Oh Cambodia, where have your proud children gone?
I have never seen so many children begging in the streets of Phnom Penh!
I do not recall gangs of street kids marauding at night in the dark streets of Phnom
Penh and Battambang, when they should home be in bed, comforted by loving and caring
parents. What have they done all day long? Have they been to school? Or did they
spend the whole day in those video game parlors? Where has the money come from?
I see the once proud parents who used to farm the land to feed their own children
and eleven adopted children, now begging by entire groups in the streets of a capital
city once known as "The Pearl of Orient"!
My heart breaks into a million pieces of rage, of anger when I see these groups of
elderly, men and women, loosing their dignity to beg for money. They too are children
of Cambodia. I used to see them being respected by young-sters, the way it should
be. Who will respect them now? I heard a story of a soldier of a famous (now infamous?)
international organization grabbing an old man beggar by the collar and beating him.
Did this soldier ever have grandparents who spoiled him like all grandparents do?
I used to see the elderly being useful to the whole community of monks and of villagers
cleaning and sweeping the compound of glittering watts, and giving sound advice to
young people who strayed from the right track of life. Whom can the children of Cambodia
look up to now?
I have seen boys grabbing the hands of a tourist outside the Cambodiana Hotel, for
candies and certainly money. From this step to a hotel room is not much of a distance!
I have seen old and young children of Cambodia lining up on their knees along a dirt
road trying to stop cars to beg for money. I have seen 100 riel, 200 riel, and 500
riel bank notes flying out the open windows of speeding, white four-wheel drive cars.
It now rains money in Cambodia while the government launches an international appeal
for rice donations because Cambodia will not be able to feed her children this year.
Oh Lord Buddha, have the Gods gone crazy? Or is it the Dollar God (preferably American)
that has made us all go crazy? Children of Cambodia, please remember Banteay Lovek
and the "Prak Doung" which caused us to loose an impregnable citadel to
a neighboring country.
Whose fault? Should we continue to hand out cash-riel or dollar notes-to Cambodian
children? Can we afford to let the Cambodian people loose their dignity possibly
their soul? These very people who we claim to come and help.
No, let us not hand out cash. If we really help and understand, they can regain their
dignity. Please, SOS (Save Our Souls).
- Darith Nhieim (French Cambodian)