Jeremy Corbyn says he is going to betray “the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them,”

27/06/2016

I normally try to avoid posts on politics, especially Labour politics, since my views lost in the Labour leadership election then in the referendum about Europe. I am clearly on the wrong side, the others won so shut up.

However, you knew that would be coming didn’t you? The headline has given away that I am going to write something about the Leader of the Labour Party, that I did not support last year.

OK, so what great political insight have I come up with that requires a breaking of my self-ordained silence on the matter? Nothing. This is not a political post but a logical one. If you ask me to be more precise, a symbolic logic one. A search for how we can decide if a statement is true or not.

Symbolic logic tries, this is my own description from what I understood studying it so I know I may be wildly off course, to represent the logic of sentences with symbols so it is easier to understand the logical meaning and consequences of what we say, are they true or not.

The beginning of my study was “and statements” and “or statements.” Sentences with and in and/or ones with or in. How do we decide if they are true?

Basically, for statements involving “and” both parts of the statement had to be true for the statement to be true. Whereas, statements involving “or”, only one half of the statement had to be true for the statement to to be true. Symbolically it works out like this, I thank Hotmath.com for the following table:

Symbolic Logic

Conjunction (AND statements)

A conjunction is a compound statement formed by combining two statements using the word and. In symbolic logic, the conjunction of p and q is written pq.

A conjunction is true only if both the statements in it are true. The following truth table gives the truth value of p∧ depending on the truth values of p and q .

p          q         pq

T          T           T

T          F           F

F           T             F

F           F              F

So, for example, if we say “He likes oranges and lemons.” Then, if he likes lemons and oranges it is true, but if he likes lemons but not oranges then any statement saying he likes oranges and lemons or vice versa, will not be true as he does not like both of them. If he does not like both of them then any statement saying he likes both of them will not be true either.

Disjunction(OR statements)

A disjunction is a compound statement formed by combining two statements using the word or. In symbolic logic, the disjunction of p or q is written pq.

A disjunction is true if either one or both of the statements in it is true. The following truth table gives the truth value of pqp∨q depending on the truth values of pp and qq.

p           q             q

F            F                F

T             F                T

F             T                 T

T            T                T

So, if the statement is “He likes oranges or lemons.” will be true so long as he likes both of them, oranges, or lemons, but not if he hates them both.

Thus, using symbolic logic we can see that Jeremy Corbyn’s statement “I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me – or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them,” logically means, he could betray the trust of those who voted for him, or the supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them. It is an “Or statement” so he could be seeking to betray anyone.

However, if both statements are true the whole statement is true. But, if that was the case, why not use an “and statement” to make sure the logic is clear and doubly locked in? I can only assume that by not using an “and statement” and by choosing an “or statement” Jeremy, or the people who speak for him, unwittingly highlighted a truth about him, that he, and/or they, know that he will betray the trust of one of them. He cannot keep the faith with both.

Is it “those who voted for me” or “the millions of supporters who need Labour to represent them?” Who does he think his continued leadership betrays?

The headline is my answer to that question.

I love the taste of Kampot pepper in the evening

23/06/2016

Saturday has been a day of work for me since starting this job last September, unless part of a general series of holidays. However Saturday 18th June was the sole public holiday as the King’s mother’s birthday. Thank you King for having a mother. Thank you mother for giving birth to the King. So, no work, and, as soon as I found out, a couple of days in Kampot organised.

The resumption of the train meant I could travel down by the train so 7:00 am saw me sat in my seat waiting to leave. A little later, as a result of connecting to the wagon carrying the cars down with us and one small boy was certainly excited to see us pass his father’s car, we set off.

A couple of hours after clearing Phnom Penh, having been offered nice fresh bread by the couple opposite which helped get me through, and picking up speed, we then came to Takeo and a stop. Nice as the couple opposite had been, the leg room in the blue train had not been so great, so it was good to get up and get away from them for a bit, after feeling cooped up. As before the station was lined with people selling all sorts of food and everyone got off for a 20 minute stop.

Arrived in Kampot in time for lunch and where else but the fish market, with great views out across the river to Bokor Mountain, as well as a cool breeze through the structure designed to make the most of it, the like of the breeze had not been experienced in Phnom Penh, and good food.

