A Note From The Proprietor
1997 marked the end of the Khmer Rouge era. The remnants of the Khmer Rouge factions, who were ousted by Vietnam and living in the dense jungle all over Cambodia defected to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Since then, Cambodians enjoyed peace, stability and economic growth. Though, it is not time to celebrate by all Cambodians in the country. While the political situation is not impeccable, it is workable and is far better than what we used to have during the Khmer Rouge era. However, the inequality of income between the affluent bourgeois and the poor is of a considerable concern.
In 2009 reconciliation began for Cambodians whom had lost their love ones during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror between 17th April 1975 and 6th January 1979. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were tortured, hacked, bludgeoned, overworked or starved to death. The Cambodian government and the United Nations backed the trial of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, hoping to bring justice, answers and closure for the victims and their families, and explanations for the cruelty that had befallen their country.
Many former members of the Khmer Rouge leader now hold key positions in the governance of Cambodia. It is not uncommon to believe that the persons you or I sit next to could be killers of my family. For my family, out of 13 members (ten children, my parents and my grandmother), only two survived. A sombre feeling, I hate to imagine what my mother went through before she was bludgeoned.
For many Cambodians, the word justice is a myth. In 1970 American bombed Cambodia, politically supported the Khmer Rouge with a strategy to restrain communism from spreading in South East Asia. The current trials of the Khmer Rouge do not include the trial of President Richard Nixon and his foreign minister Henry Kissinger, and all the big brothers, countries that allied and approved American foreign policy against Cambodia. The truth had never been told to young Cambodians today. They have little understanding about the psychological scars inflicted upon their parents and grandparents.
Foreign visitors to Cambodia today tend to stay in Siem Reap, a small town in the northwest of the country from which they enjoy exploring the magnificent temples of Angkor. Built by Cambodians and their Khmer kings between the 10th and 13th centuries, the temples have long served as a symbol of Cambodian nationhood and are among the most important monuments in the world.
I would encourage visitors to visit the untainted countryside beyond the temples that will give them an appreciation of Cambodians’ recent past. An eyewitness to see how their ancestors live more than 1000 years ago, living in wooden stilt makeshift.
Anyone visiting Cambodia today, struck perhaps by the beauty of the countryside and the grace and friendliness of the people, will want to know how such a nightmare could have descended on a country of 14 million people and what steps are being taken to bring those responsible to justice.