Monday, May 28, 2007

What must i do for eternal life?

As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running up to Jesus, knelt down, and asked “Good Teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?”
“Who do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But as for your question, you know the commandments: ‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. Do not cheat. Honour your father and mother.”
“Teacher,”the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was a child.”
Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. “You lack only one thing,” he told him. “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this, the man’s face fell and he went sadly away because he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God…but though it is hard for humankind, God makes everything possible...

I assure you everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property for the Good News will receive now in return, a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and property…For the great shall be the least, and those who are considered least here will be the greatest…

27 May 2007
I have just had a two dollar haircut at Tang Tang studio. I emerge, a new man. The sky is rumbling. I must get home. There are draft laws to write, parties to go to, church services and souvenir shopping. However, I cannot force myself to hurry. I loiter through the lane.

There is a little girl here, like a Christmas tree, red blouse and flowing green skirt, skipping with a piece of yellow packaging tape. Her little brother is nestled against an old lady lazing on a stool. The naked little boy peers up at me with uncertain eyes. Nearby, a colander of rice is drying; flies buzz above. Peering through the open doorways I spy a tv set which is blaring Khmer karaoke. Some workmen are doing construction on a house. A girl rings her bicycle bell as she squeezes pass.

At the first turn, two men sit on the ground, playing chess with wooden pegs and stones. A shaggy dog spectates, scratches an ear and lounges in a doorway. On a raised wooden bed a clutch of women are gossiping. One of them is in pajamas, chewing something and absently clipping her toe nails, but 50 metres away from where two fresh faced young Americans give specific instructions for their Khmer pedicure in Tang Tangs.

A charcoal fire emits smoky smells of grilled fish. A woman, swathed in her krama, is breastfeeding in a courtyard. Men squat and viciously slap down cards on asphalt slabs which are all that remain of what may have once been pavement. A saffron robed monk with ubiquitous yellow umbrella is getting astride a moto. Two kids are kicking thongs in a modified version of marbles. The younger ones in the cluster of terraces outside my front gate are counting down for “red light”. The midget woman is working industriously on her sewing machine. The young Chinese-Khmer man at the cramped corner store just downstairs from my house, is on his beat up computer, playing solitaire. A sneaky feline scampers up my house steps and hurdles the barbed wire onto a corrugated iron roof.

Old Sanah, who lives across the lane, has come back from giving a lesson and lowers Jojo, her fluffly grey puppy (panting from a run in the park), from the basket on the front of her bike.
"Bonjour! Ca Va?"
Oui,” I smile, and struggle “ca va bien merci. Et tu?”
Bien..blahblah le blah blah yadda je yadda le petite monsieur fromage frog, jambon, je suis…
“Um…sohm to (sorry)” I switch to Khmer. “Min yul (I don’t understand)”
Ooh, at Pisa barang. Pissa khmer…blah blah nung ai, jah jah, blah yadda…
Umm.. I’m lost. Smile again and shrug my shoulders and hang my head in shame…if it helps I know the automated recording on the motos that cruise around town: “Bong moan angh psong krung pissa, mien rul jeet chnu chnam” (grilled chicken egg with special ingredients, has flavour that smells good and taste delicious!)
Sanah is ashamed of me too; she reprimands me by tut tutting and slapping my arm. As she unlocks her door, she is no doubt saying “don’t follow his example” as she speaks to Jojo in French…

Across the main road is the park, which will be rain logged in a few minutes. Squatters inhabit one corner with makeshift tarps strung between trees limbs. Next to it lies the Royal Palace, sparkling gold and silver and clean lemon meringue walls and barefoot 7 year olds selling books from baskets half their seize and amputees with no hope of a job begging for 100 riel (2 cents) from tourists who turn their noses and walk on by..

This is where beauty lives…brothers and sister, mothers and fathers and children….

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Reflections on Rain

26 May 2007

Rain. Regular afternoon rain…
Hot torrid, waterfalls that plaster shirt to skin. Hot, wet, cool and liberating. The earth - the dirt and muck, the slime and smokey garbage that children play in and die upon – it floats up in the air, circles like vultures and is charged, like electricity begetting lightning, earth mingling with humid sweaty air, condensing, charging, swirling up like the end of washing up going down the kitchen sink drain upside down into the heavens. Then KABOOM, with a explosive nuke of thunder, down down down down down it comes, returning to the earth, reformed, cleansed and cleansing.

