I suppose you know by now ~ fools rush in where wise women & men never go.
Cambodia has never been for the faint of heart nor for the naively adventurous. Although I love this land as my home with all of my heart, I earnestly discourage people from endorsing brutality and inequity with their tourist dollars. Behind the illusionary veil of tranquility here, Cambodia is a land, as you well know, where even the well intentioned and savvy can get caught in inextricable scams, disappear, and worse.
It is only through the daily efforts of my adoptive family and my adoring employers & students that I have managed to attain my unique position and survive unscathed as long as I have. The daily life of Cambodian people is far more treacherous & avaricious than most people can conceive, and Cambodians often either look upon foreigners with curiosity & concern or as simple sources of durable currency, but never as any less deserving than they themselves are of whatever disdainful fate comes their way.
Right now there is a game of tug-of-war underway amongst three (one new) redundant governmental ministries recently charged by two adversarial political parties with enforcing a previously unknown and unenforced labor law that could have conceivably seen me and many resident foreigners either imprisoned or deported. This was a genuine threat with frightening consequences for me and those I hold closest to my heart.
If either logic or jurisprudence were ever practiced in Cambodia, I would never be concerned, yet the almost certainty that I may still be used as a pawn and a source for improper monetary gain leaves me nauseated, scared, and angry.
At the peak of recent frenzy, I struggled to walk away from conversations with several relatively recent newcomers to the Kingdom of Dust & Stolen Dreams, as I have oft and long referred to Cambodia, who genuinely seemed intoxicated by a cycle of perpetual supposition and conjecture. If a conversation did not eventually lead to possible solutions to this matter, then I preferred not participate in rhetoric that merely dwelt on “what ifs” – no matter how much I otherwise delighted in hearing English profanity properly used.
As of this moment, tangible work permits still do not exist. Nobody has ever seen one, nor can any “official” issue one. Multiple ministries have leapt from rediscovering a small, long overlooked law written during the United Nations’ Temporary Administration of Cambodia (UNTAC) to rapid enforcement and unlawful retroactive penalizing without any consideration for the practical application of the law.
This entire event has its roots in the recent 2013 election results that saw the xenophobic opposition party win a surprising 55 parliamentary seats; thereby, threatening the longstanding Vietnamese aligned ruling party for the first time. Shortly after that point, only ethnic Vietnamese in the countryside were targeted, yet now this campaign of intimidation and extortion is spreading to metropolitan areas such as Siem Reap and Phnom Penh with large “Western” populations.
Enjoy yourself. It is later than you think