Nearly 30 years have passed since the shadow of genocide enveloped Cambodia. Under the reign of Khmer Rouge, Cambodians endured immense physical and psychological pain: the pain triggered by mass murder, torture, cruelty and inhumane acts; the pain of starvation; the pain of hard work, more than an average human being could bear; the pain of being separated and losing parents, children, spouses, relatives and friends. The memory of the traumatic period of the Khmer Rouge tyranny between April 17, 1975 and January 6th, 1979, persists. It brings Cambodians a social pain and it continues to tear them apart. Today Cambodia is a country composed of victims, perpetrators and their children. Victims and perpetrators live with each other in the same communities under a „culture of impunity“, in spite of the „Khmer Rouge Tribunal“, effective since 2007, which has tried so far only 3 out of the many responsible for atrocious crimes.
Because of this, many Khmer Rouge victims still suffer depression and other psychological symptoms. Cambodia has a significantly higher rate of sexual violence compared to other Asian countries. People continue to mistrust each other. You can perceive this. They don’t talk to each other. Former Khmer Rouge perpetrators have been included in the government at all levels, as have former opposition parties, which guaranteed for twenty years a stable majority of the government with more than 90% of the voters support.
This changed recently. In the last parliamentary elections in 2014, two opposition parties reached together a two-digits success. After this election they decided to unite their forces and during the Local elections June 4th, 2017, where I was an official election observer, they reached almost 40% at national level. This meant a huge and threatening loss to the government party. National and international observers now fear a rising repression against opposition as well as local and international NGOs being accused of supporting the opposition. Many fear the rise of violence. One could see an increase of violent rhetoric already in pre-election campaign this year.
Again violence. Violence was used by French Colonialists, there was violence during guerrilla fights to free Cambodia, death and pain was caused by illegal US bombings in 1970. You knew that? Kissinger and Nixon didn’t even ask their parliament for permission to bomb another country. They declared this a s part of the Vietnam bombing. The number of bombardings was 5 times higher than US dropped during world war II! You can imagine the destruction of the country! The US supported Lon Not, who reigned from 1970-1975 This government was fought buy guerrilla and that was the time when Khmer Rouge became support from the population that wanted their beloved prince Sihanouk back. Again violence. Then Khmer Rouge won the fight. No one was safe anymore, everyone could be seen as a betrayer or simply disturbing the “new communist society” they wanted to create in a few years. Millions died. No one knows the exact figure, because many died also from US bombings. Officially the Pol Pot regime lasted 3 years, 9 months and a few days. But one often forgets that they continued fighting for another 10 years the new Cambodian Republic, freed by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979. Again violence.
Today, Cambodia is #1 in the rank of Sex Tourism Countries. Poverty – the same poverty that already reigned 100 years ago during French occupation – drives parents mainly from the countryside to sell their children to brothels near the Thai Border. Men from Germany, US, Canada, UK, Italy and other rich countries, but also rich men from Asia abuse young girls, boys and even small children.
The Cambodian documentary “Sold Out” shows 5 year old children in a brothel with their “customers”. I wish I would not have seen those pictures I can’t eliminate any more. Every time I met a white male tourist in Phnom Penh traveling alone I felt sick.