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Around The Sun: A Hot Night In Cambodian

A father threating to kill his son, an AK47 rifle, oceans of Gold whisky... Steve Harrison tells of just another day in old Cambodia.

The bar was jam packed. Tom, our general manager. rang to say he had never seen so many in it before. The place was hopping.

Then bang! I was in the foyer when our on-duty policeman, grabbed a young man, knocked his motorcycle helmet off, then picked up the helmet and slammed it down like a hammer on the poor fellow's head. It turned out that the youngster was the policeman's son.

The cop then punched the youngster so hard in the face there was a sound like bone cracking. The youngster, aged about twenty, was beaten, kicked and pummelled. The cop was screaming and hurling abuse.

The policeman then rushed into the hotel, grabbed a gun from his bag, and went out to shoot his son. I wanted to intervene but my burly security guard held me back and told me not to get involved.

The father aimed the gun at the boy, who cowered down behind a car. This confronation went on for hours, ending in stalemate. I had closed the outer doors of our hotel to keep the guests in. I didn't want anyone getting shot.

I kept an eye on the situation until around 3 am when a new Mercedes Benz cruised into sight. The driver blew his horn, and security came to help him park. Two slick well-dressed Khmers got out. "Nice car,'' I commented. One of the Khmers asked if this was the place that stayed open all night playing hip-hop music.

Then another big four-wheel drive vehicle arrived and a married couple, both Khmers, got out of it. They joined the men from the Mercedes and settled down at the bar near me. When they appeared everyone cleared a space at the bar for them. They ordered Johnnie Walker Gold Label which we didn't stock. The Mercedes driver said he had several bottles of Gold in the trunk of his car. He was the son of a new multi-million dollar complex in the seaside town of Sihanoukeville.

He cracked open a bottle of Gold and we toasted one another. The ritual was to drink a full glass of whisky before setting the glass back down on the table. His mate downed a full glass then was derided for immediately becoming drunk.

I escaped from the ritual by telling them of the beating I had witnessed. The Mercedes owner told me he would get his gun, an AK47, and sort the situation out. I also declined the offer of joining him in that ritual.

He later told me he also drove a Hummer around town. He said he would come around one evening to pick me up, then I could go cruising the streets with him and his mates.

I asked if he ever had any trouble with the police while cruising in the Hummer.

He told me he was above the law.

Just another day in Cambodia.

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