“I saw your face in a crowded place and I don’t know what to do, cause I will never be with you.” James Blunt.
The film clip to sentimental British crooner James Blunt’s somewhat drippy ode to unrequited love, “You’re Beautiful”, concludes with the rejected protagonist leaping from a snow capped cliff to his death, apparently adhering to a Japanese suicide tradition of shedding one’s upper body clothes and shoes prior to soaring from a great height.
Although it’s purely a performance, Blunt’s clip and song could be seen to be reflective of many young Cambodians’ views and ideals of love - many holding the assumption love is the be all and end all.
According to a Radio Free Asia report, broadcast on September 21, 400 Cambodians committed suicide in 2009 and that number jumped to 500 in 2010.
While one cannot assume love or rejection was an instigator for these deaths, authorities have suggested a significant number said unrequited love and infidelity was often involved.
A police officer often stationed on Chruychongva Bridge said he had witnessed many suicides, with a higher number of females leaping from the bridge.
“Each year many people jump into the river, attempting to kill themselves, and I am sure there are many reasons at play, but personally I have noticed that most of them are young women and girls who have been cheated on by their lovers or have broken hearts,” he said.
Chao Phurin, a 28-year-old who recently suffered from broken heart, said parents were often at the root of the problem.
“I felt furious when my lover could not marry me because her parents didn’t want her to be with me. I felt furious and sorry for myself and hated the ancestors too,” he said.
He adds, “This feeling is difficult to explain, but I just know that it upsets me because I missed what I was going to get.”
Many other Khmer sweethearts face discrimination from each other’s families, particularly as more abandon the arranged marriages preferred by their ancestors for generations, in favour of finding their own “true love.”
Chea Sotheary, 29, said love had caused her great heartache. Her parents rejected her lover as he had a low-paying job selling songs and ringtones for mobile phones.
“At first, my family didn’t like the man I was in love with, and they were very serious in their attempts to separate us, saying he didn’t have a proper job,” she said.
However Sothery and her now-husband didn’t give up easily and made sure they emphasised to her family the strength of their commitment to each other.
“I tried to persuade my parents, while he tried to save money for months by eating only noodles, to buy a box to sell phones. From one phone a day, he then managed to sell a hundred and then a thousand a day,” she remarked softly.
As a mother of nine children, Nov Ry, 70, recalls her past and explains the reason she rejected many of her children’s suitors.
“Marriage is important in Cambodian culture and everyone should avoid marrying twice, so we must take time to consider marriage partners.
She said she and her husband did not want to interrupt “true love,” but her children had not been mature enough to judge their partners’ characters, so she was forced to reject some of their suitors.
Professor Srun Hour, psychology lecturer at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, explained that “When people in love meet obstacles that are very difficult or impossible to solve, they begin to devalue themselves and sadly many end up taking drastic measures such as committing suicide.”
He said it was important to accept the truth when it came to matters of the heart.
“However, we first should try our best before giving up, and we still give ourselves air.”