Keeping up with the Joneses

Cambodia has some choice neighbors.

So for those of you who haven’t heard yet, the International Court of Justice has ordered all military troops, both Thai and Cambodian, out of a demilitarized zone surrounding Preah Vihear Temple. The temple is actually a site of many buildings (a temple complex), and is a UN-designated World Heritage Site. It is located in Cambodia– that, completely inside of Cambodian borders. Thailand, however, has tried to claim the temple as its own, despite the fact that the temple’s Cambodian origins are literally ancient history. The Khmer Empire constructed the majority of the complex during the 11th c. CE.

Thailand had been trying to get the Court to throw the case out entirely, but were in the end overruled. Thailand has been quite forceful in its relations with Cambodia, and although has frightened Cambodian and Thai nationals, alike, has actually accomplished little as far as acquiring new lands from Cambodia. They would do well to learn a thing or two from Vietnam.

Vietnam, I am told, is “best friends” with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. They were the ones who got him his job, after all. (He has said he will continue to run for PM until he “is no longer wanted” or until he dies; considering that everyone is terrified of him and/or the vote is rigged, it’s probably going to be the latter.) If one happened to be wandering around Phnom Penh, one might notice there is an awful lot of building going on here. The housing market is starting to pick up, and the buying/selling of land, in general, has come into its own. What you wouldn’t know just by looking, however, is that much of the buying and much of the building is being done by Vietnam. This is clever. Vietnam is a more “developed”, and overall financially better off country than Cambodia. Vietnamese can afford to buy land and build a house here when Cambodians cannot even do that, themselves. Some have seen the immigration of Vietnamese into Cambodia as a kind of sinister, below-radar invasion. Cambodians are paranoid, right?

I thought so. But then you have to wonder, why doesn’t the PM crack down on illegal Vietnamese immigrants the same way he does with other immigrants? A popular notion here is that “Hun Sen never talks about Vietnam (on TV). Never.” What kind of promises did he have to make to get the Viet Cong to instate him as dictator, excuse me, legally elected prime minister of Cambodia?



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