A few things have come to my attention recently. First of all, it has been noted that many readers of these bi-monthly or so ramblings are not altogether familiar with use of the vernacular in the English language, and have little idea of cricket, bad weather and the monarchy. Even Australians have half an idea of 2 of these things.
Another point that no one can begin to miss is that there’s been some serious shit going down recently in the capital: demos, riots shootings and razor wire barricades along St 51. Although by in large it is fairly quiet up in this neck of the swamps, Uncle Sam (the Rainsy, not the white bearded pointer in the top hat) was up here recently, obviously recruiting sandles on the ground for his planned protests in Phnom Penh. His blocking off Road 5, the main artery from PP to Battambang was little more than a noisy nuisance, causing me and many more to be late for work.
The excitement of a few thousand folk congregating around the delightfully racist statue of Ta Dambang was something different to the usual crowds of Lexus driving, incense lighting, idol worshippers and the herd of semi-feral goats which often cause early morning traffic congestion.
Protests have lead to security levels rising nationwide – not quite to Defcom One – this isBattambore, Cambodia, but there are visible reactions from those at the top, even up away from the trouble; namely more police and army loitering around the on street corners, ignoring traffic violations and carrying a not-to-be-sniffed-at array of automatic weapons.
Americans, so I’m told by the endless drivel pumped out on Discovery and Nat Geo, love firearms – something to do with the threat of the redcoats coming to prise their liberty from cold, dead hands, or something along those lines. It’s written in the rule book, along with the crossed out bits about slavery and the right to eat to obesity and spell words wrong. Sorry, my Yanqui chums, I know you’re not all like that, but that’s what cultural imperialism and bad TV gets you – a bad rep.
So, what would a red, white and blue blooded American patriot do, in this post-election Cambodia situation? Some would fly the stars and stripes, then go to church and pray. Others would nip down to Wendy’s for some comfort eating, and a few diehards would pop into Walmart, load up the Chevvy with enough weaponry to fund an insurrection in a South American banana republic, before heading off to Redneck Ridge, Shitcreek, Idaho or Hicksville, Alabambato yo fish, hunt and wait it out until The Maaaan comes a-looking.
The lack of disposable income available the average Khmer, and the disappointing range of self-loading rifles and .44 hand cannon on the shelves at Lucky Sorya Mall, means that doomsday prepping is a luxury afforded only to the rich, connected-to-the-governmentand those with access to war era arms caches.
It’s often said that Cambodians have a somewhat unfair reputation for being not the most industrious of nationalities, especially when compared with their more work ethically charged neighbours and near neighbours. A couple of young lads in my ‘hood, however surprised the hell out of me, by utilizing creativity, craftsmanship, engineering ingenuity and a bit of good old fashioned outside-of-the-box thinking.
For a while the boy next door has been harping on about getting some air-guns, which can be fashioned in different styles, AK-47s, M-16s and so forth. I envisioned the old .22 air rifle type of my youth – the closest a British schoolboy could be to a gun totin’ badass, when me and a friend would take up position to recreate Tom Berenger’s role in Sniper (with common garden birds in the crosshairs instead of communist rebels and cocaine lords). One shot. One kill. No exceptions.Sometimes we’d listen to Tupac for a real ghetto feel.
The neighbor seemed confident that his weaponry would be a bit more heavy duty. It would, he told me, with much enthusiasm, use air and be powerful enough, he insisted with a grin, to kill a dog, easy. How much? Not much, around $10 or so. Bargain! Put me down for one.
Days turned into weeks and I forgot all about Heath Robinson-style killing machines, instead turning my attention to work, drinking, that bloody election and writing nonsense on the internet.
Rolling back to Rancho El Pedro the other afternoon, I was surprised to find the two boys from next door in my garden gibbering like a pair of excited apes. After so long in planning, they’d finally got the cash and motivation together to deliver on their promise and build the device. Like so many instruments of evil it was a beauty to behold – sure a bit cobbled together, but done with care and, yuh know, love.
I’m not quite foolhardy enough to give the exact details on how to make one; the blueprints are out there in cyberspace, many much more impressive than this ode to simplicity. But, I’ll let you know it has a lump of wood carved into a stock, a long metal tube, a compressor off an old scrap moto, a bicycle pump and a few clips. Add to this mix a box of shiny ball bearings and it’s sharpshooter o’clock.
It takes 20 hard pumps with the hand most often associated with hard pumping to get enough oomph into the device – more of a musket than an AK-47. Similar to a musket, the ball bearing must be loaded down the barrel, then a click of the ‘trigger’ and the air is released, shooting the BB out at about a million miles per hour with surprising accuracy.
Various targets were eviscerated: unopened cans of Beer Lao, empty green glass Bruntys Premium cider bottles, old plastic kitchenware, cardboard cut outs of the CPP ‘three wise monkeys’ and a life size Sam Rainsy effigy, sculptured from paper mache and the tears of local art students.(OK, I’m embellishing the facts a little- broken glass is a blight on the environment and shockingly irresponsible).
I didn’t shoot any dogs, but the high velocity over a longish distance (about 20 metres), suggested that, should a mutt ever be in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’d be on a one way ticket to the Vietnamese restaurant. (Incidentally my unhinged Australian friend squashed his dog with his car recently and the mother-in-law scooped it up and sold it to a neighbor for 5000 Khmer Riel, so there’s a market there).
The party came to an abrupt halt when one of the lads accidently shot through my main water pipe and the BB left an entry and exit wound causing a geyser to erupt. Not bad from 15m away, with a cross wind.
I suppose, in conclusion I am advising two things. First, credit where it’s due to the skills of the lads who built this lethal toy. Too many better educated know-it-alls from the west will criticize Cambodians for lack of grey matter and ingenuity; I think that these pair, at least, will go far, and God help us if they should ever get their fingers on a 3d printer.
The other point to note is, should a situation arise where an angry mob turns up with pitchforks, or the Viet Minh decide to get the band back together for a comeback tour, one of these homemade devices won’t save you, but will give the satisfaction that, before being strung up by your gonads, you managed to take a few of the buggers out. Remember to camouflage well and choose you position carefully. One shot. One kill. No exceptions.
I ain’t telling ya’ll to do this, but ya’ll gotta be prepared for when that shit goes down and hits that there fan. And safety first! Guns don’t kill people……….