Cambodian Political History
Cambodian Political History
Along the main road in the village, there are concrete electric power poles with no wires. After Cambodia's indpendence from French colonization (1954), Cambodia was developing as fast as any other nation. Then the Indochina War happened, commonly referred to in America as the Vietnam War.
A man named Pol Pot decided to turn Cambodia into a Maoist-style communist country. The year was 1977. He started by driving through every province and taking young men to be soldiers. People inthe countryside were poor, so many went willingly at first. But then they quickly hauled off educated citizens, such as doctors, engineers, teachers, artists and journalists who could send news of what was happening or resist. My friend Srash's father, a doctor, was taken never to be seen again.
By now, people did not want to let their sons go with the Khmer Rouge, but they kept taking young boys (as young as 12), training them to be killers of their own people. No outside country was bothering Cambodia. Pol Pot killed his own people, which is was most people today find the most horrendous of his crimes. His objective was to destroy ALL history and "start fresh." Many ancient temples from the 10th and 11th centuries were damaged. Electric power was never completed in the provinces.
When the Khmer Rouge reached the Vietnamese border, Vietnam stood up and took notice. They quickly ended Pol Pot's reign of terror. He killed over 3 million Cambodians in 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. Any Cambodian can quote this time period. This was 50% of the current population. A genocide museum is operated in the former torture compound called S-21 during the regime. Prior to the Khmer Rouge, it was a secondary school called T___ S____. From here, people were transported to the infamous Killing Fields, where a "stupa" now stands filled with thousands of skulls from the victims.
After Vietnam liberated and stabilized Cambodia, they went back to their own country. Vietnam didn't occupy Cambodia or say, "We're going to move the border now because you owe us for helping" or "We're going to rebuild your country with our companies and charge you for it so we get richer." They did it because Pol Pot and his regime were evil and they needed to be stopped for the good of humanity. Pol Pot and other leaders were imprisoned and recently died awaiting trial at an International war tribunal. Many people are sad they were not convicted and punished for their crimes.
I am almost 40 years old and I never learned any of this in world history. I only learned that America sent troops to Vietnam while people back home protested until they finally withdrew. I am ashamed of America's self-centered attitudes about the world. Genocide is going on right now in places like Sudan. Recently, genocide has occured in Rwanda, Bosnia/Croatia/Serbia, to the Kurds in Iraq, the Gypsies in Europe, and the Aborigines in Australia. Even those who die in the favelas of Brazil are being called genocide victims. Every day people are dying while we buy new cars and Gucci purses. What are we doing about genocide as members of humanity? I challenge you to educate yourself and tap into your own ingenuity. Figure out a way you can make a difference.
Cambodia is slowly rebuilding as it re-educates its people. In Cambodia, 85% of people are farmers. When they graduate from universites (7,000 every year), there are few jobs. Some people even pay to get a job. Only 30% of graduates find a job in the private sector. The population of the country is between 13-14 million. There are 24 provinces. Over 2 million people live in Phnom Penh.
Working in one of more than 120 clothes factories is a coveted job. Workers earn $45-50 per month, compared to a small business in the countryside making only $20 per month. Examples are selling gasoline from a 50 gallon drum, selling sugar cane juice or charging batteries used for electricity in the home.
Unfortunately, it is easy to cheat local Khmer people because of a lack of education. Politicians are elected for 5 year terms. People do not have as many rights as in America and demonstrations are not allowed. While "scared" might be too heavy a word, people try to live their lives in a way not to disrupt the goverment, so corruption does exist. The Khmer culture values peace highly. A proverb for marriage is "The man should close his ears and the wife should close her eyes." I think this is a very good principle, although it can certainly be taken too far!
It is my goal to be involved in film production here in Cambodia. It's not as undeveloped as one might think. Other countries such as France and China produce films regularly here. There are few restrictions and costs can be extremely low without exploiting the Khmer people.
Posted by Lady Mariam
at 8:23 PM PST