As 2015 draws to a close, it is a good moment to take a step back and look at some of the highlights – and lowlights – of the last twelve months on Khmer440, and beyond. It’s been a helluva year one way or another.
January saw some new changes and much of the ‘same same’ bullshit of previous years. After a noisy departure from the website, former strongman Keeping-it-Riel karked it in December 2014, before he had a chance to join hands with everybody and sing Auld Lang Syne. A stubborn man to the end, RIP.
As with every other 12 months in a row, babies were born and lives were lost, with 2015 being the deadliest year to be a foreigner since records began. People did stupid things, with many being held to account for their actions, and grown men squabbled like schoolchildren over trivial things on the internet.
So much did, or didn’t really happen over the course of the year, it’s impossible to condense all the stories and non-stories together Instead, please enjoy a reflective look at the year in review, mostly poached from the local rags, the forum and the Khmer440 Facebook page….
2015 got off to a boom-booming start with a story about a Chinese merchant flogging highly illegal, and morally corrupting blow up sex dolls and rubber Johnsons under the counter. The public could feel safe and secure for the rest of the year knowing that these seductive latex lovelies and assorted bottom tickling apparatus was now in protective police custody. The theme was picked up later in the year, with a rather silly story on Vice, that ‘edgy’ hipster type publication, partly owned by Rupert Murdoch and Disney Corp, about an undercover dildo deal, with a mystery gay biker in Phnom Penh and a bag full of love-aids. In short, it’s illegal, which is why I keep my Black Mamba Delux in a watertight box, buried under the chicken house, like Nazi gold.
The drug story of the month featured a dual Australian-Cambodian granny, Lorn Cheng, who got busted flying back home to Oz with 252 pellets, weighing a respectable smuggling weight of 644 grams of smack in her guts. The non-English speaking immigrant had racked up $10k of gambling debts and was being threatened by a loan shark, a Sydney court interpreter said. The judge said ‘Guilty’ and sent her away to the big house for 8 years.
January’s top Barang behaving badly was Mr Vic Boyle, the proverbial berk in a Merc, who (allegedly) had six too many, got behind the wheel and smashed into a tuk-tuk, before attempting to leave the scene. It wasn’t him, it was later claimed, who was driving, as his Malaysian missus took the rap, despite photographic evidence (above) showing her squarely in the passenger seat. It quickly transpired that Vic was a wanted criminal – from Florida, naturally – just another fugitive hiding out in the Kingdom. The lady was charged by the court after pleading guilty; our Florida absconder had, apparently switched places with her to make the getaway. Both their fates remain unknown, although it’s understood he remains in his job flogging advertising space at Aeon Mall.
February was a quiet month for salacious news and gossip. Whilst every Cambodian took time out for the annual ‘pretend to be Chinese week’, the world rumbled on. The chick-orientated skin flick Fifty Shades of Grey was banned by the powers that be for the morality which must be upheld in Cambodian culture. Two chicks who may have seen that movie, Lindsey and Leslie Adams, got their baps out at Angkor Wat, thus inflaming local sensibilities and earning them a one-way bus trip to the Thai border. This was a popular trend over the year with exposed backpacking backsides causing a furor in this ultra-conservative nation, and across the border too.
Expat dirty laundry was aired on Facebook, with the editors-cum-owners of a once well-read magazine, The Advisor, having a spat over money and artistic privileges. The Advisor proper printed its last pages later in 2015, but a carbon copy, The Weekly appeared straight after, founded by an ex-founder of The Advisor, who then promptly left after one issue. All rather confusing in Hackland. That The Weekly appeared as a carbon copy The Advisor is moot, given it was taken over by the Khmer Times, but more of that later. Despite a promising start, The Weekly didn’t survive long and its last issue appeared just this week.
On Khmer440 posters whined about how hard it was to buy frozen French fries and cranberry juice; there was, it seems a national shortage bordering on crisis level. That sums up how slow February was. To solve these hardships, some folks even went as far as rediscovering the potato, and debates raged over how much potatoes (and pineapples) should cost in local markets. Amazing what some are capable of under pressure.
