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The good and the bad

The Editor,

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

transferred.

- Rae Julian, Phnom Penh.

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