Monday, December 23, 2013

ចំណីខួរក្បាល

ពាក្យខ្មែរប្រែពីពាក្យបរទេស នៅពេលដែលខ្ញុំអានពត៌មានជាភាសាខ្មែរ ខ្ញុំតែងប្រទះឃើញពាក្យប្លែកៗ ដែលគេបកប្រែចេញពីពាក្យបរទេសមក ។ ពាក្យខ្លះ មិនត្រឹមតែឆ្គងទេ វា ថែមទាំងគ្មានន័យត្រឹមត្រូវទៀតផង ។ ខ្ញុំសូមលើកយកពាក្យមួយចំនួន មកវែកញែកដើម្បីទុកជាចំណីខួរក្បាលដូចតទៅ៖ ប្លង់មេៈ ពាក្យនេះប្រហែលជាប្រែមកពីពាក្យ (Master Plan) ។ ពាក្យ (Master Plan) នេះ ជាទូទៅគេប្រើនៅក្នុងកិច្ចការសំណង់ ។ យើងដឹងហើយថា មុននឹងសាងសង់អ្វីមួយ គេត្រូវមានគម្រោងមូលដ្ឋាន ។ ដូច្នេះ យើងគួរនិយាយថាគម្រោងមូលដ្ឋានវិញត្រឹមត្រូវជាង ។ បច្ចុប្បន្នភាពៈ ពាក្យនេះ ប្រហែលជាបកប្រែចេញមកពីពាក្យ (Update) ។ ពាក្យបច្ចុប្បន្ន គឺសំដៅលើពេលវេលា មិនមែនជាភាវៈទេ ។ ដូច្នេះ យកភាពដែលជាភាវៈមកប្រើជាមួយនឹងកាលនោះ គឺខុសហើយ ។ ពាក្យ (Update) នេះ បើយើងប្រើសំដៅទៅលើការបន្ថែមកម្មវិធីថ្មីចូល ក្នុងប្រព័ន្ធកំព្យូទ័រ យើងគួរនិយាយថាដាក់បន្ថែមកម្មវិធីថ្មី ។ ប៉ុន្តែ បើយើង និយាយសំដៅទៅលើតួលេខដូចជាបញ្ជីបោះឆ្នោត យើងគួរនិយាយថា បញ្ជីចុះឈ្មោះចុងក្រោយបំផុត ទើបត្រឹមត្រូវជាង ។ យេនឌឺៈ ពាក្យនេះគឺនិយាយតាមសំនៀងភាសាអង់គ្លេស (Gender) ដែលមានន័យថា ភេទ ។ សូមបញ្ជាក់ថា នៅក្នុងភាសា អង់គ្លេស ពាក្យ (Gender) និង (Sex) គឺសំដៅទៅលើអត្ថន័យតែ មួយ ។ ដូច្នេះ ហេតុអ្វីក៏យើងមិនយកពាក្យ ភេទ ដែលជាភាសាខ្មែរចំ តួនោះ មកប្រើតែម្តងទៅ ចាំបាច់យកពាក្យគេមកប្រើ នាំឲ្យពិបាកយល់ ធ្វើអ្វី ? បើយើងចង់និយាយអំពី (Gender Equality) នោះ យើង យកពាក្យ សមភាពភេទ មកប្រើទៅ វាមានន័យពេញលេញណាស់ទៅ ហើយ ។ តស៊ូមតិៈ ពាក្យនេះ ប្រហែលជាគេបកប្រែចេញពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស (Debate) ។ ពាក្យ (Debate) នេះ គឺគេប្រើសំដៅទៅលើការជជែក វែកញែករកខុសត្រូវ ដោយប្រើតក្កវិជ្ជាដើម្បីគាំទ្រនូវគោលគំនិតអ្វីមួយ ។ ដូច្នេះ ពាក្យ (Debate) គួរប្រែថា ជជែករកខុសត្រូវវិញ ។ ពន្លឿនៈ ពាក្យនេះ អាចមានប្រភពចេញពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស (Expedite) ។ ខ្ញុំបានមើលក្នុងវចនានុក្រមខ្មែរដើម្បីស្វែងរកពាក្យ ពន្លឿននេះ ប៉ុន្តែ រកមិនឃើញទេ គឺមានតែពាក្យ ពន្យា ពន្យឺត និង ពន្យឺន ។ ថ្វីត្បិតតែពាក្យ ពន្លឿន អាចធ្វើជាពាក្យផ្ទុយជាមួយនឹងពាក្យ ពន្យឺត ក៏ដោយ ក៏យើងមិនគួរបង្កើតពាក្យថ្មីមកប្រើតាមតែអំពើចិត្តនោះទេ ។ ពាក្យ (Expedite) គឺគេសំដៅទៅលើការធ្វើកិច្ចការអ្វីមួយឲ្យបានឆាប់រហ័ស ។ ដូច្នេះ យើងអាចយកពាក្យ រហ័ស ឬ ធ្វើឲ្យលឿន មកប្រើក៏បានដែរ ។ ជីវចម្រុះៈ ពាក្យនេះមានដើមកំណើតចេញមកពីពាក្យ (Bio-Diversity) ។ យើងមិនអាចបកប្រែពាក្យ (Bio) ថា ជីវ គ្រប់ តែកាលទេសនោះទេ ។ ឧទាហរណ៍ (Bio Fuel) ដែលជាប្រេងម៉្យាង ផលិតចេញពីរុក្ខជាតិ ឬគ្រាប់ធញ្ញជាតិនោះ គេមិនប្រែថា ប្រេងជីវ ទេ ។ គេហៅប្រេងប្រភេទនេះថា ប្រេងធម្មជាតិ ។ ដូច្នេះ ពាក្យ (Bio- Diversity) គួរប្រែថា ធម្មជាតិចម្រុះវិញ ប្រហែលត្រឹមត្រូវជាង ។ បុណ្យសមុទ្រៈ ពាក្យនេះខ្ញុំឃើញគេសរសេរជាភាសាអង់គ្លេស ថា (Sea Festival) ។ បើយើងសង្កេតមើលតាមភាពជាក់ស្តែង អ្វី ដែលជា បុណ្យសមុទ្រ នៅទីនេះ វាគឺជា ទិវាឆ្នេរសមុទ្រ ដែលភាសាអង់ គ្លេសគេសរសេរថា (Beach Festival or Beach Carnival) ។ ដូច្នេះ គួរកែ បុណ្យសមុទ្រ ទៅជា ទិវាឆ្នេរសមុទ្រ វិញ ត្រឹមត្រូវជាង ។ ចែករំលែកចំណេះដឹង ឬបទពិសោធៈ ពាក្យនេះប្រហែលជា គេបកប្រែមកពីពាក្យថា (Share knowledge or experience) ។ សូមបញ្ជាក់ថា ចំណេះដឹងក្តី បទពិសោធក្តី ជាវត្ថុ អរូបី ។ ដូច្នេះ គេមិន អាចយកទៅចែករំលែក ដូចជាផ្លែឈឺ ឬនំចំណីនោះទេ ។ ពាក្យ (Share) នៅទីនេះគួរប្រែថា ប្រាប់ ឬរៀបរាប់ទើបត្រឹមត្រូវ ។ បើគេនិយាយសំដៅ ទៅលើអ្វីៗដែលក្រៅអំពី វត្ថុអរូបីទើបគេប្រែថា ចែករំលែក ឬចូលរួមជា មួយ ។ ឧទាហរណ៍ ចែករំលែកនំ (Share a cake) ជិះតាក់ស៊ីជាមួយ គ្នា (Share a cab) ។ ស្ពានអាកាសៈ ធម្មតា កាលណាយើងនិយាយអំពីស្ពាន គឺយើង សំដៅលើសំណង់ដែលគេសង់ឆ្លងកាត់ ប្រឡាយ អូរ ស្ទឹង ទន្លេ ឬក៏ដៃសមុទ្រ ។ មិនដែលមាននរណាសង់ស្ពានឆ្លងកាត់អាកាសនោះទេ ព្រោះអាកាសគ្មានកោះ គ្មានត្រើយដូចជា ស្ទឹង ឬទន្លេឡើយ ។ អ្វីដែលខ្មែរហៅថាស្ពានអាកាសនោះ គឺគ្រាន់តែជាផ្លូវដែលគេសង់ក្នុងលម្ហពីលើផ្លូវមួយទៀត ដើម្បីកុំឲ្យចរាចរកក ស្ទះ ។ ភាសាអង់គ្លេស គេហៅផ្លូវប្រភេទនេះថា (Overpass) ដែលយើងគួរ សរសេរជាភាសាខ្មែរថា ផ្លូវលម្ហ ឬ ផ្លូវរំលង។

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Food for Thought

On Liberty and Freedom of Expression I listened to a radio broadcast on the Internet the other day and heard Mr. Kem Sokha, Vice President of the CNRP Party complained bitterly about people who criticised the CNRP's leadership for NOT doing the right thing (whatever that right thing might be). Mr. Kem Sokha said that people who proclaim themselves to be democrats or supporting democratic movement should not criticise the CNRP's leadership for whatever reasons because doing so will help strenghten the position of the CPP. As a Cambodian, I would like to share a humble opinion on this issue that it is imperative for people to be able to express their opinion freely, even though such opinion might be detrimental to their own interests. Remember that the struggle between the CNRP and CPP is to bring better liberty and freedom of expression to Cambodia. Democracy without freedom of expression is no difference from dictatoship.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Food for Thought

Poor Cambodia

When my father was still alive, I used to hear him lamented about dictatorship and oppressive rulers in Cambodia. Whenever he touched on Cambodian politics in his talks, either with his friends or his family members, he always wished to see Cambodian rulers stopped following dictatorial leadership style and followed the principles of liberal democracy. Now, my father had already died. And he died without realizing his dream of seeing Cambodia free from the grip of dictatorial leaders. Based on what I have observed, my father was not the only Cambodian who had a lifelong's wish to see Cambodia becoming a country free from oppressive, dictatorial rulers. Countless Cambodians from one generation to another had or have the same desire. Many of them spent most of their lives fighting for this illusive freedom while others resign to their fate. It has been half a century now since I was born and Cambodia remains politically the same as it was in my father's time. One of the questions I have often asked myself is: Will Cambodia be freed from dictatorial rulers within my lifetime? Though anything is possible, it feels like an oxymoron to think that Cambodia could some day be freed from dictatorial rulers. One reason for this pessimistic thought is that whenever I look back into the behavior of Cambodian leaders in the past including the one who is currently ruling Cambodia, I see them all behave like the animal characters portrayed in George Orwell's book, Animal Farm. All Cambodian leaders, from the past to present, fought so hard to rid Cambodia of dictatorial leaders. However, as soon as they succeeded and became leaders, they behave exactly like the one they replaced. That is to say, they themselves become dictators. The problem with dictatorship is not that we could not get rid of it. It is rather that Cambodian people keep missing the opportunity to get rid of it. For instance, after the UN sponsored election in 1993, the people who are tasked with writing a new constitution could have put term limit on the prime minister. But, they didn't. They could also have put provision to have governors elected by the people rather than appointed by the central government. They didn't. There are many other things such as conflict of interest, transparency, and administrative organization laws that they could have enacted to ensure that the ability for a dictator to shrive within government leadership is weak. But no one seemed to bother doing anything. For example, there is no law on the number of deputy prime ministers. While most countries has only one deputy prime minister or vice president, Cambodia has more then 10 deputy prime ministers. By having so many deputy prime ministers, the prime minister is assured that there is no one to succeed or challenge him. Thus, the dictator will have free reign to abuse his power anyway he pleases. And the poor and powerless Cambodian people will continue to live in deprivation of freedom.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

ចំណីខួរក្បាល​ (ប្រចាំសប្តាហ៍)