P1160251

After a brief siesta it was off to catch a boat. Whilst waiting for it to sail a couple of friends, who I take part in a weekly quiz with ran past, I knew they were in town with the Phnom Penh Hash House Harriers, but what a small world eh?

The cruise had been sold as a chance to see the sunset over Bokor Mountain so I looked to capture that, together with the scenery many people have become familiar with from photos of the region and then films, particularly Vietnam War films. The other thing after the boat set off was a parade of Cham fishermen off to work. The first picture captures the two with the fisherman off to work in front of the mountain:

For me that palm tree with the the different segments in a circle is just so iconic of the area.

Whilst pictures to the left, taken into the setting sun created the two like the ones above, taken to the right the dying light of the sun left enough to get pictures with the reflections of trees and buildings in the river and, against my expectations, of a flower that there had been lots of, floating down the river.

Well, finally a couple of pictures of a sunset, but no Bokor Mountain. A prize for someone who can say what extra there is in the big picture on the left. The second picture on the right (clockwise) is taken from the boat looking out and was when, after R & B and Khmer and K pop, Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones came on. All of a sudden it felt like being on a boat travelling down the Mekong, up the Mekong or elsewhere in a Vietnam War film and I was just waiting for the whir of the helicopter blades and the opening up of the gunfire from the banks. Fortunately nether of those happened. The ultimate picture shows a reflection from a building under a pretty full moon. I left the boat and passed the fish market where the Hash House Harriers were esconced and loud singing could be heard on my way to get food and a drink.

Dinner was at the Bokor Mountain Lodge, below left, where they do a fantastic Red Snapper cooked with ginger and Kampot pepper. They also have a flag from Manchester City winning the FA Cup in 2011, the first trophy since the 1976 League Cup victory which saw us back to winning trophies, and I was told one of the partners in running the place is a City fan, so, if I go back to Kampot, that is where I would have to stay. It is always a must to eat it there when in the ‘pot’. Talking of which, afterwards I went to another must visit place, Oh Neils, where I ran into a large number of the Hash House Harriers at the end of a day running and drinking ,which started not long after they left Phnom Penh at 7:00 too. (Picture of Oh Neils was taken the morning after, it is usually very much more welcoming.)

I read the news today oh boy, an MP killed just doing their job.

16/06/2016

Shocked, just totally shocked that an MP, going about her job has been killed in the UK. I’m not totally surprised. The febrile atmosphere from the media over the last few years about how ‘they’re all in it for themselves’. The hapless MPs who took the piss of the expenses regime. Both have worked together to give the impression that MPs are not people’s representatives but fair game for hate and bile.

OK. Hands up. I was married to an MP and I worked for the same MP. So, I might have a biased view. But anyway, here it goes.

Most people who go into politics do so because they want to make the place they live better. Some get the chance to do so. Some get the chance to move on and have the chance to make the place they live, or come to represent and then live, better. Being an MP is a thankless task. I know, I saw it from the inside. I had to fight to get my wife to take one Sunday a month off and go to the cinema or do something else human. Reading happened on holiday. Otherwise it was politics at work and home 24/7. Hey I’m not complaining, it was a great life. However, go shopping and you have people looking at you, what do you have in your shopping bag? A bottle of wine, oh must be a drunkard! Go to the cinema, oh you’re neglecting your work. Do we want robots or humans as our representatives?

That’s one of the first problems. Consult the supposed expert upon our constitution and the answer is the MPs are representatives. Not delegates. They are sent to Westminster to listen to the arguments and make an informed decision. Not to do what you want. Not to do what you thought they went there to do. They are not delegates. Representatives. Lots of times working for an MP I heard or read people say, I want the MP to do this, they are my representative, therefore they must do this. No.

But enough of getting things off my chest. The main point about this post was that, despite the cynicism about MPs, fed massively by the media, most are good, hard-working people who have only their constituents interests at heart. I say this of Tory MPs of my acquaintance just as much as Labour ones.