March had two stars of the month, whom, as the best celebrities of our time are wont to do, divided opinion and caused great debate amongst the expat community. The two opposing camps were either firmly entrenched in the view that Messrs Nick McLernan and Martin Gates, aka Singlet Senior and Singlet Junior were honest tourists, robbed of all their possessions and were forced to camp outside the evil British Embassy, with the heartless staff inside refusing to show a single ounce of humanity….or…. two loser junkie scumbags who had blown an inheritance on smack, ice and whores and were looking for a free ticket home. Both sides generally agreed that they were both not the sharpest tools in the shed as they argued back and forth between compassion and the death penalty.
So great was the debate, a great schism occurred, the likes of which has not been seen since Byzantium and Rome decided to part ways, with some posters flouncing from these pages and joining the Sihanoukville-based Khmer440 tribute site in disgust at the lack of sympathy from some 440 members.
In the end Singlet Junior managed to return safely home to the UK. Singlet Senior remains MIA, however, with unsubstantiated sightings still being reported as recently as this month, like the Lord Lucan of the internet generation. The photograph published by the Khmer Times, which was dropped almost as soon as it was published along with the original tale of woe after being called out as bullshit, is worthy of a Pulitzer. The pain, the anguish, the paint splattered vests……
April saw in the last new year of the year, which was celebrated by locals in the traditional manner of visiting the pagoda, eating chicken, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, throwing water and being involved in a fatal traffic incident. In that order.
One foreigner who wasn’t celebrating was DJ SkillZ, a 28 year old Brit, lifted in Sihanoukville for dealing out meth-amphetamine and wacky baccy. Not only was Mr Robert Skilling formally charged with distributing illegal narcotics, he was also deemed, by the expat kangaroo court, of being in possession of a very bad hair cut and girly tattoos and, for a time, a frontrunner in Khmer440’s expat arrestee catwalk competition.
Cambodia’s longest bridge was opened in April, connecting Kandal to Prey Veng provinces, and more importantly Phnom Penh with HCMC. The Neak Loueng crossing spans the Mekong for 2.2km and cost $118 million, personally begged up by His Excellency, who turned up in Japan, replete with begging bowl back in 2007. This being Cambodia, the entire country filled up their vehicles with family and went on a new year rubbernecking trip to witness this miracle of modern civil engineering. The sheer volume of vehicles and poor driving ability of the populace created mass traffic chaos and a journey time far longer than the old ferry crossing.
The merry month of May welcomed Disney pop princess Demi Lovato to Koh Pich for a Smart Telecoms sponsored music extravaganza. The concert was, by all accounts, well organized and a great time was had by all.
A controversial refugees-for-cash deal between Australia and Cambodia was firmly set in motion with both governments confirming that 3 Iranians and an ethnic Rohingya were holed up at Darwin airport ready to board a flight to Phnom Penh. With the ‘aid’ price being set at almost $40 million and each ‘fugee being given $15,000 a year to live, what could go wrong? The 4 arrived in early June and by December the Rohingya had had enough and asked to go back to the Burmese dictatorship and face the oppression rather than risk Phnom Penh traffic any longer.
A homegrown starlet came in for some unwanted attention throughout the year, with May being the first time most foreigners had heard of Sasa. The lovely Ms Sasa, crashed her lovely Porsche into some not-so-lovely Frenchies and was filmed trying to negotiate her way out of the situation. More on her later…
May 2015, expats and locals alike agreed, was hot, to quote Roosevelt E. Roosevelt it was:
“Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking. Fool, it’s hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It’s damn hot! I saw – It’s so damn hot, I saw the little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It’s that hot! Don’t you know what I’m talking about?”
If the Singlets won the most heart breaking photo of the year competition, then the prize for the most gruesome set of shots was won in June, with the discovery of a putrefied corpse belonging to Finnish national Timo Jokinen, at his guest house on St 172. The bodily fluids running down the stairs would give David Cronenburg nightmares. The cause of death was anything from a Hell’s Angels razor slash attack to self-hanging, depending on who was talking at the time. The official verdict was ‘Errr, suicide, next!’ The building in question quickly re-opened as Sony Side Up, after the new and current proprietor expunged any malingering spirits through the power of Chanting Monk.
Paedos were in the news (again) this month, both officially and allegedly (until formal sentencing). Australian former teacher at American Pacific School, George Moussallie was handed a 5 year stretch for abusing and photographing riverside street boys. The court also required the prisoner to be deported from Cambodia afterwards, where he could face further charges in his home country.
