It shall be so

In Cambodia as in the UK meetings are the life blood of the Civil Service.  In someways I’m pretty sure the meetings themselves are similar but there’s a whole other level of nonsense involved here that I’m loving observing and so I thought it was about time I wrote you a little list to give you the lowdown on meetings Ministry of Agriculture style;


  1. You will be notified about the meeting at best hours, generally minutes before and at worst minutes after the meeting has started that you are required to attend
  2. The meeting room will be replete with bottles of water, flower arrangements, (fruit and cakes in the main Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock offices but yet to appear in the Fisheries Administration (tight wads!) microphones and far too many chairs set in two circles – the inner and the outer. Important people sit in the inner circle, less important in the outer (nine times out of ten in the Ministry of Fish the outer circle is mainly women #gofigure).
  3. If the meeting is important one of the members of the outer circle will be charged with taking photos on their phone for posterity. If it is VERY important the official Ministry of Fish DSLR camera will be called for and operated by a member of the inner circle obviously!
  4. People wear aftershave for very important meetings.  Often too much and usually cheap by the smell of it!
  5. People wander into meetings when they feel like it (even the very important ones). A meeting scheduled for 2pm will probably not start til 3 and there will still be people missing.
  6. Everybody takes their phone into meetings and places it in front of them on the desk.
  7. Everyone answers their phone in meetings regardless of what is being said and by whom (even when they’re the whom who is speaking).
  8. Meetings at the Livestock component of the Ministry of Agriculture always return to the subject of buying pigs and chickens for farmers. This is the case whatever the discussion point or question raised.
  9. The equivalent in Fisheries is shaping up to be a closely fought race between community fishponds and commune elections. That is, of course, unless there are external bodies present in which case the plight of the Irrawaddy Dolphins trumps all comers.
  10. There is no such thing as an agenda (apart from everyone’s own agenda which usually involves pigs, chickens or fishponds as already noted).
  11. Meetings don’t officially end, people just begin wandering out as casually as they’ve wandered in. I assume this is because they have somewhere else to be rather than them just deciding they CBA to be there any more.
  12. Finding someone willing to translate meetings that are held in Khmer will prove a challenge as generally people are embarrassed to tell you what is truly being said! Including the fact that whoever is chairing the meeting has just told the translator not to translate what they’re saying!
  13. If anyone does dare to translate the next challenge will be hearing them over the noise of people answering their phones and the 5 different conversations that are generally going on around the table regardless of what or who is speaking.
  14. Most people at the meeting will take a couple of sips from their bottle of water (the outer circle don’t get any). Sara on the other hand will drink her own and then find a spare from somewhere and then spend the last hour of the meeting desperately needing a pee.
  15. The outcome of the meeting will be the agreement to have another meeting. Obviously, the date and time will not be agreed at this point and we will find out about the meeting hours or minutes before or minutes after it’s started!


Here endeth the lesson the rules of meetings Ministry of Agriculture style.


And it shall be so!

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