World News Australia "Rockers raise Cambodian temple's roof", Dec'08

08 December 2008

Had there been a roof, Placebo would have raised it as they headlined the first rock concert in history at Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple.
Some 1,200 fans of all ages, mostly Cambodian, watched the London-based alternative rockers top a bill Sunday backed by musicians from Cambodia and across the world in aid of a campaign against human trafficking.

"I cannot believe that in a supposedly civilised world this kind of heinous form of modern slavery still exists, and I truly believe that we can all do something to stop this," frontman Brian Molko told AFP.

"It all starts with caring and compassion."

Organiser MTV Exit -- an anti-trafficking campaign group which operates under the aegis of music channel MTV -- transformed the ancient Khmer ruins into an open-air rock venue with 15 tonnes of lighting and sound equipment flown in from as far away as Singapore.

Three of the five 12th-century minarets were lit against the night sky as graphics showcasing MTV Exit's campaign were projected against a towering fountain of water.

Local hip-hop duo Phou Klaing got the audience to its feet with a set of crowd-pleasers while US band The Click Five were applauded wildly for a rousing performance.

"When you have some kind of influence the best thing you can do is use it for a cause like this," said the band's keyboard player Ben Romans.

But it was Placebo who predictably stole the show with a number of their greatest hits, including "Meds" and "Teenage Angst."

"I'm very happy it's mostly local people in the audience tonight," Molko told AFP shortly before taking to the stage in his trademark androgynous make-up and long black hair.

Placebo had met women from a shelter for victims of trafficking before Sunday's concert, an experience lead singer Brian Molko described as "devastating".

The Click Five are due to visit a similar centre before they play their next campaign gig in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh next week.

The programme offered a mix of rock and pop tunes, with one of the biggest cheers of the night going to Australian singer Kate Miller-Heidke for her operatic cover of Britney Spears' hit "Toxic."

"It's so special, the first time MTV bands play here and I love rock music," said Dalai Cheat, 25, from Siem Reap.

"My favourite singer is Duncan Sheikh because he sings from his heart," said Zo Dara, 20, referring to the multi-Tony award-winning songwriter who took to the stage.
"It's so good to have this in Cambodia," he added.

Smoke swirled around the stage as the show began with traditional Khmer Apsara dancing following a speech by the country's tourism minister, Thong Khon.

"We believe that the concert taking place in this historical tourist location will... send a strong message to the world that Cambodia is not a child sex tourism destination," the minister told the audience.

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as soft on human trafficking and earlier this year suspended marriages between foreigners and Cambodians amid concerns they were being used to traffic poor, uneducated women.

The US State Department refused a visa to Cambodia's late police chief Hok Lundy in 2006 due to allegations he was involved in trafficking prostitutes.

The concert was part of a series of music shows in Cambodia organised by MTV Exit with funding from the US Agency for International Development to raise awareness in young people about human trafficking in the region.

"Let's not forget why we are here – millions of people are currently living in slavery as a result of being trafficked. This is a grotesque human rights abuse and we must all act to stop it," MTV Exit campaign director Simon Goff told the crowd.

The last international recording artist to perform at Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was tenor Jose Carreras who sang for a charity gala dinner there in 2002.