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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Shame on soldiers

Shame on soldiers

Dear Sir

R elative to other stories that we have heard or that have

appeared in the newspapers, this tale that we will tell is not significant. But

the incident represents a further exasperation of a security condition that

requires intelligent and immediate consideration.

Driving north out of

Phnom Penh on Feb 2, traffic was very congested in Russey Keo district. A white

Jeep Cherokee (I later discovered to be full of soldiers) was advancing behind

us but on the opposite side of the road.

To avoid a large truck, its

driver swerved into our lane and his car mildly brushed against our front left

bumper. It was obvious that the collision was his fault, but he nonetheless

jumped out of his car and screamed accusations at us.

I left my car to

observe the damage: a metal piece had dislocated from the right rear wheel well

of the soldier's car. He continued his accusations, and I became aware of his


Between his hysterics (the man was not stable) he went back to his

car and returned with a large rifle. The soldier felt that this was a sure way

to win his argument (it worked). He looked pathetic, and at the time my

overriding emotion was not fear, but disgust.

My wife sat silently in the

car, unable - like me - to do anything. The police were on the scene, but they

did little more than broker the financial transaction that inevitably took


The corollary of this incident is that, again, the Cambodian

people may in the end be the victim. Security is tantamount to development. We

all know this relationship, and its significance is mouthed by those in power.

I realize that the problems are deep-rooted complex, and yes, expensive

to ameliorate. If this letter serves any purpose, it is to serve as


To reaffirm the dangers of working and living in this country.

To proclaim that something must be done to assuage the terror and the gross


Why should anyone stay and be subject to terrorism? What

sort of a logical decision is this? Extortion at the hands of the Cambodian

military. Forty percent of a budget that is fifty percent funded by the

international community is insufferable.

The well of patience and money

can run dry. We are ashamed of the Cambodian army for what they did to


- Brent Lewis and Karin Wollschlaeger, Phnom Penh



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