New Ground

It’s a short walk to Toul Tompoung tourist market from the office under a blistering April sun right after lunch. I stop by a corner café to have a cup of cappuccino; the air-conditioned room is a haven in this everyday meltdown of climate and events. As I wallow in afternoon languor, yet intoxicated by the the coffee’s aroma, I scan the pages of Phnom Penh Post. There’s a report on yesterday’s demonstration of about 2,000 locals at Freedom Park calling for fair elections; some brave Khmers oblivious to possible harassment awaiting any of them in the hands of the powers-that-be. One item is about the obscene forest destruction inside a wildlife sanctuary in Ratanakiri by a Vietnamese company with economic land concession right granted by high ministers. A Thai documentary film, Boundary, tackling the subject of Thai-Cambodia border conflict at Preah Vehear ruins, gets banned in the filmmaker’s homeland. Other events of minutiae-scale run through the pages and seem to have slipped through the glass walls of the coffee shop, make a break through the parched leaves of potted plants into the chaos of street traffic and uncertainty of the hours. From this little episode, I break into a new ground.