Lots of rain. Sheets of it. Bouncing off the tin roofs, flooding in the streets, swirling in the gutters, driving into your face.


Floating. Ears submerged. Deaf. Detached from the world. Nothing but the aquamarine sky and pastel sirrus clouds, broken occasionally by a the frond of a palm tree hanging over the pool. Cool, cool waters embrace me.

This world is a Wonderland and I am Alice. Does Dorothy really want to click the heels of her ruby slippers and return to Oz?

Midnight in the city of good and evil

24 May 2007,
Balcony, 1D Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh.

It is past midnight. Phnom Penh is quiet. The only sounds wafting up from the silent streets are the rhythmic click click of crickets and the occasional, muted zoom of a moto in the distance. The breeze laps at my eardrums. The lane is asleep.

I cradle an orange juice, lean with my elbows against the cool balcony rail and gaze at where the laneway opens up into Sothearos. Both Thury and the pho restaurants on the corner have long ago drawn their shutters and I can now only just make out the netting hanging where the security guard has established his bed on the sidewalk. Across Sothearos, a white French colonial lamp illuminates a portion of the park and the Boulevard itself; grass, dirt, paved fountain and frangipani trees. Some light spills across into the lane, but doesn’t reach pass the balcony to uncover the mysterious turns beyond. The moon is a slice of orange in the sky, partially clouded. It hangs slightly to the left of the flashing red light marking the top of a tower, somewhere to the west. To the east lies the Tonle Sap river, not visible from where I am. Only the lights from the massive Cambodiana and Himawari hotels and, further along, the shadowy outlines of the National Assembly and Buddhist Institute’s sweeping, ornate (yet humble) roof indicate the Riverside.

The hammock swings in the breeze. Two geckos lounge on the wall. The little lizards are motionless, almost perfectly camouflaged against the yellow concrete. The sweat under my armpits cools in the wind.

This is a city of tense opposites. Light and dark, rich and poor, dirty and clean, expat barang and local, resident and tourist, volunteer and businessman, NGO and government, laughter and tears…

There is a season for everything. A time to rest, a time to work and play. The past eight months have been a hectic blend of parties, DVD’s, work, microsleeps, new people, new scenes, language, travel, church, beer, gin and tonics, throwing darts at balloons, bumper cars, flower girls, courts, police stations, drug rehab centres, mah jong, poker, khmer dancing and miscellaneous activity. I feel almost guilty that it is only now, at the end, that I take time out to reflect. I have been here, I have changed the city, people and laws and they have changed me. But I will go, as surely as day into night and night into day. And this city, despite all its woes, despite 30 years ago being a ghost town evacuated by the KR, it will endure and still be here when I go…as it is tonight, quiet again, but this time in peaceful slumber.

For now, the world is still. God whispers in the breeze and I am here. This is Cambodia…

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Where the streets have no name…

Hello, Moto?
Motodups are the easiest and most common way to travel around Phnom Penh. Twenty five to fifty cents (1000 or 2000 riel) can get you anywhere. Almost any man can be a moto driver (I’ve not seen any women). There are no regulations: no uniforms, no signs. You do not have to find a moto; they will find you. Walking on the road (especially if you are barang – i.e. a foreigner), you will inevitably be hailed with a chorus of men raising their index finger in the air and shouting (like a mobile phone advertisement) “Hello, Moto?!” Exiting any popular barang pub or restaurant along the Riverside, you will be assaulted by a mob of moto and tuk tuk drivers, vying for your attention like a horde of stoke brokers. I was amused by an episode where, one day, I walk through the twists and turns of my laneway, pass chess games, steaming cooking pots and toothless grandmas. As I turned a corner, I saw a dad and his approximately 8 year old boy at the end of the lane, on the junction with the main road. Dad stood with a moto and the little boy with a small push bike, complete with training wheels. He spotted me first and, quick as a flash, hopped on his bike. His arm goes up with an extended finger and he squeaks: “Hello, moto?!” I have to smile and nod…

However, unlike London cabbies who know every establishment and every lane in their city, almost all moto drivers in the Penh will be able to count the number of streets that they know on one hand. Phnom Penh’s streets are numbered or named. A “general” rule for numbered streets is that the even numbers go vertically (north to south) and odd numbers go vertically (east to west). All rules, however, are meant to be broken, especially in Cambodia. Yesterday, I searched in vain for the French Cultural Centre, which is showing the European Film Festival. I rode around precariously for half an hour in pelting, solid rain (it is wet season now). Yet no matter how many times we circled Street 208 kept being followed by St 228; my destination - Street 218 - had “disappeared”. Like the Cambodian population, one fifth of Phnom Penh’s streets seem to have become victims of genocide. Okay sorry, that’s bad taste.