After the Cheltenham MP, Nigel Jones, was attacked by a constituent in his surgery, and his member of staff lost their life protecting him, a review was undertaken of the security of offices of MPs and their surgeries. The MP I worked for did not encourage people to come to our office and we were on the second floor, there was a well populated reception area of another organisation and people were welcomed there and not invited up, unless let into the building by some of the other, clueless, tenants of the building, so we could invite a member of the public into the foyer of the building, if we had to, and there were plenty of eyes looking at what was happening. That did not happen often.

Surgeries were different. People came, by appointment, and were alone with the MP and a member of staff. An essential requirement to make sure the MP could focus on the needs of the constituent, the member of staff could take notes, and that there was a witness and a written record in case any argument ensued about what happened afterwards. Initially these surgeries, in the case of the main local council area the MP represented, were stuck away in a room hidden at the back of the building. The room was small and it was only possible to organise it so the constituent came in and sat next to the door with the MP and member of staff facing them. If the constituent got agitated, upset, or, even worse, violent, there was no way past them. The MP and member of staff were stuck there. In a tiny room, out at the far distant edge of the building from the security or other member of staff. It must be OK we were told as that was what councillors did and previous MPs did. It must be OK, there was a telephone in the room. Yes, also behind the constituent. After what happened to Nigel Jones the office requested the council move the surgeries to somewhere they were overlooked, especially by their security staff and somewhere the MP could escape from easily. The council were not happy. It had always been fine for previous MPs and councillors, why change things now? The death of an MPs staff member and almost of the MP were not a strong enough argument. I know some of the members of the council would have been happy if a nutter had taken care of the MP, but that was not the reasoning of the body itself.

Fortunately we managed to get the local police onside and they recommended that a more publicly visible venue, overlooked by the council security be sought and it was. Security intervened in the case of an old man unhappy at losing what he thought had been left to him, someone known to the community and no threat, just prone to shouting when he got emotional and unhappy.

They were not to be seen, maybe checking the rest of the building, when a man came in to the surgery with two knives in his belt, complaining about a burger chain restaurant in a nearby town, that was crushing up beetles and putting them in his burgers to get him sexually excited. The man was listened to, an undertaking was given to look into his problem and he left. All the time the MP was nearest the door and I was between the man with two knives and her. I was glad he left happy as otherwise it was me between them.

Engexit?

09/06/2016

So, the Euros 2016 are almost upon us. With some friends at work I am part of a facebook page chatting and, we have to , obvs bantering about the tournament, chances of different teams etc. The group also offers a chance to crowd source opinions for a colleague who plans to gamble on the tournament and hopes to repeat his World Cup heroics of coming out $300 ahead.

I have contributed a fun imagining of England’s performance based upon the many disappointments I have had to suffer since the 1970’s World Cup as an Englishman and football fan. It is just a bit of fun, or is it….

Ok, so 50 years of hurt, though even I’m not old enough to remember ‘66 and the World Cup victory. Based upon the experience of most of the previous competitions England have qualified for, and , remembering the 70’s and 80’s that was not always a given, what do I expect this time?

It has already started with past hero’s saying we ‘have the most exciting team since ‘66.

The hyperbole level has already started rising and it will only get worse as the Russia match get closer.

In the match against Russia we let in a soft early goal and a key player, possibly Joe Hart,(You do not know how much it hurts me even to suggest this) will be injured and out until the next round. We will get lucky and equalise late on when Rooney has gone off and Kane and Vardy are playing as a duo up front.

Not bowing to the clamour from the press Hodgson plays Rooney as part of a front three with Kane and Vardy out wide against Wales. The Welsh clearly want it more than the over-paid, over-hyped English team and win 2-0.

For the last group match Hodgson bows to the pressure from the media and the English public and plays Kane and Vardy up front and England win this ‘must win’ match 2 -1, again coming from behind, to qualify in second place behind Wales thanks to a 0-0 draw between Russia and Slovakia and Wales beating the both of them.

We play the surprise winners of group A, Romania, in the next round, and win 2-1 thanks to a dodgy off-side goal. The media and public are now crowing about how England have beaten the tamers of the host country and pre-tournament favourites, and how we can go all the way.

