Friday, April 30, 2010

The Hoax

By now this story has made the rounds, so more or less everybody in Cambodia knows about it; not only did blogs pick it up but the PPP found it newsworthy enough to dedicate an article to it; we all know now it was a hoax – whether intentional or unintentional we can just surmise; my guess is it was quite intentional. Khmer journalists sometimes have this foible to thumb their noses at their readers. And did they succeed this time!

KI-Media published an English translation taking it quite seriously; not to mention their readers who maden an almost unprecedented number of comments. The majority did fall for the story.

Even the Details-Are-Sketchy blog commented on it with proper outrage, although with her (?) usual sarcastic overtone.

Don’t people have any sense for reality any more, or do they really think the world, and especially Cambodia has come to this? I mean, think about it! A cool $1.0 million for a bride? It goes without saying this is for a virgin, a highly regarded female attribute in Asia. Although it is not uncommon that parents do sell the virginity of their daughter, with the girl ending up in prostitution in a lot of cases, that prize would deter even the most determined aphrodisiac-seeking Asian male. It is also not uncommon that wealthy parents seek out equally wealthy bridegrooms, but we were dealing with a cash-price here. Who wants to dish out that kind of money for the proverbial cat in the bag?

And really, I don’t think a bride is held that high in esteem by the rich young Khmer as one example shows. I met a son of a successful Khmer businessman not too long ago. He drives a Lamborghini (at $400K not for everyone, and this is not the only expensive car he owns). He was going on and on about his car, and one could see that this was really a very prized possession of his. I finally asked him whether he was married. He said, yes, he is. To my question who comes first for him, he only half-jokingly said, ‘They are both equally important to me’.

Anyway, whatever the editor was thinking, for this to appear in a newspaper as hard news would seem so far-fetched that one could ordinarily not help but conclude that this was a hoax. I was so amazed at the reaction and outrage this produced that I could only attribute this to people’s preconceived ideas about Khmer rich people and Cambodia in general. To them Cambodia is practically a cesspool, and anything is possible here. It is, of course, not surprising that the people who comment on KI-Media fell for it, as I believe their intellectual acumen is with a few exceptions somewhat lacking to begin with. But then we know those people don't know too much about Cambodia anyway.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Recent News – April 2010

Tourist Boost in S’ville

The PPP reports a ‘sharp’ increase, namely 50% more international tourists over the Khmer New Year in Sihanoukville province. A (surprising) 650, yes you read it right - 650, international visitors came to the region (versus 410 in 2009), according to the director of the tourism department.

If that accounts for a boost I don’t know what they would call 1000 visitors – a deluge? This was over the New Year holidays. Who are they kidding? Did they count the expats from Phnom Penh, or what?

Before making such unreflected public comments this director had better learn how to compile real statistics.

Similarly, the 9% increase over 2009 isn’t what they make you believe. Most of that increase is derived from Vietnamese tourists coming for a 3 day visit; that’s how long they usually stay. Additionally, they are not known to be big spenders. In the end, the bottom line for the country is still more or less the same as in 2009 so far. I do know a small number of hotels, though, that are always booked solid. They are even expanding right now.

Rubber Prices

The same issue of the PPP says that rubber prices soared a whopping 236 per cent. This is, of course, true. As of the time of this writing one ton of crepe rubber traded at $3,729, and it looks like prices are going to continue climbing.

Ly Phalla, the director of government’s rubber directorate says he hopes that prices will keep on rising. That’s, however, a pretty short-sighted, if not outright amateurish, view.

One needs to look at the underlying reasons for these incredible increases. He cited the bad weather last year resulting in a decrease in production in 2009. That’s only part of the story. He must have forgotten that there was and still is an economic crisis going on in the world. Thailand, for one, deliberately decreased production on slow demand. Slow demand was the main factor for those plummeting prices to begin with.

The current rise is caused by the still breath-taking growth in China, which is leading directly into an overheating of especially the commodities market. Don’t forget, high natural rubber prices make synthetic rubber look much more attractive. So there is an inherent danger in that rubber price explosion. It will lead to higher prices for rubber based products, which in turn might lead directly to a slowing of demand again. So that spike is sure to come down again to more reasonable levels. Additionally, there is a ‘natural’ shortage at the end of the wintering season. The resumption of production is just starting now. Once it is in full swing again around June, July, prices should stabilize, if not come down. My bet, and my hope, is that prices will settle at the $3,000 mark. That’s high, to begin with. Why hope? I just think of the past bubbles; bursting bubbles always have a dramatic effect, and I just don’t like this kind of drama.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

God Save the King of Thailand

I have been very busy lately, hence no post for some time. Additionally, there wasn't anything worthy writing about in my opinion. Just the same old, same old. It appears as though things are moving in circles, and we've been around all that stuff a few times.

But one interesting story caught my eye as it has a direct impact on Cambodia, and that is, the current Thai crisis. ABC Australia broadcast a report on the Thai King and  the Thai Royal Family, its role in today's Thailand, and indirectly in the crisis.

You Tube still has that report online, although ABC itself makes it only available to Australien viewers. Here it is:

Draw your own conclusions, and possibly parallels.