Posted by razzbuffnik on 21st April 2008
Back in the early 70s, when I was living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the war I used to eat at a street side cafe, not far from the central market. Quite a few other foreigners used to eat there as well. In Asia at that time wherever there were single foreign men there were usually local hookers as well.
Since I was living in Phnom Penh over a period of six months, I saw the foreigners come and go, but their local playmates remained behind, to somehow scratch a living from their next dalliance. Over time I got to know quite a few of these women, and they used to come and sit with my girlfriend and I as we ate. They would chat and pass the time with us until a foreigner would come up and whisper something in their ear and they would give us an embarrassed smile and excuse themselves so they could go and ply their trade. Despite their uniformly sad backgrounds and desperate circumstances they were all quite nice and we enjoyed their company and saw them as friends.
One woman that we saw nearly every day, was called Sukon (I’m not exactly sure how it is spelt).
Usually Sukon was quite laid-back; full of life; quick to laugh and smile. One morning Sukon turned up and seemed quite rattled and upset. When we asked her what was the matter she told us what happened to her at the Khmera restaurant (just around the corner from where we were sitting) the previous evening.
The Khmera was a very popular place with foreigners, as it served very cheap quite tasty French style food, and you could change your money on the black-market in the toilets with the waiters. At the time, the official rate of exchange at the banks was a few hundred riels to the dollar but in the toilets of the Khmera, one could get 3600 riels to the dollar from the waiters. So, a meal that should cost about 10 US dollars would end up actually costing about 50 or 60 cents.
Apparently the night before, Sukon had been eating in the Khmera, with a client when a drunken American guy came in waving a pistol. The drunk started yelling and screaming at Sukon, threatening to kill her because she was with another man. Before anybody had a chance to get away from the maniac he shot at Sukon but fortunately missed her.
Unfortunately, the gunmen shot a dining Englishman in the butt! As the Englishman hit the ground, the drunk was over-powered by other diners and carted off to the police. Meanwhile other people at the restaurant took the Englishman to hospital to be operated on.
To add insult to injury, the Englishman was transfused with blood contaminated with malaria and he nearly died, necessitating for him to be flown directly back to England for further treatment to save his life.