Anyway, house numbers are even more chaotic. On any given street (eg Street 218), there can be a sequences of houses such as: 5, 5A, 5B, 5D (note: missing 5C), 8, 20 (note: missing 8-20), 21, 22, 5 (note: another 5 again), 30, 5 (note: and another 5) etc. None of this really matters because no moto driver knows numbered streets anyway.

There are a only a handful of streets which have names: Sihanouk, Monivong, Norodom, Mao Tse Tung, Russian Boulevard, Sisowath, Sothearos are a few. Most moto drivers know Sihanouk (the famous Independence Monument is on it). Monivong, Norodom and MaoTse Tung are popular but even they are sometimes not known by drivers, especially those who come from the provinces into the city to try and make a living.

Thus, I carry a map in my pocket wherever I go. However, drivers are mostly illiterate and do not know how to read maps or even some of the basic concepts such as north and south and blue means water. Whether to not lose face or in order to nab a fare, most will say that they understand and know where you want to go, even if they have no idea. They will start driving and may even do a few turns here and there before you realize that you have ended up on the opposite side of town from where you want to be. At which point you simply need to navigate or get yourself back to the Independence Monument and start again. At least it’s a good way of seeing more of the city.

I have a few regular drivers. I use three or four who hang around my lane. Mr Wong is Chinese Khmer and possibly the slowest driver in the country. Still, sometimes slow can be safe and to arrive safe though late at work is better than not arriving at work at all but arriving at a hospital.

There is an amazing artform to moto driving – a lot of weaving between traffic, changing of gears, putting their feet down and walking the bike. There appears to be only one road rule – watch the space 50 cm in front of you. What happens to the side or behind doesn’t really matter. A quarter of my journey from home to work will consist of driving on the “opposite” side of the road. It is madness but there is a certain method to the madness.

Moto drivers have such good balancing skills too. We have seen a record 6 people on a bike – 4 adults and two kids. Sadly, it is not infrequent to see infants perched on handlebars or standing on seats, clutching their mothers heads.

Though some of my housemates have invested in their own motorbikes I still like catching motos – it’s a chance to practice my poor quality Khmer. Also, I don’t know if I would trust myself handling a moto in Phnom Penh’s traffic. Almost every day there is an accident. I have seen a few where blood seeps from the prone victim’s head, staining the streets. Most expats here, including AYADS, are a bit lax with wearing helmets. Some do, but only sometimes. I, on the other hand, hold a firm policy, preached to all like a raving evangelist who has seen the light – “No helmet, no ride”. I have become a true believer, especially since my accident.

Siem Reap, just after the Water Festival, October last year. We had visited the temples at Angkor Wat and surrounds but had planned on heading to the temple of Banteay Srei – a few hours outside Siem Reap, a small temple but well preserved with lots of details intact. Before getting on the bus to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh, I had had my helmet in my hands but then said “bugger it, I can’t be bothered lugging it around” and thus had left it on my bed. Thus, I got on the moto to Banteay Srei helmet less and we were away, zipping through the streets on Siem Reap. I was engaged in a pleasant conversation with my driver in Khmer about where he was from and his family. We had only got two blocks and discussing his older brother when suddenly I head a loud crack and the whole world turned sideways. I found out later that another moto had sped out too fast from a side street without looking and had slammed into our back wheel. My driver must have jumped clear, but I stayed on, gripping the seat whilst the bike fell on top of my legs and we slid together over the grotty road. I felt my head bounce on the road, once, twice, thrice, four times…”hmm not good” my brain said and tried to get my hands up for protection and turn my skull so at least the bumps would be evenly distributed.

When I finally came to a stop, for half a second with the world upside down, I wondered if this was it. The second passed and I was still around. “Okay”, thought I, “this is not too bad. But why can I not feel my legs?” Then the clouds in the sky were replaced with Alastair’s face looking down at me. A friend of my flatmate, also traveling in Siem Reap, he had been following on another moto behind me. In fact, not having seen what had hit me, I had initially assumed that his bike had crashed into mine. My memory of events is fuzzy but I believe I might have asked him “Are you alright?”
“Mate,” he said. “Are you alright?!”

