Phnom Penh Residents Mixed on Summits

As a stream of motorcades left the Hotel Inter-Continental Sun­day morning, ice cream salesman Keo Vanra was directing another stream of people into a small door in his shuttered storefront on nearby Monireath Boulevard.

Although police had ordered his business closed for the duration of the Greater Mekong Subregion and Asean summits, customers, still hungry for ice cream, were flock­ing to his shop. But instead of driving up to the storefront, they had to sneak in a side door—out of sight of the police.

It all seemed like a fuss about no­thing to Keo Vanra, who wasn’t sure who was riding in the gleaming luxury cars or what the meetings are all about.

“I know it’s the Asean Summit, but nobody has told us what that means,” he said.

Waiting at a police blockade near the Hotel Inter-Continental as ano­ther VIP passed by behind tinted glass, motorcycle taxi driver Sok Samnang was also confused about all the ceremony.

“Nobody knows what the Asean meeting means,” he said. “But the authorities told me that it is very important for Cambodia.”

A resident of the Tuol Svay Prey II commune, near the hotel, Sok Sam­nang said city authorities had or­dered residents to shutter their front doors and leave via back alleys while delegates are in town.

“It’s good to have security in all corners, but it’s difficult for me to find customers because nobody is going out,” he said.

Nearby, Tang Pang, the owner of a paint importing company, was more enthusiastic about the high-profile meetings.

“Cambodia is very honored to be the host country of the Asean meeting because it will it will at­tract foreign investors to Cam­bo­dia and improve its economy,” he said. “The summit will help our country become modern.”

Others were less convinced. Chea Socheat, a high school student, said the high security surrounding the summits will quickly vaporize after the delegates leave.

“Officials take good care of security during the Asean meeting, but they will be careless again when the meeting is over,” she said.

Citing the nation’s dismal im­port-export ratio, Chea Socheat has little hope the summit will im­prove Cambodia’s economy. “We have nothing to export to im­prove our economy, so the Asean meeting is not necessary,” she said.

“Most Cambodian people are living in poverty and many are facing natural disasters, but the government ignores them,” Chea So­cheat said. “They spend millions on security for these meetings, but they don’t try to solve people’s hunger.”


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