Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cambodia’s Curse

Here is a much more credible book on Cambodia, Joel Brinkley’s Cambodia’s Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land.

It traced the history of Cambodia from the time of the Ankor Empire, down to French domination, independence in 1953, Lon Nol’s coup in 1970, American bombing, Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror and genocide 1975-79, Vietnamese invasion in 1979, Vietnamese withdrawal in 1989, United Nations occupation 1992-93, and since then, Hung Shen’s reign. It looked into Cambodian culture, the lack of education, the impact of Communism, the genocide, the American influence and apathy, the corruption, the political struggles, ..., to try to find out why Cambodia is in such a miserable state.

Brinkley interviewed numerous villagers and village chiefs, government officials high and low, politicians, policemen, school teachers, United Nations troop commanders, foreign aid workers, American ambassadors, ..., for his book.  He did his homework.

He is very critical of almost everyone. But his observations ring true.  I can testify to the lack of basic amenities such as running water and electricity in large parts of the country, the terrible slumps, the dilapidated state of the schools, the fees charged by the teachers that prevent many children from attending school, the poor state of the universities, the bribes demanded by the police from motorcyclists, the selling (and re-selling) of young girls into prostitution, the lack of basic infrastructure such as public transport, ...

I cannot help thinking: why isn’t there a Cambodian version of Aung Sang Suu Kyi of Burma?

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