He pulled the bike off, lifted me up and we limped to the side of the road. I had heard about lots of people having accidents in Cambodia and people simply coming out to spectate but not help. However, pleasantly, surprisingly, a crowd gathered and did assist. A chair was taken out and I sat and within moments a tuk tuk had arrived and off I went to the local international clinic.

I had come off reasonably okay though still banged up pretty bad. A deep gash in my right leg with lots of flesh taken off the knee cap. Cuts and grazes up the other leg, my right shoulder, forehead and nose.

The clinic was fine for patching me up but certainly not fantastic medical service. They pulled chunks of gravel out of a bullet sized crevice in my knee. Though not pleasant, I was a bit surprised that the adrenaline in my body dulled most of the pain. I sat up and watched the mess that my leg was and waved flies away from the blood. The nurse called an orderly in and as she stung me with disinfectant he stood guard swiping flies with an electric wand. I think I may have managed a smile on reflecting about how comical the scene was. Then I was insisting that the doctor wear gloves as she stitched me up.

Afterwards, they wheeled me in to have an x-ray on my head. The technician moved me around for ages over and over again before he took his shot. On my return to Phnom Penh, the International SOS doctor viewed the sheets and discovered that they were entirely useless – you could not tell it was a skull. Development liquid was dripping all over the film. He said that the subsequent xray he did on my knee told him more about my head than Siem Reap’s xray did.

When I was ensconced back at the hotel, the police came to talk and get a statement. I did not wish to get compensation from the other driver but requested that he make a donation to one of the local hospitals. There are so many victims in this country of war and landmines and the Khmer Rouge wiped out so many of the country’s educated doctors. Being on crutches for about a month or more afterwards, I got mere glimpse into the life of the disabled in Cambodia. With their makeshift crutches and wheelchairs many are forced to beg simply because it is almost impossible for them to obtain jobs.

I was blessed to have survived with only concussion, torn ligaments and nice looking scars with a story to tell. In many respects, it was a good accident. I know it will sound clich├ęd but it helped me to put perspective on life, to be humbled and to appreciate the kindness of others….

Finally – a brief run down on other forms of transport in Phnom Penh:
Harley Davidson or Dirt Bike
Entirely impractical and unnecessary in Phnom Penh and usually ridden by expats, many of whom exude a leering, “look at me, everyone”, self satisfied sexpat vibe.

Poor arse Khmer guys on bikes pulling people (and sometimes white goods) in a seat.

Tuk tuks
Tuk tuks are motobikes with carriages on the back. They come in an array of colours. Good for groups or for getting around town when you have two pieces of metal sticking out of your armpits.

Almost all cars in Phnom Penh have been “pimped” – i.e. flashing lights, shiny hubcaps and petrol tanks. Big arse black Lexus landcruisers that drive wherever they want. Most are owned by rich kids who have their bodyguards as chaffeurs. Doubtless many contain a handgun in the glove compartment.

Cambodians make the most out of transportation. Almost anything can be transported on anything. Fridges and mattresses have been carried on motos. Cambodians also have a special knack for cramming an inordinate number of passengers on any vehicle. Normal sedan cars can hold at least 13, sometimes including two in the drivers’ seat and one sitting on the gear shift. For Khmer New Year we took a bunch of orphans out to see some dancing on the streets. I had, mistakenly thought that the streets would be in Phnom Penh. Instead we drove for six to seven hours into the provinces. Twenty six of us in a van. With a two centimeter square surface area of bum space, one loses all sensation in your feet by the time the van pulls over for a pit-stop. It’s the only way to travel!

Sambo is the local tourist attraction at Wat Phnom (a mirror of Angkor Wat in Phnom Penh). A congenial elephant with a permanent “smile” on his face, he has been giving rides around the temple for years. At dusk, he saunters down the main road in front of my house on his way home, cars and motos weaving around him. Lexus’ may rule over motos on the road, but they still make room for Old Sambo.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Correctional Centre 2

