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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember

If every newspaper across the world is not using banner headlines for the brave

people of Cambodia, I wonder why not, probably because violence makes the news not

peace.

No matter then. We came from abroad after 14-years of self-imposed exile amidst fear

and trembling that violence would prevail. Yet this week, the sons and daughters

of Jayavarman have prevailed instead with sensational courage and dignity. Isn't

it 90 percent of the electorate voting against the command of some of the political

leaders? What a story for the doomsayers.

And the spirit of celebration is everywhere here in Cambodia. Thousands in the park,

where but few short months ago no one hardly dared to go out after dark.

As a young son of this great land, I stand before all the people of my country to

tell you how proud I am to be Khmer.

My dream goes on now to join with all the thousands of the Buddhist monks of the

Dhamma Yietra who marched so far and so bravely spreading the spirit of calm and

with the thousands of young Cambodian students who yearn for a way to help their

country, so that we can create together a Cambodian Volunteer Service for Community

Development and ensure that democracy, freedom and social development will be the

legacy, where we can learn to live hand holding hand and trusting heart to heart,

this is our future.

Cambodia has come from night to day. In fact, we all know that this glorious day

came after a nightmare, a long darkness. I left Cambodia 14 years ago, too young

to remember when I had to turn my heart to stone in order to keep from going mad

with the horror of the killing. I was an orphan all too soon.

I lived, at 10 years old, at Wat Aik where hundreds were killed daily before our

eyes and minds, the walls etched in blood, the halls filled with screams, the children

victims of a dream worse than death. It was no dream.

And I at 11 years old ended up with a gun, an AK-47 or M-16, who cares. My job was

to kill Vietnamese invaders, or were they saviors, I couldn't know. I made my way

to Thailand, and then what fortune. Weighing 50 lbs and with cerebral malaria, I

recovered and ended up, through no right of my own, in the USA, where I graduated

from college and learnt something about how to help others.

It burns in me to help others where my life was saved. And so I am back, ready to

turn the stone to life, and hatred to love. And life to living.

My heart is filled with tears of joy, for I know we can form a new nation of Khmer,

and Muslim, and Thai and Chinese and Vietnamese Cambodians all. No fear, no ethnic

cleansing here. But dignity and community.

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