Over the course of the week, many people sat in front of the Royal Palace to mourn Cambodia’s ex-King, Norodom Sihanouk and pay tribute to his spirit for eternal peace.
However, many people coming from far-flung provinces of the country, particularly the elderly, faced financial difficulties to support themselves for a whole week in Phnom Penh. Youth groups started to provide support to these visitors in need.
These groups supplied rice, snacks, water, raincoats, oil, balm, medicine, fruit, cookies, bananas and sugar among others. They also helped clear rubbish from the area, gave first aid and directed missing children back to their parents.
“We know how bad conditions are that old people will face," says Miss Chan Phalkona student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) representing her charity group." That's why we formed a group of about 20 people for fund raising to support our action and buy food for them who stayed there during prayer time.”
A group of six led by Keo Chan Oukdom also helped people share what they had.
“As Cambodian youth, we lack skills. But what we can do, is fund raising to buy things that everyone can share.”
This charity group from Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) helped provincial visitors as, according to Keo Chan Oukdom, “we are Cambodian, we love Cambodia and are keen on helping our own.”
Touch Vannak, another volunteer, said “We do not have enough money to buy raincoats for everyone, but we just ask ABC radio station to help distribute them to people because we do not want them to face adverse weather conditions, especially the elderly.”
Collecting rubbish from the street, volunteer Sok Sakada said that “(he) came here with my other four friends, but we did not have plans to do such thing. The reason why we do this is because we are afraid that if no one solves this problem, the environment will get spoiled which will affect the mourning.”
Sea Pheara, a monk in Ouk Naloum Pagoda, said “this is the first time since I was born that I can see Cambodian citizens' solidarity. I know that there are not even 20 Cambodians charity groups, especially youth groups that share this responsibility for charity work.”
Aim is a tourist from Australia. For nearly a week, he saw what happened during the ceremony. “I have gone to many countries, and this is the event that attracted me the most,” he said.
“I have never been to a country that had such a strong feeling of love towards its king, so I can guarantee that there is no country like this.”
“All the activities that Cambodian youth have done are positive and priceless things," says Lomg Chandavy, a sociology lecturer.
"It shows that they know clearly the situation of their society and these group are the symbols of a new generation.”