The Fairytale Complex: 419s in Cambodia

As the western target market has become more aware, with only the really, really stupid and old folk with Alzheimer’s responding to African princes, new markets and opportunities are emerging where uneducated folk are given access to the internet without a crash course on who roams cyberspace looking to make a fraudulent buck or three. Word is slowly getting out, thanks to community phone in programmes on ABC Radio, but when I get asked whether a 6 headed naga caught in Kampong Cham going viral on Facebook is real, or if the Zika virus had been really been sprayed over Phnom Penh by Vietnamese agents, then it’s pretty safe to bet that safe internet safety steps are still in their infancy in Cambodia.

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Cambodia’s national symbols

The flora and fauna of Cambodia has suffered a fair bit over the past few decades. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Pol Pot and his cronies fled to sanctuary in the vast swathes of forested mountains in the north and west and used the cover to…

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The Mekong Mutilator, part deux

Me and Strange Dave got bored one day in Battambang, bought a telescopic rod and some tackle, a bag of mealworms as bait and got permission to fish in a small pond where huge fish could be seen basking on the surface. After hours of chain smoking and drinking warm cans we had nada, not even a nibble, when along came the Khmer crocodile lady and scooped up a respectably dinner sized specimen with her hands. With her fucking hands!

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The Executioners

Here is the big question: how and why did a Buddhist nation produce one of the 20th century’s worst genocides, and one which is marked by so many horrific instances of cruelty and savage violence? A whole chapter in my book Spirit Worlds is devoted to this and for my…

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Khmer don’t need no education

Last year almost 75% of grade 12 students across the country failed their final exams after an anti-corruption drive, which was deemed rather unsporting, as every other grade 12 student in previous years had lied, bribed and cheated in order to pass with flying colours. Somebody must take the blame, and as usual shit always rolls downhill, from the MoEYaS, to the provincial education offices, to the school directors, to the teachers and perhaps the students themselves.

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Twilight of the haunted headwaters of Virachey National Park?

As we followed along we came upon a strange tree carving. It was a sketch of a primitive-looking man knifed into the bark of tree. It gave me a strange feeling, and my old Brao friend Kam-la was disturbed by it. “He says it is a sign of the spirits of Haling-Halang,” Sou translated. Kam-la looked down and muttered a few more words while looking nervously at his feet. “And he says it might also be a sign of the Tek-Tek.” Kam-la was scared.

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An interview with a spirit

There are many kinds of spirit in Cambodia. One of the most important is the boramey, a powerful and benevolent supernatural being who works to help humans in this world through a human representative. The representative is possessed by the boramey and becomes the boramey for the duration of the possession. An academic who has studied spirit-possession says there are over ten thousand boramey in Cambodia, all of them named and identifiable.

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Pheng’s escape: A Khmer Rouge ghost story

When we come to the place there are twenty of us, they have our names. The chief of the Pol Pot talks to us, he says the Organisation will provide us each a white suit today. I know this means a cloth for the dead. They start to call us in to the room, one at a time. They don’t want anyone to see, they not want anyone to know. They kill with the ax and the knife.

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