Thursday, July 26, 2012

If it Is Thursday, then We Are in Cambodia

Yesterday evening we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia

So far I'm very positively surprised how well the country seems to be recovering from its turbulent past. I'll give you just two numbers: (1) Cambodia's annual average GDP for the last twelve years was above 7%; and (2) Cambodia's population growth is 1.7% (that's higher than India's!). It also seems that the future of Cambodia might be even brighter: recently oil and gas reserves were found beneath Cambodia's territorial waters. I hope it'll translate to better lives for the citizens of the country, as they definitely deserves some good, peaceful, economically and politically stable years.

Cambodians, as people, seem very nice, polite, and modest, but they also seem to be beaten down. I guess that's not a surprise, since the Khmer Rouge's regime happened not long ago and it has strongly imprinted itself in the memory of the local people, most of which must be suffering from the PTSD. 

Today we visited one of the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh, as well as Toul Sleng Genocide Museum located in the capital, and I have to tell you that it was an extremely disturbing experience. It's devastating to realize that we-human beings-are capable of such atrocities. In just four years between 1975 and 1974, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for killing of about 2 to 3 million of Cambodian people, about 30% of Cambodian population at that time. All of that in the name of building of a better society. Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, justified the mass killings, including the ones of young kids, by saying that "to kill the grass you must also remove the root" and "since he is of no use anymore, there is no gain if he lives and no loss if he dies." I'm really at a loss to know what can we do so people like him wouldn't reach power in future. It seems to me that we-the people of this world-learn very little from the mistakes of the past, and are doomed to repeat them in the future.