are hired to work the construction, benefitting people locally. And then there's the jobs concerning maintenance of the plant - more local work. In the aggregate the juice is almost always worth the squeeze. Do those investing the big money profit disproportionally? Yeah. Well, they're the ones taking the economic risk should the project fail. They should benefit.

    Chinese investment in Laos has benefitted Laos enormously. 20 years ago, when my cousin (who also opened a business in Vientiane that now provides jobs for some 100 Laotians) moved to Vientiane, it was an utter backwater. It's growth has been enormous, and the driver for all that grown and those improvements has been mostly external investment.

    #11 Posted: 21/11/2013 - 03:24

  • gregmccann1

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    I spend a lot of time in Ratanakiri and I don't see how most people are benefitting from this. One man, Try Pheap, has the right to buy ALL timber felled in the province. He himself, one guy, is responsible for 1,145 families being evicted from their lands. Pheap will not be building any schools or paying teachers salaries. Nothing specious about my argument at all. Have a look at this article from yesterday's Cambodia Daily: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/report-calls-out-pheap The man is a criminal and menace to the country and it's amazing that people would try to defend him and others like him.

    In case that link is working here it is again.

    People are hired to work on the construction of the dams? Which people? If it's a Chinese company they bring in all Chinese workers and engineers and even cooks and toilets.

    The idea that these mega projects that devour protected areas and evict people from their lands can somehow benefit the "whole of society" is a purely utopian concept. The reality on the ground is much different.

    #12 Posted: 21/11/2013 - 08:03

  • MADMAC

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    Greg
    You're looking at a microcosm and drawing a macro conclusion from it. Invalid reasoning.

    In the aggregate, are the peope of Cambodia achieving a higher standard of living today than they did 20 years ago? The answer to that is unequivocally yes. Foreign investment is most definitely a net gain for Cambodia. It's just not disputable.

    #13 Posted: 21/11/2013 - 09:52

  • exacto

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    hey greg,

    do you think that top-down style you mentioned is any better or worse for the people of Ratanakiri than it was 20 years ago or 30 years ago? i don't disagree that it is less than ideal, but just because it may suck now doesn't mean it didn't suck even more back then. aren't there consequences of those projects, even if unintended ones, that benefit the average Cambodian, such as improved power or other infrastructure?

    i first visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in 1999. the last time i visited was still way back in 2006, and the improvements over 1999 conditions in roads, power, and standard of living for the average person i met were dramatic. i wish things were more egalitarian in Cambodia (and where i live as well for that matter), but it sounds like the top-down system is the same. the game hasn't changed, just the names of the people who are calling the shots.

    #14 Posted: 21/11/2013 - 11:56

  • gregmccann1

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    Madmac, what on earth are you talking about? The problems of Ratanakiri are not limited to there but are also found in Mondulkiri, Kratie, Stung Treng and many (if not most) other provinces in Cambodia. There is no macro/micro problem with what I said. Are you really unaware that Ratanakiri's problems are not unique to that region and are found all across the country?

    That wiping out forests on an industrial scale and evicting local people from their homes leads to increased poverty and misery is well-documented and beyond dispute. Have a look at this report called Rubber Barons. Really have a look at it -don't just ignore it and call it "irrational".

    #15 Posted: 22/11/2013 - 01:35

  • MADMAC

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    Greg
    Turn the clock back to 1995. Do you think the quality of life for your average Cambodian was better then?

    Now, ask yourself, where did the money come from that improved the quality of life in Cambodia between 1995 and this year? This is really not difficult analysis.

    So whatever negative conclusions you want to draw, and I'll grant you there are some, no reasonable person can conclude that foreign investment in Cambodia has been a net negative.

    You have to take the good with the bad. There's no secret formula to only getting good. And the last time that was tried in Camdodia, you got Pol Pot.

    #16 Posted: 22/11/2013 - 10:50

  • Geer1

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    Both of you are making somewhat valid points. Yes there are issues in Cambodia of people taking advantage of other poor people. But what MadMac is stating and which is true is that as a whole the country is improving, many of its citizens are living much better lives now then they were not that long ago.

    Without foreign investment and tourism Cambodia would be a severely hurting nation right now. Instead they are turning things around and in a short period of time will catch up in many regards to its neighbouring countries of Thailand and Vietnam.

    #17 Posted: 22/11/2013 - 10:55

  • gregmccann1

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    Quality of life can be improved without cutting down all the forests and damming all of the rivers. Deforestation does not translate into the better good of society. And the dams? Have a look at how happy and supportive local people are of the Sesan 2 Dam in Stung Treng. Power will be going to Vietnam and fisheries destroyed: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/answers-demanded-dam-site

    #18 Posted: 23/11/2013 - 05:58

  • gregmccann1

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    I also want to emphasize that I never said that foreign investment was a bad thing. What I am against is predatory, extractive "development" deals that throw out local people, dam rivers, and clear forests. There are other options, such as ecotourism. In fact, the develpment/exploitation schemes currently underway in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri will ruin ecotourism potential in these regions forever. And there is a lot of potential there.

