Here Come the Students

I had the great good fortune this morning of running into new first-year students from Cambodia at my small liberal arts college today, and speaking a bit of Khmer with them (I miss the daily use of my language, and am correspondingly rusty).

In honor of the incoming class, and for other academics who may be reading this, I heartily suggest that all of us who are academic advisors read this entire post by the great Tenured Radical.

Because, if you do a bad job at academic advising, your students may end up somewhere in this excellent interactive chart about prison populations. (well, hopefully not, but I had to manage a segue somehow; this chart is awesome).


Cambodian Poorhouse Prisons and Fast Food

How did I miss this story? Thanks to Jinja for blogging up this horrible set of juxtapositions in Cambodia, on his normally extremely non-confrontational (wonderful) blog.

KFC Cambodia

(Above: KFC on Monivong Boulevard)

It came as a small surprise when I read in the paper that fast food restaurants existed on  Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Somehow the idea of interrogators stepping out of a prison waterboarding session for a latte seemed… incongruous. (The idea of them rewarding prisoners with ‘Happy Meals’ even more so.)

Many bases have features like this, making them small pockets of American culture in unlikely locations.  And the controversial detention center is a recent addition to a much older institution.

Now, like ‘Gitmo’,  Cambodia has its own Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, which was unveiled with much fanfare.  More than simply providing fatty food, it showed that Cambodia was being wired into the global system of international commerce – so much so that chain stores now feel secure enough to open up shop and boot out their cloned counterparts.

KFC Cambodia

With Cambodia’s entry to the World Trade Organization, and the Stock Exchange opening up in 2009, it seems the sky’s the limit. Now, if only we could just get rid of those pesky homeless people and beggars who get in the way of all this new prosperity!

(Above: Licadho)
Well, Cambodia got its own island prison camp too: Koh Kor. After some starving inmates escaped, and the news media got wind, it was quickly shut down and the inmates were dumped back on the streets. Most of them.

Still running on the outskirts of Phnom Penh is Prey Speu detention center.  With an election officially in progress, it’s surprising that no party has taken this up as an issue.  Maybe they’re happy to have clean streets for their election caravans.

Fast food and arbitrary detention. Cambodia is joining the world of global ‘convenience’.  For those who can afford it.

Would you like fries with that?