25 April 2007

I went to prison today. Correctional Centre 2 (CC2) is situated south of Phnom Penh, in the middle of nowhere – a moonscape of parchment-yellow shrivelled rice fields and cracked dirt, dotted with scraggly palm trees. The road to the prison may as well be part of it, the isolation is like a cage. How hard it must be for families to visit their children there. Even if they can organise the money for transport (often assisted by a NGO/legal aid organisation), when they get to the gates, they also need to negotiate with the guards a “visitation fee”. A recent report by a local NGO, Licadho, on conditions in detention found that the guards are very innovative and efficient – they have developed an elaborate system of bribes: $3.75 for a non contact visit; $10 for a contact visit; for some families that is several months wages

We, however, go in the UNICEF Child Friendly Justice Bus so the guards just waved us through, waiving the fee. The Justice Bus turns off the main road when we see the bright red shrines on the side, clothed in little strips of white tape flapping in the breeze, prayers for the dead. The guard pulls the gate open and we drive under the sign welcoming us to Correctional Centre 2. We are then greeted by some out buildings and another log sign in a garden proclaiming again “Welcome to CC2”. The word “summer camp” springs into my mind.

We arrive just after lunch so I expect the kids to be well fed and happy, in the siesta zone. Prisoners in Cambodia get less than 38 cents worth of food a day (less than the poverty line). If their families wish to supplement the diet then they need to pay a “supplement-my-kid’s-diet fee”. They also need to pay for the coal to cook it with, and the “special” bowl needed to eat it with. In a way, this is similar to back home where you have to pay a take away levy for the cost of the take away container. The only difference is that the kids at CC2 are eating in.

In any event, it is heartening to see that Cambodia’s guards have such entrepreneurial talent and are leading by example. It is such good vocational training for the prisoner’s rehabilitation, equipping them with business skills. Rest assured that the future of the country is in good hands!

The Head of the prison is away so we meet the Deputy Head instead. Our party consists of Susan (fellow Sydney based AYAD and UNICEF social worker), Khong Chang (Ministry of Social Affairs - MOSVY) and his partner with the big glasses and constant buck toothy smile from the Department of Youth Rehabilitation. (Egad! I forget his name but he knows mine!) I’m doing a quasi-monitoring field visit of MOSVY activities in CC2, but we are principally accompanying Prison Fellowship to see their work in prisons.

Prison Fellowship is a Christian NGO founded in the US by a guy called Chuck, who was involved in Watergate, did time, became a Christian and then, upon release, worked on providing more services for prisoners. Now there are autonomous, affiliated groups in countries all over the world, including Australia. In Cambodia, Prison Fellowship is one of the leaders in social services to prisoners, both in prisons and post release. We started our journey today at Blue Gate House, a Prison Fellowship drop in centre/half way house providing counselling, welfare assistance, transport, family tracing, motor mechanics courses and apprenticeships, other vocational training, medical assistance etc etc.

I had previously met their country director Linda Chisholm both at a national juvenile justice workshop and also at the Sunday morning international Christian fellowship service. An Aussie, she has been around in Cambodia for years but does fundraising trips in Oz. She’s on one of those when we get in touch with Prison Fellowship, so instead we see Adam and his wife Colleen – a young Kiwi couple. I can’t explain it but somehow Adam has a wholesome, white evangelical Christian look and feel to him. It is different from the old softly spoken Catholic priest look or the crazy Catholic nun look. I notice some guardedness within myself because of the “evangelical Christian” label, but am instantly ashamed at my stereotyping as we speak more with Adam and get to know him and his mob.

He is very down to earth. He even notices himself and acknowledges that some people have apprehensions (even aversions) to faith based groups. He frankly tells us that Prison Fellowship does do bible study in prisons but also does a heap of other stuff. They do not appear to proselytize. He has learnt Khmer. He has very professional and reasonable social work skills. Even though they have worked in prisons for years and then have small groups come in, duplicate their work only for a few months and without consultation, then leave, they still nevertheless try to work and cooperate graciously. Though they have worked with a client for hours only to have the kid snatched by another group then dumped back on them, they continue their work with a gentle spirit. There is no anger or bitterness. I get a sense of a very client based best-interests-of-the-child ethos.

UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Social Affairs to get government social workers into prisons. Thus, we have a lot to learn from Prison Fellowship. In May, we will set up national meetings with all prison stakeholders to begin eliminating of duplication, start networking and skill sharing…

Anyway, back to the prison: after a chat with the Deputy, we all accompanying Adam and Vuthy (an articulate PF Khmer social worker) into the prison. AusAid has built sheds to the side of the main buildings, where vocational training/counselling sessions can occur. I see banks of sewing machines, hair cutting chairs, a group session for boys and a session for the women inmates (and some girls).