    #19 Posted: 23/11/2013 - 06:05

  • MADMAC

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    Greg
    Don't be naive. Eco tourism doesn't earn ****. It brings in minimal amounts of money. Power generation generates serious revenues.

    Everyone is always against something... dams for example. But they are the same people who are not generating revenues, who are not risking their dollars in making investments, etc.

    Is there predatory investment? Yep. Is the Hun Sen government corrupt and responsible for same? Yep. Lay the blame squarely on the global political left that aided and abetted the psychotic global communist movement. The KR was a product of that movement and the Hun Sen government was a natural follow on to the KR. What do you think - you get an outbreak of Jefforsonian Democracy when regimes like the KR collapse? No - you get **** for decades.

    The Cambodians are extremely lucky to be the position today they are in. It could be a whole lot worse.

    #20 Posted: 23/11/2013 - 08:31

  • neosho

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    The Cambodians are extremely lucky to be the position today they are in. It could be a whole lot worse
    I'm sure the Hun Sen government tells them that too. :)

    #21 Posted: 23/11/2013 - 19:50

  • gregmccann1

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    But let's look at traditional tourism (as opposed to ecotourism, and which one might be more beneficial). Are you so sure, Madmac, that foreign investment in tourism (non-ecotourism) works out better? Siem Reap gets by far and away the most direct foreign investment for 'tourism'. And guess what? Siem Reap is Cambodia's poorest province. That's pathetic.

    Cambodia does NOT know how to manage foreign investment. Cambodia is an example of how to do it wrong.

    #22 Posted: 23/11/2013 - 19:55

  • MADMAC

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    "Cambodia does NOT know how to manage foreign investment. Cambodia is an example of how to do it wrong."

    Hardly the point. The question this thread begged was is Cambodia worse now than it was in the recent past. The answer to that question is things are measurably better now than in the recent past, the and curve is upward.

    I wasn't arguing that Cambodia had good governance that managed foreign invetment well. You don't get good government that manages foreign investment well when your country and intelligentsia are destroyed by communist bastards.

    As I said, given Cambodia's victimization of the communist mess, it's current outcome is as good as possibly could have been hoped for and it is certainly better off with said bad investment than no invertment (which is the practical alternative).

    #23 Posted: 24/11/2013 - 00:25

  • gregmccann1

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    I see your point, Madmac, and I believe you that it is better today than it was in '95. But Cambodia was so bad before that simply saying that it has improved might not really be saying that much.

    Here is a quote from Elizabeth Becker's 2013 book Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism:


    "Tourism bring in $2 billion each year, but it enriches Cambodia's elite rather than helping the underprivileged. Poverty and unemployment is worse around tourist areas, especially Angkor. It is changing the face of Cambodia -not for the better" (p.91)

    It doesn't need to be this way. So much potential for Cambodia and so much of being squandered due to institutionalized corruption, which is why I don't put any faith in the big agro-projects, hydo-projects, or any top-down project in which local people were not consulted and who are basically viewed as obstacles to be brushed aside. If all the trees that were levelled in the Cardamoms and Northeast Cambodia were sold and the profits used to set up national healthcare and schools and pay teachers, few would argue against it.

    #24 Posted: 24/11/2013 - 03:16

  • MADMAC

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    Greg
    It does need to be that way. That's my point. With good governance, you MIGHT get a more equal distribution of investment. But my whole point is good governance in the wake of a national catastrophe that destroyed the intellectual base of any country is not possible. Cambodia is amazingly fortunate that it has Hun Sen and not Robert Mugabe as a post crisis leader.

    The idea that you are going to have a rake dragged over any country and all of it's best and brightest minds are destroyed, and then in 25 years you are going to see decent government is preposterous. People who believe this simply don't understand how the world functions and are being naive in the extreme.

    So I go back to where I was:

    1. Realistically the current level of corruption and quasi despotic governance is the best a country like Cambodia in the post KR period could possibly hope for.
    2. Foreign investment has been a boon for Cambodia, bringing jobs, infrastructure and a superior quality of life. The realistic alternative is for Cambodia to look like Somalia.

    #25 Posted: 24/11/2013 - 05:54

  • exacto

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    Mugabe? How about the Kim Dynasty in North Korea?

    No doubt Cambodia has done remarkably well given it's relatively recent past, and no doubt it could and will do better. You two agree on the issues, but are just looking at it from different perspectives, with MADMAC describing how to cope with the reality on the ground and greg trying to set the standard and chart that course for the better future.

    By the way, greg, I followed the link to your website. Good luck on your planned adventure in 2014. I hope you'll be back to post a link so we can read about how it turns out, what you learn, and maybe even what we can do about the situation. Cheers you guys.

    #26 Posted: 24/11/2013 - 10:07

  • MADMAC

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    I always think it's a mistake for people to fail to recognize what they do have in terms of governance. When people only see things in a negative light, then they delegitimize government. This is how revolutions occur and while we tend to glamorize them, reolutions often lead to the cure being worse than the disease. With a high degree of frequency a lot worse. Americans in particular are vulnerable to this idea and I slam it whenever I see it. If the situation isn't as bad as North Korea, then evolution beats revolution.

