Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Troops withdraw reports Phnom Penh

From the Phnom Penh Post, click to go to the site and read in full:

Cambodia and Thailand have begun a coordinated withdrawal of troops from Preah Vihear temple in preparation for the reopening of the temple’s international border crossing next week.
The crossing has been closed since July 2008, when the disputed temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, triggering a military build-up along the border.

Monday, November 29, 2010

7 days on

This photo is from yesterday at the bridge, from this website.

I've still been collecting stampede stuff (videos, photos, links etc) but I'm now putting them on my extra blog under stampede extra.

The survivor we know that I mentioned last week is going ok as far as I can tell. Physically they seems heaps better, before they had trouble walking, and their tummy was really sore after eating. They came with us to church yesterday and shared with members there about the experience. Afterwards with went to a shopping mall and walked around, had a meal and took photos in one of those photo booths with fake backgrounds and borders. I think they are on meds to help them sleep.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Since it happened on Monday, there have been lots of reasons going around in rumours about how and why. Some of the more out there ones include- that the gov planned it, that the former residents of the island put a curse on the island when they were kicked off to make way for the entertainment stuff and that Cambodia is too crowded because of all the illegal Vietnamese people.

The crowds are so dense at that time of year, like a pile of dry hay I don't think it would take much to set off something big, I'm guessing it was a combo of factors- panic may have broken out cos the bridge was swinging cos ppl thought it was going to break, people were probably fainting as it is hard to breath when you are in a crowd etc etc.  Seems to be  controversial about whether or not people got electrocuted or not. At first all the reports seemed to say it did happen, but then they said there was none. And the death toll rose to 435, but then came back down by about 100......

What is Water Festival?

This website has a few good photos with a caption each- it explains the festival really well with pictures and words. It'll give you the context of the stampede. It doesn't show the density of the crowd that much, I don't think the photographer could take photos where it was really crowded, but he did say that "The visor on my helmet which I was carrying on my belt was torn off by the crush of the crowd. "
And that was just a normal water festival afternoon- not the final evening craziness, so that should give you an idea of just how crowded it was on the bridge that night.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cambodia holds day of mourning for stampede dead

Cambodia holds day of mourning for stampede dead

Pray for survivors

An excerpt from this article:

"""One survivor, Chan Chhay Loeurt, 25, a student, said he had no idea what happened.

"Just people squeezed together," he said. "I can't move. I can't breathe. I can't breathe in and out. I fell unconscious. When I woke up, I was in a police car next to a dead body.""""

I guess in Australia these people would have some kind of trauma counselling, but there is not the culture and resources for that here. I've read many are still walking around with undiagnosed mental illnesses from Khmer Rouge time, more than 30 years ago.

Koh Pich Tragedy: The arduous task of identifying the victims (Photos: AFP, AP, Reuters)

 These photos are from here.   They are typical of what has been on TV the last few days. I turned on the TV yesterday and it was showing footage of people walking up and down rows of bodies, lifting the sheet up on each head until they found someone they knew.
In between this they kept replaying scenes from the night it happened, of people and bodies arriving at hospitals. They were piled up in police utes and ambulance vans. It looked like bodies and injured people were all piled in together. Chaos. Peoples shoes and clothes had come off in the crowd.

Also reporters were going around talking to survivors and the victims family and friends. Really shocking stories.

Today on TV a few of the channels are showing people lining up to get money- or maybe they are donating money, I just saw it briefly. They were reading out lists of names and amounts of money.

Photos from the day after it happened

 Photos from AFP and Reuters on the KI media blog.

National day of mourning for more than 450 people who were killed

Some monks on Tuesday, near the bridge where it happened. Photo from this article about it.
And the photo below is from this article from today, the national day of mourning.

Click the link above to see where this photo and excerpt come  from
24 November 2010
BBC News

Cambodia is holding a day of mourning for more than 450 people killed in a festival stampede.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is due to join officials and grieving relatives for a religious ceremony at the footbridge where the tragedy happened.

