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World Bank and Working Girls

Location: Cambodia


I'm not listening to rap music, those headphones are for the Khmer-English translation while Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke.

I attended the first annual Development Cooperation Forum this week, where the international donor community and the Royal Government of Cambodia met to discuss next year's half billion. Here is Ian Porter, World Bank Country Director for Southeast Asia, opening things up. He's an old friend of my advisor at SAIS, Karl Jackson.

It was a little surprising that the foreigners and Cambodians didn't mix at lunch. I thought this was a cooperation forum! I almost grabbed the microphone for some Volunthai English Camp ice-breaking activities.

The shiny cars of the donor community outside my office, with their drivers huddled under the tree playing cards.

And in this corner, weighing in at 600 million, we have the international donor community. The US Ambassador is sitting at the far right, a dedicated man who chose to be posted here.

This fellow didn't say much at lunch, but boy did he have a story to tell when everyone else left the table. He trained in guerrilla tactics in the 70's at 'Camp American Cry' in Malaysia. Find out why it was called that in my journal entry...

The Green Vespa, an Irish-owned pub where I eat every night. Those three guys are in the insurance business (I eavesdropped). The British guy up front in red was unbelieveably foul-mouthed and reluctant to leave (I didn't have to eavesdrop).

And in this corner, with untold undeclared assets standing in the way of a monumental anti-corruption law... the Cambodian government.

There are lots of 'lady bars' like this in Phnom Penh. I tried to sneak a camera in to take pictures, but one of the hostesses saw it and they all demanded I take their picture. Just like the kids in the countryside, I think for many of them it was the first time they saw a digital camera. Note the portraits of the royal family on the wall.

My normal dinner: a meat pie, fries, and canned beans. Don't worry, mom, I get my green veggies at a Khmer lunch buffet.

she jumped up and asked for a portrait! I asked her what she prayed for and the answer was simple: lots of customers. I'm sure most of what they all make is sent home to support parents and siblings in school.

The flash surprised this girl praying to the bar's spirit alter. I thought she might be angry with me but...