    #27 Posted: 24/11/2013 - 19:33

  • exacto

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    at the risk of hi-jacking this thread, but chopin seems to have bugged out long ago...

    MADMAC, on this you and i violently agree, as you've been known to say. look at what a turd the shah was, but what we got in his place was much worse. look at the unstable situation in libya and potentially egypt too. i'm not sure the russian revolution exactly helped the region over the long term either. change, particularly radical change, isn't always for the better.

    still, i can be hopeful for cambodia's future. i remember back in 1999 the mood was cautiously optimistic, and in 2006 it was quite cheerful. given the hole the previous regime dug for the country, they seem to be making remarkable progress.

    #28 Posted: 24/11/2013 - 20:40

  • gregmccann1

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    So, just accept all circumstances, no matter how negative they are, because, well, things could always be worse. Don't try to work for changing things for the better. Just accept all problems as they are. Wow.

    Meanwhile, the social harmony flows in Kampong Thom thanks to that economic godsend, logging: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/defamation-suits-follow-ngo-report

    #29 Posted: 24/11/2013 - 23:34

  • MADMAC

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    "So, just accept all circumstances, no matter how negative they are, because, well, things could always be worse. Don't try to work for changing things for the better. Just accept all problems as they are."

    No, absolutely not. But keep the negative in perspective and cherish what you've got. If you don't value what you have, then you don't nurture it or protect it. This is the problem I have with the disorganized "occupy" movement. It's a bunch of people complaining and letting us all know what they're against (which is seemingly everything). It's easy to say what you're against. It's so much more difficult to say what you're for.

    #30 Posted: 25/11/2013 - 01:57

  • gregmccann1

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    What does the "occupy movement" have to do with what we're discussing. You are way, way off point here.

    And here you prove my point: "If you don't value what you have, then you don't nurture it or protect it."


    How can the people of Cambodia nurture and protect what they have when the bulldozers and soldiers show up because their land was sold behind their backs?

    Honestly, your last post sounds so messed up that I think you should consider deleting it.

    #31 Posted: 25/11/2013 - 09:44

  • MADMAC

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    "How can the people of Cambodia nurture and protect what they have when the bulldozers and soldiers show up because their land was sold behind their backs?"

    I was referencing governance, not property. Ultimately the people of Cambodia have influence over their government through the electoral process, the ability to protest, strike, etc. It is ragged and imperfect, as it always is with immature democracies. They will need a very long time just to get what we have (and we complain incessantly about our governmental imperfections). But again, as you yourself conceded, things are better now than they were in 1995. Assuming they don't blow their system up and revert to failed state status (fortunately pretty unlikely) they will be better still in 2035. But governmental transition takes time and needs to be nurtured. Sorry you don't see the connection to my position on the occupy movement, but there is one.

    #32 Posted: 25/11/2013 - 11:08

  • gregmccann1

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    Sorry, I don't see any connection whatsoever with the Occupy Movement. You are going to need to spell that out clearly, otherwise you're spouting crackpot theories.

    In the meantime, all sorts of problems in Cambodia regarding state-sanctioned land-grabbing:

    http://www.phnompenhpost.com/video/battle-save-valley

    http://english.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/concessions-11212013181838.html

    http://www.cambodiadaily.com/business/mystery-surrounds-ratanakkiris-first-special-economic-zone-35235/

    It seems your utopian dream is just that, Madmac.

    #33 Posted: 25/11/2013 - 22:59

  • MADMAC

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    Jesus Greg, did you really read anything I wrote? Utopian theories? I don't do utopioas. Utopias are not part of the human condition. Where on Gods green earth did you get Uotpian theory from? In fact, I think the very idea of utopias is dangerous.

    Land grabs are a problem in Cambodia. On the other hand so is medical security. Medical care in Cambodia today is uneven and poor, but yesterday? Think about it.

    Food security. In the place where food is abundant the ravages of the KR left food security in doubt.

    Physical security. Cambodian is much safer today than it was 20 years ago. This is statistically demonstrable.

    Again, Cambodia is better today than it was yesterday. It has better governance today than it had 20 years ago and MUCH better than it had 30 years ago.

    As for the connection, you were discussing the inadequacies of Cambodian governance while ignoring the stability it has brought. The occupy movement does exactly the same thing. It discusses the inadequacies of modern western government and banking malfeasance (among many topics - it's largely been hijacked by anyone and everyone with an axe to grind) while ignoring the incredible level of food, physical and medical security. In both cases (you and occupy) you are discussing problems without discussing positives - ignoring positive development. That is always an unhealthy thing to do.

    #34 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 01:15

  • gregmccann1

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    Another very unhealthy thing to do -brush problems under the rug, which seems to be what you want to do. Or, at the very least, make a very short, grudging acknowledgement of the problem, and then go on to support the people and companies who are exploiting the country.

    As I stated earlier -that Cambodia is better than it was isn't saying much. It must have been one of the worst places in the world, and now all we can say is that it is "better than before". That's not saying much.

    You consistently ignore all of the links to very recent news articles that demonstrate just what is going wrong. You brush them aside, and then say that criticizing the CPP is akin to being part of the Occupy Movement. What are you smoking?

