US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cambodia last week to … well, no-one really knows what he was there for, including John Kerry. Our intrepid reporter Suzuki Samurai was there to watch his arrival, and the local reaction to it.
The pre-arrival had all the delicacy of a local and more hysterical version of CHiPs.
Five hundred taller-than-usual Khmer goons spread across every intersection with Kevlar vests, Chinese assault rifles and mirrored Ray-Bans¹. Check!
White-tunicced motorbike cops² with screaming circa-1950's sirens and mirrored Ray-Bans out there removing parked cars. Check!
Beige uniformed cops (Ray-Bans again) blocking side-streets of traffic. Check!
An eerie two minutes silence—followed by thirty noisy seconds of drag-racing Chevy Suburban-flanked Cadillac³ motorcade-racket. Check!
It’s all on here in Phnom Penh: it’s all on because cos’ nobody’s hero John Kerry is right here in town!
Mind you this spectacle isn't reserved just for one of Kerry's eminence. Every tin-pot politician and gangster gets this treatment here.
Still, as I sip my twenty-leventh margarita watching all this silliness I start to imagine the conversation going on in the Cadillac: -
Kerry [looking out to see a sea of mirrored Ray Bans looking back at him; turns to Advisor for help]: “So, same score as Laos then?”
Advisor: “Kinda. Except of course this place is a democracy.”
Kerry: “Really!? I thought that was Laos?”
Advisor: “Nope. That place is a communist dictatorship.”
Kerry: “But my notes say that they are both in the same shape: corruption; political assassination; human rights abuses...”
Advisor: “Ahh, sure.”
Kerry: “Hmmm. So, what I'm saying to this [checks notes] um, Hun Sen fella?”
Advisor opens his folder and hands Kerry a briefing paper.
Kerry: “This again? All you've done is scribble out the names of the guys of all the last ten places we've been to.”
Advisor: “Yes sir, but we're trying to keep these guys onside; so don’t say anything off script….
Kerry: But you’ve given me no script.
Advisor: ..ahem, the Chinese give them billions every year without any pesky questions.''
Kerry: “Pesky questions?”
Advisor: “Yes Mr Secretary. Questions like the ones we used to ask, such as 'where's all our tax-payers money go'?
Kerry: “So. I've got this memorised now...one short meeting, yada yada yada, human rights, growth amazing, friendship...blah blah blah, and then we’re off. What time do we leave for Beijing?”
Advisor: “Zero six hundred.”
Kerry: “That's in the morning right? [Looks out longingly at Suzuki at a sidewalk cafe.] Can we possibly stop for a margarita?”
¹ The wearing of sunglasses during the day in is unusual. However, during the night Ponch & Baker glasses are mandatory.
² Any untrained, incompetent government crook with a walkie-talkie, often-dropped ageing Chinese service pistol, and a badge.
³ For the pedants among you: yes, it was a Cadillac rather than the usual Lincoln.