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Chan Sim

Chan Sim

Professor of Sculpture University of Fine Arts 63 years old

"I GREW up in Kandal province only 12 kilometers from Phnom Penh city. In 1952

my Aunt sent me to study at the School of Fine Arts - I had never really been interested

in art before then, but her brother worked there so it was easy for me to become

enrolled.

"After I graduated in 1957, I asked permission to study the course again, as

I was not sure I had understood everything about sculpture, and in 1960 I became

a teacher there.

"There are so many differences between the society of the past and today. When

I was at school, all the children were afraid of the teacher. I did not dare to look

him in the face. And the school children were taught to respect each other too, and

would bow their heads when they went past older people.

"Today, I am a teacher. In my generation, people were paid well - 3,000 riel

a month, which was a lot of money and made a high standard of living. But today teachers

are paid so badly, that they do not think about teaching the children properly, they

have to spend their spare time as motodops or at other jobs.

"And the children today - only a minority bow their heads. Many lost parents

in the Pol Pot regime, and so never were disciplined properly. Also, the children

were seen as belonging to angkar, not to their families, so they did not listen to

what their parents said.

"But for me, when I was a child, life was not so hard. The state provided us

with food when we went to school - a choice of three dishes a day and one desert!

And the students even got paid 20 riel a month by the state to buy books or clothes.

"Also in my day, people who pulled out shotguns were sent to jail. But nowadays

the gangsters get away with whatever they want to. The law was the same then as now,

but then people abided by it.

"Land is another issue. When I was young families had maybe 15 hectares of land,

but then after we were freed from the Khmer Rouge, the communists divided up the

land and all the land claims became muddled. Only the high-ranking got villas and

good land.

"I think in the future Cambodian society will only have slow progress because

the wages of officials are so low, so they are corrupt. Kidnapping and crime will

still exist, for the same reason. The officials are mostly rascals.

"As for the greatest achievement of Cambodia last century, I think that after

the Khmer Rouge darkness, the most amazing thing is that we now have so much modern

technology, computers and so on. If we were still under KR now, we would all be blind

and ignorant.

"When I look at the future, I think it is important to remember that society

is like the scene in the Ramayana when Preah Ream fires his arrow and it travels

in a wavy line across the earth. Society will always have ups and downs just like

that."

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