    And yes, you are being utopian. Saying that if we just things play out, sell all the forests, dam all the rivers, and uproot the people, that these actions will result in everyone becoming middle class with a car in the driveway or whatever -that's not just romantic. It is utterly utopian.

    #35 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 03:12

  • MADMAC

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    "Another very unhealthy thing to do -brush problems under the rug, which seems to be what you want to do. Or, at the very least, make a very short, grudging acknowledgement of the problem, and then go on to support the people and companies who are exploiting the country."

    Do you think any major corporation or investor is going to invest in Cambodia without the expectation of a decent return on that investment? Of course not. Now, again, I have no problem with people protesting against that which they object to. The essence of free society. But remmember you get to do it because you are in a free society. Cherish that and defend it, or you won't have it.

    "As I stated earlier -that Cambodia is better than it was isn't saying much. It must have been one of the worst places in the world, and now all we can say is that it is "better than before". That's not saying much."

    Actually, it's saying a lot. Because it's a lot better off. When was the least time a baby was impaled on the end of a bayonet in Cambodia? Is this a routine occurence now? Is the Hun Sen government killing Camobdians whole sale? Hmmmm. Not a lot better? Au contraire.

    "You consistently ignore all of the links to very recent news articles that demonstrate just what is going wrong. "

    You consistently ignore what is going right. You don't even acknowledge same. And seemingly you do not understand that when a nation has its intelligentsia destroyed and goes through a massive national tragedy, it takes decades to unscrew that. Somehow you seem to think it's reasonable to expect that Cambodia would be in better shape than it is today. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not reasonable. Had the KR left the intellectual and educated elements intact, it might have been different. But they didn't. No quick fix for that. Another 20 years to unscrew that mess and just get Cambodia to where it was before the war.

    "And yes, you are being utopian. Saying that if we just things play out, sell all the forests, dam all the rivers, and uproot the people, that these actions will result in everyone becoming middle class with a car in the driveway or whatever -that's not just romantic. It is utterly utopian."

    You have a funny definition of utopia. That IS going to play itself out, and there isn't jack **** anyone can do about it. That is the price that was exacted from the global communist bullshit.

    #36 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 07:20

  • gregmccann1

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    I only focus on the negative? Actually, I was the first person to respond to this thread and I stated that Cambodia is a safe place and that I have never experienced any violence, theft, or ever even felt uncomfortable -that's a big postive right there. I've also stated the amazing potential for ecotourism, another positive. I am also a regular visitor to Cambodia, which means I like the place, a lot. So no, I don't sweep aside all the positives. Far from it.

    I spend most of my time in the northeast, which is where much of the large-scale insustainable resource extraction is taking place. I've seen it with my own eyes, year after year. If one is interested in natural history, animist culture, and ecotourism, then what is taking place in the northeast (and elsewhere) is a tragedy. Development up there is a fraudulent concept. And what "positive" things has the government done up there? The schools are crap, healthcare is a joke, and poverty is still very common up there. Where is the shining light that I can point to in the northeast? I don't see it.

    Overall, I'd say you'd make an excellent CPP spokesman.

    If no one else is going to contribute to this discussion and it's just going to be you and I going back and forth endlessly then I really don't see the point of continuing this discussion.

    #37 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 08:57

  • MADMAC

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    Total reviews: 10

    "If one is interested in natural history, animist culture, and ecotourism, then what is taking place in the northeast (and elsewhere) is a tragedy."

    I don't give a **** about any of those things. Now, people being evicted from land they have historically lived on, different ball game. BUT, as I pointed out previously, this is the residual cost of the KR. This is what happens when people destroy decent governance and replace it with attempts at utopian nonsense that you were alluding to.

    "Development up there is a fraudulent concept."

    I wouldn't go that far. Big companies don't invest if they don't think they will get a return. That means for some people who work these projects, there will be benefit. Now you might argue that the benefit for the aggregate doesn't outweigh the social cost, and that may be true. But again, in the larger sense of things, that isn't the point I was making, now was it?

    "The schools are crap"

    But there are schools.

    "healthcare is a joke"

    But there is healthcare.

    "poverty is still very common up there"

    But people do have food and they do have the right to look for work and even emigrate should the opportunity present itself.

    Where you see everything as bad, it's because you seem to have forgotten how bad it was, what caused that, and the systemics that now exist for potentially positive development.

    "Where is the shining light that I can point to in the northeast? I don't see it."

    The world isn't made of shining lights. Life is harsh, brutish and short. Get it? Like I said, coming out of the KR period, this is as good as it gets. If you think there was some more positive realistic alternative, you're kidding yourself.

    "If no one else is going to contribute to this discussion and it's just going to be you and I going back and forth endlessly then I really don't see the point of continuing this discussion."

    Most discussions don't end with great epiphanies.

    #38 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 09:37

  • gregmccann1

    Joined Travelfish
    28th October, 2009
    Location Taiwan
    Posts: 135
    Total reviews: 5

    "Like I said, coming out of the KR period, this is as good as it gets. If you think there was some more positive realistic alternative, you're kidding yourself."
    -I think this is your best point and it really does make me wonder. However, I do wish someone else would weigh in this statement.


