R elative to other stories that we have heard or that have
appeared in the newspapers, this tale that we will tell is not significant. But
the incident represents a further exasperation of a security condition that
requires intelligent and immediate consideration.
Driving north out of
Phnom Penh on Feb 2, traffic was very congested in Russey Keo district. A white
Jeep Cherokee (I later discovered to be full of soldiers) was advancing behind
us but on the opposite side of the road.
To avoid a large truck, its
driver swerved into our lane and his car mildly brushed against our front left
bumper. It was obvious that the collision was his fault, but he nonetheless
jumped out of his car and screamed accusations at us.
I left my car to
observe the damage: a metal piece had dislocated from the right rear wheel well
of the soldier's car. He continued his accusations, and I became aware of his
Between his hysterics (the man was not stable) he went back to his
car and returned with a large rifle. The soldier felt that this was a sure way
to win his argument (it worked). He looked pathetic, and at the time my
overriding emotion was not fear, but disgust.
My wife sat silently in the
car, unable - like me - to do anything. The police were on the scene, but they
did little more than broker the financial transaction that inevitably took
The corollary of this incident is that, again, the Cambodian
people may in the end be the victim. Security is tantamount to development. We
all know this relationship, and its significance is mouthed by those in power.
I realize that the problems are deep-rooted complex, and yes, expensive
to ameliorate. If this letter serves any purpose, it is to serve as
To reaffirm the dangers of working and living in this country.
To proclaim that something must be done to assuage the terror and the gross
Why should anyone stay and be subject to terrorism? What
sort of a logical decision is this? Extortion at the hands of the Cambodian
military. Forty percent of a budget that is fifty percent funded by the
international community is insufferable.
The well of patience and money
can run dry. We are ashamed of the Cambodian army for what they did to
- Brent Lewis and Karin Wollschlaeger, Phnom Penh