Happy New Year. Is it possible to hope that 1998 will be better? It feels like
This column is supposed to be funny. But overall it's hard to think of what there
is to laugh about in reflecting on '97.
The greatest sadness in the unusual events of the last 12 months is that they reminded
absolutely everyone of something we thought was decided and done with in the Paris
Peace Accords. Remember! No return to the policies and practices of the past. Full
Stop. Everyone agreed.
In case you've forgotten, the biggest problem with the old policies and practices
was that they resulted in Khmer killing Khmer.
Putting the latest rhetoric and name calling aside - and admitting fully that it
is hard to figure out who is innocent - 1997 saw, once again, too much Khmer killing
The so-called "Friends of Cambodia" got more than a bit fed up.
Cambodians, of whatever political stripe (barring the absolute nutcases), were even
more ticked off. Much, much more than a two-thirds majority were (so privately) angered
and disgusted with the return to old ways of solving disputes among their leaders.
They've seen it all before.
In the end, once again, it is Cambodia, and Cambodians, that will have to pay the
piper - too many did so with their lives, these fleeting, frenetic, past 365 days.
It's worth asking for a moment of silence for those who paid too heavy a price in
'97. Most were committed Cambodians, with no foreign passports or villas and bank
accounts overseas (those guys escaped); no place they had even the slightest idea
of fleeing to when times got tough. Allegedly, they just wanted to help their country
or live a quiet life, preferably now, but absolutely when the war ends.
The guys in uniform are the most fed up with Khmer killing Khmer. They've been doing
it for how many decades? But their leaders keep telling them to lock and load, so
they do it. What other choice do they have? They're more afraid than everyone else.
Their direct bosses have lots of guns.
Is it possible that Khmer will stop killing Khmer in 1998?
It's about time they did because, as most Cambodians know, if they don't, the country
- and Khmer culture itself - could soon disappear.
The rest of the planet is not going to wait for Cambodia to join the 20th Century.
They've waited too long and spent too much money already. The international tolerance
for Cambodia's self-destructive habits has gotten real thin, and with the collapse
of the East Asian Miracle, there are so many better causes to throw money at from
those few countries that still have any extra cash.
So that's why there is a tiny reason for optimism because the year ended with a miniscule
indication that some Cambodian leaders got a glimpse of the bigger picture.
Whether they can sustain the process is another matter. Stay tuned, keep your fingers
crossed and hope.