    You don't care at all about natural history? Jungles, mountains, tigers -that stuff doesn't resonate with you? Are you sure?


    It's true that there is not much to be hopeful about on the environmental front Cambodia, but Thailand's Western Forest Complex, and in particular the Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, shows that there might be reason for optimism. They had to fight tooth and nail for that place, and Seub Nakhasathien had to blow his brains out in his office in order to spark a student movement to get behind saving the place from destruction in the 1980s, but today HKKWS has the highest concentration of wild tigers in mainland SEA. You might say Thailand and Cambodia are different, and they are, but the pressures on HKKWS were and are mind boggling, and yet it survives because people didn't give up on it.


    The fight for the last wild places of Cambodia's northeast is a losing fight but it's worth fighting.


    You missed one sentence to respond to in your last reply -the one about being a spokesman...nah, forget it. Good enough.

    #39 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 10:07

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    "You don't care at all about natural history? Jungles, mountains, tigers -that stuff doesn't resonate with you? Are you sure?"

    Yeah, I'll be the first to admit I'm a pretty cold hearted bastard in a lot of ways.

    The big difference between Thailand and Cambodia - the right side won the war in Thailand.

    Supposedly we have wild tigers in the forest between Mukdahan and Sakhon Nakhon. It's a decent sized forest, but they'd have to be clever enough to stay inside that area not to get killed. But that's the word around the campfire.

    "The fight for the last wild places of Cambodia's northeast is a losing fight but it's worth fighting. "

    And might be won. Who knows. But the damage the KR did in a short amount of time will resonate for a century. Of that I have no doubt.

    #40 Posted: 26/11/2013 - 10:23

  • daydreamfar-
    mer

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd March, 2013
    Posts: 26

    My 2 cents worth -

    Unless they ensure the seasonal flows through the Mekong and it's tributaries these dams will most likely have a catastrophic effect on Cambodia's lifeblood...the Tonle Sap. I don't know how it's going to go but I think it's going too fast to make those assurances. I'd like to see them take their time and do it right so they don't leave wastelands in the wake of these projects. But then again if wishes were fishes...not likely.

    Yes Cambodia is better off than in '95. It's pretty hard to get worse than that which isn't saying much.

    As far as change goes...it's everywhere.

    #41 Posted: 27/11/2013 - 14:17

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    "As far as change goes...it's everywhere."

    And always haas been. Nothing stays static.

    I'm not too worried about the dams as long as the release of water is controlled and regular. It might be damaging to the fishing industry, but most of the concern is for specific species like the giant Mekong Catfish, which is being bred now domsetically anyway.

    #42 Posted: 27/11/2013 - 23:06

  • phuphum

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd October, 2011
    Posts: 47

    Not since Sayadian wrote a restaurant review which talked only about the bathroom(until he was prodded)have I ever seen views more naive and less informed than those of madmac. Having lived here continuously for two decades I feel that I am in touch with the situation which is frankly, lamentable. There is so much uninformed optimism on his part that I would be hard pressed to know where to start. Comparing the contemporary state of affairs in Cambodia with a bleak moment of past history is like comparing the US current economy with the Great Depression. Thank God the poor people of Cambodia do not follow his attitude of stoic complacency as witnessed by the last election results which the poor and brave rural Cambodians are still contesting. Write about something you really know about MM and leave Cambodia alone except perhaps to offer superficial tourist advice.

    #43 Posted: 29/11/2013 - 00:08

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    Well phuphum, they could have a revolution - the last one worked out so well.

    So are you arguing that the Cambodian quality of life has regressed since 1995? Is that your arguement? Can you demonstrate that with statistics?

    #44 Posted: 29/11/2013 - 02:24

  • phuphum

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd October, 2011
    Posts: 47

    The quality of life has improved for tourists and for corrupt govt. officials and their patrons. It hasn't gotten one iota better for the poor. Again, you talk as if you knew something about Cambodian politics which you don't. There is nothing at all revolutionary about the opposition party. In fact it is ludicrous to talk about a political party with no military power and revolution in the same breath. Furthermore, at the rate Cambodia is being deforested they would have no place to train. You should write speeches for Hun Sen. Say what you will, talking with you is like talking about quantum physics with Cub Scouts. I will respond to no more of your uninformed posts.

    #45 Posted: 29/11/2013 - 03:21

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    In 1995 life expectancy was 56 years. In 2013 it's 63 years.

    Access to clean water has gone from below 45% to above 60%.

    Percentage of the population living under the poverty line have more than halfed.

    There has been increase in medical access availability, wages, etc. etc.

    Is it a paragon of great living? Of course not. But is it MEASURABLY better than it was 20 years ago? Well, without a question. Anyone who says it's not is fooling themselves.

    The only one uninformed here is you.

    I am not in opposition to the "opposition" party. But then, that isn't the point is it? I am not a particular fan of Hun Sen (or any leader who holds office as long as he has) but I see the big picture and how the world works and fully understand that given the possibilities that Cambodia faced immediately post war, the Cambodians were far more likely to see another vicious despot than they were to get Konrad Adenauer. Let's be honest here.

