Sunday, April 22, 2012

The secret life of traffic jams

Here are two more bits from Christopher G. Moore's Zero Hour in Phnom Penh that give a fair picture of how Phnom Penh must have looked to an outsider in the 1990s:
“Winded, she explained to Ratana, Calvino’s secretary, that she had been delayed in a massive traffic jam on Sukhumvit and then got lost. The traffic jam was the big, easy lie everyone used and just about no one ever got called on. The lie that allowed a couple of hours for a busy executive to spend with his mia noi while assured that his major wife wouldn’t question the heavy traffic excuse. No one with a mistress in Bangkok ever wanted the city’s traffic jams fixed.”
“Singh was no more than in his early 40s; he had been assigned from his unit—the New Delhi Anti-Terrorist Squad—to UNTAC Civ Pol and found himself in charge of the seven police districts in Phnom Penh. ...  `How much does a Cambodian cop make a month?' [Calvino] asked.

"Det. Supt. Singh glanced over at Calvino.

“`Nine dollars a month. When they get paid,' he replied.

“`And how much does an UNTAC cop make?'

“`One-hundred-thirty a day. Rain or shine' smiled Det. Supt. Singh. `Who said that life was always fair? It wasn’t an Indian or a Khmer.'”
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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