ពាក្យខ្មែរប្រែពីពាក្យបរទេស
យូរៗម្តង នៅពេលដែលខ្ញុំអាន ឬស្តាប់ពត៌មានជាភាសាខ្មែរ ខ្ញុំបានប្រទះ
ឬឮពាក្យខ្មែរខ្លះ ដែលគេបកប្រែ ចេញពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេសមក ហើយយកមក
ប្រើខុសអំពីអត្ថន័យរបស់វាទាំងស្រុង ។ ខ្ញុំសូមលើយកពាក្យមួយ ចំនួន
ដែលខ្ញុំ ធ្លាប់ជួបមកលាតត្រដាងដូចតទៅ៖
គណនេយ្យភាពៈ ពាក្យនេះគេបកប្រែពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស​(Accountability)
ដែលមាន ន័យថា៖ ទទួលខុសត្រូវ ។ សូមបញ្ជាក់ថា ពាក្យទទួលខុសត្រូវ នៅក្នុងភាសាអង់គ្លេសមានពីរ គឺ (Accountability) និង (Responsibility) ។
(Accountability)សំដៅលើតួនាទីឬភារកិច្ច និង (Responsibility) សំដៅលើ
សកម្មភាព ។ ឧទាហរណ៍៖ យើងទាមទារឲ្យមានការទទួលខុសត្រូវ នៅ
ក្នុងជួររដ្ឋាភិបាល (We demand accountability in the government) និង មន្ត្រី
រាជការជាអ្នក ទទួលខុសត្រូវនូវរាល់ទុក្ខកង្វល់របស់រាស្ត្រ (Public servants
are responsible for people's suffering) ។ ការយកពាក្យគណនេយ្យភាព មក
ជំនួសឲ្យពាក្យ ទទួលខុសត្រូវនោះ គឺពិតជាខ្ជីខ្ជាពេកណាស់ ។
មហាអនុតំបន់ទន្លេមេគង្គៈ ពាក្យនេះគេបកប្រែពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស
(Greater Mekong Subregion) ។ មុននឹងខ្ញុំវែកញែកលម្អិតពាក្យនេះ ខ្ញុំសូម
អនុញ្ញាតិមើលពាក្យខ្មែរបន្តិច ។ ពាក្យ មហា មានន័យថា ធំ ។ ឯពាក្យ អនុ
មានន័យថា តូច ឬបន្ទាប់ ។ នៅពេលដែលយើងយកពាក្យទាំងពីរនេះ
មកផ្គុំគ្នា វាក៏ក្លាយទៅជាពាក្យមួយដែលគ្មាន ន័យពីតប្រាកដ ។ មហា​ផង
អនុផង ពាក្យពីរផ្ទុយគ្នា តើយើងគួរឲ្យអាទិភាពលើពាក្យមួយណា?
ពាក្យមហាអនុតំបន់ទន្លេមេគង្គ គួរសរសេរថា៖ តំបន់ជុំវិញទន្លេរមេគង្គ
ផ្នែកខាងក្រោមវិញ ទើបត្រឹមត្រូវ ។ ព្រោះថា ពាក្យ (Greater) នៅទីនេះ
គឺមានន័យថា ជុំវិញ (ដូចជាៈ Greater Boston, Greater Philadelphia, etc.) ។
ឯពាក្យ (Sub) មានន័យថា ផ្នែកខាងក្រោម ឬខាងក្រោយ(Subregion: តំបន់
ផ្នែកខាងក្រោម) ។
អាងទន្លេមេគង្គៈ ពាក្យនេះប្រហែលជាគេបកប្រែមកពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស
(Mekong River Basin or Reservoir) ។ ខ្ញុំមិនដឹងថាទន្លេមេគង្គក្លាយទៅជា
អាងពីពេលណាមកទេ ។ ដែលហៅថាអាងនោះ គឺជា កន្លែងដែលគេ
លើកជាទំនប់ ឬក៏ជីកដី ដើម្បីឲ្យទឹកដក់នៅ ។ ឧទាហរណ៍ អាងទឹក
កំពីងពួយ (នៅបាត់ដំបង) អាងទឹងត្រពាំងថ្ម (នៅបន្ទាយមានជ័យ)
និង បារាយខាងលិច (នៅសៀមរាប) ។ល។ ពាក្យ (Basin or Reservoir)
នៅទីនេះ គេមិនប្រែថា អាងទេ វាឆ្គងណាស់ ។ គួរយកពាក្យ តំបន់
ទំនាបទន្លេមេគង្គ ឬក៏ ទំនាបមេគង្គ មកប្រើវិញត្រឹមត្រូវជាង ។
បញ្ជាទិញៈ ពាក្យនេះប្រែមកពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស (Order) ។ ពាក្យ​ (Order)
នេះអាចមានន័យពីរយ៉ាង​ ។ បើគេប្រើនៅក្នុងទំនាកទំនងរវាងចៅហ្វាយ
នាយនិងអ្នកនៅក្រោមបង្គាប់ គេប្រែថា បញ្ជា ។ ប៉ុន្តែ បើគេប្រើ ពាក្យ
នេះនៅក្នុងទំនាក់ទំនងជំនួញ គេប្រែថា ជាវ ឬទិញ មិនមែន បញ្ជាទិញ
នោះទេ ។
រលូនៈ ពាក្យនេះប្រែមកពីពាក្យអងគ្លេស (Smoothly) ។ ថ្វីត្បិតពាក្យនេះ
អាចប្រែថារលូនក៏ពិតមែន ប៉ុន្តែ បើយើងនិយាយសំដៅទៅលើសកម្មភាព
អ្វីមួយ យើងគួរប្រែថា ឥតរអាក់រអួល ឬក៏ ដោយគ្មានរអាក់រអួលវិញ
ទើបស្តាប់ទៅមិនសូវឆ្គង ។ ឧទាហរណ៍ (Everything went smoothly) ប្រែថា
អ្វីៗ បានប្រព្រឹត្តិទៅ ដោយគ្មានរអាក់រអួល ។
ចក្ខុវិស័យៈ ពាក្យនេះប្រែមកពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស (Vision) ។ ពាក្យ (Vision)
នេះអាចប្រែថាចក្ខុវិស័យ នៅពេលដែលយើងសំដៅលើអ្វីៗដែលមើល
ឃើញដោយភ្នែក ។ ប៉ុន្តែ ប្រសិនបើយើងប្រើវានៅក្នុងន័យរៀបចំទិស
ដៅនយោបាយ ដែលទាក់ទិននឹងការត្រិះរិះពិចារណា ដោយប្រើតក្កវីជ្ជា
ព្យាករណ៍ការវិវត្តន៍នៃកត្តាអ្វីមួយ នៅក្នុងពេលអានាគត យើងគួរប្រែថា
ទស្សនវិស័យវិញ ត្រឹមត្រូវជាង ។ ខ្ញុំសូមផ្អាកការវែកញែកពាក្យខ្មែរប្រែ
មកពីពាក្យអង់គ្លេស ត្រឹមនេះសិនចុះ ។ ពេលក្រោយ ខ្ញុំនឹងលើកយក
ពាក្យផ្សេងទៀតមកវែកញែកដើម្បីទុកជាចំណីខួរក្បាល ។ សូមស្វាគមន៍
ជានិច្ច នូវរាល់ការទិតៀនដើម្បីស្ថាបនា ៕

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Food for Thought

Useless Ations A well known scientist named Albert Einstein once said that people cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that would be insane. Unfortunately, some epople do just that. Take Cambodian opposition politicians for example (opposition here means the people who wanted to dislodge or assert influence on the dictatorial leader(s) in Phnom Penh). Every time they have grievances with election issues or unfair treatment by the ruling dictator, they always go to the king to help find justice for them. Based on resolutions or outcomes over the past decades, the track records of going to the king to seek justice have not been meaningful, to say the least. They are more like hiding dirts under the rug. The dirty problems are solved, but the dirt remains there. What this means is that peace and tranqility have been achieve but dictatorial rule remains in place. Dictatorship and dirty dusts are two similar things that people all over the world hate. Unfortunately, the two are almost the same in term of resilience. One could cling onto power until death while the other could cling onto a body or utility indefinitely. The only way to clean them is to sweep or wash them away. So, politically speaking, if we don't stop hiding the dirty dusts under the rug, we will never be able to clean our government and make it a better place under which to live. Until we address this dirty-dusts-under-the-rug issue and stop doing the same thing over and over again every time we face a challenging situation, then, we would be able to expect a different result to our action. Otherwise, political freedom, liberty, and happiness would be just an illusion.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Food for Thought