    #46 Posted: 29/11/2013 - 03:54

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
    17th June, 2011
    Posts: 642

    MADMAC
    I would argue that a few stats you have taken from a quick Google search do little to back up whatever point you are trying to make.

    Of course their life expectancy is going to rise after years under the Khmer Rouge when hundreds were butchered on a weekly basis. The poverty line is such an arbitrary term as to mean next to nothing. Oh brilliant, you have $1.75 a day to spend instead of $1.25 but on the other hand your livelihood and native lands are being cleared for faceless development.

    Your last post is lazy in the extreme and does more harm than good to your argument. It certainly does little to counter the arguments of the good people on the ground in Cambodia whose claims of mass corruption and inequality seem far more grounded in reality than your claims.

    #47 Posted: 29/11/2013 - 04:08

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    "I would argue that a few stats you have taken from a quick Google search do little to back up whatever point you are trying to make."

    My point, which I thought was obvious China, is that there has been progress in Cambodia in all measirables. The OP wanted to know if "things were worse" in Cambodia than in the past, and the answer to that is clearly no.

    "Of course their life expectancy is going to rise after years under the Khmer Rouge when hundreds were butchered on a weekly basis."

    I used 95 as a bench mark, some 15 years after the demise of the KR.

    "The poverty line is such an arbitrary term as to mean next to nothing. Oh brilliant, you have $1.75 a day to spend instead of $1.25 but on the other hand your livelihood and native lands are being cleared for faceless development."

    Again, you can argue all you want that the numbers don't reflect whatever degree of hardship you want, and that's well and good, but it doesn't change the fact that the numbers represent improvement in quality of life.

    What we have here is people who come from rich countries where there is more governmental accountability (and these tend to be the same types of people who made excuses and were sympathetic to communist doctrine and individuals like Mao, Pol Pot and Che Guevara until they were obviously exposed as sociopathic) who simply do not want to acknowledge that countries in the wake of massive national tragedies which destroy their infrastructure and intelligentsia don't suddenly turn into paragons of great governance and want to place the blame for that on - you guess it - predatory corporatism. This same arguement that got us Pol Pot and the KR in the first place. Jesus Christ.

    #48 Posted: 29/11/2013 - 06:51

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 382

    Does that mean Batista, Pinochet, Samoza, and others are the good guys?
    This thread reminded me of when my mother would tell me to clean up my plate and eat some nasty assed beef liver because kids in China were starving. While I did learn to appreciate what I had while growing up, I still never aquired a taste for liver.

    #49 Posted: 30/11/2013 - 03:47

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    "Does that mean Batista, Pinochet, Samoza, and others are the good guys?"

    Nope, but it does mean that those regimes and support for them have to be seen in consideration of the era. Would I pick Pinochet over Allende? You bet. Batista was an incompetent thug, but what did the Cubans get to replace him? A competent thug. Hmmm.

    "This thread reminded me of when my mother would tell me to clean up my plate and eat some nasty assed beef liver because kids in China were starving. While I did learn to appreciate what I had while growing up, I still never aquired a taste for liver."

    No, but you were never starving either.

    I have no problem with pointing out failures of modern democracies, as long as those failures are put in perspective. The problem arises (and risen historically) when people don't realize what they have and only highlight the failures and pretend they have bad governance. This is where the potential for real danger arises. Now, to be fair, most of these terrible regimes are coming on the heels of bad government. But they are a warning to us all.

    #50 Posted: 30/11/2013 - 04:04

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 382

    No, but you were never starving either.
    Being forced to swallow something out of necessity does not mean you will learn to like it.
    Batista was an incompetent thug, but what did the Cubans get to replace him? A competent thug. Hmmm.
    Dictators aren't very nice people regardless of their political persuasion.
    Nope, but it does mean that those regimes and support for them have to be seen in consideration of the era
    Try that when you look at the "political left"

    #51 Posted: 30/11/2013 - 20:53

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    I do. I am not always unsympathetic to the left. I am unsympathetic to the "antis". Those people who always see the political glass as half full (or even empty). Those people who talk about revolutions when they've never been near one. Those who want radical change now. These people are naive at best, dangerous at worst.

    #52 Posted: 1/12/2013 - 06:01

  • philcox99

    Joined Travelfish
    30th November, 2013
    Posts: 3

    I was there in November, of course there has been change. this was my 6th visit in five years. Siem Reap is a circus now but no reason not to see the temples. Just stay in the kampong areas, 10 mins walk or $1 in a tuk tuk from the centre. I stayed in the palm court. Huge basic double room, basic but everything worked. $10 a night incl basic breakfast and free tea and coffee all day.
    Kampot is still great and on the verge of change. Would recommend the Paris Hotel. Very central. $15 for a room with 2 double beds and balcony. A real flashpacker experience.

    #53 Posted: 1/12/2013 - 07:18

  • TorontoJay

    Joined Travelfish
    1st August, 2013
    Posts: 3
    Places visited:
    At least 4

    I can't comment on how the article is a comparison between Cambodia of 2010 vs Cambodia of 2013, since I only went to Cambodia for the first time in 2013 October.

