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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 2 Januray, 1998

The Gecko: 2 Januray, 1998

Happy New Year. Is it possible to hope that 1998 will be better? It feels like

it.

This column is supposed to be funny. But overall it's hard to think of what there

is to laugh about in reflecting on '97.

The greatest sadness in the unusual events of the last 12 months is that they reminded

absolutely everyone of something we thought was decided and done with in the Paris

Peace Accords. Remember! No return to the policies and practices of the past. Full

Stop. Everyone agreed.

In case you've forgotten, the biggest problem with the old policies and practices

was that they resulted in Khmer killing Khmer.

Putting the latest rhetoric and name calling aside - and admitting fully that it

is hard to figure out who is innocent - 1997 saw, once again, too much Khmer killing

Khmer.

The so-called "Friends of Cambodia" got more than a bit fed up.

Cambodians, of whatever political stripe (barring the absolute nutcases), were even

more ticked off. Much, much more than a two-thirds majority were (so privately) angered

and disgusted with the return to old ways of solving disputes among their leaders.

They've seen it all before.

In the end, once again, it is Cambodia, and Cambodians, that will have to pay the

piper - too many did so with their lives, these fleeting, frenetic, past 365 days.

It's worth asking for a moment of silence for those who paid too heavy a price in

'97. Most were committed Cambodians, with no foreign passports or villas and bank

accounts overseas (those guys escaped); no place they had even the slightest idea

of fleeing to when times got tough. Allegedly, they just wanted to help their country

or live a quiet life, preferably now, but absolutely when the war ends.

The guys in uniform are the most fed up with Khmer killing Khmer. They've been doing

it for how many decades? But their leaders keep telling them to lock and load, so

they do it. What other choice do they have? They're more afraid than everyone else.

Their direct bosses have lots of guns.

Is it possible that Khmer will stop killing Khmer in 1998?

It's about time they did because, as most Cambodians know, if they don't, the country

- and Khmer culture itself - could soon disappear.

The rest of the planet is not going to wait for Cambodia to join the 20th Century.

They've waited too long and spent too much money already. The international tolerance

for Cambodia's self-destructive habits has gotten real thin, and with the collapse

of the East Asian Miracle, there are so many better causes to throw money at from

those few countries that still have any extra cash.

So that's why there is a tiny reason for optimism because the year ended with a miniscule

indication that some Cambodian leaders got a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Whether they can sustain the process is another matter. Stay tuned, keep your fingers

crossed and hope.

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