Friday, August 27, 2010

Oh, Cambodge

The week is over, and I'm sitting in a dark corner of a cafe, thankful for good music and banana-coconut creme shakes. It is pretty quiet, and the only thing I hear, besides my tapping fingertips on the keys of my laptop and an Arcade Fire album playing in the background, is the drone of the fan, as it staves off the heat of the day.

What is it with the pace of life lately? On Monday, which I foolishly thought would be oh so quiet, so quiet that, as I waited in a meeting with the Boeung Kak Lake community, I pulled out my laptop and decided to peruse pictures from Sihanouk Ville for a few minutes. As the community members trickled in, I let my wander, to the next pair of shoes I would make, to the location of my missing third care package, to my lunch plans, when, all of a sudden, we were informed that the community would not be allowed to meet to discuss their strategy regarding the World Bank project and the issue of adequate housing conditions. Government authorities arrived, doors shut, and the crowd dispersed outside, angered, emboldened, and frightened.

The crowd of several hundred marched to another meeting destination. There, doors shut as well.

Searching for some place to meet and discuss, the crowd changed direction, walking toward the lake (quite a trek in the heat), before they were stopped by government officials again. Nowhere to go.

Before I knew it, I stood in the midst of an impromptu stand-off that lasted for hours in the main arterial next to Independence Monument (how painfully ironic), in the space between the community (represented that morning by many, many elderly pissed off Khmer women, I might add), and the police, military, and a SWAT task force waiting in the near distance, slowly swelling in numbers.

Freedom of peaceful assembly? Not in Phnom Pehn on that Monday morning.

You can read more about this here, or here.


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