    That said... after spending 3 weeks in Thailand (all over), my 3 days in Siem Reap were probably the least enjoyable part of my trip and also the least comfortable. While I loved the Angkor circuit, I disliked most other aspects of S.R. so I doubt I'll return to the country anytime soon. For me, the biggest negative point was how I was treated by the people such as tuktuk/taxi drivers.

    #54 Posted: 2/12/2013 - 22:33

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    Toronto - I haven't been to Siem Reap yet. Perhaps having so many tourists come through has jaded people towards them. Or perhaps not. I really enjoyed my stay in PP and plan to return. I found it interesting and fun and had no problem with the Cambodian people. I like them.

    #55 Posted: 2/12/2013 - 23:32

  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 761

    There is a logical explanation for the sudden bad experience of the person that wrote that blog. As I read he/she visited Cambodia towards the end of November.
    At the end of November the water festival is being held and while there weren't any boat races this year it is still one of the major holidays in Cambodia. It is very common to see a surge or crime and greedy behavior because everyone is trying to make extra money to buy presents for the family.

    Outside these periods most of the people are well behaved towards tourists.

    #56 Posted: 3/12/2013 - 00:04

  • gregmccann1

    Joined Travelfish
    28th October, 2009
    Location Taiwan
    Posts: 135
    Total reviews: 5

    "Toronto - I haven't been to Siem Reap yet. Perhaps having so many tourists come through has jaded people towards them. Or perhaps not. I really enjoyed my stay in PP and plan to return. I found it interesting and fun and had no problem with the Cambodian people. I like them."


    Hold on here, Madmac. I think I need some clarification. Are you saying that youv'e only visited PP and nowhere else, yet you're going to speak as a "voice" for how the whole country is doing? Damn, brotha! Really?

    #57 Posted: 6/12/2013 - 10:57

  • chimera

    Joined Travelfish
    29th November, 2013
    Posts: 5

    Greg when undeniable logic backs him up against the wall he relies on straw man arguments much to the detriment of that which was already deplorable. Note how he equates disagreeing with his opinion as a threat of revolution. Just to get a few facts straight one only refer to local newspapers which can be hardly called radical. So if everything is hokey-dokey in heaven how about this: "ambodia has the dubious distinction of coming in third place in a survey released this week purporting to measure countries’ suffering.In the well-being poll compiled by US research company Gallup, more than a third of Cambodian respondents rated their quality of life as abysmally low, more than in Haiti, Syria and Afghanistan.
    According to telephone and face-to-face interviews with about 1,000 adults per country, the survey found 63 per cent of Cambodian respondents believe they are struggling, 34 per cent say they are suffering, and only four per ce nt qualified themselves as “thriving”. And here is the source:
    http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/one-third-citizens-%E2%80%98suffering%E2%80%99-gallup-poll
    Furthermore he seems to find hope where experts cringe. This is in reference to the dam buiding. Now why exactly he choose the meong giant catfish for an example baffles me. I suppose that is because it is an easily identifiable icon of endangered species, one which is irrelevant to protein needs of the Cambodian people. In fact aquaculture is not the answer at all. I refer to: ""“Aquaculture will not be able to compensate for the resources that will be lost if these dams are built,” said Chheng Phen, director of the administration’s Research and Development Institution, at a forum to discuss the findings held Wednesday at Phnom Penh’s Sunway Hotel.
    “They require land for ponds, capital for construction, and fish-raising technology,” he added, resources which are unlikely to be available to many who rely on fisheries for sustenance." Again unlike madmac's posts this is expert opinion and here again is the source: http://www.cambodiadaily.com/archive/mekong-dams-could-be-threat-to-cambodias-food-security-32202/ Su, are things really better in Cambodia? Well as puphum said, yes for the incredibly wealthy and for tourists who like to visit a country that looks more and more like the one they just left.
    The following would seem to indicate that as far as Cambodians are concerned whatever improvements exist are insufficient and many sins of the past have returned in a more subtle form. "The list of poor governance complaints against the government runs impressively long: the shooting deaths of civilians by police officers at two protests, the continued impunity enjoyed by the trigger-happy former governor of Bavet City, Chhouk Bundith, the hastened destruction of Ratanakkiri’s protected forests by illegal loggers, revelations that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donor aid money was pocketed by officials at the Ministry of Health and, most recently, the European Community’s sanctioning of Cambodia because the government sold the national ship registry to a private company that has issued national flags to foreign ships that have plundered the high seas. And again the source ishttp://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/after-reform-promise-a-return-to-statecraft-as-usual-48602/
    Madmac reminds me of the woman who wanted to marry Mr. Right and she did she married Mr.always F****ing Right. But to so superficially categorize the lives of Cambodian as improved compared with a point lower than the French Occupation is to flaunt ignorance in the face of facts.

    #58 Posted: 7/12/2013 - 01:17

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    "Hold on here, Madmac. I think I need some clarification. Are you saying that youv'e only visited PP and nowhere else, yet you're going to speak as a "voice" for how the whole country is doing? Damn, brotha! Really?"