On the 16th of June, 2 Europeans were nicked in separate incidences. The first, a French national, Bernard Soudeller, was arrested in Kandal province, accused of abusing 13 young boys from the area. Later the same day a German Udo Symon and/or Sabiniewicz, owner of a cartoon dubbing company FX Animations, and a budding sci-fi author was taken in for questioning in the capital on similar charges. Bizarrely, Udo has access to the internet from his Prey Sar prison cell and has been updating his own K440 front page story with tales of this particular miscarriage of justice.
Later in the year, on the run British paedo Paul Prestidge was arrested living in Phnom Penh and promptly deported back to the UK, where he was sentenced to eighteen months prison earlier this month. While living in Phnom Penh he worked as a teacher at Hope International using a different name, raising (as yet unanswered questions) about the vetting practices at some English schools in Cambodia.
The lovely Ms Sasa was back in the headlines in July, this time for having her face smashed in by a seriously rich property magnate, Mr Sok Bun. A video of the violent assault was leaked over the internet and later Cambodian TV. The uproar surrounding the assault, and Mr Sok’s bodyguard waiving his gun around led the victim to get to Bangkok for treatment and the perp to leg it to Singapore. Offers of money were refused and Sok Bun eventually came back to face the music. It’s believed he was transferred from prison to a hospital suite, because of the poor mite’s ‘blood pressure’. The criminal case continues.
As El Nino did its best to ensure much needed rain was nowhere to be had, a strange windstorm hit Phnom Penh, blowing over tuk-tuks, trees and shacks with powerful gusts. Later that day, local media reported, it rained.
Cambodian politics also saw a whirlwind in July, with 11 opposition handed hefty jail terms, related to a 2014 demonstration which left 6 people dead. After his loyal party comrades were done for ‘insurrection’ CNRP boss Sam Rainsy did his usual trick of remembering he had something very important to do, in France and GTFO. This came shortly after pitched battles had been reported along the Khmer-Viet border, mostly perpetrated by CNRP supporters. The issue became so tense His Excellency asked Ban Ki-Moon if he wouldn’t mind lending him some UN maps from the 1960’s to resolve the matter fair and square.
The controversial LANGO law was signed off by The King in August. The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations is either a way of controlling unaccountable NGO racketeering in the country, or a suppression freedom of speech and curtailment of human rights, depending on which side of the fence one is standing, sitting or napping.
The lovely Ms Sasa, back from her hospital bed in Bangkok decided to crash her lovely Porsche again, this time into an ice truck in Battambang, and this time causing more damage than the incident with a brace of frogs, but not as much as Sok Bun did to her face.
Foreigner arrestee of the month award went to a harmless old man, picked up off the mean streets of Sihanouk(shits)ville for the crime of being a bit odd and wearing a strange hat. After a stern talking to about the morality of such improper headgear, the aging hippy was released, unharmed back onto the streets of Russian mafia wars, Australian biker gangs, armed meth-amphetamine dealers, pimps, prozzies, prostitute murderers on the lam from Thailand, and assorted other people who choose to live in Sihanoukville.
The thread of the year award seems to go to Gregory Michael Blake (PhD), who by chance had his name written on a whiteboard behind a pair of motorbike jaos. Out of the woodwork came a stream of jilted lovers, scammed victims, drug dealers, human traffickers, former school friends and a web of deceit, made even more ludicrous by the rambling posts of ‘Dr’ Blake himself. Only in Cambodia.
The rains came in September, and what should have been good news for drought hit rice farmers became bad news indeed for many in Kampot province, when the operators of a Chinese built dam decided that there was too much water behind the wall and let it go, with scant warning, washing away villages downstream. This happening in a drought ‘El Nino’ year leaves predictions for the professional management of such sites in a wet ‘La Nina’ year looking less than optimistic.
Crippled Kraut beggar man Benjamin Holst finally turned up in the Kingdom, as predicted by some, in September. The man with the industrial doner kebab for a leg has a great passion for South East Asian women, it seems, and has done a respectable backpackers circuit around the region, getting a bit of sympathy coinage along the way to spend on ladies of ill repute. Although returned to the Fatherland, he has managed to make his way back again recently, being spotted around St 51 early in December, proving he’s desperate to get his elephant leg over once more. And in a timely interjection, Benjamin’s Facebook page today (31 December) reveals that he is being held in the Immigration Detention Centre for the New Year, from where he is doing what he does best: beg for money.
