I have been in Cambodia for most of the past 5 years. As the time for leaving
approaches rapidly, I want to share some final thoughts: the good and the bad.
The good is exemplified by many of the people: in their determination to survive
and their resilience. Many do not care about the nonsensical squabbles among their
political leaders, their aim is to raise their families to have better lives than
theirs and to enjoy real peace during their own lifetimes. They can be found everywhere:
in the rural village and in the cities, in the ricefields and in the Government offices.
They have my admiration and respect.
Then there are the others, the exploiters, those who want to take advantage of the
more vulnerable. Those who withhold government salaries from the minor officials,
the teachers and the health workers, while they build their big houses and buy their
white Camrys. There are the businessmen who build more and more nightclubs; the police
and soldiers with their informal taxation system. I cannot admire them.
For the hypocrites I feel distaste. Those who congratulate themselves for catching
yet another foreign paedophile, while they ignore those among their own ranks. Yes,
it is good that paedophilia involving boys is deterred. But that is a minute proportion
of the paedophilia and ignores the prostitution and trafficking in young girls. When
the police chief reports his colleague as asking why they bother with boys when young
girls are available, with no condemnation of the comment, I feel sickened. I pay
tribute to the NGOs and the Ministry of Women's Affairs for their efforts to combat
such trafficking but what is the point when those with the most power to deal with
the issue regard it as trivial and worthy of humor? They and their friends are probably
among the clients of the young girls.
My final brickbat is for the government members who will not put the human rights
of others ahead of narrow political ambition. That Cambodia's entry to ASEAN should
be linked to that of Burma is deplorable. Where are the statements condemning the
actions of SLORC in its rabid destruction of those who dare to oppose its illegal
government? Who is speaking out against the Thai politicians who threaten to send
all of the Burmese refugees back to certain imprisonment and, for many, death? Is
a trade alliance so important? Have they forgotten their own history when so many
were also persecuted by killers of their own race?
I despair and I have hope. May those who care about secure futures for families,
the peace-lovers, the human rights supporters, those who can see beyond their own
selfish desires, prevail. May the others diminish in number until their power is
- Rae Julian, Phnom Penh.