Sihanouk in Google’s Zeitgeist 2012

Late former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk included at 01:53.


Phnom Penh Going Hypercool Online

UPDATE: Andrew is in fact a new Phnom Penhois, working at a local NGO. He told me via email that  he was doing this in his spare time. At the of the first post on December 5, there was around 25,000 views. One day after, that number increased by 10,000 views to over 35,000.

That I first learned about this amazing timelapse video of my hometown from an Indonesian friend – and not from a Cambodian friend – didn’t initially catch my attention. I was impressed, stunned, awed. So too were many others, Cambodians and non-Cambodians alike it seems, making the extremely well-shot video go viral on YouTube, and making it into Mashable. And this, at a time when I am in the Penh!  Even if you’ve never been to the Cambodian capital or have heard bad things about it, this video might change your mind. It’s a powerful new digital-age way to change other’s perception about your city or country.

The video was uploaded by Andrew Blalock, who describes himself as originating from the San Francisco Bay area of the United States. He may well just be visiting the city, but my guess is that he’s one of the growing number of expats in Phnom Penh. This evening I was just chatting with friends about the recent influx of foreigners to Phnom Penh, making it ever more cosmopolitan.

Andrew: whether Phnom Penh is your transit or your new home away from home, thank you for making it so hyper-cool!

A Twitter Moment: When Followers Surpass Followings

twitter sophat soeungSince my last two major ‘Twitter moments’ – when I made my tweets public and when I actually ‘started’ tweeting – another milestone worth noticing is when recently the number of my followers (160) have surpassed that of followings (150).

Not a big deal? To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to exactly use Twitter meaningfully and I’m far from becoming one of those Twitter addicts. But having increasingly more followers – more people following you than the other way round – is a good source of encouragement. It’s an indication that my tweets are useful for some. But even without those numbers, Twitter as a platform is more useful in so many other ways, than Facebook.

Let me know when you discovered your first #TwitterMoment and whether followers/-ings numbers matter as much to you. And follow me at @SophatSoeung!

Will the Tonle Sap River Stop Reversing?

The Tonle Sap lake-river during the dry season (dark blue) and rainy season (light blue).

So this will be my presentation topic at this year’s 4th Khmer Studies Forum at Ohio University, April 27-29, 2012. Interestingly, the presentation comes at a time when there is more media coverage on the Mekong river issues, including the recent Mekong-Japan Summit, Cambodia’s warning to Laos about the Xayaburi dam, and Cambodia’s own criticized tributary dam plans.

You can also follow my musings on the Mekong river issues pertaining to Cambodia at

I hope to see you at Ohio University. Here’s my presentation abstract:

When the River Stops Reversing: Raising Environmental Awareness for the Tonle Sap
The Mekong river’s unique hydrology has profoundly shaped Cambodian culture and its civilization for over two millennia. From the author’s experience, however, modern Cambodians do not appear to fully understand or appreciate this connection, resulting in lack of engagement on environmental issues and misguided development policies. The Tonle Sap river is believed to be the world’s only inland river that seasonally reverses its flow. The significance of this hydrological reversal lies beyond its physical symbolism – more importantly, it determines the food security of Cambodia, having shaped its cultural lifeblood for over two millennia. To most Cambodians, this river’s strange rhythm seems ‘natural’ and enduring. However, today the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers are under threat from infrastructure development and climate change more than ever before. For example, the erection of a dam or a decrease in rainfall could disrupt the seasonal reversal. In this context, the author believes that the metaphor of an irreversible Tonle Sap river can serve as a wake-up call for Cambodians of all walks of life to be more aware of their physio-social environment. Through better education and activism, this narrative could elicit more widespread engagement in Mekong river issues, while also bringing about more sustainable national policies to address the developmental and environmental challenges that Cambodia and neighboring countries face in managing this shared resource.

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