Cambodians Wish for Peace

After nearly three decades of war, Cam­bo­di­ans interviewed recently say they hope for peace as they enter the new millennium but are worried about the future and haunted by the past.

Although Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top leaders have been touting the return of peace, many Cambodians say they are not confident that the current, relative calm will remain.

Although progress has been made since the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and the 10-year occupation by the Vietnamese, many Cam­bodians say the country still has many problems to be solved, such as corruption in the government, lawlessness and slow development.

They also say the political situation is better than in the past, but it could just as easily revert back to the instability of two years ago when factional fighting broke out, causing Asean to delay membership, international organizations to suspend aid and loans and foreign investment to plummet.

This year saw the return of the International Mon­etary Fund and Cambodia’s entrance into Asean.

The government is also moving forward on its plan to try former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, finishing a draft law that is currently being reviewed by the UN.

Still, Cambodians say because they have learned from the past, they are hesitant to believe that peace will continue in the future. Cam­bodia also remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with a health care and education system that is unable to fully serve the population.

“If the two big party leaders [Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh] fight again, then there will be no peace,” said Sor Sophal, a 56-year-old cyclo driver.

Nine-year-old Yun Tha is a symbol of how much work still needs to be done in Cam­bo­dia.

He is angry because he and his family, who live on the streets near Phsar Thmei, are being kicked out. They arrived in Phnom Penh three months ago from Prey Veng, where they had no rice to eat.

“I don’t want Cambodia to have peace,” he said. “I want bad things to happen to the country.”

Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said there are reasons that Cambodians still are dwelling on their fears rather than looking joyously forward to the new millennium.

The government is “no longer fighting each other to death like before,” but the politics still aren’t completely calm, she said.

“Because of three decades of war, family dislocation and all the misery, people do not feel like they have peace yet. That’s why people wish for peace.”

 

Chea Sovannara, 18, university student

“I want Cambodia to develop like other countries but now everything is going so slowly. The leaders are partly developing the country and partly destroying it. The percentage of forests have gone down because of corruption.”

Nut Sopha, 35, garden tender

“Now my family situation is OK, but I hope it will be more OK. Things are stable and quiet now. Cambodia has reached peace.”

Chheang Lib, 33, sells paintings at Psar Thmei

“I hope more tourists will come so my business will do well. These days, there are not that many tourists so business is not that good.”

Sen Kanganika, 10

“I hope my mother’s business does well. I also want to pass my exams and become number one in class. I’m doing so-so in school now. I also hope I will have more friends.”

Em Vuthy, 12,

student

“I just want to be happy and do well in school. I also want to have more toys and new clothes.”

Sok San, 78, former soldier

“For this generation, everything will be OK, but I’m afraid the country might go down for the next generation. Because of lessons from the past, I believe this. During [King Norodom] Sihanouk’s time, people thought we would be happy forever, but then came the Pol Pot regime, so I’m afraid it will repeat again.”

Ngip Pek, 42, soldier and motodop

“In 1979, I didn’t have anything, not even a house. But now I’ve managed to buy a house and my situation is gradually getting better. In the future, there won’t be domination from neighboring countries because we will be able to protect ourselves. But for the time being, there is still some influence from other countries.”

Pich Yan, 22, tourist boat owner

“Because other countries have peace for a long time, they have had a chance to develop, but we just finished with war. I want Cambodia to be as developed as the modern countries.”

Meng Chea 15, shoe shiner

“I hope I will become a photographer. My grand-uncle is going to give me a camera so I can learn how to take pictures.”

Men Sophal, 20, monk

“ I hope for peace for Cambodia and prosperity without fighting. For myself, I just arrived Sunday morning from Kompong Cham and I haven’t found a pagoda to stay at so I’m worried about that. I want to study so I can better myself.”

 

Ly Raksmey, 17, student

“I want Cambodian society to develop. For me, I can’t afford college so I want to get a job in sales.”

Sim Men, 82, three children

“I want Cambodian society to develop with no internal conflict. If society is healthy, then my family will do well. Money also plays an important role. If we don’t have money, it’s hard to have happiness in the family.”

Chray Nguonheang, 20, waiter at Foreign Correspondents Club

“I want my country to have peace forever. I also want there to be more law and to have police arrest robbers and abolish kidnapping. I hope more investors will come to Cambodia.”

Sor Sophal, 56, cyclo driver

“I want there to be peace, which plays an important role in developing other fields. There is peace now but it’s not as complete as in [King Norodom] Sihanouk’s time.”