Vuthy leads the boys in a “Who am I?” self esteem course. They form a circle and pass a ball around, introducing themselves whenever they catch the ball, laughing. Later, they lie on butcher’s paper, tracing their outlines with markers. The girls and women are having a chat. The sun beats down; we stand to the side, watching in the shade. I probe Adam, Khong Chang and the Deputy with questions about the prisons and programs. The haircutting has been a great cost efficient vocational training. Several children, upon release, get about five or six customers a day. At 50 cents each, that is enough to get by for a while. On the other hand, the sewing machines, donated by Aussies, unfortunately sit dormant in a cage; there is no material to sew with. In fact, the machines themselves look like prisoners, covered in dusty prison greens.

We ask if we can see where the prisoner’s sleep and the Deputy is happy to oblige. So, we are led into the main prison complex, behind the high walls and towers wreathed in coils of razor wire. Security is not tight – at least no one searches us or our bags. I suppose it’s because we are accompanying the Deputy. In some of the other prisons in the country we would be a bit more cautious; Susan took her radio to Battambang prison. Two years ago some prisoners on riot got cut to pieces by the guard’s AK47s. Shoot first (a lot), don’t ask questions later.

Lazing by the gates to the CC2 courtyard is a butchy matron in a short sleeved grey uniform, patches on her shoulders with the insignia of Ministry of Interior (Prisons) – two crossed leg irons. (Mental note: I’ll have to try get one of those as a souvenir - anyone can go to the local tailors on Sihanouk Boulevard or at the Russian Market, pick your patches and material and get any uniform made.) Matron’s face is a mask of makeup, bright red lipstick and eyeshadow. Fingers sport chunky gold rings. The headpiece holding her bun is dazzling, shiny ice. She wields a long rattan cane which she strokes and plays with, as she barks like a Canterburry mascot. I don’t know whether to laugh or be scared.

As we enter the prison quad, pass Matron Bling Bling, we see her clutch of chickens - mothers squat or sit in the dirt with their young 2-4 year olds running around. Asides from housing children in conflict with the law (CICL), CC2 also accommodates women inmates. For those who are mums, CC2 is also home to their infants. For some of these kids, these walls, wire and Matron with her cane have been their whole existence. They are not like kids I have met on the streets, in the provinces or orphanages. I smile at some of them but there is no return smile or excitement in their eyes upon seeing a barang (foreigner). There is indifference…

The courtyard is broken into two or three sections with fences and more razor wire. They tried to separate the women from the children but then the children’s section got too overcrowded so they just opened up the sections. The wire, however, remains so the kids can still feel caged within a cage.

A volleyball match is going on. Some of the boys have their shirts off. Most are in their blue prison uniforms. Those not within the game, laze around in the stifling heat. Arms are hanging out of the barred doors of the communal cells. I wonder how hot it gets in there. Each cell holds around 30 children. Some, slightly bigger, hold up to 60.

Several children are collecting water in buckets from a well. Two of them have climbed right down into the well. There’s a lot of carrying of water going on. I can only see the one well and another water pump. There are rain water tanks in the courtyard too but, of course, it seldom rains enough. So, a recent UNICEF report revealed that about 10% of child inmates surveyed had no choice but to drink toilet water.

We stay for a while and observe. Eventually, Khong Chang needs to head off so with handshaking and sampeahs and many aw kohns (thank yous) we hop back on the Justice Bus. It takes us back to an air conditioned office with Coke, ice cream and liberty. Much work has been done, I think, but much work still remains.

Last year, I visited the Phnom Tamao zoo and saw elephants, bears and birds. Our young guide had trailed us on his bicycle and periodically “sold” us coconuts that he lobbed over the fence for the bears to rip open and eat. (This made me remember Siem Reap Zoo’s otters floating on their backs, looking up and begging the kids for more lollies). However, one particular elephant at Takmao had been naughty and, I think, had even killed or seriously injured someone; he was segregated - “no coconut for you!” It was very sad.

I recall that on my visits to both zoos, I had recoiled at the sight of the small enclosures and the thought of the animal’s dental health. Now though, I realize that admission to those zoos were cheaper than admission to CC2 and in many ways the conditions were better – more space, more water, more food. So, Eureka! I think I’ve found the solution to Cambodia’s juvenile justice detention woes: the kids simply have to become more entertaining and grow more fur and claws….