A preliminary investigation has found that the swaying of the bridge near the capital, Phnom Penh, triggered a panic.

Witnesses said some people were crushed on the bridge, while others fell into the river and drowned.

Crowds of revellers had been crossing the bridge to reach an island where an annual water festival was being held on Monday.
I had some errands to do in town this morning. As I rode around I saw heaps of Cambodian flags lining the streets as there always are on special national days. But today they are flying at half mast.
For local news in English check the Phnom Penh Post website. Here is a link to one of todays articles. 

An excerpt :
“My body seemed to fly into the sky when I got the news my two daughters and one son-in-law had died,” said Moun Phally, who attended the cremation of her daughters following their funeral on Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

very bad part 5

I had trouble getting to sleep last night after hearing what happened to someone we know. This person is alive, which is amazing, but a horrible story to tell from the bridge on Monday night. I actually heard other stories like this persons from others survivors on TV yesterday. But hearing it from someone I know made it feel heaps worse. Please pray for this person's recovery/ healing, both physical and emotional. This person was trampled on, and amongst all the people when they were dying. (This person is a Christian)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

very bad part 4

very bad part 3- photo links

Some photos of what the bridge looked like today are here and some pictures of identifying the victims you can see here.

very bad part 2

a bit more
also from the Phnom Penh Post, this link has maps and photos etc

Philip Heijmans, a 27-year-old photographer from Brooklyn, N.Y., who arrived at the scene half-an-hour after the stampede, walked up the bridge to see hundreds of shoes and pieces of clothing, then a body, then more "bodies stacked on bodies."
Some Australian firefighters were on the scene_ it wasn't clear why they were in town — who were checking pulses before loading bodies into vans.

Very bad

Last night our power went off around 8pm, so we just went to bed.Soeun was tired as he had been out in a province all day playing drums and preaching at a youth outreach event organised by some of his students.

This time of year the population of Phnom Penh more than doubles, everyone comes in from the provinces for the annual boat races as part of the festival that marks the changing direction of the river - the river runs backwards here!

Anyway, we don't like crowds so we stay away from the whole thing- kids gets lost, people get trampled, people drown etc. But its so big and festive and fun, people travel from all over the country to be here. But last night it was even worse.

I only checked the internet this morning as I have a relative in hospital in Australia. I was shocked to read that over 300 died last night.
From the Phnom Penh Post ,click to read in full

Hundreds died and hundreds more were injured last night in a stampede on Diamond Island’s north bridge, bringing a tragic close to the final day of water festival celebrations in Phnom Penh.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced via video conference at 2:30am that 339 people had been confirmed dead and 329 injured.

“With this miserable event, I would like to share my condolences with my compatriots and the family members of the victims,” he said.

“This is the biggest tragedy since the Pol Pot regime,” he said, adding that Cambodia would hold a national day of mourning tomorrow.
The cause of the stampede has not yet been confirmed, but Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said it happened because “one million people”, many of whom were leaving the island, became “scared of something.”.

“People were afraid and began to trample each other and some jumped into the river,” he said at the scene.
Bedlam ensued as the frenzied crowd began to push its way off the bridge, causing a jam that made it nearly impossible to breathe, according to witnesses.

With no other escape route, hundreds of people began jumping off the suspension bridge.
Sirens started to awaken city residents minutes later as ambulances, police cars and emergency vehicles began rushing to the scene, where they had to clear away the crowd before reaching victims.

Boats were called in to pull people out of the water and ferry others across the narrow Bassac River to the shore in front of the Royal Palace, where emergency workers fought through the crowd of frantic onlookers to care for the injured.

The bodies of victims were taken away in ambulances, flat-bed trucks and motor-bikes to area hospitals as police struggled to clear away the crowd by shouting, pushing and beating them back with their belts.
As the scene cleared, many bodies remained on the road, which was littered with shoes, shirts, pants and other objects dropped in the mayhem. Pieces of cardboard were placed over the heads of those obviously dead, while bystanders fanned people thought to be still alive.

