I’m a US citizen who arrived in Phnom Penh two and a half years ago to become a teacher. I came here because to teach in my home country would require an additional six to eight years of schooling, resulting in much debt.
Overall, my experiences teaching here have been good and I have found most Cambodian people to be pleasant and peaceful.
Of course, Cambodia is still facing some problems, but things have been getting better and the progress I have seen over the past two years has been remarkable.
I still to this day pass through many once-dilapidated parts of the city to see that they have been completely and beautifully transformed.
It is nice to see considering most cities in the US are becoming increasingly more dilapidated.
However, a growing number of Cambodians speak highly of the US. I have always tried to stay neutral on this, but after seeing so many hopeful Cambodians at the US Embassy, I feel it is time for me to speak up.
I’m writing to inform you that the perceived goodness of the US government and the promise of the “American Dream” is a farce.
Growing up, I faced many trials and tribulations. First off, I had to go into debt to enter university. After graduation, I was still considered poor and had to work extra hours to survive.
Essentially feeling like a slave to the banks, I was then wrongfully terminated from a job (deemed so by a judge) making it nearly impossible for me to find other work.
And now, the US embassy will not grant my one-year-old son his registration of birth.
I gave sufficient evidence for my son’s registration according to US Embassy protocols and procedures. Regardless, they did not follow their own procedures and made an unwarranted request for an overseas DNA test with no explanation as to why.
Initially, I was misled to believe the test would have a total cost of up to $530. I was also misled by an embassy official that I could get a cheaper one. But upon calling “approved” testing labs, I discovered the standard price exceeded $900. I simply cannot afford that at this time.
The whole process would have cost over $1,500. About $400 of this money was used printing out pictures, getting translated forms, travel expenses, et cetera.
So, considering they requested a DNA test, which overrides all of the evidence they previously asked for, I could have literally burned that money and it would have had the same effect.
It worked out for the embassy though – they get to hold on to my processing fees of $215 for doing absolutely nothing.
And that’s no exaggeration – I even had to print out my own government forms.
Fortunately, there is some good news. My son’s health has been improving.
We believe our water was not being properly filtered by a company (who shall remain nameless at this time) and due to that he experienced severe diarrhoea. This led to his hospitalisation and a fever of 43 Celsius.
Hopefully, his health will continue to improve and he doesn’t have another near-death experience. Because if he does, I now know the embassy will not care, provide support, or fast-track the process for an emergency passport.
I encourage any American who has a child here – register the birth, have a lot of money and get a passport ASAP. If anything bad happens, the US Embassy will not help you.
They will put up a nice facade via Facebook or Twitter, but deep down they are more concerned with looking virtuous as opposed to acting virtuous.
That’s clearly evident by how they handled my son’s situation. They disregarded their own procedures during that process and recently they disregarded international law by claiming the Cambodian government doesn’t follow international law, interesting . . .
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent post about how the US created terrible conditions for Cambodia during the Vietnam War should not be controversial. He merely stated historical facts.
Before and under the puppet-regime of Lon Nol, many innocent Cambodians lost their lives due to the illegal military actions of the US, which resulted in the rapid growth of the Khmer Rouge.
Yet US officials will be the first to cite violations of human rights. Perhaps they should practice what they preach first.
To ward off any criticism from other nations, government officials sometimes grandstand on jingoistic platitudes, such as: “The US is a beacon of hope”.
But ask yourself: if the US truly is a “beacon of hope”, why does it have the largest prison population in the world? Why does it still put innocent convicts to death? Why does it send soldiers to bomb hospitals and buses carrying children in other countries?
The government’s callous and hypocritical behaviour affects public behaviour as well. Governments that disregard international law regarding war make people indifferent to the seriousness of war.
Take for example my now former friends, who didn’t congratulate me before I left for Cambodia, but rather made jokes about the atrocities that occurred under the Khmer Rouge.
There are some good Americans of course, but they hope and wait in vain, thinking that things will finally turn around; wasting time arguing with each other about their vote four years down the road, instead of questioning whether or not it’s all pointless.
It is virtually impossible for third parties to get nationwide ballot access in the US. However, in your last election, you had 20 choices.
And keep in mind that Hillary Clinton actually won the election against Donald Trump by 3,000,000 votes, but he is now President.
Yet the people at the embassy have the audacity to criticise your democracy. Who knows why – maybe a lot of them just want to believe in the “American Dream”.
So I encourage you to focus on each other, the development of your country and on peace.
The US government will always try to look saintly – but remind yourselves of what they’ve done and what they continue to do.
And always be sceptical of their propaganda.
Phillip Cameron Roth,
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.