October’s news brought confirmation of that any foreigner who actually reads it has ‘mental problems’, with the appointment of a favourite son Hun Manith as director of Cambodian military intelligence. “It is not…” a CPP spokesman announced on 34 year old Mr Hun bagging the gig “…cronyism, because they fit the criteria and have the knowledge.” Which basically proves the old saying “It ain’t what you know….”
The political pantomime stepped up a gear when an angry ‘mob’ beat up 2 opposition lawmakers right outside the National assembly building. The focus then turned to CNRP second-in-command, Kem Sokha, when another group turned up outside his house and pelted it with rocks. The local law enforcement decided to let it play out. A few days later, Mr Khem was ousted from his job as Assembly Vice-President, a fate soon to come to Sam Rainsy, when in November an arrest warrant was issued over a defamation case which has been a thorn in his side for many years. Although Mr Sam was away in South Korea, he vowed to return back to Cambodia immediately to save his country, before chickening out and flying back to France, where he is a citizen. And so the show goes on….
November was a better month for lady army captain Ms Ke Leng, who was promoted to the rank of major, given $30k from the coffers of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, and another $10,000 from the pocket of the PM for winning a game of French bowls, known as petanque to the garlic munchers. Another world championship winning round of throwing balls at a smaller ball will see her become a lieutenant colonel in the RCAF. This is obviously an entirely legitimate and sensible way to spend the education budget and run the armed services of a nation. Anybody who disagrees must have mental problems.
November was the month to see and be seen, when a young eagle eyed intern from a tribute website spotted K440 Admin Scobienz on not just one, but – wait for it – TWO consecutive days. The entire internet became abuzz with further sightings. Such was the excitement with his new found fame, the ruddy faced chav was forced to wear a large hat and glasses, a ruse which which promptly backfired when he was mistaken for No Joke Howard.
The ‘I saw Scobienz hashtag’ has had more hits than Gangnam Style, and commemorative t-shirts, tea towels and souvenir mugs are on sale in Russian Market. Sihanoukville residents did their best to get in on the action by staring into the bottom of empty beer mugs and, taking time from mumbling to their own fingers, staring at the dirt beneath their nails in an attempt to get a magical, Christ-like glimpse, of the much discussed Scobienz.
Arrestee of the penultimate month was the oldest meth dealer in town, 67 year old American, Michael Ryan, who had his collar felt in the vicinity of that den of iniquity, Golden Sorya Mall. In his pensioner possession, Mr Ryan was found to have: 2 bags of crystal meth amphetamine, 1 set of digital scales, along with the princely sum of $4 in cash and 1000 Riel. The silly old sod will probably languish in Prey Sar clink until his final days, unless the unsubstantiated rumours of him being a semi-major player in that game are correct, and he quietly buys his way out.
The audacious crime of the month has to be a hungry beef thief, who spotted a cow and made off with a big old rump steak, hacked off the animal when it was still alive. The robber is still at large. 1980’s advertising icon The Hamburglar has gone into hiding.
Or was it the audacious theft of several / many / dozens of articles written by Malaysian journalists, Filipino students, Jesuit priests and Kenyan PHd researchers by Khmer Times publisher T. Mohan, who picked them up, dusted them down and promptly published them as his own original work in his own publication in a stunning display of contempt for his readers? Or, perhaps, was it the farcical array of ‘letters to the editor’ which appeared in Khmer Times at the same time – many clearly also fabricated and / or plagiarized – by presumably the same gentleman? Either way, there was little chance of such skullduggery getting past Khmer440’s indefatigable gavinmac, who exposed the debacle with relish and wit, much to the delight of Phnom Penh’s chattering class who giggled feverishly on Twitter at Khmer Times’ discomfort, while all the time denying they ever read Khmer440 – everyone’s guilty secret – themselves. A Khmer Times investigation is under way. We can’t wait.
So all in all a fun year. Let’s hope 2016 brings more of the same. Happy New Year!