1. Murmurs In The Flanders

    The small city of Veurne turned very quiet for a couple of hours yesterday. The annual religious procession of penitents floated through streets lined with people sitting silently on chairs or whispering to each other on cafe terraces. The only sound comes from fake Roman soldiers hitting the street with their javelin or by young girls wearing a curly wig praising the Lord.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  2. Carnivorous Know-How..

    The yearly agriculture fair is taking place again in Libramont. One of the biggest in its kind in Europe, it attracts over 200,000 visitors enjoying the food (i.e. mostly meat), the tractors and machines designed for giants and endless wheat fields, the breeders’ competitions exhibiting ‘Blanc Bleu Belge’ bulls scoring more than 1,300kg, pigs with reproductive organs worthy to be used as the object of desire for American football players (I mean the ball they badly want to carry to the other side), and reminding everyone that despite the traffic jams to get there, we all depend on nature and those who somehow master it to feed ourselves…

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  3. Celebrating The End Of A Revolution…

    Belgium celebrates its existence on July 21st. On that day in 1831, Leopold Saxe-Cobourg swore allegiance to the constitution and became the first king of Belgium, putting an end to a revolution and institutionalising a de facto independence gained from the Netherlands after rioters were joined by opera goers (shortened version of Belgian history).

    And that is when the fun began…

    Part of an ongoing project called ‘This is not Belgium’. See HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE or HERE.

  4. A Fair Is A Fair…

    The ‘Foire du Midi’ or ‘Zuidfoor’, an annual fair located in the center of the city of Brussels has been going on since 1885, a few days before the celebrations of the Belgian Independence Day, allowing all those who cannot afford to go on a holiday to enjoy some entertainment. Besides bigger and scarier attractions, not much has changed over the last decades. Brotherhood of the Bald Belgians, members of the ‘Orde van de Brusselse Moestasje’ (Order of the Brussels Mustache), ‘Buumdroegers’ (Tree Carriers), ‘Poeppendroegers’ (Puppet Carriers), ‘Gardevils’ (Guards), take part in a ceremony presided by the mayor of the city.

    The festivities took place at the same time as a 5000-strong pro-Palestinian demonstration…

    Part of an ongoing project called ‘This is not Belgium’. See HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE or HERE.

  5. Judicial Machine Rolling…

    The 5 opposition CNRP lawmakers who were arrested for incitement to violence following yesterday’s outbursts of violence (see HERE) during a demonstration requesting freedom of speech are being tried at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. About 500 CNRP supporters gathered at the blockade set up by the riot police to prevent access to the court, soon joined by CNRP lawmakers.

    The implacable logic of the ruling CPP on issues regarding justice which amounts to ‘What we are doing is always legal and what the opposition is doing is illegal when we decide it is’ is spread out in the open again.

    For the armed forces to use lethal weapons, shoot demonstrators or even kill them, instead of applying well known crowd control techniques, for municipal guards to consistently provoke violence because of an uncontrolled behaviour does not, for the ruling party, justify any prosecution or arrest. When one protest, out of dozens of protests in the previous months, turns violent at the hand of CNRP supporters, the judicial machine quickly sets in and targets not the perpetrators, but those who supposedly incited the violence. Why can’t it target those who ordered the excessive violence used by the armed forces?

    Because the prevailing logic within the ruling party is one of old-fashioned politics based on developing antagonism, of machismo muscle flexing, on supposedly clever ‘divide to reign’ strategies.

    It certainly is not a logic which sets out to benefit ALL Cambodians.

    The simple notion of impartiality is totally absent within a fraction of the population. Even the Red Cross/Crescent, supposedly representing the essence of impartiality worldwide, seems to be contaminated by partisan politics in Cambodia: the municipal guards beaten up by protesters yesterday received 25$ from the Cambodian Red Cross. Has the Cambodian Red Cross ever visited those, innocent or not, shot by the military or beaten up by the same municipal guards in the previous months?

    PS: I will leave for Belgium tonight and will not cover what certainly will be interesting Cambodian events in the coming month. Sorry…

  6. Violence Calls For Violence…

    The notoriously violent Municipal Security Guards for the first time took a serious beating today at a rallye called by the opposition CNRP requesting that ‘Freedom Park’, fenced off by barbed wire and a 24h presence of riot police since a violent crackdown of striking workers in the aftermath of the 2013 elections, be returned to the public as an open space where freedom of expression could again prevail.

    Several Municipal Security Guards were seriously injured and brought to the hospital.

    Three CNRP lawmakers were detained upon leaving the area where the demonstration took place and are held at the Phnom Penh central police station.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  7. Boeung Kak Still Knocking At The Gates…

    Boeung Kak lake community members, some carrying model houses, held a demonstration in front of the Phnom Penh Municipality, seeking a final resolution for their 7-year-long struggle after a private company obtained a 133 hectares area and proceeded evicting 3000 of the 4000 families living there.

     is a follow-up post on the ‘Quest for Land' story which is available as an iApp on iTunes and which reports on land issues in Cambodia since the year 2000 with texts by Robert Carmichael and over 700 photographs.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  8. Episode 3, Day 2, Part 1: Where Is The Fervour?

    Where is the fervour which was swelling the streets of Phnom Penh during the previous ceremonies around the passing away of King Norodom Shanouk? Where has it gone? Besides invited groups and boy-scouts which were provided with  plastic flowers and small photographs of the late King, concentrated along Sihanouk and Sothearos Boulevards, the carefully choreographed procession walked along empty streets…

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  9.  Episode 3, Day 1, Part 2 of King Sihanouk Funeral…

    A somehow subdued ceremony was held in front of the Royal Palace in the afternoon of the 1st of 3 days of ceremonies for the transfer of late King Norodom Sihanouk’s ashes to a stupa inside the Royal Palace compound.

    Was it the presence of a delegation of opposition CNRP lawmakers, led by its Vice President Kem Sokha, which triggered a change of announced plans and kept both the Apsara dancers, all readied with  candles, as well as the Queen Mother and her son King Sihamoni inside, behind the gates of the palace?

    Besides a few tourists, delighted by the show of colourfull saffran-clad monks in front of the fairy-tale lights of the palace’s walls, there was no public to be seen: a far cry from the throngs of devotees who filled the streets during the previous ceremonies in 2013.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  10. Vietnamese Embassy Benefits Police Protection…

    About 200 members of the Khmer Youth Group, together with other civil society groups, monks from the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ), Radio Beehive’s Mam Sonando and CNRP Lawmaker Real Camerin, stormed through two or three blockade attempts by Municipal Security Guards and Riot Police before being stopped at a few meters from the Vietnamese Embassy. During the three-hour standoff, there was some pushing and pulling, and a few stones were thrown. The demonstration was held to demand apologies from Vietnam regarding what the protesters consider the annexation of Kampuchea Krom.

    See also HERE

    (Source: Vietnamese Embassy Benefits Police Protection...)