Trouble at TEDXPPJune 10, 2012
I assume there must be someone in Phnom Penh who hasn’t yet heard the troubled rumors emanating from yesterdays TEDXPP conference,
In fact, for some time before conference a petty online spat between John Weeks (who had been prominent in previous conferences) and the current organizers had hung over proceeding like a small dark cloud. Weeks, for some reason (to spend more time with his awkward doodles?), had sulkily declined to participate in this years events and had then pettily used his twitter account to snipe away from the sidelines in a manner that could not be deemed helpful.
And then yesterday, on the afternoon of the conference, a largish power cut had stymied the later sessions, leading to much paranoid muttering about sabotage. In fact, large parts of town were without power in a typical Phnom Penh weekend afternoon outage that lasted from 3pm -5.45pm as these things occasionally do.
Finally, we now discover that the organizers – and at the very last minute – had cancelled a finale talk which would have covered such delicate but vital matters as the Chut Vuthy slaying and whose speakers would have included the Venerable Noun Sovath and Chut Vutty’s son and would have also included work from the photographer John Vink whose powerful images have done so much to document injustice here over the past few years.
So clearly, a few questions need asking. Firstly, one might wonder why the organizers hadn’t booked a conference space that had a back up power supply. Many venues, particularly private educational establishments, automatically flip to generator power the moment an outage takes place. One might think that this contingency would be essential at a well publicized conference with hundreds of participants.
Finally, in a terrible year for freedom, social justice and the right to peaceful dissent in Cambodia, one hopes the organizers will come to realize the absolute calamity of their knee jerk decision to silence the voices of change many people had come to see.
This was a grave misjudgment and a mistake I feel will greatly tarnish TEDxPP and could leave conference with the reputation of being fey, equivocating, wan and easily nobbled by the forces of darkness.