Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Frying Fish - Civil and Political Unrest in Cambodia - 15 February 2014

There are some golden rules when writing on events in Southeast Asia. One of these is never write anything critical of Cambodia’s ruling elite. Expatriates in Cambodia are not invulnerable to the machinations of the domestic political scene and unwanted attention from those well connected is not something you should covet. That’s why it’s important to make use of reported speech, though even this technique may still get you into trouble. That said, here goes.As 2014 began Cambodia was increasingly in the grip of mounting political and civil unrest. Long one of Southeast Asia’s most stable nations, Cambodia seems, as one long time Cambodia observer put it, ‘to be at tipping point.’ The government’s response has increasingly become hard line culminating in sending in the military to break-up strikes by garment workers, and banning gatherings of more than 10 people in an effort to ‘restore order’. The government’s response to the ongoing troubles highlights two characteristics of the political landscape in Cambodia. These are what the foreign diplomatic community in Phnom Penh and Cambodia observers have identified as the lack of accountability in government circles and amongst the country’s elites; and what Human Rights Watch says is the lack of acceptance of a legitimate opposition as part of the political process.  The recent political turmoil in Cambodia stemmed from the results of the national elections in July 2013 won by the incumbent Cambodia People’s Party

New Zealand Football's Mexican Stand-Off - 20 November 2013

The play-off for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil second leg in Wellington on 20 November was in stark contrast to four years before at the same venue.  New Zealand had just been ‘thumped’ 5-1 by Mexico in the cauldron of the Azteca Stadium, one of football’s most iconic grounds. Prospects for qualification in the home leg were

Like a Hurricane - 28 September 2013

They call Chicago “The Windy City” but it has nothing on New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. Whereas Chicago’s moniker was apparently derived for the hot air and rhetoric of local politicians, “Windy Wellington” is so named because it is just that, bloody windy; like a hurricane.Old sailors’ claimed that below latitude 40 degrees south there is

White Cockies Can Bite - 30 August 2013

On what was once the outskirts of Melbourne, at the foothills of the Dandenong Range in Scoresby, 25 km from Melbourne, are the Caribbean Gardens. There’s a lake, Lake Caribbean; markets, the Caribbean Market. Nearby are the Caribbean business park and a large display yard full of boats, Caribbean boats. The market is a drive away. Like just

Shake, Rattle and Roll - 26 July 2013

Wellington is one of the most earthquake-prone cities in one of the world’s most earthquake ridden countries, New Zealand. The city sits along a series of major fault lines where every day thousands of people live and work. On average, there is an earthquake every 30 seconds, most of them too small for people to detect. The “big one” locals tell

Slow Road to the Fast City - Phnom Penh to Saigon - 31 May 2103

The road from Phnom Penh was narrow, uneven and the much promised leg room for passengers only held true if you were Cambodian.  Traffic was slow, often reaching a near crawl behind agricultural machinery towing trailers packed with passengers or avoiding bicycles or overloaded motos, all competing for too little space offered on National Route

Landmines, Temples and Crocodiles - Siem Reap - 30 April 2013

The town itself stretches north to south along the Siem Reap River and east to west along National Route Six.  Siem Reap literally means “Siam Vanquished” and was the administrative and spiritual centre of the bloodthirsty Khmer Empire, which rivaled the Roman in size before it somewhat mysteriously crumbled.  Siem Reap has been receiving