Action and Reaction

In order to make life less miserable, one of the basic strategies is to anticipate and predict what would happen and take action prior to or as events unfold. This strategy is known as action-oriented approach. Some people are action-oriented while other are reaction-oriented when it comes to managing their lives and/or public affairs. For those who are in the position of leadership, whether it be of a family or a nation, the ability to anticipate and take actions in response to foreseeable or unfolding events is crucial. It would make all the differences between misery and happiness for those being governed based on just these two approaches to leadership style: action or reaction to problem solving.
Though anyone could be a leader, effective leader needs to know a lot more than just leading. As mentioned above, life would be less miserable if we actively anticipate and take actions prior to or as events unfold. To be able to do this, leader must be proactive and takes initiative according to current events and the prediction of what is going to happen next. For instance, the rises in the costs of consumers goods would contribute to the rises of the costs of living, which, in turn, would affect the livelihood of low incomes people, mainly, laborers such as garment factory workers.
In Cambodia, action-oriented leaders apear to be extremely in short supply. To put it frankly, most of the leaders in Cambodia, from the prime minister down, are not action-oriented. For instance, those who are in the position of managing issues of concern in life usually wait until such issues become problems and ready to explode before they take action to solve them. This reaction-oriented approach to administration has caused endless grief to the populace and public in general. One of the best examples of this reaction-oriented approach to solving problems is the ongoing conflicts between garment manufacturers and laborers. The Cambodian government, especial Ministry of Labor, knows very well what the labor forces want, but it always waited until the factory workers stage protests and close the streets before trying to find solution to the issues. The same is true with the recent election. The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen knew pretty well that the majority of the people were and are discontent with the ways it handle the affairs of the state, be it's land grabbing or abuses by those who have power and money to buy their way through the justice system. But, the government, especially the Prime Minister, turns a blind eye (punt intended) on the issues and pretended that all is well. When the election result was announced which showed a significant losses of the number of seats in parliament, everyone, from the Prime Minister on down appears to be very humble.
Now that the election was over, we saw once again that those who are in control of the situation did not take the initiatives to solve the allegation of election fraud or irregularities. They waited until the acusers brought the cases before them and demanded for actions to be taken. To be fair, we do see some initiatives by authority to respond to the problems such as the movement of troops and weapons to the vacinity of Phnom Penh and the training of riot police to clam down on protesters etc. This kind of action by authority to solving problem is certainly a wrong headed initiative. Election is a peaceful exercise of forming or reforming a government. Therefore, any resolution to election-related issues shall not involve the use of forces. The people who cast their votes to form or reform a government are not the state's enemies. They are merely making their voices heard without uttering a word. What the authority needs to do is to listen to their silent words and rises up to the challenges of transforming those silent words into proper, correct, and timely actions.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Deliverance
I spent the remaining day going about Site 2 camp saying goodbye to my friends and classmates at Phnom Dangrek High School. Our schedule for departure from Site 2 camp was at six o’clock in the morning. But we all arrived at the bus station at five o’clock, for we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to go to America, which could only happen once in a life time. When we arrived at the bus station, no bus had arrived to pick us up yet. So I took the opportunity to see two of my best friends, Sambath and Saren, who lived at the boarding house located in Phnom Dangrek High School campus one last time as I wanted to give Sambath some of my personal belongings. Vichet, another friend who came to see me off, accompanied me to see Sambath and Saren. We spent about five minutes talking to one another before I returned to the bus station with tears welling in my eyes. After arriving in Phanat Nikum camp, the first order of businesses for us was to get our medical examination done. Those who were found to carry communicable diseases such as tuberculosis had to go through treatment until the condition was acceptable for entry into the United States. My mother, Buntha, and I were relatively healthy. Hence, we all passed the medical exams and were given only a short stay in Phanat Nikum. In the meantime, Buntha and I volunteered to teach elementary English lesson to refugee children while going to attend English classes on American culture and tradition during our spare times. We spent about three months in Phanat Nikum camp. After receiving our clean bills of health, we were told to get ready for our departure for the United States. Finally, our quest for redemption in life had come to the last chapter. A new beginning was about to dawn upon us. As a wayfarer, I had spent exactly four years going through many trials and tribulations in the various refugee camps. There would be many more challenges ahead for me. But whatever challenges that America had to offer me, I felt I was ready for it. After all, if I could make it in a tough place like Cambodia and the dreary refugee camps, I believed I could make it anywhere. Since I was little, talking about the United States had always conjured up fascinating image in my imagination. I didn’t know exactly what it was; but there was always a sense of optimism hanging in the air. Thus, as we prepared to depart for America, I was very optimistic that my life would turn for the better. With that optimistic feeling, we went to Bangkok Airport on the evening of January 18, 1989 to board a Northwest Airline flight bound for the United States. Aside from a lone man, we were the only Cambodian refugee family on that flight along with several families of ethnic Hmong refugees who happened to be heading for Minnesota as well. During one of our stopovers at Tokyo Airport, an airline official, who had noticed that I could speak some English, assigned me to take care of a group of Hmong men by showing them where and how to use the men’s room. The Hmong and I spoke a totally different language, and we could not understand each other at all. But through gestures and observation, I was able to get all of them to stand in front of the urinals and doing the things which seemed to come to us naturally. After a brief stop in Tokyo, we boarded another flight bound for Seattle, Washington. During our flight from Tokyo to Seattle, a Hmong child was refusing to wear a diaper a flight attendant asked his mom to put on him. Unable to make the child comply, the flight attendant walked up to me and ordered me to go and make the child wear the diaper. Once again, prejudice had prevailed as the flight attendant appeared to believe that I spoke the Hmong’s language since we looked alike. Without saying a word of protest, I got up and walked with the flight attendant to get the child to wear the diaper. Miraculously, upon seeing me approaching him, the child let his mother put the diaper on him willingly. By the way, I didn’t even know what the diaper was used for. I only fully knew of its functionality upon arriving in Minnesota after seeing my nephews wearing them. What a comic relief! ***** By the time we arrived in Seattle, the group of Hmong men had accepted me as their de facto leader. Hence, they were walking with me as we headed toward the customs stations. Unbeknownst to me, the Hmong men had been marked for searches by the U.S. custom agents and I was mistaken as being one of them. It should be noted that the Hmongs were an ethnic minority coming from Laos, many of whom used to live near the Golden Triangle area known for producing illegal drugs. Therefore, to ensure that no one brought illicit drugs into the U.S., most of the adult Hmong men, including me, were subjected to searches. While I was being thoroughly searched by a custom agent along with the Hmongs, my mother and Buntha had gone through the customs checkpoint. After waiting for me for some time, my mother began to suspect that something had gone wrong. So she told Buntha to watch over our luggage and walked right back into the forbidden zone of the airport. Her action caused a slight commotion when the custom agents were trying to stop her from entering the forbidden zone. Unable to understand or speak any English, my mother insisted that she be allowed to re-enter the airport to look for me. Fortunately, a Cambodian-speaking employee of the airport overheard my mother’s speech and came over to assist in explaining to her the airport’s protocol. The Cambodian-speaking airport employee assured my mother that I would be coming to meet her very soon. But my mother was not convinced. She remained at the customs gate until she saw me coming out. The airport employee explained the situation to me, and I thanked him for his assistance. Our flight from Seattle to Minneapolis was less eventful. My Hmong companions and I were still traveling together, and we appeared to have cleared all the hurdles at this point. Our flight touched down in Minneapolis at about seven o’clock in the evening. Heang had brought a number of his friends to welcome us at the airport. After almost one decade of separation and many agonizing years spent in refugee camps, we were once again reunited in a new homeland. Everyone was so excited. I looked around and saw that my fellow Hmong companions had been welcomed by their relatives as well. Judging from the festive atmosphere, it was really sweet to see all the happy faces around. Though tomorrow might be different, it was worth noticing that the fascinating image of America which used to conjure up in my mind had now unfolded right in front of my eyes. We had set foot in America for only one day, but we felt that the fear and anxiety associated with going to a foreign land appeared to be absent. The smiles and projections of confidence displayed by the people who came to welcome us to America had given us plenty of assurances that this was the place where lives could be transformed regardless of who we were. As a humble refugee being plucked up from a wretched camp and dropped off in a place like the United States, it was kind of hard to accurately describe my initial feelings and impressions about America. The closest metaphor for it was probably like that of a caged bird being set free. Though nobody told me that I was free, I intrinsically sensed it the minute I set foot in America.
(The End)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Deliverance (Continued)
Since the beginning of 1988, a small number of refugees, who had been sponsored by their relatives living in the United States, France, and Australia, began to depart from Site 2 for another camp near Bangkok to have their medical exams done while waiting for the last leg of their journey to the real outside world. Every time I learned about people leaving Site 2 for a third country, I got very excited as it gave me hope that one day I would be one of those people leaving a refugee camp for good.

Some time in July 1988, we received a letter from the Red Cross telling us to prepare for an interview with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok regarding our application for resettlement in the United States. Finally, the most awaited opportunity for us to seek redemption for our lives had arrived. I was so excited that for a couple of weeks leading to the interview date, I completely lost concentration on my school work. The excitement and hope of being able to go to the U.S.A. was too overwhelming for me to contain myself.

When the appointed time arrived for us to go to have our interview with the U.S. Embassy staff, we put on our best clothes and went to board a bus, which came to pick us up at the main entrance to Site 2 camp. There were several other families going for their interviews as well. We spent a few hours riding on the bus before it brought us to a center where the interviews were being conducted. After having our names registered, we were told to wait for our names to be called up which would mean that a consular officer was ready to see us. By about midday, we were called to meet with an American consular officer, a young man named Tony, for our interview. During the course of our interview, Tony asked my mother several questions regarding the relationship between her and my brother, Heang. Because my mother was semi-illiterate, Heang had attached a couple of photos with the sponsorship documents so that she could identify people in the photos to prove that we were related. In a somewhat confusing situation, my mother misidentified a child as being her grandchild. After seeing her making a mistake, I promptly interrupted the conversation and made the correction on her behalf. In the sponsoring document, I was listed as a minor and was probably not allowed to answer any questions. Hence, my interruption caused the interview to end rather abruptly. We didn’t know whether that short interview was good or bad for us; but I had a feeling that something had gone wrong. We returned to the reception area and waited for the rest of the day until about 3:00 p.m. when the bus came to pick us up and took us back to Site 2.

One week after our interview with the U.S. consular, I was called to the Red Cross office in Site 2 to be informed of our interview’s result. The Red Cross official showed me a list of names of the people who had gone to the interview with us at the U.S. consulate center. I looked for our family’s name on the list and found that it was crossed over by an ink pen. I asked the Red Cross official what that meant. The official explained to me that the names which had ink marks over them meant that they were being rejected by the U.S. Embassy. I was shocked to learn that the U.S. Embassy had rejected our application to be reunited with our relatives in America. The Red Cross official gave me two pages of documents; one had my mother’s name on it while the other had Buntha’s and my names on it. On the upper margin of my mother’s document, there were two hand-written words in quotation marks which said: “Fifth Column.” At that time, my English was not as proficient, and I didn’t know what the word “fifth column” meant. I tried looking it up in the dictionaries but there was no entry for the word “fifth column.” It took me about a week before I was able to find out the meaning of the word “fifth column” while skimming through an idiomatic booklet belonging to a friend of mine.

“Fifth Column” refers to people of dishonest character, which meant that we were being accused of dishonesty. It was a serious charge indeed for the desperate refugees like us whose virtue had been suspected. After learning of the meaning of the word “fifth column” and the implication it could have on our hope to resettle in the U.S.A., I became depressed and extremely upset at the lost opportunity. In a fit of frustration, I blamed my mother for making the blunder which cost us the opportunity to reunite with Heang and possibly our future. On top of that, we had risked our lives going through so many perils for nothing. As soon as I let go of my frustration, I realized that I had gone too far. But it was too late to take it back. Upon hearing my upsetting words, my poor mother sobbed bitterly, for she believed that her failure to answer questions posted by the U.S. Embassy’s staff correctly cost us dearly.

It took both, my mother and I, some time to recover from the sadness and madness that gripped our feelings. However, despite knowing that my mother had forgiven me for the irrational blame I placed upon her, I still had a tough time getting over the regret stemming from my unkind reaction toward her innocent mistake. The feeling of remorse keeps haunting me to this day whenever I think of that spiteful moment between child and mother.

My mother seemed to know that I had a legitimate reason to be upset at her failure to get everything right in our interview because she was, as head of the family, the only hope for us to get away from the wretched refugee camp. Thus, she neither reprimanded nor disciplined me for my uncharacteristic behavior. She just let me vent my frustration and accepted the fact that she was responsible for getting us into another quagmire.

In hindsight, it was understandable that I was so upset over what seemed to be a trivial issue. Because we had lived under dictatorial governments all our lives, we always accepted that whatever verdict the government or its agencies handed down upon us was final. Hence, the U.S. Embassy’s decision to reject our application for resettlement in the U.S.A. was a doom’s day for us. This defeatist belief coupled with my lack of knowledge on how the U.S. Government operated caused great grief for us, emotionally. I had not the vaguest idea that people in America could appeal official decisions concerning their application for a myriad of reasons. With a rather hopeless feeling, I wrote a letter to my brother, Heang, informing him of our failure to pass the interview for resettlement in the U.S.A. I told him of the possible causes of our failure and the “fifth column” remark being branded upon us by the U.S. Embassy.

As our sponsor, Heang had also received a letter from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok informing him of the result of our interview. But he was not told all the details. So after receiving my letter, Heang set about filing an appeal for our case to be reconsidered. The fact that Heang came to the U.S. as someone else’s child, which was a false pretense, convincing the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), the predecessor of Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services (BCIS), that we were truly related as siblings, and parent and children, needed a lot of proof. Thus, to ensure that we wouldn’t face another debacle, Heang resorted to the ultimate procedure to legitimize his claim, once and for all, by having our DNA tested, if the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok needed the hard proof. In the late 1980s, DNA testing wasn’t as widely use as it is nowadays. But Heang had enlisted the help of his employer who had a friend working in medical field in Bangkok to help facilitate the process.

Having all supporting documents in hands, Heang went to meet with a local INS official in Minnesota to appeal our case. He told me later that he spent more than an hour arguing our case before the INS official. At the end, INS agreed to let us immigrate to the U.S. on condition that we would be subjected to DNA testing if the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok deemed necessary. Afterward, Heang sent me the INS’s approval letter and informed us to wait for another round of interview with the U.S. Embassy.

By late September 1988, those who had been interviewed and accepted by the U.S. Embassy were informed by the Red Cross that they would be moving to a transit camp called Phanat Nikum to await their departure for the United States. The news brought sadness to me again, for I was not sure when or if the U.S. Embassy would ever call us for another interview. Just as I was falling into another depressed state, a friend of mine, Borath, who worked at the Red Cross office in Site 2, came to see me with the greatest news I longed to hear all those years living in the refugee camps. The U.S. Embassy had accepted us for resettlement in the United States. Borath handed me the appeal petition Heang had submitted to the INS office in Minnesota and the letter of acceptance issued by the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. He told me that we had only two days left (actually a day and a half, given the fact that I was informed about our departure at about two p.m.) to get ready for departure to Phanat Nikum camp along with the other families. Apparently, the U.S. Embassy decided to give us a break by adding our names to the list of people who would depart for Phanat Nikum without bothering to interview us again. On the top margin of the appeal petition, I found yet another hand written remark which stated that: “Petitioner is willing to have blood test if you find it necessary.” Obviously, INS official in Minnesota had penned this remark on the appeal form before sending it to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

(To be Continued)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Food for Thought (Weekly)

Showdown
After the election, anxiety in Cambodia appears to be on the rise as both, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the Cambodian People Party (CPP), which won most of the votes begin to talk tough at each other.  One could only hope that the rhetorics will not be turned into actions, for once one party acts, the other will react.  And who knows, what could happen when the ball starts rolling.  The worst scenario is that supporters of the CNRP stages a protest to demand proper resolution to alleged election fraud/irregularity and the CPP which controls the government and security forces would use many anti-freedom laws it created over the past several years as pretext to crack down on the demonstrators.  If this scenario were to happen, we could certainly expect to see bloodshed, and, if both sides are determine to win at any cost, then Cambodia will expect to see another tragedy.

