Cambodia (scraps)

The Angkor remains tend to overwhelm the experience of the country — probably as the pharonic remains of ancient Egypt do there. The better half raised some thought-provoking points about the situation. A regime based on god-king sovereignty, caste, and war — hardcore even by the wildest imaginings of contemporary reactionaries, therefore (and with no hint of ‘neo-’ in sight) — created a legacy that continues to support the country six centuries after the collapse of the Khmer kingdom. How does this affect calculations of social order, economics, and time? It certainly inclines the mind toward illiberal musings.


Cambodian money is a study in the contemporary world order. In Siem Reap, especially, the economy is fully dollarized. The local currency, the Riel, is worth USD0.00025, and we never came across a note worth more than 25 cents until leaving SR. Riels were used as change (compensating for the absence of US specie). Seignorage bitchez. Everyone says it doesn’t amount to much in aggregate, but the symbolism is certainly something.

In Kampot, we threw a chunk of the local economy into chaos trying to break a 10 dollar bill. The first group of street traders we approached had no idea whar it was (might as well have been some kind of arcane futures contract). It was only when we got into the center of town that ‘money’ and ‘small change’ became differentiable concepts?


The whole ‘Khmer Rouge accelerated dysgenics’ idea makes a lot of sense, conceptually, but the locals seem competent enough on the evidence provided by casual exposure. Given where the country has been, it seems to be doing OK.

The second HBDish (or as we say ‘Spandrellish’) point raised in respect to the Vietnamese was ‘tropical work habits’ — I’ll plead agnosticism, while reluctantly noting that Siem Reap contained the first “6-11s” I’ve ever seen …


Cambodian politics? Not much new information really, except (1) the state of media openness seems quite high (for better and for worse, given the chronic Cathedralism of the contemporary journalistic mind), and (2) the pervasive promotion of the Cambodian People’s Party is recognizably ‘communist’ in its indifference to the pseudo-binary balance recognized by friend and foe alike as the hegemonic global norm. Going out on a limb, I’d hazard that the country is doing well by effectively suppressing anything beyond nominal democracy, but the pressure to deteriorate will only get worse.


Being disconnected in stages is a new experience. All connectivity disappeared at 9pm last night (or so) — it wasn’t something I appreciated. Satellite-linked neuro-embedded chip? Yes please.


Conversations with a Tuk Tuk Driver #1 (Democracy):

Us: “So who did you support in the last election?’
TTD: “I voted for Sam Rainsy.”
US: “What did you like about him?”
TTD: “He promised to spend more money on things. Hun Sen is spending a lot of money, but Sam Rainsy said he would spend even more money.”

Conversations with a Tuk Tuk Driver #2 (Colonialism):

Us: “This place [a pepper farm] is great. [Joking, to kids] Would you like to become Cambodian pepper farmers?”
TTD [jumping in]: “Easy. There’s a lot right next door available for US$6,000. Enough space to grow pepper, mangoes, papaya, bananas, keep some chickens, some cows — that’s really good money, cows.”
Us: “It sounds like a lot of work.”
TTD: “No problem! Cambodian people would do all the work. You could just lie in hammocks, telling them what to do. They’d do all the farming, ask if you want something to eat, bring you drinks …”

[more later]

January 26, 2014admin 4 Comments »
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4 Responses to this entry

  • henry Says:

    Meanwhile, next door in Thailad there is a full-blown conservative anti-democracy rebellion going on. And apparently succeeding, although one can never know.


    Posted on January 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am Reply | Quote
  • Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Says:

    Writing off South East Asia based on IQ seems a little simplistic.

    Turkey has a GDP per capita of 10k and an IQ of 91. And it has Islam problems.

    Cambodia is supposedly around 89-91 IQ and this might go up a bit if they are behind on the Flynn effect. GDP per capita of $945.

    Vietnam is supposedly around 93-96 IQ, equivalent to Argentina or maybe even approaching Portugal. They may also be somewhat behind on the Flynn effect. GDP per capita of 1,598.

    It’s entirely possible, even probable that these countries will never become South Korea.

    But if the witch doctors in Washington have muti that is strong enough to keep the world economy going, then IQ alone should not be sufficient to keep these countries from experiencing some significant GDP growth.

    Other factors, maybe.


    spandrell Reply:

    My approach, isn’t based in IQ as much as in history.

    Japan was long a literate and relatively advance culture, and it did well. China of course was always powerful and will be again. South Korea was a civilized if backward place, it’s doing ok but it has already peaked. And let’s not forget half the country is insane.

    Southeast Asia though has always been a backwater. My hunch is that it will continue to be so. To the extent that some parts of SEA are civilized is because of having millions of civilized Chinese among them.


    Posted on January 26th, 2014 at 9:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Scrap notes #4 Says:

    […] Cambodia (scraps) […]

    Posted on January 28th, 2014 at 3:22 pm Reply | Quote

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