The first Sunday I was here I went exploring with two of my classmates; Niall Crotty and Ray Frost. We went up to the Boeng Kak lakeside in the northern part of PP and gradually made our way to the Tonle Sap riverside in the east to celebrate Amy's (classmate) birthday at the Foreign Correspondents Centre (FCC). It was my third day in PP and I got the chance to me see and meet the people. Cambodians are a lovely people, warm with smiling faces and very patient. They will do their best to try and understand you and it's up to you to try and get your message across. They were constantly amused by me, I guess because I'm a big black chap and I smile a lot. There is an alarming level of poverty, there are many beggars on the street and many of them are young kids who should by all rights be in school. It's hard to come to terms with it because if you are the kind of person who can't say 'no' then you'll give all you have away until there is nothing left. I was constantly plagued by this feeling. Then there are survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, many of them disfigured or without limbs, how do you say no to them? On our way to the FCC, we met Peter, a 'Tuk Tuk' driver who told us how he was once rich and prosperous until the KR came. He lost friends and family and now tries to support those he has left by driving a 'Tuk Tuk' which was donated to him by a tourist couple from Denmark or Netherlands.
The story of the Khmer Rouge is one of mankind at his worst and I cannot delve into it here, but a quick Google search should give you an idea. The whole mess can be blamed on America and the French. Out of nothing else but sheer greed, these western powers looked to have an influence in this part of the world, the reason, chaps were finding oil all over the place so hey, why not grab a chunk of land here or there. It was obviously not as simple as that but suffice it to say that the wars in S.E. Asia which eventually led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge would not have ocurred but for the presence of the the French and the Americans and why were they there in the first place? "Because of vast Dutch oil discoveries in nearby Indonesia, first the French, then the Americans, wanted to explore the broad Vietnamese continental shelf." Of course in retrospect most monumental events can be linked by a chain of events to one cause and I bet if you went further you would come to the conclusion that we shouldn't exist at all because we as human beings are capable of the most atrocious acts. We delight in destroying and subjugating each other and there is no other animal on earth that behaves like we do. Anyway, my favourite humour site (cracked.com) lays most of last century's wars if not all at the feet of that Austrian dude whose bumping off sparked WW1, apparently with utter disregard for his life he just had to visit his buddies in the hospital right after a failed attempt on his life, his hapless driver got so lost that they ended up passing by a cafe where the main guy who had planned the assasination was having a consolation sandwich, he just couldn't believe his luck.
When the KR came to power, it set about enforcing its ideologies on the nation. The intellectuals and anyone who so much as showed an inclination towards acquiring knowledge were quickly done away with along with anyone who had ties to the former government. Urban dwellers were accused of "economic sabotage" due to their lack of agricultural ability. All ties to the outside world were cut off as the KR decided that Cambodia would become a self sufficient nation of peasant farmers. The year 1975 was declared year zero.
It is hard to believe that to this day most of the perpetrators of these crimes have not been brought to justice, in fact as a testament to the ability of these people to forgive, some live among them as if nothing had ever happened. They are kind, warm, gentle and forgiving but they can only take so much. The current government is utterly corrupt down to the very last police dog. The people are unhappy and one of these days they will realise where the power truly lies. Incidentally Cambodia is on some sort of international list of countries that could experience a revolution soon. I pray that it is peaceful, but yes the people will rise. I have come to hate the city because of some damned disease but I love these people. Rise up!