In the next round,  despite heroics from a fit again Joe Hart, we go out on penalties to France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Italy.(Take your pick) The players arrive home to opprobrium and vilification and a national newspaper printing Roy Hodgson’s head over a turd and another printing the home addresses of the failures with the headline, “We know where you live” and death threats against them leading to a round the clock Police presence required at their homes.

Just a bit of fun……..

First world problems in a developing country

31/05/2016

On the way home last night, despite purchasing a bottle of gin and a lime, I realised there 20160531_140226.jpgwas no tonic at home. No shop near me sells tonic, despite a frantic search, although the place I lived previously was more cosmopolitan and had it readily available. So, the gin remained unopened.

This morning then the dilemma. Could I justify going to the supermarket just to get tonic and a lemon? Heck yes. So I went to my local supermarket and, instead of a six pack of tonic at $2.80 I could get a slab at $8.90. Result. But, one step forward two steps back. No lemons for sale. Existential crisis, what to do? Lime it will have to be.

My other piece of shopping on the way home was a paintbrush. This is not because I have just developed a love of the fine-arts but because my chilli plant is flowering. I dot see many bees around the neighbourhood, despite there being more greenery than you would think in the centre of Phnom Penh. 20160531_141159.jpgSo, if I want chillis, which I most certainly do, then I am going to have to fertilise the plant myself, which has now been done to the two flowers showing so far. With more on the way it looks like I’m going to have to get more familiar with fertilising things than I previously thought I would.

Tuesday and Thursday I start work at 17:30 which kind of makes up for having to work five hours on Saturday morning. It allows me to get admin, studying, cleaning and other things done which do not then have to be done at the weekend. One thing I also have come to enjoy doing is 20160531_111914.jpggoing for a swim at the Olympic Pool in the Olympic Stadium. It was not built to host the Olympics but there was hope of getting the Asian Games in the 60’s which led to the construction of the stadium, pool etc. For $2 I usually get personal use of a 50 metre pool. This time I was not alone. A video was being shot, first the star lip-syncing then joined by a troupe of backing dancers. First with the diving board and pool as a backdrop, then through the fence. It entertained me as I made my way up and down to complete my 7 x 100 metres swim. On getting out I took the picture above of the ‘star’ does any reader know who it is?

Boys, girls, airfield, New temple in old, bamboo bridge and French lighthouse.

29/05/2016

The last full day in what was now being called ‘the Cham’ started leisurely enough with a lie-in followed by  breakfast at the Mekong Crossing. We got on our bikes and headed out of Kompong Cham on Route 7, the one we should have arrived on! All we knew was that we were looking for a bird statue. After a few kilometres we came to what seemed like a dragon with wings, our map had a dragon with wings before the bird so we went on for another 12 kilometres before deciding it wasn’t a dragon after all but a bird and went back to it. This took us to Phnom Pros, Man Hill.

The pictures above show the temple at the top of the hill, the view across to Women hill and scenes including me with my new pet and a woman respectively. The link above says that this was a site for detention and torturing in Kompong Cham province during the Khmer Rouge. Afterwards across to Phnom Srey, Woman Hill.

The pictures above showing the climb to the top, two pictures at the top and the view across to Phnom Pros. The temple at the top was not as big or ornate as the one at the top of Phnom Pros but the hill was taller and not accessible by road.

After the temples we set off in search of an old airport. We found the airport. There is nothing I could find on the internet which explained why there was an airport here and why it has fallen into disuse.

What I do know is that whilst I was trying to get closer to what we imagined was the control tower at the airfield (pictured below) someone’s motorbike ceased working. Initially we thought it had run out of fuel so I went off to a roadside stall we had passed on the way to the airfield to get supplies, making sure I filled up my tank too to avoid the same problem, and returned with two-thirds of a litre of fuel. The bike would still not move. Two hours later in the heat of the midday sun we still had not moved, apart from eventually pushing our bikes into the shade of a tree and me going off to get drinks. The guest house had been rung and there were stories about a mechanic coming but not finding us so going home for his lunch,  the guest house trying to ring but getting no reply as I had no signal and then then sending us a tuk-tuk to tow the bike back into town. Fortunately this was not necessary as, in the course of preparing to tow the bike, one of the people who came to attend to us discovered that the engine cut-off switch, pictured below in the correct position, had been pulled forward to cut-off the engine. What a stupid mistake. We had been told about it when hiring the bikes but had forgotten. Anyway, we could continue on our way, after rewarding the tuk-tuk drive and his mate for their troubles in helping us resolve our troubles.