As Cambodian citizens, we could only hope that our politicians are wise enough by now to foresee what the costs to the nation and the people if they let their ambition to attain power overrules their rationale.  Nowadays, one could not expect people to behave the way they used to.  Nor could anyone, especially ruler, expect to see people respect the authority when they felt their will has been trampled upon.  There are countless examples in recent memory to ignore this fact. The revolutions in Yugoslavia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya were all too real to not take notice.  Given the fact that all of these countries were ruled by dictators with well groomed security forces to smash virtually just about any form of uprising, it is absolutely unbelievable to see them failed at their own game, that is the use of violence.

Regarding the popular uprising that brought down the dictators who used to rule Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr. Hun Sen, once said that he would "close the doors and beat the dogs" meaning that he would crack down hard on any group of people who dare to challenge his authority.  Well, at this point in time of Cambodian history, Mr. Hun Sen might need to reconsider his idea of "closing the doors and beat the dogs" as it might not be wise to try to beat the angry dogs, many of which might be crazy.  Certainly, neither the dogs nor the dogs beater would win.  No matter what the final outcomes would be, there will be death tolls to count and wound to heal.  Enough talk about this yet to happen scenario, let's look at some possible, peaceful scenarios which could bring about a win-win outcomes for all Cambodians.

For the CPP which is an incumbent ruler in Cambodia, the election result, albeit it is acceptable, indicated that the people have disapproved of what it has done over the last mandate of governance.  Clearly, the significant decrease of representative seats in the National Assembly is a direct result of this disapproval.  If the election result were to be taken as an indication, it is certain that people wanted to change, or at least to reform, the way the country is governed.  In a democratic political process, people speak with their votes, not their voices.  Hence, they want the change or reform to be peaceful, smooth, and tranquil.  Can our politicians deliver this desire?  Only time will tell.
One way to solve a crisis peacefully, smoothly, and tranquilly is through COMPROMISE. What this means is that both the CPP and CNRP must give up something in order to meet each other's demands on one hand, and to meet what the people who votes for them wanted on the other. It is safe to say that what the majority of people wanted is change or reform to the way the country is managed. But how would two antagonistically opposing forces go about to reach a compromise? The best answer is: Put the nation's and people's interests above anything else.
As a modest prosposal, a power sharing in the form of government administration would be the least painful route to settle a possible political impass. However, this power-sahring formula should not be like the one conceived by the UN/UNTAC in 1993. We all know by now that it was a recipe for administrative incompetence. Once, it is acceptable to all parties as to which party won the majority of the National Assembly's seats, that party shall have the right to form a government whose ministerial, provincial, and district portfolios are divided proportionally among the parties that won parliamentary seats. Each ministry, province, or district should be assigned and be the sole domain of one party or another. This way, people could see and determine who or which party is responsible for improvement or lack there of, in each level of government. It would also provide a competetive admosphere among those who are in charge of government administration. As a result, all politicians and political parties would be more receptive to what the people wanted. Also, as a mechanism for discipline or dealing with administrative misconduct, all parties involved should form and assign a committee to oversee, evaluate and determine the removal, relocation, or promotion of individuals within the ranks and files of this power-sharing administration.
With all these possible scenarios in mind, let us hope for the best.

Friday, August 2, 2013

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Deliverance (Cont.) In the second week of April, in which we Cambodians, as well as Thais, were celebrating New Year, a friend of mine named Por Sararith took me to see the festivities and classical dance performances in Site 2 South. While going from place to place, we ran into a 23 years-old blonde, beautiful Australian journalist named Lyndal Barry. Sararith told me that he used to strike up conversations with Lyndal and found that she was a very friendly, cool young lady. Seeing that she was walking alone, Sararith and I walked up to her and introduced ourselves, as we frequently did when meeting foreigners in the camp to polish our English language skill. Lyndal was happy to find someone to talk with amid a sea of Cambodian refugees. Upon learning that we, too, were wandering around to see the festivities, Lyndal asked if we could act as her guides and take her to see different places and activities in Site 2 camp for the rest of the day. We were more than happy to accept her request as it gave us opportunity to practice our English language conversational skill at a more intimate level. Using my bicycle as a means of transportation, I asked Lyndal to ride behind me on the back saddle and took her to visit different places in the camp, accompanied by Sararith who was riding on a small BMX sport bike. After taking her to visit several places in the camp, Sararith and I took Lyndal to my house to relax and have some refreshment. Just as we were about to take her to the camp’s headquarters where she would get a ride back to her hotel in Thailand, Lyndal asked me if she could stay in my house overnight to see and feel how life was like in a refugee camp at night. I was a bit startled to hear Lyndal’s request. However, my naiveté got the better of me when I agreed to let her stay in my house overnight. The Thai military taskforces who oversaw Site 2 did not allow foreigners staying in the camp overnight because it was difficult for them to ensure their (foreigners) safety. But Lyndal was a journalist; and journalist sometimes took risks unnecessarily. I, too, had dreamed of becoming a journalist some day since I was a third grade student in the early 1970s. Just before I met Lyndal, I had read a book by a former Cambodian elementary school inspector named Ith Sarin who, in 1973, had crossed a political divide to the enemy’s side and written a journal to describe his experiences. Thus, having Lyndal stay in my house overnight in a refugee camp, where such action was forbidden, was a risky thrill that I somewhat found irresistible. All humanitarian aid workers and visitors who came into the camp every day had to leave by 3:30 p.m., or four o’clock at the latest. Therefore, with Sararith and Buntha as my helpers, we created an elaborate charade to fool our neighbors into thinking that the six-foot tall blonde Caucasian woman who came to visit me had left. At exactly 3:30 p.m., I openly walked Lyndal out of the front door, took her around the block, and surreptitiously sneaked her back into my house through the back door. After performing the charade, I closed my house’s front door and had Buntha sit in front of it to watch out for visitors who might drop by. He was to knock on the door three times, if he felt that someone was coming to pay me a visit, and try to stall the visitors as long as possible while I was sneaking Lyndal out the back door to hide in Ratha’s, my trusted friend, home which was located a couple of yards from us. Once we managed to put everything relatively under control, Sararith went to inform his single mother, Malay, that he would be spending the night at my house without telling her what we were up to. Hiding a six-foot tall blonde haired woman in a refugee camp was a challenging enterprise. Anyone who had lived or visited a refugee camp knew how dense the place was as far as spaces were concerned. People lived within feet of one another. Hence, Lyndal and I spent the rest of late afternoon sitting quietly inside my house. We waited until dark to have our dinner. After dinner, Lyndal conducted an interview with all three of us, asking us to tell her our life stories under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia prior to coming to the refugee camp, and in the refugee camp. We spent about two hours talking with one another in a very low voice. I was the last to give Lyndal an interview. Because I was several years older than Buntha and Sararith, my memory of life under the Khmer Rouge regime was better than both of their memories. Therefore, Lyndal and I continued to talk late into the night. Once we were ready to go to bed, both Buntha and Sararith were sound asleep, one in a hammock while another was sleeping in a bed designed for one person. In the heat of excitement of having a young Caucasian woman staying in the camp illegally, I forgot about our sleeping arrangement. She was supposed to sleep in the small bed while the three of us boys would sleep in the larger bed which we used for the interview, as it gave us a larger space to sit inside a mosquito net. Not wanting to wake the two guys up to swap places, I asked Lyndal if she would mind I sleep in the same bed with her. She said no. So I laid a checkered scarf in between us to mark the boundary and slept next to her. For those readers who might suspect that there must have been something unbecoming that happened between us, I must confess that I was too timid to take advantage of the situation. The night was peaceful and calm. As morning arrived, we had to keep Lyndal hidden in the house until nine a.m. when some humanitarian aid workers started arriving in the camp. At that point, it would be okay for her to go about the camp as she could pass on as one of the aid workers. In the meantime, I asked Buntha and Sararith to keep her company while going to buy sandwiches for our breakfast. At about ten o’clock, Sararith and I took Lyndal to interview a couple of Khmer Krom people (ethnic Cambodians who lived in Lower Cambodia, now part of southern Vietnam) at a small pavilion located in front of Nong Chan camp’s administrative office. After the interview, we returned to my house to have lunch and relax for a couple of hours before sending Lyndal off to the outside world. Just as Lyndal and I left the house at about two o’clock in the afternoon, I ran into another friend of mine, Sary, who was bringing a vagabond old woman to see me. Upon taking a closer look at the old woman, I was shocked to discover that that vagrant woman was my mother. What a surprise! I froze and stopped everything I was doing. Overjoyed and with tears welling in my eyes, I grabbed my mother’s hand and walked her into the house while thanking Sary profusely for his assistance to her. Sary told me that he saw my mother wandering about the camp trying to find me. Once inside the house, I asked my mother how she managed to come to Site 2 camp, given the fact that it was located at least 100 miles away from her residence at Ta Tum camp. My mother told me that she met an old woman who could speak some Thai, and using the New Year’s celebration (Thais and Cambodians celebrate New Year on the same date) when police checks on travelers were relaxed, they sneaked out of the camp, disguised as poor Thai villagers, and hitch-hiked their way to Site 2 camp. Once they were out and about on the roads, a Thai military officer took pity on them and let them ride on the back of his jeep all the way to an area where Site 2 camp was located. After being dropped off, my mother and her traveling companion walked the rest of the way and sneaked into Site 2 along the many gaps in the fences. Unbelievable! My mother’s story of being helped by the Thai military officer was like a lost sheep being rescued by a wolf. In hindsight, the story of my mother, an illegal Cambodian vagabond, being assisted by a Thai military officer probably should not be a surprise to anyone because the area, which Thais called Issan, where many Cambodian refugee camps were located, used to be Cambodian territory before the 16th century. Many inhabitants living in the Issan region of Thailand were and are ethnic Khmers who still have a sense of kindred with their brethren in Cambodia. Hence, the discrete assistance offered by the Thai military officer to my mother and her traveling companion was probably not something out of the ordinary as he, himself, might have been an ethnic Khmer. After getting my mother settled in the house, I took Lyndal back out to send her off to her residence in Thailand. As we reached the main road, I teasingly told Lyndal that we almost get caught by my mother sleeping together last night. She smiled acknowledging my mischievous sense of humor. Just as she was about to get inside her car, Lyndal and I gave each other a hug and promised to keep in touch. After sending Lyndal off, I went to the market to buy some new sarongs and shirts for my mother as she had nothing but the clothes on her back. I asked my mother to discard her old rag-tag clothes which she reluctantly let go because they were the clothes that enabled her to disguise herself and make the perilous journey of about one hundred miles or so across Thailand safely. I sent a letter to Heang immediately informing him of our reunion. Like us, Heang was quite relieved to hear the good news of our reunion. He told us that things were looking good for us as the U.S. Government had allowed refugees who lived in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border to resettle in the United States. Thus, after being reunited for a second time during our sojourn in the various refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border, we were sort of hopeful that our lives would not turn toward another stressful situation. (To be continued)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Food for Thought

The People Have Spoken
After having a relatively free reign over the past five years ruling Cambodia with almost impunity to abuse the poor, the destitude, and the otherwise placid masses, the Cambodian People Party (CPP) and its ruling elits have been given a resound rebuke on July 28, when the the Cambodian people cast their ballots to elect a new government for the 5th mandate.  Given the fact that the CPP controls almost virtually all media and mechanism for the election in Cambodia, it is quite clear that the CPP has lost the battle even though it won the war. To put it in simple term, the CPP has indeed lost touch with its constituents.
Based on the outcome of this recent election, it appears that the Cambodian people have finally learn to use their votes to make politicians behave and act like public servants rather than bosses. Now, that the people have spoken, will the policians listen? Only time will tell. But we can be certain that, from now on, Cambodian political landscape will not be the same. The people have made their voices heard. Any politician or political party dares ignore them will definitely risk being ignored in the next election.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Deliverance

After recovering from the initial shock of learning that my mother had been arrested by the Thai taskforce soldiers and sent to a camp located hundreds of miles away from where I lived, I wrote a long letter to my brother, Heang, in the U.S. telling him the situation we were in and asking him for advice on what to do next. I was at my wit’s end. A family of three people living separately in three different refugee camps located hundreds of miles from one another in a foreign country, which did not allow refugees to travel from one camp to another, was truly a messy situation for anyone to deal with. The stresses must have driven Heang nuts upon learning of the messy situation we were in. But no matter what difficult situation I presented to him, Heang had never blamed me or anyone else for causing him all the headaches in trying to rescue us from the quagmire. In his letters responding to my endless requests for helps throughout those four tumultuous years living in the various refugee camps, Heang never once blamed me for making irrational decision. His patience seemed to be limitless. Beside sending letter to Heang, I also sent a letter to Buntha in Khao I Dang camp telling him to stay put for the time being while waiting for Heang’s suggestion on what we should do to get out of the difficult situation we were facing.

