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
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.