    I have never been to Zimbabwe, and feel completely comfortable discussing the dynamics of that situation now (in broad terms).

    I never lived in Revolutionary France, yet it's not difficult to understand Jacobin excess or the terror associated with it.

    Some analysis is easy. This is in the easy category.

    Those of you arguing against me don't even take the trouble to support your position (actually Greg, you seem to agree with me but then argue against in general terms anyway).

    So I reiterate (as these concepts are simple):

    1. Coming out of the devastating and psychotic national tragedy that was the KR and left the nation utterly prostrate, the current situation is about as good as anyone who studies history and how societies function could realistically expect it to be. It could easily be much worse.

    2. Statistically speaking the people of Cambodia, in the aggregate, are much better off than they were 20 years ago, or 10 years ago. The numbers don't lie.

    Those who are very critical of current Cambodian governance are, I would wager, of the ilk that are consistently critical of most governance and consistently see the glass as half empty, forgetting what empty really looks like. Why anyone would expect Cambodia governance, at this juncture of it's history, to be somehow more egalitarian or fair is a mystery to me. They are lucky that the successor to Pol Pot didn't turn out to be someone like Robert Mugabe, which could easily have been the case. Hun Sen might not be the spitting image of Nelson Mandela, but men like that are in short supply.

    #59 Posted: 8/12/2013 - 04:08

  • chimera

    Joined Travelfish
    29th November, 2013
    Posts: 5

    "I have never been to Zimbabwe, and feel completely comfortable discussing the dynamics of that situation now" I've no doubt of that! you've already proven yourself capable of blithering on about this ountry-something else you know little about.


    "Those who are very critical of current Cambodian governance are, I would wager, of the ilk that are consistently critical of most governance " Insult is your last argumentative refuge. The "ilk"you talk about consists of millions of disgruntled Cambodians who would love to have good governance.


    No wonder no one bothered to reply to you; You fail to live up to the low intellectual standards you set for yourself and are proud of it.


    #60 Posted: 8/12/2013 - 19:48

  • somtam2000

    admin
    Click here to learn more about somtam2000
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Indonesia
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    At least 113

    Sorry, I've been travelling in crapola internet land, I mean Burma, as I otherwise would have said this about 40 posts earlier, please keep things civil.

    Personal attacks, name calling etc are not welcome on Travelfish.

    Not sure about the rules etc, please give our guidelines a read.


    Thanks in advance.

    #61 Posted: 8/12/2013 - 20:31

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    "The "ilk"you talk about consists of millions of disgruntled Cambodians who would love to have good governance."

    You have to earn it. It doesn't just happen. In the words of de Meistre "Every country has the government it deserves."

    "No wonder no one bothered to reply to you; You fail to live up to the low intellectual standards you set for yourself and are proud of it."

    I cited hard facts and numbers. The reason that people don't respond to them is they are difficult to contravene.

    #62 Posted: 8/12/2013 - 21:34

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    Stuart I thought I was being on my best behavior.

    #63 Posted: 8/12/2013 - 21:35

  • somtam2000

    admin
    Click here to learn more about somtam2000
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Indonesia
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    Total reviews: 24
    Places visited:
    At least 113

    @Madmac I haven't waded through all of it as am following the Bangkok madness at the moment, was just a feeling after seeing recent posts by chimera & it looked to be going a bit sideways -- my post not particularly directed at you (though i may take that back when I find the time for a proper look ;-)

    #64 Posted: 8/12/2013 - 21:40

  • chimera

    Joined Travelfish
    29th November, 2013
    Posts: 5

    For the record, I merely presented the facts that madmac is oblivious to. And again for the record I present my feelings on a forum that I do not express in Cambodia. It is a problem that only Cambodians should solve. This country or what is left of it will become my children's heritage so it is an emotional issue for me, not a sterile academic exercise. I make no apologies, one may either be a disgruntled Socrates or a content pig.

    #65 Posted: 8/12/2013 - 23:48

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6062
    Total reviews: 10

    "For the record, I merely presented the facts that madmac is oblivious to."

    What makes you think I was oblivious to them? There is lots of negative activity, particularly in terms of land grabs, which have received plenty of press coverage. The dam issues rears its head whenever and wherever dams are built. It's not as if I am not considering that. It's on the negative end of the scale. But to make that the basis for an arguement that things are getting worse in Cambodia is specious reasoning, since it disregards the obvious improvements as well.

    "This country or what is left of it will become my children's heritage so it is an emotional issue for me, not a sterile academic exercise."

    Emotion does not make for good reasoning, nor is it an excuse to personally attack someone with a point of view at variance with yours. Not that I care. I don't. You don't know me and are very poorly positioned to make an assessment, so your personally opinion of me has no value to me. Hence I have not responded except more or less in a detached manner.

    "I make no apologies, one may either be a disgruntled Socrates or a content pig."

    The pig lived longer than Socrates did. But must it be a choice between one or the other? An obnoxious, self-righteous jerk or an ignorant drunk? Is there no reasonable middle ground?

    #66 Posted: 9/12/2013 - 00:43

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