While waiting for Heang’s response and suggestion on what to do regarding our family separation, I returned to work at the technical school for handicapped people as usual. In the meantime, I learned that the results of our high school exit exam were posted on the campus of Phnom Dangrek High School. I was not quite confident about my performance on the test. Thus, just in case I failed the exam, which would be more bad news for my stressful life to deal with, I tried to keep myself away from learning the result of my test as long as possible. I knew, sooner or later, one of my friends, who had also taken the test, would come to tell me what the result of my test was. In an attempt to give my state of mind a few more hours of solace, I took a group of my students to a clearing behind the technical school and let them sketch-draw natural scenery of the refugee camp. After they finished their sketches, my students and I returned to the classroom to finalize the drawings. Just as I arrived in front of the classroom, a friend of mine came to see me with a wan smile on his face. He delivered a piece of good news to me that I had passed the test, but he didn’t. It was an extraordinary moment for both of us, a depressed young man receiving exciting news from his defeated friend. I thanked my friend for pedaling his bicycle for about two miles to deliver the good news to me and offered him words of encouragement. I went inside the classroom and shared the good news of passing the exam with my students. Afterward, I told them to take the rest of the day off while going to examine my name on the test result’s bulletin board personally to make sure that it was really my name that was among those who passed the test.

Just as I was about to go to see my test result, Koy’s aunt, Samnam who was teaching the sixth grade classes at Phnom Dangrek High School, arrived to tell me the news of my success in passing the exam in order to lift my spirits up, for she thought that I had been receiving so much bad and depressing news lately. At that point, I was 100 percent sure that I had passed the test. But to feel the excitement personally, I decided to go to see the bulletin board where the names of all the test takers were posted and experience the thrill amongst those of my peers. It was a rather somber place at the bulletin board where the test results were posted because, needless to say, those who did not pass the test had a rather tough time accepting the outcomes. Out of the 21 people who took the test in the classroom with me, only 11, roughly 50% made it. My name, as a successful candidate, was sandwiched between three other names crossed out by red ink to indicate failures. After seeing what the test results looked like, I quietly left the area without showing any feeling of excitement or sadness.

I spent the entire month of January 1988 communicating with my brothers, Heang and Buntha, and my mother via letters. It was a rather lengthy process for me to piece together information about each of our individual life situations so that we could make as informed decision as possible to put our lives back together. Buntha told me that my mother was sent to Ta Tum camp along with Om Ok and his extended family who had been arrested by the Thai soldiers at about the same time she was arrested. Upon learning of this news, I felt a bit of relief as my mother would at least have some in-laws to depend on while being separated from us. As for Heang, his advice to me was to find a way to get us back together in one place, either in Site 2 or Ta Tum camp, and stay away from Khao I Dang. With this tentative instruction from Heang, I wrote another letter to Buntha asking him if he could find any means to get back to Site 2 since the distance between Site 2 and Khao I Dang wasn’t that far. Once we both reunited, we would figure out whether to go join our mom in Ta Tum camp or finding ways to get her back to Site 2. Buntha told me that he knew a teenage boy who could speak Thai and use his Thai language skill to travel between Khao I Dang and Site 2 with ease by riding on commuter buses. So I told Buntha to contact the boy and implore if that boy could act as a guide and help bring him to Site 2. Though the risk of Buntha getting arrested by Thai police was a possibility, I felt that it was safer for him to disguise as a Thai traveling on commuter buses because, based on what I learned, Thai police rarely stop buses to search for illegal travelers.

By February, my friend, Koy, his mother, Sunphan, and his aunt, Samnam, whose relatives lived in the state of Maryland, had been allowed to resettle in the U.S.A. As a result, I found myself living alone at this point. But, it was not for long. By mid March, Buntha had successfully sneaked back into Site 2. He brought along the boy who had helped him traveling by buses back to Site 2. I was so happy to see Buntha and profusely thanked the boy who had helped reunite us. After getting some food for both of them to eat, I asked them how they managed to travel about 50 miles in distance across Thailand. It sounded less complicated than one might have thought. Because Thais and Cambodians looked alike physically, Buntha and his traveling companion disguised themselves as Thai citizens. They sneaked out of Khao I Dang camp and walked to a bus station in the area. Afterward, they bought bus tickets and climbed on board just like any other Thai travelers. Once they reached a village near Site 2 camp, they got off the bus and walked the rest of the way.

After reuniting with Buntha, I wrote a letter to Heang asking him what we should do next regarding our mother, whether I should find ways to bring her to Site 2 or Buntha and I go there to reunite with her. Heang told me that we should not attempt to either bring Mom to Site 2 or go to Ta Tum camp as the risks for either one of us traveling between these two faraway camps were too great. His advice was that we should stay put and wait for him to work with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to see if it could bring us for interviews separately when our applications for resettlement in the United States were being considered. In the meantime, I contacted the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Site 2 to ask if it was possible for the Red Cross to help bring my mother to Site 2 because she was living alone in Ta Tum camp. One of the Red Cross staffs told me that ICRC provided only tracing for missing family members. It could not and would not help separated family members reunite.

To keep our lives busy, Buntha and I returned to attend Phnom Dangrek High School. Though, technically, Phnom Dangrek High School did not have classes beyond the eighth grade, a couple of classrooms were converted into a junior college of some sorts to offer courses to those students who had received high school diplomas and wished to continue their studies. Taking advantage of the offer and to keep myself educated, I joined the junior college student corps at Phnom Dangrek High School for several months during the 1988 school year. While going back to school, I asked my Spanish supervisor, Brother Kike, at the technical school for handicapped people to let me continue teaching drawing to the orphan children part time. Brother Kike agreed to my request, and I spent most of my spare times in between classes teaching perspective drawing to the orphan children.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Cambodian Royal Chronicle

99) King Norodom Sihanouk

(2nd reign 1993--2004, Capital: Phnom Penh)
After the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) helped establish a democratically elected government in Cambodia in 1993, the legislative body of the new government drafted a new constitution and, in it, declared that the removal of Prince Sihanouk and the abolition of the kingdom of Cambodia in 1970 were illegal. Thus, Cambodia, once again, became a kingdom in 1993. In that same year, Prince Sihanouk was re-crowned king, 38 years after his abdication in 1955.

Aged and in poor health, King Sihanouk played little role in politics. Since the new constitution was stipulated, the king held no governmental power except for signing decrees approving the formation of a new government or the appointment of government ministers. In a sense, the king was basically a rubber stamp. He could only reign but not rule.

Since the election and restoration of the monarchy in 1993, Cambodia remained a divided country. On one hand, the Khmer Rouge, who refused to participate in the election and eventually was outlawed by the new government, was still a serious threat to the much-needed security and stability in Cambodia. On the other hand, the new democratic government, which UNTAC created, was full of factional fighting. As soon as UNTAC turned over the power to the new government, the two ruling parties led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, King Sihanouk’s son, and Hun Sen, former premier of the previous PRK’s regime, began to jockey for dominance. Taking advantage of the fracturing situation, the Khmer Rouge began to play a wild card political game by making itself available to form alliance with either one of the ruling parties. Soon, tension within the government began to mount as both sides of the ruling parties started accusing each other of courting or planning to form alliance with the outlawed Khmer Rouge.

The conflict over the Khmer Rouge issue eventually got out of hand in July 5, 1997 when co-prime minister, Hun Sen, staged a coup d’etat to seize power. Fighting broke out on the outskirt of Phnom Penh between troops loyal to Hun Sen and those loyal to Prince Ranariddh who had just been deposed by his partner. Many people, including civilians, were killed in the violence. Prince Ranariddh and a number of his associates were able to go into exile abroad and, immediately, went on a campaign asking the international community to put pressure on Hun Sen for illegally using violent forces to take control over a democratically elected government. In response, the international community cut off or reduced economic aids to Cambodia and suspended its membership in the UN’s General Assembly.

In the aftermath of the coup, a band of soldiers led by a general named Nhek Bun Chhay began to organize a resistant movement against Hun Sen. Though small and militarily insignificant, the movement gained popularity and caught the attention of the international community, after successfully withstanding the attack from the well-armed Hun Sen’s forces. This movement eventually became a democratic thorn in the new Hun Sen’s government’s side. With the help of the international community, especially Japan and Australia, and the unpopularity of Hun Sen’s undemocratic seizure of power, a peace settlement was reached in 1998 as Cambodia prepared for a national election for a new government. Under the terms of the settlement, Hun Sen was to give pardons to all the politicians, including Prince Ranariddh, whom he accused of “breaking the laws” and allow all of them to freely participate in the national election.

Once again, the 1998’s election ushered in yet another conflict in the Cambodian struggle to adopt democracy. After the ballots were counted, Hun Sen and his party emerged as a winner but short of a two-third majority to be able to form a government as stipulated by the constitution. Thus, Hun Sen must seek to form coalition with other parties to gain the necessary votes in order to establish a new government. However, the other parties, especially the second place winner led by Prince Ranariddh, refused to join him. They instead accused Hun Sen of using unfair tactics in the election and demanded for ballots recounting. In a series of accusation, riot between supporters of Hun Sen and his opposition parties broke out in Phnom Penh. The chaos lingered for several days before polices, under order from Hun Sen, put an end to it.

To break the impasses, reconcile, and restore order to the kingdom, the quarreling parties agreed to have King Sihanouk mediated their differences. After a series of meetings and compromises, a new coalition government between the election’s first and second place winners with Hun Sen as prime minister, was formed. Thus, King Sihanouk had saved the day while the saga of the Cambodian royal chronicle was continuing to unfold.

It is worth noticing that since the election of 1998, Cambodia has been slowly but progressively moving forward. The Khmer Rouge, who was a menace to Cambodian society, started to disintegrate and, finally, ceased to exist in early 1999. For the first time after 3 decades of warfare, Cambodia begins to experience peace and tranquility. At this point, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has admitted Cambodia to become its member and, hence, opened the door for Cambodian greater economic development opportunities. As for the monarchy as an institution, there seems to be little sign of diminishing. Most Cambodians remain loyal to their king, and it appears that this 2000-year-old little kingdom will continue to exist into the next millennia.

100) King Norodom Sihamoni
(2004--…… Capital: Phnom Penh)
King Norodom Sihamoni ascended the throne on October 29, 2004, after his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, citing poor health, abdicated on October 7, 2004. The announcement of King Sihanouk’s abdication took the nation by surprise, for the Cambodian constitution, stipulated after the election of 1993, did not have provision for crowning new king before the decease of the preceding king. Thus, an amendment was rushed through the National Assembly and the Senate in order to make it legitimate for the new king to ascend the throne.

