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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Never give up'

'Never give up'

My good-man father was executed during the KR regime in 1977 when I was four years

old. (I neither remember his face nor do we have his photos, all burned.) We had

to survive with nothing. We lived in a remote rural area in Cambodia. I went to school

without shoes, knowing nothing about what to do next. I went to school in the morning

and fishing or collecting firewood in afternoon to help my family. My life was always

like that for more than 20 years. But I never gave up my studies. It was my first

time when I was 12 that I wore new handmade trousers, just because I had to attend

the award ceremony at Kandal provincial town - it was a big city - where I was awarded

a secondary mathematics number one prize in 1985. My mother looked at me from the

floor and realized that both mouths of the pockets of my trousers had not been cut

off yet.

Thanks to the Japanese government and the effort of Cambodian government for making

the scholarship competition possible; luckily, I won a Japanese government scholarship

in 1996 to come to Japan. Being a student from war-devastated Cambodia that had very

low educational system (due mainly to the lack of trained teachers, facilities and

documents), I found myself far behind other foreign students. Again, I never gave

up studying and learning from others. Even though I was the only Khmer, I won the

votes to represent students from more than 15 countries in 1996, and I was chosen

to give a speech on behalf of all doctoral students (including Japanese students)

at the university entrance ceremony in 1999. I won several international awards for

academic excellence and outstanding works. Now, I think I am among the leading young

scientists worldwide. Thinking back, being a person without a father and with a mother

whose monthly salary was less than US$ 20, I would be where I am today if I gave

up my studies, efforts and hopes. I am now a full-time associate professor in Japan.

From my perspective, just like many of you, my advice to all Khmers is that please

never give up your studies and/or efforts; be confident in yourself; be helpful to

your family and friends; be communicative; keep trying until your dream is realized,

be prepared to discuss with each other face-to-face to find out the best solutions

that are always there, rather than dividing groups and taking arms to resolve differences.

War is more than enough for us. And, of course, for all humans on the earth, live

in peace and learn to live in peace.

Nophea Kim Phat

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