Out of Cambodia: A 'Q' turns up with gadgets of peace

PHNOM PENH - There are many problems in Cambodia, and the 20,000 people working for the UN peace-keeping operation are only starting to realise how many they must overcome. The Khmer Rouge are trying to dictate terms in the planned elections; Phnom Penh government officials are lining their pockets as fast as they can; the murder rate in Phnom Penh has soared, with people being shot in the streets for their motorbikes; and epidemics of malaria and cholera are raging.

But in a marshy field in Takeo, about 40 miles south of Phnom Penh, Richard Hradsky-Fisher had a problem of a different nature. 'I suspect my polarisation is not perfect,' he shouted down a telephone, wiping sweat from his forehead. 'I'm fixing on Singapore, and I think they might have a cross-pole problem.'

He made an odd picture. Tall, bearded, his white shirt buttoned at the wrists, he was leaning against the doorway of a tiny shack built beside a few coconut trees. Inside, the floor was littered with empty beer-cans, tins of spaghetti with meatballs, tea-bags and packets of custard creams.

It was like a bedsit in Camden with tropical posters stuck over the windows. But behind him were 10 gleaming aluminium cases crammed with electronic equipment, and to the rear of the hut were four satellite dishes, pointing up into the ether. Like 'Q', the eccentric inventor who turns up in improbable locations in James Bond films to give 007 his latest gadgets, Mr Hradsky-Fisher seemed oblivious to the incongruity of the situation.

'I can give you one more DRB, but then you are on maximum power,' he shouted down the telephone again, holding a finger in his free ear to block out the sound of the diesel generator. On a low wooden platform in front of the hut, two Cambodian soldiers dozed in the afternoon heat, their AK-47 rifles hanging on a nail in the wall. They turned out to be the guards he had hired to protect his equipment - pounds 250,000-worth of television satellite-broadcasting hardware, installed in the middle of nowhere.

Mr Hradsky-Fisher works for Bright Star, a British company which supplies satellite links for TV companies 'anywhere in the world'. He had come to Cambodia under a two-week contract with a network in Japan, so that Japanese viewers could get live pictures of their troops arriving in Takeo, eating their first meal and settling into their tents.

Japan is very interested in these details, because it will be the first time in nearly 50 years that its soldiers have been stationed outside their own country, their last venture having left them with a major public relations problem. So several hundred Japanese journalists have arrived to cover this momentous event, and they are sparing no expense.

Mr Hradsky-Fisher would not be precise, but said his two-week contract was costing the network 'hundreds of thousands of pounds - it's not a cheap operation'. As well as the TV satellite link, he had a satellite telephone to co-ordinate the operation.

At the moment, he explained with his hand over the telephone receiver, he was trying to sort out an alignment problem with Tokyo, and the reference signal from Singapore seemed to be giving trouble. So was the English-language ability of his interlocutor in Tokyo. 'What do you mean by 'what is my situation'? Do you want latitude and longitude?' he asked, rolling his eyes in despair. 'Oh, you want to know what the weather is . . .'

Mr Hradsky-Fisher is the technical co-ordinator for the broadcasting link. He had brought an engineer with him from London as well. 'I do the exotic, or special trips,' he said. 'If something goes down here and I can't fix it, the whole thing is useless.'

'Boost carrier,' he said to his engineer as the latter fiddled with some nobs. Outside, a couple of water buffalo were stretching their necks over a rope around the satellite dishes, trying to sniff at the strange new additions to the scenery. They were shooed away. 'How do you receive me now?'

Near by, a few tents had already been put up by an advance team of Japanese soldiers. The main body arrives on Thursday, and Mr Hradsky-Fisher has to have the system working perfectly by then. 'This is the only way of getting pics out of the middle of nowhere fast,' he said.

A Japanese TV producer, wearing full combat fatigues and looking more battle-ready than the timid Japanese soldiers, appeared from nowhere and started asking about the satellite link. Mr Hradsky-Fisher was still talking to Tokyo about DRBs. There are many problems in Cambodia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'