Monday, 1 February 2016

Suzuki Samurai: The usual racket

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 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.

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