Now we were mobile again it was back to town, stopping to fill the tanks right up, after I had eventually managed to open mine much to the amusement and chagrin, at the same time, of the attendant. So it was off to Wat Nokor, an 11th century temple with a new temple built inside. It has it’s own Oedipal  story.

After being out in the sun on the airfield a breeze and some shade were very welcome. I’m known to one person in particular as ‘grumpy’, I think we can see from the picture at the top on the right which of us is grumpy! After touring the site it was off to the final two destinations. The first of which was the Bamboo Bridge. It is said this is washed away each year and rebuilt again, a seemingly Sisyphean task. It was a bit worrying at first as it was approached through sand and the previous days experience with mud made us very wary of it and then there was always the fear of the bamboo giving way.

Once safely on the island on the other side of the river we could see the floating houses of the Cham community, which give the town part of its name, and their Mosque pictured above. The final stop of the day was the old colonial lighthouse. This was something of a race against time, to get there and back before the rain closed in, the dark skies showing on the picture above.

We finally crossed the Mekong to the Old French Lighthouse, although some dispute whether it was a lighthouse, or is French. You can’t really see the steepness of the steps on the ladder, which would not have been a problem ascending but would have been horrible coming back down, which were sufficiently discouraging to prevent us trying to get to the top.There was even time to take the photo of the tower from the Kizuna bridge before heading back to the guest-house just as the rains came. A nice fish and chips supper and a few beers before heading to bed and falling asleep from the rigours of the day.

 

On the streets of Kompong Cham

24/05/2016

Kompong Cham, Cambodia’s third largest city and, according to Travel North East Cambodia, “is the capital of Cambodia’s most populous province.”

Travelfish goes on to say, “It’s also remarkably pretty, not only in the landscape, but also in the architecture. If you want to get a feel for a real Cambodian city — Phnom Penh is predominantly Chinese or Sino-Khmer, and Siem Reap is… something else — then this offers an interesting glimpse. The city is large, though the central area hugging the Mekong is where you’ll likely spend most of your time. From there, explorers will be rewarded with an array of architecture styles from early French colonial buildings, typical Chinese shophouses, and buildings influenced by the New Khmer Architectural style developed during Cambodia’s “golden” years in the 1960s.”

Descriptions also go on to talk about Angkorian statues around the town. I don’t think Carlsberg do statues but you would have thought, if they did, they would probably be the best statues in the world…….

And, from early evening the river-front becomes busy as people promenade, play sports, eat street food and take exercise, or in the case of most of the men, wait and watch while the women take exercise.

Going up the country

23/05/2016

After the weekend two days holiday so finish work on Saturday, collect passport and hire two motorbikes. Sunday pick them off and head out of the city. I’ve not been on a bike with gears in more than 30 years, so is this just some  mid-life crisis chasing after lost youth? Who knows? What I do know is that I handled starting surprisingly well, enough for the hire place to say that I was a motorcyclist! My co-rider and I were on the road. Monnivong to be precise.

We stopped for petrol and then headed out of Phnom Penh over the Japanese Bridge where we promptly lost each other. The plan had been to stop for breakfast, got separated going over the bridge and then on the road to Siem Reap. There were now doubts, was this the correct road. So I headed back to the roundabout. A phone call later we met up again at the roundabout and while the co-rider joined me I checked google maps to find our route and we did want the road to Siem Reap then turn right off it. Heading out of the city I learnt more about the bike, got practice changing gear and got up to the frightening speed of 80 kilometres an hour (km/h).

After passing the Prek Tam Eak Bridge the traffic thinned out and then we came to the turning for Kampong Cham to the right so took it. The plan was to ride the National 20160522_104925.jpgHighway 7 straight there, nice metalled roads so good for someone who hasn’t ridden a motorised bike for a long time. The sign for the turn-off didn’t say National Highway 7 but, hey that’s just the Cambodians not being great at signs eh? The road also didn’t look like much of a National Highway, one lane in each direction, but hey it was metalled so everything was Ok? After 2 kilometres it was not metalled. Ah, the dirt track you see in the picture to the left. It was not the Cambodians not being great at signs but us, we had taken the wrong turning.

