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Cambodia: Freedom of Flying

Educated in France to be an engineer, Santel Phin spent two years in Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

In Cambodia, the 31 year-old Santel presently works at Phnom Penh International Airport for he likes terminal and pace of busy people.

Born in Kratie, the first province overtaken by Khmer Rouge forces, Santel, in recent years, writes mostly about literature and history. Much known as Khmerbird, he's a prolific writer who has gained attentions from visitors to his Weblog for his short stories, written in local language, Khmer. In 2005, Santel won the 2nd prize of the Nou Hach Literary awards for his 25-pages short story ‘Katouch’.

“Khmerbird is not simply a pen name, but it's also a freedom symbol for me. I dream of becoming a Cambodian independent writer, wrote Santel.”

Santel Phin
from right: Santel Phin (much known as ‘Khmerbird’)

Here's my email interview with Santel. He discusses how uses Weblog to publish his love fictions and to connect with his readers.

Is Khmerbird your pen name or nickname?

Khmerbird is not simply a pen name, but it's also a freedom symbol for me. I dream of becoming a Cambodian independent writer. I found Khmerbird would be the only pen name that I could use in all my writing. If people really want to find out who I am, there's always a way. I have my personal profile at http://khmerbird.com, so people can find out who really I am.

When did you start blogging? Why?

I started blogging a few years ago, maybe since 2006. The first reason is to publish my writings and share my interest in literature, books, movies, and music on the Web. When you got passion in anything particular, you always want to share it with the rest of the world; I guess I am not the only one. I also start to know people, especially bloggers in Cambodia. It's always fun to share our daily life activities. So you might find many other topics more than my writings at khmerbird.com.

What do you like most about blogging?

A blog, when comparing to the old day, is a diary. So when something comes to your mind, you blog about it. What I like most about blog is that we share information: news, events, party or anything else with our friends as well as other bloggers. They can always come around and find something new whenever they have time.

What do you blog mostly about?

I like reading books and watching movies; beside my short stories, I share my views on new films and new books, not to mention photos from my trip and party. I blog mostly about everything; anything that matters to me I'd blog about it.

What is your most memorable blogging experience?

When I want to move my blog on wordpress.com to a new web host server. It was a nightmare. I could no longer stay on wordpress.com, there's no freedom; when your blog grows up, the room becomes too small. But when you have your own self-hosted WordPress blog, you start from scratch. You are on your own. I spent a lot of time to launch khmerbird.com; it took two weeks of delay, the site was completely down. Yet I'm not satisfied with the current version. I want to have a section for Cambodia related news; I might need to set up customized news feeds and display them on my blog sidebar.

What do you think about blogging/bloggers in Cambodia?

Blog is a basic platform to share information. In the last couple of years, a lot of new Cambodian bloggers (also known as Cloggers in Cambodia) are joining, and it's a positive way of keeping in touch among Cambodian people. There are many young talented people using their blog to discuss all issues, from social problems to personal stuff. It's a way to express idea. And it's good to see Cambodian people starting to express their ideas.

What are your favorite blogs?

Blogs I usually visit are:
http://kalyankeo.blogspot.com/
http://www.xwanna.com/
http://jinja.apsara.org/
http://tharum.info/
http://ijajaja.com/
http://boran.wordpress.com/
http://naraths.wordpress.com/
http://naryphing.wordpress.com/
http://www.khmerlyrics.com/

As a blogger, what's your dream?

I want my blog more sophisticated to provide more useful information to visitors from around the world, and to have it as a new Cambodia face. My dream is to have more visitors, 1000 visitors per day.

You're an engineer by education and profession, but you also write short story. What inspires you?

There's always something disturbing me. Everyday I see a traffic policeman takes money from a truck driver or a motor driver when I'm on my way to my office. At hospital I see doctors and staff only take care of patients who give them money; school teachers sell candy to schoolchildren in class to get extra money… I usually write about something that disturbs me. So what I have in my story is recreation of those things and change them to a different way. Sometimes I shock people in an insane way (in a dramatic way), so that after people read my story I could give them a flash of light, making them to see what they don't really see or care about.

Among all your short stories, what's your favorite one? And why?

I like my latest short story, ‘Malai – Story of my secret lover’. It is a well-organized short story, comparing to the previous ones. The story title is a touching one, and it is very difficult to find a simple way to describe it. It's an insane story. How could a virgin girl come to you and give you her virginity without asking?

So I began to find way to tell the story. The first draft has only 4 pages. People who read the first draft will throw the papers into the bin. It's a trash. It's insane and not realistic. I always work hard when I write the story because I want it realistic. I kept working on the first draft as I started adding things, creating the events, and inviting more characters. There had been a lot of changes from the first draft to the final one. The story is still the same, but everything started to make sense to people. And I paid attentions to arrange the conversation, so that people know who is speaking, and what are the character modes, not to mention their reactions when they're talking. I've never paid such attention in my previous works.

I like the story when every character in the story got their reason and responsibility for what they are doing, and in this one, I have tried my best. And I've learned so much when I was writing this story. I hope people will love to read it.

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