After having all the necessary legal provisions in place for the new king to ascend the throne, the nine-member Crown Council unanimously selected Prince Sihamoni to replace his father as king. Thus, the ascendancy of King Norodom Sihamoni to the Cambodian throne was one of the most peaceful and smoothest coronations in Cambodian history.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that King Norodom Sihamoni was a descendant of both Cambodian and European ancestors. His maternal grandfather was French of Italian origin. Prior to his ascendancy to the throne, King Sihamoni spent most of his life living abroad. He went to study in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and North Korea to pursue a career in ballet dancing. Later on during the 1990’s, he was appointed Cambodian ambassador to UNESCO, a position in which he held until the time he was selected to become king of Cambodia. Hence, many Cambodians, especially, those who live in the countryside know little of him. His sudden appearance on the throne was, to put it mildly, a surprise to many of them.
(The End)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

ចំណីខួរក្បាល (ប្រចាំសប្តាហ៍)

ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ ឬ គ្រោះចង្រៃ ?
នៅក្នុងទ្រឹស្តីព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនា មានពាក្យបាលីមួយឃ្លាចែងថា៖
រូបំ អនិច្ចំ អនត្តា ដែលមានន័យថា រូប ឬ ជីវិតនៃអ្វីៗគ្រប់យ៉ាង
រមែងប្រែប្រួល និងមិនអាចស្ថិតនៅជាអមតៈបានឡើយ ។ ការ
ប្រែប្រួលនេះ គឺមិនចំពោះតែសត្វលោកដែលមានវិញ្ញាណនោះទេ
សូម្បីតែគណបក្សនយោបាយ ដែលគ្រាន់តែជារចនាសម្ព័ន្ធនោះ
ក៏ត្រូវតែទទួលរងនូវឥទ្ធិពលនៃអរិយសច្ចៈទ្រឹស្តីនេះដែរ ។ ពោល
គឺគ្មានអ្វីអាចឋិតថេរជាអមតៈបានឡើយ ។ ដោយហេតុថា វេលា
នេះជាពេលដែលគណបក្សនយោបាយមួយចំនួននៅក្នុងប្រទេស
កម្ពុជាកំពុងតែធ្វើយុទ្ធនាការឃោសនាស្វែងរកការគាំទ្រពីសំណាក់
មហាជនដើម្បីពង្រីក ឬក៏ពង្រឹងអំណាចរបស់ខ្លួន យើងសូមលើក
យកគណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា ដែលជាបក្សកំពុងគ្រប់គ្រងអំណាច
នៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ជាច្រើទសវត្សរ៍មកហើយនោះ មកវិភាគ ថា
តើអំណាចនៃគណបក្សនេះ អាចនឹងមានការប្រែប្រួលដែរឬទេ ។

គណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា គឺជាបក្សនយោបាយមួយ ដែលបានករ
កើតឡើងនៅថ្ងៃទី ២ ខែ ធ្នូ ឆ្នាំ ១៩៧៨ និងទទួលបានជ័យជម្នះ
គ្រប់គ្រងលើប្រទេសកម្ពុជានៅថ្ងៃទី ៧ ខែ មករា ឆ្នាំ ១៩៧៩ ។
សមាជិកស្នូលជាច្រើនរូបនៃគណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា គឺជាជន
កុម្មុយនិស្ត ដែលត្រូវបានហ្វឹកហាត់ដោយបក្សកុម្មុយនិស្ត វៀត
ណាម ។ ឯការរៀបចំរចនាសម្ព័ន្ធនិងគ្រប់គ្រងប្រទេសរបស់គណ
បក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា ក៏ត្រូវបានជ្រោមជ្រែងដោយប្រទេស វៀត
ណាមផងដែរ ។ យើងមិនដឹងថា តើនៅមានជំនាញការវៀតណាម
ប៉ុន្មាននាក់ ជួយជ្រោមជ្រែងគណបក្សប្រជាជននៅពេលបច្ចុប្បន្ន
នេះទេ ។ ប៉ុន្តែ ទោះបីមានឬគ្មាន វាជារឿងធម្មតា ព្រោះសម័យ
នេះ គេអាចជួលមនុស្សមកជួយធ្វើការងារបានដោយសេរី មិនថា
មនុស្សនោះ ជាជនជាតិវៀតណាម ឬអាមេរិកាំង ។ រដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញ
ខ្មែរ មិនបានហាមប្រាមប្រការនេះទេ ។ អ្វីដែលយើងចង់លើក
យកមកវិភាគនៅទីនេះ គឺថា តើគណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា ដែល
កំពុងតែក្តោបក្តាប់អំណាចនៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា អាចរក្សាអំណាច
របស់ខ្លួន បានយូរអង្វែងដល់ណា ។

ផ្អែកលើមេរៀនប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រ កម្លាំងចលករ ឬចលនាដែលតែងតែ
នាំមកនូវការផ្លាស់ប្តូររបបនយោបាយ ឬរដ្ឋាភិបាល នៅក្នុងពិភព
លោកយើងនេះ គឺយុវជននិងរាស្ត្រសាមញ្ញ ដែលយើងសូមហៅ
ឲ្យខ្លីថា មហាជន ។ នៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជាបច្ចុប្បន្ន គេសង្កេត
ឃើញថា ចលនាមហាជនទាមទាឲ្យមានការផ្លាស់ប្តូររបបគ្រប់
គ្រង ក៏ដូចជាថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំប្រទេសនៅក្នុងការបោះឆ្នោតជ្រើសរើស
សមាជិករដ្ឋសភានិងប្រមុខរដ្ឋាភិបាលអាណតិ្តនេះ ហាក់ដូចជា
មានភាពពុះកញ្ជ្រោលគួរឲ្យកត់សម្គាល់ ។​តើកត្តាអ្វីខ្លះ ដែលធ្វើ
ឲ្យមហាជនខ្មែរជាច្រើនមានការនឿយណាយនឹងគណបក្សប្រជា
ជន ? បើនិយាយអំពីកត្តាដែលធ្វើឲ្យមហាជនជាច្រើន មានការ
នឿយណាយនឹងគណបក្សប្រជាជននោះ គឺមានរាប់មិនអស់ទេ ។
ប៉ុន្តែ យើងសូមលើកយកកត្តាសំខាន់ៗចំនួនបីមកបង្ហាញនៅ
ក្នុងអត្ថបទនេះ ៖

១) អនុវត្តគោលការប្រជាធិបតេយ្យមិនបានពេញលេញ ឬ
ក៏មិនត្រឹមត្រូវ
យើងដឹងហើយថា ដើម្បីធ្វើកិច្ចការអ្វីមួយបានជោគជ័យ គេចាំបាច់
ត្រូវតែរៀននូវរបៀបធ្វើកិច្ចការនោះឲ្យបានចេះ ចាំ និងយល់ជាក់
លាក់ ។ ប៉ុន្តែ នៅពេលដែលប្រទេសកម្ពុជាជ្រើសរើសយកលទ្ធិ
ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យសេរីពហុបក្សមកអនុវត្ត គណៈបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា
ដែលធ្លាប់តែអនុវត្តលទ្ធិកុម្មុយនិស្តក្នុងការដឹកនាំរដ្ឋនោះ មិនបាន
គិតគូរៀនសូត្រស្វែងយល់អំពីគោលការនៃលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យឲ្យ
បានមធ្យ័តទេ ។ អ្នកណាក៏ដឹងដែរថា កាលគណបក្សប្រជាជន
កម្ពុជា ដឹកនាំរដ្ឋតាមលទ្ធិកុម្មុយនិស្ត គេតែងតែបញ្ជូនសមាជិកបក្ស
ឲ្យទៅរៀន ឬក៏ហ្វឹកហាត់ទ្រឹស្តីកុម្មុយនិស្តយ៉ាងល្អិតល្អន់សិន មុន
នឹងប្រគល់តួនាទីអ្វីមួយឲ្យសមាជិកទាំងនោះធ្វើ ។ ប៉ុន្តែ អ្វីដែលជា
កត្តាគួរឲ្យចាប់អារម្មណ៍នាពេលបច្ចុប្បន្ននេះ គឺថា គណបក្សប្រជា
ជនមិនបានអើពើក្នុងការហ្វឹកហាត់សមាជិករបស់ខ្លួនអំពីគោលការ
សំខាន់ៗនៃលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យទេ ។ ជាលទ្ធផល ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំនៅ
ក្នុងជួរគណបក្សប្រជាជនស្ទើរតែទាំងអស់ខ្វះការយល់ដឹងអំពីការ
គ្រប់គ្រងតាមរបៀបប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ ។

២) មិនរៀនមេរៀនថ្មី ភ្លេចមេរៀនចាស់
ការធ្វើបដិវត្តន៍ដើម្បីផ្លាស់ប្តូររបបគ្រប់គ្រងរដ្ឋ មិនថានៅក្នុងបរិបទ
កុម្មុយនិស្ត ឬប្រជាធិបតេយ្យទេ គឺមានប្រភពចេញមកពីមហាជន ។
ចំណុចនេះ អតីតជនកុម្មុនិស្តដែលកំពុងកាន់តួនាទីធំៗនៅក្នុងជូរ
គណបក្សប្រជាជនសព្វថ្ងៃ គួរតែយល់ច្បាស់ណាស់ ព្រោះវាជា
មេរៀនចាស់ដែលពួកគេធ្លាប់បានរៀន ។ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែ មេរៀនចាស់នេះ
ហាក់ដូចជាត្រូវបានគេបំភ្លេចចោលយូណាស់មកហើយ ។ បើយើង
សង្កេតមើលបញ្ហានៅក្នុងសង្គមខ្មែរសព្វថ្ងៃ អ្វីដែលជាកត្តាធ្វើឲ្យ
មហាជនមិនសប្បាយចិត្តនឹងអភិបាលកិច្ចរបស់ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំរដ្ឋ
ដែលគ្រប់គ្រងដោយគណៈបក្សប្រជាជននោះ គឺការខ្វះដំណោះ
ស្រាយច្បាស់លាស់ត្រឹមត្រូវ នូវរាល់ទុក្ខកង្វល់របស់មហាជន មាន
ជាអាទ៍៖ ទំនាស់ដីធ្លី កង្វះការងារដែលញ៉ាំងឲ្យពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរបង្ខំចិត្ត
ធ្វើចំណាកស្រុកទៅរកការងារធ្វើនៅប្រទេសដទៃ និងកម្មករកាត់
ដេរត្រូវបាននិយោជកឲ្យប្រាក់ខែទាប ជាដើម ។ល។ ការមិនអើពើ
ឬក៏ដោះស្រាយឲ្យតែរួចពីដៃ នូវបញ្ហានានាដែលមហាជនចាត់ទុក
ថា ជាបញ្ហាអាយុជីវិតរបស់ពួកគាត់នោះ គឺមិនខុសអ្វីពីបង្ខំពួកគាត់
ឲ្យធ្វើបដិវត្តដើម្បីផ្លាស់ប្តូរថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំនោះទេ ។ សូមកុំភ្លេចថា
សម្រាប់ប្រទេសដែលប្រើយន្តការប្រជាធិបតេយ្យដើម្បីផ្លាស់ប្តូរ
ឬរៀបចំរដ្ឋាភិបាល សន្លឹកឆ្នោតគឺជាអាវុធដ៏មានប្រសិទ្ធភាពបំ
ផុត សម្រាប់ផ្តួលរំលំឬប្តូរថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំណាមួយ ។

៣) ការអប់រំនិងចំណេះដឹង
ការអប់រំនិងចំណេះដឹងគឺជាទ្វេគ្រោះដ៏ធំបំផុតសម្រាប់ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំ
រដ្ឋ ព្រោះថា គេអាចអប់រំមនុស្សឲ្យដើរតាមគោលនយោបាយ ឬ
មនោគមវិជ្ជាណាមួយ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែ គេមិនអាចបង្ខាំងមនុស្សមិនឲ្យត្រិះ
រិះពិចារណាអំពីបញ្ហាអយុត្តិធម៌នានា នៅក្នុងសង្គមបានឡើយ ។
ចំណុចនេះ យើងសូមលើកយកករណីសិស្សនិស្សិត ដែលនាំគ្នា
ទៅគាំទ្រគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិមកពិចារណា ថាតើហេតុអ្វីបាន
ជាពួកគេធ្វើដូច្នេះ ។
នៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា សាលារៀនស្ទើរតែទាំងអស់សុទ្ធតែមាន
ឈ្មោះសម្តេចតេជោនាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រី ហ៊ុន សែន និងឈ្មោះថ្នាក់
ដឹកនាំកំពូលៗនៃគណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា សរសេរនៅលើ
ជញ្ជាំងឬក៏ខ្លោងទ្វារ ។ មានន័យថា សាលារៀនទាំងនោះ គឺជា
សមិទ្ធផល ឬជាអំណោយរបស់អ្នកគាំទ្រគណបក្សប្រជាជន
កម្ពុជា ។ សម្រាប់សិស្សានុសិស្សខ្មែរ ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំ ឬក៏គណបក្ស
ប្រជាជនកម្ពុជាគឺប្រៀបដូចជាឪពុកម្តាយទីពីរអញ្ចឹង ព្រោះថាពួក
គេឃើញឈ្មោះថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំទាំងនោះស្ថិតនៅលើខ្លោងទ្វារនិង
ជញ្ជាំងអាគារសិក្សារបស់ពួកគេស្ទើរតែរាល់ថ្ងៃ ។ កត្តាដែលក្រុម
សិស្សានុសិស្សទាំងនោះ ទៅគាំទ្រគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ គឺមិន
ខុសអ្វីអំពីកូនដែលមិនដើរតាមការអប់រំរបស់ឧឪពុកម្តាយឡើយ ។
តើហេតុអ្វីបានជាសិស្សានុសិស្សទាំងនោះនាំគ្នាទៅគាំទ្រគណបក្ស
សង្គ្រោះជាតិទៅវិញ ? ចម្លើយប្រហែលជាមានច្រើនណាស់ ប៉ុន្តែ
យើងអាចសន្និដ្ឋានបានថា ចំណុចដែលសំខាន់បំផុតនោះ គឺបញ្ហា
អយុត្តិធម៌នៅក្នុងសង្គមតែម្តង ។