Another wrong turn off took us down a country lane and we had to go through puddles and very slippery mud, little did we know it but a portent of what was to come! Some kind locals told us, in English, that we should go back to a coffee shop and turn and we would be back on the road. Anyway, back on the road and we passed villages, some with weddings  where we knew if we stopped we would be asked to join, but we weren’t really dressed for it.

Along the ride we caught glimpses of the mighty Mekong River to our right which gave 20160522_110942.jpgcomfort that we were headed in the right direction as Kampong Cham is on the Mekong. The picture is taken from one of a number of bridges which were repaired, after flood damage, by the Asia Development Bank and the Australian Government. As you can see the river that should be flowing under the bridge to the Mekong is dry, as were all of the ones we crossed.

After a while we came to a stretch were the road surface was being renewed. Big machines were spreading out dirt and a roller was flattening it, whilst trucks loaded with dirt were 20160522_112327.jpgbringing up more dirt. We negotiated this fine and then came to a stretch where it was muddy. This was dealt with as well. But as we came into a village it was very wet and extremely slippery. Despite being in the lowest gear and not accelerating at all, just going at the tick-over, the back wheel went. The site is in the picture on the left. The colleague was right behind me and he went too. As we found out the exhaust fell on his leg burning it. What was concerning at the time the co-rider’s bike’s clutch lever was broken. We couldn’t even move it.What were we going to do, stuck in a village in Cambodia with a broken bike and covered in mud?

Well, we did, and got our bikes to the side of the road. After having a good laugh at the two foreigners (barang) falling over in the mud, the local people helped us clean ourselves up and pointed out a mechanic. My co-rider went off to get him whilst I minded the bikes.

When he joined us the mechanic showed us up by not only moving the bike, he rode it back 20160522_113805.jpgup the street. We trudged after him and chatted with family/colleagues etc whilst he repaired it. $2 later, for parts and labour, we were back on the road. The mechanic is pictured testing the bike on the right. In more of the sticky mud. We came to a metalled stretch and could speed up, Alas, it was just a stretch either side of a repaired bridge and we were soon back on the mud. I spotted on a milestone that Kampong Cham was 26 kilometres away, so was relieved we did not have so far to go.

The road was mainly dry and the mud compact so it was possible to get up to 40 – 50 km/h 20160522_161804.jpgbut then it would be wet mud and it was back down to the lowest gear and tick- over or there were more earth moving machines and they had to be navigated carefully. My back wheel went a few times but I managed to stay on and I saw my co-rider’s back wheel go but he stayed the bike. (Picture on our left is of our destination, The Mekong Crossing Guest House) A few adventures like having to jam the brakes on at a bridge as there was only one track and there was a lorry full of dirt coming the other way.

Then nirvana, we were back on metalled road. After a while of comfortable riding at a decent speed we stopped for a break and I was able to tell my co-rider we only had 4 kilometres to go. So, we rode into town, stopped to check where our destination was on google maps again, and then rode up to the guest house and parked up. After lunch we walked around town which seemed quite charming and then snoozed then showered before getting something to eat at Lazy Mekong Daze.

On arrival we found in Travel North East Cambodia that we should have stayed on Highway 6 to Siem Reap for another almost 40 kilometres before finding Highway 7. Oh well.

20160522_134212.jpg

View from the guest house at lunch. You can see how it got it’s name.

Siem Reap Tales: War, what is it good for?

15/12/2015

Fourth post from Siem Reap and hardly any Temples, what’s going on P1140685man? Get some Temples in there.(Ed) No, shalln’t.

Half way on the way to the airport from the city, turn off under the arch saying you are entering the military control of the region and pass the military barracks and you come to the War Museum Cambodia.

War Museum, that sounds a barrel of laughs, see what I did there? No, but conflict has been a central part of this country’s history for a large part of the last half of last century so maybe there is something to be learnt?