Area hospitals confirmed that hundreds were either dead on arrival or died soon after, with witnesses on hand giving various explanations for the initial cause of the stampede and the actual cause of deaths.

A doctor at Calmette hospital, who declined to give his name, said after a preliminary assessment the principal causes of death among the victims he had examined were suffocation and electrocution.

Ouk Sokhhoeun, 21, was at the scene with his sister, 23-year-old Ouk Srey Mom, who was left unconscious and taken to Calmette hospital, said that military police started firing water cannons into the crowd on the bridge after the stampede had already caused scores of people to fall unconscious.
He said the water caused many people on the bridge to receive electric shocks from the cables lighting the bridge, at which point “some police also received electric shocks”.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What is a lunch break?

I was surprised when I first got to China...
....but then I got used to it and was surprised other Aussies didn't think like that.

 I finished my lunch and gathered up the papers and things I needed. I had just started working at a university in China. I had taught some classes in the morning. In the afternoon I was planning to do some errands- I had to visit the Foreign Affairs office, and then go over to the other campus to see some in the English department office, then I was going to do some photocopying and printing. I was feeling very efficient as I had organized all the documents so I was ready to get all those things done in the one trip straight after lunch.

However, I went down to the FAO, but all the doors were closed and it was quiet. Hmm, strange. Ok, come back later, next stop English department. When I got there it was also all locked up. Then I realized the places where people park their bikes were empty, and there was hardly anyone out and about. As I walked back to my place on campus I noticed all the footpaths were empty, there wasn’t anyone about. It felt like night time.

Later I found out that between noon and 2pm everyone takes a break. They go home for a cooked lunch and a nap. In the hot part of the year classes don’t even start again until 2.30 (I found that the hard way too).

Compared to my experience of growing up in Australia whole concept of lunch break is different for most of Chinese society.

Cambodia is similar to China in that respect. Lots of the market sellers take a break over the hot part of the day, and often office hours are something like 7.30-noon, then 2pm-until dinner time.

I felt surprised and frustrated when I was in the process of learning about the lunch break. But then I was surprised again a few years ago when I was hosting a short term team from Australia. We planned their timetable so that most days they didn’t have anything on from noon until 2pm. I assumed they would have a nap. But some of them went shopping and exploring instead!!! After talking to them it seemed they didn’t even consider having a nap, I had considered they would do anything else.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What adds are on your TV? I watched CTN the other night. In between 8.30 and 9pm there were more than 6 adds for cell phone companies, 3 for cold medicine and 3 for alcohol (1 wine, 1 whisky, 1 beer).
What's on TV where you are?

Soeun has quite a busy semester, and he has been sick (a cold i think) for the last couple of weeks, so we are both feeling quite tired.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Following on from yesterday... the whole internet experience was so annoying. There was a wedding next door to the internet cafe- so loud!! Also whenever people moved the fan the power cord came out, so the computer i was using turned off. i had to keep waiting for it to restart, and then sign in again. That was all on top of feeling really sleepy with a headache and not being able to open the file on my flash drive that I was trying to send.
And then when I left the shop, I was walking down the street for awhile....then I realised in my sleepyiness I had forgotten my bike.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crossword clues

Hmmm.. trying to send our November newsletter, but it s not really working. The file doesn't open on this computer and also I can't access the contact groups in my email account. Have no idea why- maybe they changed something, or maybe something is just funny today.

Mangoes, tomatoes and oranges are all eaten green here. Green mangoes are often eaten with salt and chili. Strangely when we say "purple" in Khmer we use the word for mango. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

scary white

"I like being friends with you at day time." A Khmer girl said this to me, then continued with " but if I slept next to you then woke up and saw your white face in the middle of the night I would feel scared."
The photo albums from this blog can be found here and here, seems to be in two parts, maybe they can only take up to 500 photos each.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The house we live in is great

This is how I feel about our house

This is not our house

These are not our houses either. These tall town houses are common here. I lived in one in my first year in Cambodia.

