Saturday, December 4, 2021

We smile bug we also kill. CAMBODIA'S GENOCIDAL BUDDHK

 Wow just spotted it's 30 years since the signing of the Paris peace accords that slowly brought an authoritarian peace to Cambodia and set me on the road back to Phnom Penh. I had bribed and hustled my way there in 90. But Saddam Hussein ruined my gig by crossing the Kuwaiti border as i crossed the Vietnamese Csmbodia one. With the arrival of the UN mission, Western embassies, NGOs dreamers schemers writers grifters adventurer-seekers war junkies and n out n out lunatics this once isolated capitsl became a wild east goldrush town. You could hop a UN helicopter to conflict zones and be back the next day eating fine food and telling tall tales with some of the most marvelous people I had the pleasure to meet. It was a toxic mix of beauty, genocidal trauma, deadly politics and fascinating characters like King Sihanouk. Every day was a Graham Greene novel. The place fucked your head in every possible way. The dwindling war could still be deadly as dear friends discovered and poor peasants trudged away from annual dry season offensive with biblical stoicness. War had become part of the national dna. As Sihanouk said " we smile but we also kill." They did both with gusto. On a meta level the opening of the country made the secretive xenophobic Khmer Rouge less tenable. Western, Chinese andThai backing slowly shifted to the Phnom Penh government, many of whom were ex Khmer Rouge. Everybody killed. So you were forced to make pragmtic judgements about who killed less. We had a rave in a graveyard. And there was something kind of sinful about it. But the politics was intoxicating. The work was relentless. As long as you banged out fast and accurate copy- which Sambath Reach RIP  and i did with aplomb aided by Brian Hansford, Carol Livingston and Liz Gilliland - nobody interfered with you. This needless to say led to some outrageous behavior. Life was cheap in all senses. As were drugs, booze and guns. I hadnt any problems  with drugs or booze but i drew the line with guns  i was a rare joutno who never carried anything more dangerous than a wild .mouth, an observent eye and a can  of mace. I turned 30 there and left 4 years later. I recall saying to my dear friend and Master Musician of  Joujouka manager Frank Rynne when the band opened the 200,000 plus Glastonbury festival with an Islamic prayer and some ancient Sufi rock n roll that this was the most fun I had since Csmbodia. It was  a similar heady mix of politics  poetry, rock n roll and angelic propaganda. Pure beauty. But cheers to all my  Cambodian mates. It took real courage to be an independent voice at that time. We were all return ticket revolutionaries. You guys were the real deal. Shame our ranks have been so decimated by untimely death. Seems to go with the territory. But fuck me, it's been hell of a privilege. Dropped in and out of Bosnia and Africa but never really felt the same intoxicating sense of riding raw and raucous history again.