Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Old laundry

Digging through boxes I  found a couple of old tees that I thought had long disappeared. My 'war souvenirs' from the July 1997 factional fighting in Phnom Penh (a two day military confrontation [July 5-6] between FUNCINPEC and CPP forces.) To my memory there were a few different war tees. One played on the embassies' reluctance to label the fighting a 'coup' or the assisted exodus of expats an 'evacuation.'  On the front it had a drawing of civilians running to a C-130 at the airport, entitled "This is not an evacuation." On the back it had a picture of tanks on the streets, entitled "And this is not a coup." Anyway, here's a couple of photos on my old laundry.

From my journal:
"July 13, 1997
A good end to a bad week

Last night, Saturday night, was special. The Australian ambassador (Tony Kevin) had a ‘barbie’ at his residence near Wat Phnom. The ambassador's Saturday barbie has long been a regular weekly event open to Aussies and other expats, but this week's was the first truly normal happening since the little war.

Tents were set on the lawn of the ambassador's villa, steaks and chops on the grill and a free flow of draft Angkor. Very well attended by a strange medley of embassy/NGO types, English teachers, journos and construction guys. Rain threatened but nobody seemed to care. The DG guys were there, selling tee-shirts on the side. I bought my first war-related tee:

Coup? Hunpossible!
Democracy? Sensational!

And another with "What did you get up to this weekend?" on the back and the text of the the recorded war warning from the embassy on the front.

We drank beer, socialized with expats, some of whom were actually not leaving the country, and had a generally good time that stretched into the evening. As the sun sank there was some talk of security, but the party plugged on. It was the first truly light, relaxed and encouraging moment since the fighting, and it was the first time many have been out after dark this week.

After the ambassador's party I went to the Heart of Darkness, my standard. Around 30 people were there, mostly men. Light for a Saturday but, according to Samnang, it was the first night the Heart had had any real business since the fighting. People drank and smoked and told giddy stories of ‘where I was when...’ and what’s going to happen next. Like a bunch of school boys, we were all friends last night.

As I put on a light and listened to stories passing up and down the bar, I felt...a rush. Something male, Hemingwayish and no doubt highly politically incorrect. I know it was wrong and shallow to feel this way, but...We made it! The war is definitely over. The week of hysteria is over. Everybody in the bar is a stayer. The spirit and the talk last night filled my cup."


  1. Thanks for the post; a slice of history to be sure.
    & that Hippie tee shirt is quite a gem.
    Cheers, ic

  2. Great post. With the pictures of those cool t-shirts and the journal entry to go with it, it's got to be my favourite post on this blog so far. Two thumbs up!