This is also not our house

Again, not our house, but gives you an idea of what many people live and work in. These are some old tall long houses.

And these are some new ones, they are springing up all around us, like grass in rainy season.

Again, this is not our house
We're really enjoying living in the house we're renting at the moment. My first house in Cambodia didn't have much natural light or air flow, in fact my bedroom didn't have any. Many houses here tall, long town houses. Everything seems squashed together so many rooms don't have external windows, which I find weird. My first bedroom in Cambodia did have one external window, but the next building was close enough for me to touch. So it was very hot and dark and depressing at home. In contrast the duplex on the Bible school campus and huge external windows with big eaves. So the light and air can come in, but the eaves keep out a lot of direct sunlight so its not as hot as it would be otherwise.

Also, as our house is new its seems the rats and cockroaches haven't found it yet (no rats inside, only a few cockroaches). We've mostly only had friendly visitors such as the many geckos, and a few frogs who we named Jeremy. We do have lots of ants though, and there was one snake. Kimsoeun bashed it to death with the broom handle.

Our rent is fairly cheap, and hasn't gone up over the last 5 years. And we haven't had to move- for both of us its the longest time in an adult life we have lived in one place continually, and we probably won't beat that record anytime soon.  Plus although the flood waters have surrounded our house, they haven't come in- very glad about that.

I was just writing our November Kronicle email, as some of you will see when I send it on Monday there is a short version of this there. Trying to post house pictures...not really working....

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Top 20kg countdown

Which of the stuff in my house will make the 20kg bag that I’ll take with me when I leave Cambodia for a few years?

After being here 5 years, we need to empty our house of stuff as we plan to live in Australia for 2-3 years. It would make it cheaper and easier when we come back if we could store our stuff, but I don’t know that we can find places to store it, and we certainly can’t take it all back with us.

So most of the stuff has to go. Hopefully we can sell our big stuff, like furniture, and hopefully some other things too, like our kitchen stuff.

Not sure if we should be shrewd and try to sell as much as possible for as much money as possible. Or go the other way and be generous, if we can find others that need some pots and pans, why not give it to them? Is that being irresponsible with our resources? My Khmer friend wants to buy our washing machine- should we try to sell it for as much as possible or help her family by making it as cheap as we can?

Often the whole moving thing is busy and stressful so it becomes easier to give things away anyway.

I was looking at my stationary stuff and feeling annoyed that I’ll have to get rid of it. I have some packets of coloured paper and cardboard used for cards and letters and some other things. I don’t know that I could sell it, hopefully I’ll find someone who can use it. I can remember other times I’ve moved house internationally (3 times) and had to get rid of stationary, it feels like such a waste. And even the big things that we sell feel like a waste too. We’ll only be able to sell our washing machine, fridge, etc for a fraction of what we paid for it. If we were able to keep it and keep using it, it would worth more than that to us.

Also considering sending some stuff- with TNT it cost about 25 USD to send a kg to Aust. Maybe I should send some of our towels and sheets rather than giving them away and buying new stuff at the other end. Then will we send them back here again in a few years???

And then there’s Kimsoeun’s books for work and music equipment. We really want to store those as he’ll need them when we get back, and unlike spoons and forks we can’t just buy more at the market.

What would you take from your home if you could only take 20 kg of things?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

You can tell its almost Water Festival by looking at our floor. Its covered in dried rice flakes that people eat at this time of year. In a few weeks heaps of people from all over Cambodia will be in Phnom Penh to have boat races and mark the river flowing the other way.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Cold, windy, rainy but not flooded

It is sooo cold here this week!

The last few months I've been spending Saturdays with a group of uni students studying the Bible. Once a month they have a special meeting, which meant that this Saturday just gone we went to a water park, just out of town. I usually wear a t-shirt all year round, but I wore a sweater/jumper on Saturday because of the wind and cold.

Crazily, some of the students actually went swimming, even though they were clearly very cold. We had to come back early as someone had a fall and got some cuts on their face. I'm not sure if they ended up going to the doctor.