Yun Tha, 9, street kid

“The police say we can’t stay on the street anymore so I hope we get lots of money so my family and I can go back to Prey Veng.”

Ngay Synonn, 27, sells Colgate and Care baby powder

“I hope the economy will improve and lots of companies will come to Cambodia. For me, I want to have a successful career as a salesman.”

Ny Nge, 48, sells baby clothes at Psar Thmei

“I hope my shop will do well, but I’m not sure whether it will happen. My shop is doing OK, but not that great.”

Chheang Lib, 33, sells paintings at Psar Thmei

“I hope more tourists will come so my business will do well. These days, there are not that many tourists so business is not that good.”

Sen Kanganika, 10

“I hope my mother’s business does well. I also want to pass my exams and become number one in class. I’m doing so-so in school now. I also hope I will have more friends.”

Men Sophal, 20, monk

“ I hope for peace for Cambodia and prosperity without fighting. For myself, I just arrived Sunday morning from Kompong Cham and I haven’t found a pagoda to stay at so I’m worried about that. I want to study so I can better myself.”

Ly Raksmey, 17, student

“I want Cambodian society to develop. For me, I can’t afford college so I want to get a job in sales.”

Sim Men, 82, three children

“I want Cambodian society to develop with no internal conflict. If society is healthy, then my family will do well. Money also plays an important role. If we don’t have money, it’s hard to have happiness in the family.”

 

Chray Nguonheang, 20, waiter at Foreign Correspondents Club

“I want my country to have peace forever. I also want there to be more law and to have police arrest robbers and abolish kidnapping. I hope more investors will come to Cambodia.”

Sor Sophal, 56, cyclo driver

“I want there to be peace, which plays an important role in developing other fields. There is peace now but it’s not as complete as in [King Norodom] Sihanouk’s time.”

Yun Tha, 9, street kid

“The police say we can’t stay on the street anymore so I hope we get lots of money so my family and I can go back to Prey Veng.”

Ngay Synonn, 27, sells Colgate and Care baby powder

“I hope the economy will improve and lots of companies will come to Cambodia. For me, I want to have a successful career as a salesman.”

Ny Nge, 48, sells baby clothes at Psar Thmei

“I hope my shop will do well, but I’m not sure whether it will happen. My shop is doing OK, but not that great.”

Chheang Lib, 33, sells paintings at Psar Thmei

“I hope more tourists will come so my business will do well. These days, there are not that many tourists so business is not that good.”

Sen Kanganika, 10

“I hope my mother’s business does well. I also want to pass my exams and become number one in class. I’m doing so-so in school now. I also hope I will have more friends.”

Chray Nguon­he­ang, 20, waiter at Foreign Cor­res­pon­dents Club

“I want my country to have peace forever. I also want there to be more law and to have police arrest robbers and abolish kidnapping. I hope more investors will come to Cambodia.”

Ly Raksmey, 17, student

“I want Cam­bo­dian society to develop. For me, I can’t afford college so I want to get a job in sales.”

Sim Men, 82, three children

“I want Cambodian society to develop with no internal conflict. If society is healthy, then my family will do well. Money also plays an important role. If we don’t have money, it’s hard to have happiness in the family.”

Chray Nguonheang, 20, waiter at Foreign Correspondents Club

“I want my country to have peace forever. I also want there to be more law and to have police arrest robbers and abolish kidnapping. I hope more investors will come to Cambodia.”

Sor Sophal, 56, cyclo driver

“I want there to be peace, which plays an important role in developing other fields. There is peace now but it’s not as complete as in [King Norodom] Sihanouk’s time.”

Yun Tha, 9, street kid

“The police say we can’t stay on the street anymore so I hope we get lots of money so my family and I can go back to Prey Veng.”

Ngay Synonn, 27, sells Colgate and Care baby powder

“I hope the economy will improve and lots of companies will come to Cambodia. For me, I want to have a successful career as a salesman.

Ny Nge, 48, sells baby clothes at Psar Thmei

“I hope my shop will do well, but I’m not sure whether it will happen. My shop is doing OK, but not that great.

Chheang Lib, 33, sells paintings at Psar Thmei

“I hope more tourists will come so my business will do well. These days, there are not that many tourists so business is not that good.”

Sen Kanganika, 10

“I hope my mother’s business does well. I also want to pass my exams and become number one in class. I’m doing so-so in school now. I also hope I will have more friends.”

 

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