After paying my entry fee of $5 I was met by Tom:

“Mean Sokhom (also known as Tom) is a landmine survivor; he had P1140658lost his left arm when he was 14 years old.

Mean Sokhom is an eyewitness of the Cambodian civil war. He witnessed people being shot by the Khmer Rouge and saw soldiers fishing with hand grenades.

He learned a lot about the history of the civil war from history books before he became a tour guide at the War Museum. He has heard also a lot about the history of this war from people who experienced it: he has not only interviewed Cambodians who had lived through those times, but he has also met soldiers from all sides of this war and he has met many Cambodians who were P1140656injured by land-mines. In addition, he has met many U.S. soldiers who came to visit the war museum and they told him a lot about the history of the war, their experiences during the U.S. bombing attacks on Cambodia and their lives since then.”

He then proceeded to talk about the weapon above which is an anti-aircraft gun, also of use against helicopters but there were no flying things really so the Khmer Rouge (KR) used it against people, imagine a bullet or

 

shell meant to bring down a plane being fired at a person.

Tom talked about seeing members of his family shot and not knowing what happened to the others, still hoping they might meet up some day. Also, he talked about having his arm amputated with two pieces of wire, with no anaesthetic or pain killer, after an explosion, and having to have a further operation because of the rudimentary nature of the first as the bone grew to stick out of the skin.  And, Tom talked about seeing people P1140663he was friends with killed or maimed even worse, some so they had to be put out of their pain as there were no medical resources nearby, you got a first-hand graphic account of what war and conflict means that to a lucky, a word he used to me to describe my situation, a person who has not had to be in the armed forces and fight especially for someone like me as someone not conscripted, as happened between 1975 and 1989 in Cambodia.

People ask, what is the point of a museum such as this as surely it just glorifies war. People can just get their rocks off looking at Russian T-54 tanks, artillery pieces, armoured cars or a helicopter or Mig jet. If you just go and walk around then that is all it is. But go and listen to the testimony of Tom and the other guides who were there, to what they saw and experienced. My history teacher told me that we need to be aware of the importance of sources of information. How connected were they to what
happened? Did they experience it? Or are they some playwright writing 50 years after events making generalised points to appease the new boss?  Be critical. Coming here you can talk to, and, more importantly, listen to, people who were there and experienced it

Well go there. See also the history of what happened under the KR, but also the deaths in the war after they were driven out into the periphery following the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, the widespread use of land-mines (Pictured above and Tom took us through the different ones and their affects upon people) and the injuries they are still causing today to people in the places they live and work which have still not been de-mined. The praise he had for Princess Diana and the work she did against

land-mines and work continued by Princes William and Harry. (Parenthetically. As someone who is  not a royalist it still gave me a bit of national pride  that someone connected with my country was thought of as someone playing a positive role in the country as opposed to the role of the Americans, French, Chinese and Russians who fought their wars in the country or dropped tonnes of bombs on the country and run away when things got difficult, or just ran away.)

Finally, in answer to the question, war what is it good for? Go here and hear how an intervention by a foreign power, without the support of the United Nations, saved a people from Genocide. Intervention does work and there is a duty for it to be done when Genocide is happening. Big up Vietnam for doing so in 1979. In the face of opposition from China, the US and the UN – who allowed the Genocidal KR, let us not forget, to remain the representatives of Cambodia at the UN until 1989, shame upon you UN. But also shame upon us for standing by in Cambodia then and Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990’s and for standing by in Syria now.

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Siem Reap Tales: The Creature from the Tonle Sap

14/12/2015

Up early and across the road to get money and supplies for breakfast and
P1140466water for the day before heading south out of Siem Reap on roads that are sometimes paved and sometimes not. The unpaved ones are interesting as you bounce around inside the tuk-tuk and the paved ones are fine until they stop when there is a lip to them worse than anything you experience on the unpaved ones. A couple of pagodas are passed but in this town you can hardly throw a stone without hitting a pagoda so one is P1140467pretty much good as another. Buddha is not what I am searching for today but the Tonle Sap.