សរុបសេចក្តីមក គ្រោះចង្រៃដែលនឹងចូលមកយាយីអំណាចនៃ
គណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា នៅក្នុងការបោះឆ្នោតជ្រើសរើសតំណាង
រាស្ត្រនិងប្រមុខរដ្ឋាភិបាលសម្រាប់អាណតិ្តទី ៥នេះ គឺប្រហែលជា
មិនអាចចៀសផុតទេ ។  ផ្អែកលើសន្ទុះនៃការគាំទ្ររបស់មហាជន
មកលើគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ យើងអាចសន្និដ្ឋានបានថា អំណាច
នៃគណបក្សប្រជាជន ប្រាកដជាត្រូវថមថយនៅក្នុងអាណតិ្តទី ៥
នេះ ។ ចំណែកឯកត្តាដែលថា តើអំណាចនៃគណៈបក្សប្រជាជន
កម្ពុជានឹងត្រូវធ្លាក់ចុះដល់កម្រិតណា នោះគឺអាស្រ័យទាំងស្រុងទៅ
លើការវិនិច្ឆ័យរបស់ពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរ ដែលជាអ្នកសម្រេចនៅក្នុងការបោះ
ឆ្នោតជ្រើសរើសថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំនាអាណតិ្តទី ៥នេះ ៕

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Prisoners of the Humanitarian (Cont.)
It was early September when I went to see my former literature teacher, Mr. Phon Bun Yann, who had become an assistant principal of Phnom Dangrek High School. I told Mr. Phon of my study at Khao I Dang camp and the couple of grade levels I had skipped while enrolling there. Because there were only a few months left on the 1987 school year, Mr. Phon suggested that I should attend the seventh grade instead of the eighth grade, which I had been attending while I was living in Khao I Dang camp. His rationale was that the eighth graders would be taking the exit exam for high school diploma by the end of the year and I might not be ready to take that big exam because my education had been interrupted, and that I had just gone through a very stressful situation in life. Mr. Phon’s advice was logically sound; hence, I went to attend the seventh grade for the remainder of the 1987’s school year. However, soon after I set foot in the seventh grade class at Phnom Dangrek High School, rumors started circulating among my former classmates who were in sixth grade at that point that I must be bribing school officials to be able to attend the seventh grade, which was one level ahead of them. By the end of my first week at Phnom Dangrek High School, Mr. Phon summoned me to his office and suggested that I should withdraw my enrollment and wait until the next school year to re-enroll for whatever grade level I wanted, as long as I passed the placement test. To make things less complicated, I followed Mr. Phon’s suggestion and said goodbye to education for the time being.


After unforeseen circumstances kicked me out of formal education, I returned to seek informal education again. This time, it was at an orphanage center in Ampil camp, where a talented young man named Chea Chamroeun taught high school level mathematics to a group of orphan youths, many of whom were my former classmates. Chamroeun himself was an orphan living in the center. So after introducing myself to him, I came to attend his mathematics class every evening. Before long, Chamroeun and I became close friends and we found that we had many things in common, philosophically.

Beside Chamroeun, my friend, Koy, with whom I lived, also helped me get a job as an assistant to a French volunteer arts teacher, named Veronique de Crope, who was teaching perspective drawing to handicapped and orphan children at the Ampil’s Technical School for Handicapped People, which was located across the street from the orphanage center. Thus, with a job and an informal study in place, I found myself some sense of normalcy in life again. Each day, I went to work at the technical school with Koy, who was also working there as a designer and silk screener. After work, I would go to study mathematics with Chamroeun at the orphanage center every evening.

Toward the end of 1987, education’s officials from the various camps within Site 2 organized an exit exam for those students who had finished the eighth grade. In a rather lucky break for me it was announced that those who worked in various institutions in Site 2 were eligible to take the exam, along with the students, to obtain a high school diploma. Using my work at the technical school as qualification, I went to see officials at Phnom Dangrek High School and registered my name to take the exam as a non-student candidate. Upon learning that I was also going to take the exit exam for high school diploma, Chamroeun was very excited. He himself was an eighth grade student and would be one of the participants taking that exam. So he created a special class to prepare some of us as well as himself for some of the subjects that might be asked in the test. For about one month prior to taking the test, we spent many hours studying math, physics, and chemistry.

The day of reckoning came in late December 1987. With only sporadic education and a fragile self-confidence, I went to take the test for a high school diploma. As a non-student candidate, I was not allowed to sit among the students while taking the test. Thus, separate classrooms were designated for non-student candidates to take their test. There were 21 people in my class. We were seated about four feet apart to prevent us from looking at each other’s answers. Once again, it took us two days to complete the test. By the end of the second day, I was mentally exhausted as many of the questions asked in the test were beyond my grasp. By the time the exam was over, I was ready to lie down in my hammock at home to take a well deserved rest. But life wasn’t meant to be easy for me, I guess. When I arrived home in late afternoon, Koy handed me a letter from my brother, Buntha, which the mailman had dropped off for me a couple of hours earlier. I opened the letter immediately to see if there was any good news my brother sent for me. Alas! My hope for good news was dashed as fast as I finished reading the sentence: “Mom has been arrested by the Thai taskforces, and she is now being sent to Ta Tum camp.” My heart sank. I sat down in a bamboo chair in disbelief trying to make sense out of the stressful situations I had encountered throughout these years. Koy’s mother, Sunphan, came and sat next to me trying to comfort me with words of encouragement. She told me how lucky I was to receive this bad news right after finishing the test. If this letter were to arrive one day earlier, it would spell the end of my examination efforts. She was right. The bad news did not ruin my chance to obtain a high school diploma.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Cambodian Royal Chronicle

97) Heng Samrin/Hun Sen

(1979--1991, Capital: Phnom Penh)
Heng Samrin and Hun Sen were Pol Pot’s army officers who were stationed in the eastern region of Cambodia near the Vietnamese border. During Pol Pot’s purging campaign on his communist cadre’s ranks and files, they both escaped to Vietnam and began to organize a resistant movement against his rule. With the support of the Vietnamese armed forces, they successfully toppled Pol Pot from power in 1979 and became leaders of Cambodia which they renamed the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).

During the early years of their rule, Heng Samrin and Hun Sen faced tremendous challenges and difficulties. Politically, Cambodia was occupied and indirectly ruled by Vietnam. Socially and economically, they had to rebuild Cambodia from scratches, for Pol Pot had virtually destroyed everything. In addition, the international community, except for a few communist sympathizing countries, not only refused to help and support them but also accused them of being puppets of the Vietnamese invaders. On top of that, they were confronting with a civil war against Pol Pot’s forces and two other insurgent armies led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk and former prime minister Son Sann who were launching guerrilla warfare from the Thai-Cambodian border, ostensibly to expel the Vietnamese occupying forces from Cambodia.

As Heng Samrin and Hun Sen struggled to rebuild Cambodia and rehabilitate its battered population which suffered from years of abuses by Pol Pot and his collaborators, the three insurgent armies, led by Pol Pot, Prince Sihanouk, Son Sann, and backed by China, the United States, and Thailand, began a guerrilla-war campaign against both the PRK’s and Vietnamese occupying forces. The fighting dragged on for almost a decade before all sides, weary of the bloodshed, agreed in 1988 to negotiate for a peace settlement. The negotiation went on and off for three years. Finally, in 1991, the four antagonistic forces reached an agreement to stop using bullets and settle their contest over Cambodia through ballot boxes.

The agreement, known as the Paris Agreement (named after the city in which it was signed), called for a complete withdrawal of the Vietnamese armed forces from Cambodia, the disarmament and cantonment of the four factional armies, removal of all foreign patronage from the contending Cambodian factions, and the establishment of a United Nations-supervised interim government called the Supreme National Council (SNC) headed by Prince Sihanouk and composed of 12 representatives, 6 from the incumbent government and 2 from each of the three opposition factions. The agreement also called for a UN-supervised general election which was to be held in 1993 under the auspices and control of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

98) The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)
(1991--1993, Capital: Phnom Penh)
The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was created as a result of the international conference on Cambodia which was convened in Paris in October 1991. Under the terms of the agreements reached at the conference in Paris, UNTAC’s mandate was to disarm the three antagonistic factions of the Cambodian armed forces, repatriate back to Cambodia the 300,000 or so Cambodian refugees from Thailand, and organize a general election in 1993 in order to establish a legitimate, internationally-recognized government in Cambodia. In other words, the international community, through UNTAC, planned to establish a democratically elected government in Cambodia--a far-reaching endeavor indeed given the fact that Cambodia had never known real democratic government for close to 2000 years.

As soon as it set foot in Cambodia, UNTAC began to work diligently to accomplish its goals. However, the operation hit obstacles right from the start because all of the antagonistic parties, especially the Khmer Rouge, jockeying for political advantages, refused to cooperate or obey the terms of the agreements. Sporadic violence broke out almost all over the country. Political killing was rampant. And Cambodia, once again, became a pariah state.

Determined to see its mission accomplished, UNTAC went ahead with its plan. It safely repatriated all the Cambodian refugees from Thailand to Cambodia, suspended the disarmament and troops cantonment process, and began to organize a national election. UNTAC’s policy seemed to be clear and simple: Whoever wanted to participate in the election to form a new government was welcome to do so. And those who did not want to participate may stay out of it.

As predicted, the Khmer Rouge boycotted the election and began a violent campaign against it. But despite the Khmer Rouge’s objection, UNTAC was able to successfully organize an election in 1993 as scheduled with the participation from all parties except for the Khmer Rouge. Unfortunately, as a new government was about to form, the incumbent government which did not win the majority of the votes refused to relinquish power and threatened a civil war if it were not allowed to retain and share the new government’s portfolios.

Facing with a dire dilemma, UNTAC subsequently brokered a compromise deal in which a unique power-sharing coalition government was established. Under the compromise, a co-minister post was established where each government ministry was headed by two ministers, one from the election’s majority winner and the other from the incumbent government. The prime minister’s post was headed by first and second premiers with the same arrangement as the ministry level.

Thus, after 3 years of nerve wracking operation, UNTAC had finally founded a two-headed democracy monster which could be found no where else in the world. The democratic government which UNTAC helped created in Cambodia, though interestingly unique, appeared to be utterly fragile and prone to collapse, for no antagonists whose interests were to outwit, destroy or deny the other’s existence could possibly work together peacefully.

