After years of oppressive rule, Pol Pot’s tyranny fell, leaving husks of abandoned buildings, scorched earth, shallow mass graves and a tortured society. I spent moments of silence, alone, during my journey in and around Phnom Penh, observing the devastation, the surviving trace of brutality.
A struggling Cambodia despite its past, aye a country with a rich history, from the Chenla Kingdom in the 6th century, and from there in 802, grew the Khmer Empire that became the most powerful in Southeast Asia.
The people of Phnom Penh, nowadays and those fortunately to go through university, will toil to secure jobs. They work in the city, keeping their heads above the increasing cost of living. The urban Cambodians show rugged physical endurance, and a willingness to work in and out of the country, as long as there are opportunities for income. Despite the economical confidence within the region, the quality of life continues to deteriorate because of foreign labor and skyrocketing cost of housing. Slums, poorly maintained roads, sanitation in the pits and lack of accessible health care, all contribute to the sufferings of the poor.
Even as I left the country, heading to Thailand, I am reminded of the sights that have taken refuge in my heart. A place of shadows, which offers no healing to the losses, yet I want to return. I sense that even as their lives are full of tribulations, they are survivors of a violent past who wade in the sea of burden… and are determined to make it across.
This article is the last of 7 in the Combodian series. Read the other articles here:
- Trailing the Tuk-Tuks in Phnom Penh
- Killing Fields: Acts of Inhumanity in Cambodia
- Behind the Wall lies Misery
- Silent as the Grave – S21, the Death Camp
- Cambodian Genocide: Souls Waiting for Justice
- Tuk-Tuk Riders in Cambodian Poverty