For the uninformed, the Tonle Sap is a river and a massive lake. It is a lake that grows in the wet season and decreases in the dry. Even more astonishing, the river changes direction. GET YOUR HEAD AROUND THAT – A RIVER THAT CHANGES DIRECTION! Why was I never taught about that before? How can it happen? So, one moment it is flowing one way and then all of a sudden it changes direction? Learning this blew my mind. The Tonle Sap is part of a precious eco-system. This website wrote more about it so I didn’t have to:

The Tonle Sap Lake is the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia – a huge dumbbell-shaped body of water stretching across the northwest of the country. In the wet season, the lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, swelling to an expansive 12,000 km2. During the dry half of the year it shrinks to as small as 2500 km2, draining into the Tonle Sap River, which meanders southeast, eventually merging with the Mekong River at the ‘chaktomuk’ confluence at Phnom Penh. During the wet season a unique hydrologic phenomenon causes the Tonle Sap River to reverse direction, filling the lake.

The engine of this phenomenon is the Mekong River, which becomes bloated with snow melt and runoff from the monsoon rains. The swollen Mekong backs up into the Tonle Sap at the point where the rivers meet at Chaktomuk, forcing the waters of the Tonle Sap River back into the lake. The inflow expands the area of lake more than five-fold, inundating the surrounding forested floodplain and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system.

More than 100 varieties of waterbirds including several threatened and endangered species, over 200 species of fish, as well as crocodiles, turtles, macaques, otter and other wildlife inhabit the inundated mangrove forests. The Lake is also an important commercial resource, providing more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia. In harmony with the specialized ecosystems, the human occupations at the edges of the lake is similarly distinctive – floating villages, towering stilted houses, huge fish traps, and an economy and way of life deeply intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and falling waters.

So, after about 30 minutes we arrived at Chung Khneas Ferry Terminal where I paid my $30 and got my boat and guide and headed off out onto what I was told was the Chung Khneas River. We passed the fish market and the poor people living by the river were pointed out to me as well as the graves of the people who had died as a result of a typhoon on the lake, including young children who were poor and had died, or had died because their parents were killed and never came back. There was also a boat which seemed marooned which was a restaurant and I saw people fishing and a ‘shop boat’ as well as getting the chance to steer the boat and being praised for my good ‘driving’.

As we came out onto the lake we passed a school, which was pointed out but not much was made of it and a Roman Catholic church. The latter interested me as in the boat on the way out I had been told there were three nationalities here, Khmer, Vietnamese and Muslim, I had to ask him to repeat the last as I had not been sure I had heard what he said.

We then went out onto the lake and weaved between some floating structures before stopping at a crocodile and fish farm. Well there were so few of either I would be surprised if they made much of a living from either. More I expect would come from selling tat to the visitors.

I didn’t buy any tat but did enjoy the chance to go up three stories and get a look out across the lake which gave some idea of the size of the thing we were looking at but I did not capture in photographs. It just looks like a brown expanse to the horizon, which is what it was. But it doesn’t make a photo.

So, then came the reason for the visit. Like many people before (read down to the reviews) I was taken to another shop where I would be able to buy a sack of rice or some noodles for the orphans who had been pointed out to me before. The sacks of rice came at $50 or $30 and I could get the noodles for $20. The price was clearly over what it cost in Siem Reap but they said that was because of the cost of transport to get it there and for some of the remainder to go into the poor community. I thought I know exactly what community the money goes into. Having already spent more than I intended on the boat I didn’t have lots to give in to this guilt tripping the tourist. They said I could make a donation so I did of $10 and left. I was told I could take food over to the school but had no desire to do that at all. So then I was told I could see the fishermen amongst the mangrove trees and the people harvesting mangroves but I would need to transfer to a smaller boat in order to get amongst the trees and that would cost more money. I declined this kind offer and said I wanted to go back.

On the way back We passed more people going about their life on the lake and, naturally a pagoda boat.

On the way back the driver took a different route and passed a Madrassa (Big picture) which was opposite a Mosque and I was able to get some pictures of the Cambodian countryside as we travelled through it, as well as an international primary school we passed.

  • The heading comes from a team name at the quiz I go to every Wednesday. It is, to me, a nice juxtaposition of the Tonle Sap River and Lake with the 1950’s cult horror classic ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon‘. I have stolen it for a drinks event whilst I visit Strasbourg later this month.

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