For the record, UNTAC’s mission in Cambodia costed some 2 billion U.S. dollars. It was the largest and most expensive operation the United Nations had ever undertaken. Also, Cambodia was the first country to be used as a test case for the UN’s peace making and reconciliation endeavor.
(To be continued)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Prisoners of the Humanitarian (Cont.) Khao I Dang camp’s prison was a rather unassuming structure built like a long house of indigenous American Indians. The whole structure looked more like a cage than a prison. There were four cells, two of which were used to incarcerate illegal refugees while the other two smaller ones were used to keep Thai soldiers who committed infractions. There were no walls between the partitions or around the building structure for that matter, except for barbed wire juxtaposed with bamboo poles to keep male and female inmates from commingling with one another. All the females and children under the ages of ten years old were put in one large cell while the male prisoners were put in another. At the time when I was incarcerated, there were about 50 male inmates in a cell designed to hold about 40 people. Thus, sleeping spaces were very tight. For the rest of the night when I was arrested, I sat in a corner and cried quietly, feeling sorry for myself and the misfortune I was in. Next morning, which was a Sunday, the day that inmates were allowed to have a few minutes to meet with their relatives, Saiy came to visit me and brought me a blanket. He discretely told me to feel the edge of the blanket and gave me a coded message to take precaution. Just before we parted, I asked Saiy to bring me a hammock when he came to visit me next week. Because the prison was very crowded, that hammock would give me the flexibility to sleep anywhere in my cell as long as I could find a spot to tie it. Just before I examined the edge of my blanket, a fellow inmate told me that the Thai soldier who acted as prison chief was very mean and cruel. He forbade inmates to send any letters outside. We were also not allowed to tell relatives to bring us any money. Anyone who was caught with such contraband would be punished severely. After learning of the prison’s rules and the consequences, I decided to wait until night time to inspect the edge of my blanket. Feeling it with my hands, I found several pieces of papers rolled like cigarettes imbedded in one hem of the blanket. Without untying the thread, I pushed one of the roll-around papers near the corner edge of the blanket out and found that it was a 100 baht bill of Thai currency. It appeared that my mother had altered one edge of the blanket and sewed it back loosely with the rolled 100 baht bills in it, so that I would have some money to buy food if or when I was sent out of Khao I Dang. After taking all the money out of the blanket’s edge, I faced yet another dilemma on how to hide the money in case all the inmates were searched. The only available place I had was a tiny pocket located within a larger pocket of my only pair of jean pants. So to keep my money from being discovered by the prison guard, I folded the 100 baht bills several times until they fit into that tiny pocket and hid them there. All the inmates in Khao I Dang camp prison, except for women and children, were abused daily by the lone Thai soldier who oversaw that prison. He ordered the other Thai soldiers who were being imprisoned there to conduct the daily abuses on his behalf. Each day we, refugee prisoners, were allowed to get out of our cells only once during the afternoon when the abuses in the form of push-up, grasshopper’s hopping, and many other military drills were being conducted upon us. We were sometimes made to do push-ups to the point of utter exhaustion, when many inmates fell flat on their stomachs. After the soldiers abused us to their heart’s content, the prison warden ordered us to gather at a bathing area and sprayed us with water from a hose as a means for us to take a bath. Beside the regimental abuses, there were also individual abuses of inmates. Occasionally, an inmate got beaten up for not having his pair of shoes put together properly. I remembered seeing an inmate being ordered to sing a song by the Thai soldiers almost daily; and sometimes, that poor inmate had to sing for them several times in a day. Each time he sang the song, the Thai soldiers would find flaws in his singing and ordered him to hit his head with his own knuckles five or ten times for each mistake. They sometimes ordered him to knock his head even more if the sounds of his knuckles smacking on his head were not convincing enough. It was so sickening. But what made these abuses even more disgusting was that it happened in a refugee camp under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an agency tasked with a duty to protect basic human rights for refugees. I spent a total of 21 days in Khao I Dang camp’s prison. After more inmates were being sent there, the prison became overcrowded. Thus, to make room for new comers, all the illegal refugees were sent back to the border camp. We didn’t know to which camp we would be sent; but all of us prayed that the Thai authority would not send us to camps controlled by the Khmer Rouge, where their reign of terror continued unabated. When the appointed time arrived, two transport trucks came to park in front of the prison. The Thai taskforce’s soldiers, who were charged with transporting us, came to the prison’s door with a list of names. They called us one by one to come out and get on board the trucks. After all the inmates were taken on board the trucks, the drivers took off quickly, and I was once again being transported to an unknown destination. There were some armed guards who stood at the back of each truck to prevent inmates from jumping off and escaping. We spent about three hours sitting quietly in those fast-moving trucks before they came to a stop in a refugee camp located in northeastern Thailand. Upon disembarking, we learned that the camp was called Ta Tum which was controlled by a rebel faction loyal to Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Though it wasn’t Site 2 camp, a place where most of us would want to go, everyone breathed a sigh of relief as we learned that we were not at a Khmer Rouge’s camp. Prior to being sent back to the border camp, I had made friends with a few fellow inmates who, like me, were arrested for living in Khao I Dang illegally. Hence, after our arrival at Ta Tum camp, we banded together and tried to figure out ways to return to Site 2 camp where we used to live. One of my friends, Ly Kim Sour, found an old acquaintance who worked in the intelligence services for the rebel group, who was in charge of Ta Tum camp. With the help of Kim Sour’s friend, we learned that we could be traveling back to Site 2 camp with military officials for a fee. The cost was about 50 dollars per person. None of us had that much money at hand; therefore, Kim Sour asked his friend to assure the people who were in charge of transporting us back to Site 2 to wait until we arrived in Site 2 where he would get the money to them right away. With mutual trust among these pseudo-human traffickers, Kim Sour’s request was accepted and within just one week upon our arrival at Ta Tum camp, we were on our way back to Site 2. We traveled with a mix of Thai and Cambodian rebel officials who were on a mission to Site 2 camp for meetings or whatever business they were conducting. It appeared that these officials were not engaging in human trafficking in its purest sense but rather illicitly doing us favors for mutual benefits to all—we were able to travel illegally from one place to another safely while those officials would get some money to spend, maybe for a nice dinner in Bangkok or Aranyaprathet. Upon arriving in Site 2 camp, I went to stay with a friend of mine named Koy, who was living with his mother, Sunphan, and an aunt, Samnam. Koy’s mother lent me the $50 I needed to pay for my trip from Ta Tum camp and helped me settle down to put my life back together. My first order of businesses was to send letters to both, my brothers Heang and Buntha, informing them of my whereabouts. Before long, Buntha sent me a letter, along with a human trafficker to meet me. In his letter, Buntha told me that the person who came to see me could bring me back to Khao I Dang camp to reunite with him and Mom. The memory of abuses in Khao I Dang camp’s prison was still fresh in my mine. Thus, I told the young man Buntha sent to fetch me back to Khao I Dang that I needed some time to think about going back to reunite with my brother. I wrote a short note and gave it to him to bring back to Buntha. In the meantime, I discussed my life’s situation among my close friends, and they all advised that I should stay put for the time being, waiting for suggestions from my brother, Heang, regarding what to do next to solve our separation dilemma. Several weeks later, I received a letter from Heang telling me to stay put for the time being. After learning of my ordeal in Khao I Dang camp’s prison, Heang was reluctant to have me risk another imprisonment. Hence, with a somewhat settled matter related with our family separation, I decided to return to school and seek re-enrollment. (To be continued)

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Cambodian Royal Chronicle

95) General Lon Nol (1970--1975, Capital: Phnom Penh) General Lon Nol was Prince Sihanouk’s minister of defense. After successfully removing Prince Sihanouk from power in a coup d’etat in 1970, Lon Nol set about to establish a republic on the skeleton of a roughly 2000-year old Cambodian kingdom. He renamed the country Khmer Republic and proclaimed himself as head of state. Lon Nol’s first political move was to order the North Vietnamese communist troops, who had quietly been using Cambodian northeastern territory along their border as a staging area for guerrilla warfare against the U.S.-back government of South Vietnam, to leave Cambodia’s soil within a few days. His order fell into a deaf ear, for it was neither possible, nor realistic for the battle-hardened North Vietnamese troops to obey a government which had hardly any standing army to challenge them. Responding to the North Vietnamese disregard of his order, Lon Nol then embarked on a military campaign known as Chenla I and Chenla II to drive them out. Sadly, Lon Nol’s military campaign against the North Vietnamese troops was a failure, and many of his badly-trained, poorly-equipped amateur soldiers were killed in the expedition. In the mean time, the North Vietnamese troops began to militarily train, supply, and assist the Prince Sihanouk-supported Cambodian communists known as Khmer Rouge to wage a full-scale civil war against Lon Nol. For five years, the civil war between the North Vietnamese/Sihanouk-supported Khmer Rouge led by a man named Pol Pot (a.k.a. Saloth Sar) and Lon Nol’s government spread throughout the country. As the war raged on, living condition in Cambodia began to deteriorate and worsen every day. Hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted from their homes, and they were forced to live as refugees or displaced persons on the margin of society. On the battle fronts, the fighting grew even more savage as both sides resorted to killing each other indiscriminately. With regard to government, the Lon Nol’s regime appeared to be both incapable and corrupt. The leadership was utterly weak and incompetent. Many politicians cared more about amassing wealth for themselves than tending to the suffering of the population or preserving the nation as a whole. As a result, more and more alienated people began to rally to or join the Khmer Rouge in their revolution to overthrow the decadent and corrupted Lon Nol’s government. After five years of fighting a losing battle, Lon Nol fled Cambodia in early March of 1975. He went into exile in the United States of America. One month later on 17 of April, the communist Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot took over Phnom Penh and effectively put an end to Lon Nol’s rule and his republic. 96) Pol Pot [a.k.a. Saloth Sar] (1975--1979, Capital: Phnom Penh) Pol Pot was Secretary General of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), better known as the Khmer Rouge. He was born in Prek Sbov village, Kompong Thom province--the son of a middle class farmer. During his early childhood, Pol Pot was brought up, educated, and partly raised in Phnom Penh by one of his older brothers named Lot Suong who was a staff protocol (clerk) in the royal palace. He also had a sister and a cousin who were consorts of Prince Sihanouk’s grandfather, King Sisowath Monivong. It was believed that, through the helps of some influential government officials and his siblings and cousin who had links to the royal palace, Pol Pot was able to obtain a government scholarship in 1949 to go to study in France where he met fellow Cambodian communists such as Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, and Son Sen and begin to form a communist movement. Pol Pot was an obscure politician who lived his life in secrecy. Little was known about his personal background and political activities. Presumably, he joined the left-wing, communist-oriented political movement in the late 1940’s when Cambodian resentment against the French colonial rule was at its peak. During the mid 1950’s and early 60’s, Pol Pot worked as a schoolteacher in Phnom Penh and secretly participated in an underground communist movement to bring reform to Cambodia and/or overthrow the corrupt and decadent government led by Prince Sihanouk. In 1962, Pol Pot was appointed Secretary General of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), and one year later in 1963, fearful of Prince Sihanouk’s prosecution of leftist-communist-oriented politicians, he went into hiding in the jungle in northeastern part of Cambodia where he organized and launched a successful communist revolution. Upon taking over the power in Cambodia in 1975, Pol Pot and his fellow communists embarked on a swift and radical change in an attempt to transform Cambodia into a utopian society according to their communist vision. They changed the country’s name from the Khmer Republic to Democratic Kampuchea and immediately ordered people to evacuate the cities and urban centers. Within the first few days of their rule, Pol Pot and his associates instituted the abolition of private properties, money, market, religion, and all other societal practices which they considered contradictory to the communist doctrine. In a fervent revolutionary zeal, Pol Pot had completely transformed Cambodia into a primitive agrarian society. The whole country was turned into a gigantic agricultural production camp in which people from all walks of life were forced to work without adequate foods and medicines or any regard of their health and abilities to perform the tasks. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people were starved or worked to death, and the whole endeavor became a terrible disaster. In an attempt to find scapegoats for his failure, Pol Pot unleashed a punitive purge among the ranks and files of both his communist associates and those suspected of engaging in counter-revolutionary activities. The purge lasted for a few years, and hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured, and executed ruthlessly. As the purge was intensified, many of Pol Pot’s army officers, fearful for their lives, escaped to neighboring Vietnam and began to organize a resistance to his rule. In 1979, with the help from the Vietnamese army, they invaded Cambodia and, eventually, overthrew Pol Pot from power. In a tumultuous retreat, Pol Pot and his associates along with thousands of loyal supporters were able to escape to Thailand and, with the support of the Chinese communist government, began to reorganize their forces to wage another insurgency against the rebels who had just toppled them from power. For the record, Pol Pot’s ruthless rule had led to the loss of about 1.7 million lives. Roughly, one out of every four Cambodians died as a result of his utopian communist policy. And Cambodia was left in ruin, economically and socially. Most of the surviving population was badly malnourished and left in a horrible condition. Almost every infrastructure throughout the country was destroyed or neglected. By the end of Pol Pot’s rule, Cambodia was brought down to its knees and in need of everything imaginable in order to survive the nightmare and ordeal it had been through. (To be continued)