Mike Thvedt: freelancer, vagabond.

Red Cambodia

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Suppose I told you there was a man who wanted to destroy civilization, and in his home country he did, more or less.

That sounds like something from a James Bond movie. A villain sits in his villain chair, petting his cat, cackling, “When my grand plan is complete, civilization will be destroyed and remade according to my plan, for my people.”

But I mean that this was actually attempted. A military group seized control of Cambodia and set to work emptying cities and eliminating entire classes and groups of people. Their leader, Pol Pot, was a man ordinary in intellect but unusual in his unbalanced paranoia; fear of of other races, other classes, and hidden forces. He struggled academically when he studied in France and fell in with Marxist anarchists before dropping out and returning to the revolution in Cambodia. He must have had some talent for leadership, because he ended up in charge, and his philosophy had sufficient appeal among the violent.

Marxists were already fighting in Cambodia when Pol Pot arrived on the scene. Marx taught that all profit was exploitation, all the bourgeoisie were profiteers, and the system was built in their interests. The exploitation of workers was encoded into society’s structure. Only a workers’ revolution, setting up the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, could ultimately be trusted with power and capital. But this is not what Pol Pot believed.

C’est Wat: Angkor in Pictures

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So everyone has heard of Angkor Wat, but it turns out that the Wat is only one temple in Angkor, the capital of the medieval Khmer empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia.

Angkor is an otherworld, sprawling ruins of an ancient and massive civilization, overgrown by the Cambodian jungle. How big is it? Imagine a temple so large it can take 15 or 20 minutes just to walk from one end to the other. Now imagine there are a half dozen of them.

The outer wall of Angkor Wat. The famous central towers are barely visible to either side of the main gate.

Thailand in Pictures

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Markets like the below are everywhere, and they range from a few stalls to warehouses to filling entire sections of a city. They’re visited by locals and tourists alike. The ubiquity of markets is one way you know the economy here is very different from at home.

Entrance to Chiang Mai’s Sunday market. from the ground. It actually goes on forever, or at least, about a kilometer.

In the Chiang Mai market, occasionally the loudspeakers will play the Thai national anthem. Then everyone stops and stands motionless for the duration of the music, like some weird science fiction movie.