Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Don’t let Cambodia turn into another Afghanistan



Don’t let Cambodia turn into another Afghanistan

Don’t let Cambodia turn into another Afghanistan

091224_06
An acid attack victim from Siem Reap knits goods for sale Monday at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity in Phnom Penh, where she now lives and works.

Dear Editor,

These horrific attacks are attempts to exert control over their victims.

When the United States invaded Afghanistan, one of the stated reasons of the Bush administration was to liberate Afghan women from the cruel rule of the Taliban. Under Taliban rule, women were prevented from participating in nearly all forms of modern social life, including things as basic as mingling with men and going to school. Today, under the US-backed government, Afghan girls can go to school, but still face alarming forms of discrimination and attempts at social control. Numerous incidents have been reported of acid being poured on women, eating through their protective clothing and scarring them physically and emotionally for life. The victims of these attacks will probably never have a husband, family or employment, and will have a very limited set of friends, if any. These damaged girls will probably forever seek to stay away from the public sphere where they will be scorned, just as their attackers wanted. These brutal attacks are meant to terrorise girls to prevent them from taking part in modern social life, and the result of the attacks is a decreased female attendance at local schools. While not physically killing these girls, the acid attacks will have effectively killed them by preventing them from having a meaningful life in a modern society.

Like many expats that have come to call Cambodia home, I arrived nearly five years ago as a tourist and returned shortly thereafter to live and work in the country because I had fallen in love with the culture and people. On the whole, Cambodia’s culture has yielded a friendly and tolerant people always willing to flash a bright smile and lend a helping hand. It pains me to read in the media on a regular basis about the darker side of modern Cambodian culture, which yields people so cold-blooded that they can effectively rob young girls and women of their lives by pouring acid on the helpless victims, allowing their flesh to melt from their bodies and physically deforming them for life. Similar to the acid attacks in Afghanistan, these horrific attacks are attempts to exert control over their victims. While the attackers do not physically kill their victims in all instances, they effectively kill them by condemning them to a lifetime as a social outcast, just as the attackers wanted.

I refuse to believe that I am one of the only people in Cambodia so profoundly saddened and outraged by this modern social phenomenon, akin to the most primitive and barbaric means of social control employed by thugs in Afghanistan living their lives according to the codes of their medieval ancestors.

Cambodia has come so far since the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. Economically and socially, the country is blossoming. Youthful optimism is in the air. Cambodia’s culture is once again becoming known to the world. Can we not work to continually improve society and culture so that Cambodia truly becomes a progressive “Island of Peace” for her children, as envisioned in the Constitution?

To preserve Cambodian culture, the government has rightfully sought to protect victims of human trafficking by closing institutions that encourage this horrible practice. It seems to me that a few simple steps by the government and society could eliminate acid attacks from modern Cambodian culture: Control the sale, use and movement of acid; raise the criminal penalties against acid attackers and their co-conspirators to reflect the social death they inflict upon their victims; create a system of accountability against those who sell acid that is used for attacks; have prominent personalities speak out against this violence and encourage citizens to condemn this cruelty as being against the culture of the Kingdom. I believe these simple steps can go a long way towards banishing this primitive practice. While those with a mindset similar to the Tailban may not approve, I suspect most Cambodians would.

The fundamental question on this issue now is: Who will show leadership?

May the victims of acid attacks enjoy the Four Blessings of the Buddha: longevity, happiness, strength and beauty.

Ruwan Hulugalle
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: [email protected] or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with

  • One million Chinese Covid-19 jabs to start rolling in from February

    The government has confirmed that Covid-19 vaccines from China are set to begin arriving in Cambodia by February. This came as the Ministry of Health recorded two imported cases of Covid-19 on January 18. While calling on people to remain vigilant against the pandemic, ministry spokeswoman