Give a man a fish and you feed
him for a day.
Teach him how
to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Tzu, Chinese Philosopher, 570 - 490 BC)
General Situation in Cambodia
In the early 1970's, Cambodia plunged into civil war. From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge
implemented one of the most radical and brutal restructuring of society ever
attempted. Its goal was to transform Cambodia into a Maoist peasant agrarian
cooperative, with China as advisor. One wonders what lessons, if any, China has
learned from this profound failure. Within two weeks of coming to power, the
entire population of the capital and provincial towns, including everyone in the
hospitals was forced to march out into the countryside. There they were
organized into mobile work teams to do slave labor, plowing the fields, digging
irrigation canals etc., for 12 to 15 hours per day. Disobedience of any sort
often brought immediate execution. The murderous regime left 1.7 million people
dead through starvation, overwork and execution. The Memorial Stupa at the
Killing Fields in Phnom Penh stands as shocking testimony to the slaughter. The
Central Bank was blown up, currency was abolished and postal services were
halted. The country was fragmented and millions of people were forcibly
displaced from their homes. Across the border in Thailand refugee camps were set
up to house the people fleeing the fighting and genocide.
Cambodia's educated and wealthy were systematically imprisoned or killed. Infrastructure fell
into disrepair. The economy all but disintegrated. The armies of both sides of
the conflict planted millions of anti-tank and anti-personnel land mines, many
of which are still buried and tragically being discovered on a "step by step"
basis. These insidious inventions recognize no cease-fire, and continue killing
and maiming their unfortunate victims every day.
After the Khmer
Rouge were driven from power in 1979, the Khmer Rouge continued to fight a
guerilla war that unraveled only a decade ago and ended with a tacit agreement
to let several of the former leaders live quietly in the country.
Recently, a tribunal, backed by the United Nations, has been established to
investigate abuses committed during the time when the communist Khmer Rouge held
power. The tribunal was created in 2006, after seven years of contentious
negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia. The tribunal investigates
abuses committed by the communist Khmer Rouge. The judges of this tribunal are
to charge Khmer Rouge leaders 'for crimes against humanity and war crimes.'
After Nuon Chea, the top aide to late leader Pol Pot, was arrested at his home,
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent
group researching Khmer Rouge crimes, stated: "Now the time has come for Nuon
Chea to share his version of the history of Khmer Rouge before the court of law.
--- So many people have died. The facts are everywhere. There are plenty of mass
graves, prisons, documents, photographs that can show what he did at that
time." The trials are expected to begin in 2008. Cambodian judges already
hold a majority in desision-making matters, but under the tribunal's rules, they
need at least one vote from a foreign counterpart to make rulings. The tribunal
is being operated under the Cambodian judicial system, often described by
critics as weak, corrupt and susceptible to political manipulation.
For the last several years, the general situation in Cambodia has been characterized
by the end of armed conflicts, the restoration of peace, the rehabilitation and
capacity building of repatriated and former Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),
and the commitment of the government to alleviate poverty. The Royal Cambodian
Government has emphasized the importance of economic growth, which provides
potential resources to meet the needs of the nation in the post-conflict
situation, and to help improve the lives of the most vulnerable.
In 1998, the formation of the new coalition government, after the second general
election, paved the way for a better future. The political climate in the
country today is characterized by good co-operation between the legislative and
executive bodies. The commitment to ensure peace by prominent leaders of the two
main rival political parties for the sake of country’s development,
stabilization, and peace for the people is commendable. As a result, the country
gained its seat in the United Nations, and was admitted 10th official member of
the ASEAN Regional Grouping. The International Community and potential donors
resumed their assistance to the development projects of the country, the tourism
industry, and investment opportunities have returned to normal. People again
enjoy a peaceful life and earn their living with a sense of hope
for the future and a better life. However, the economic crisis has hindered the
progress of economic growth in Cambodia.
In 1998, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita for Cambodia as a whole was
US$280. About 36% of the Cambodia population live below the poverty line. There
are a plethora of vulnerable groups: returned refugees, war widows, orphans,
victims of natural disasters and disabled people affected by wars and landmines.
One in every 250 Cambodians is disabled; one in every 384 people is an amputee.
The great loss of usable agricultural land due to landmines causes a major
shortage of agricultural land and products. The vulnerable groups gravitate to
the capital, Phnom Phen, in the hopes of a better life. The squatter population
increased from 80,000 in 1990 to 200,000 in 1997 in the slum communities
surrounding the capital. Squatters have caused increased health risks linked to
unsanitary conditions, overcrowding, easy transmission of all kinds of
epidemics, and insecure social order.
The Cambodian population is exposed to many infectious diseases, such as
tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and HIV/AIDs/STDs.
Treatment is frequently unavailable due to lack of medicine or lack of funds to
pay for it. HIV prevalence is the highest in Asia, with 4% of the adult
population ages 15-49 infected. The majority of HIV cases under age 20 are
female. Programs have been put in place to expand access to health facilities,
to strengthen immunization, and to disseminate additional preventive and
educational programs. In addition to these life-threatening ailments, there are
numerous less serious ailments. Most of these have been eliminated in the West,
but remain a common occurrence in Cambodia, such as warts, head lice, intestinal
worms, scabies (a microscopic worm which tunnels through the skin, causing rash
and severe itching), and others rarely seen in the Western World
Natural disasters (flood, drought, crop failure, and fire) are common
occurrences in Cambodia. Floods are the most common of all natural disasters. A
large segment of the population lives and farms the fertile flood planes of the
major rivers. Villages situated along the banks of the Mekong River, for
example, remain flooded for considerable periods of time. In other areas, people
are dependent on rain, with drought looming as another natural catastrophe for
the country. Water management plans are few.
Cambodia is in great need of financial and technical assistance
to enable the buildup of infra structure and improvement of living standards.
The Kingdom of Cambodia
formerly known as Kampuchea
: Preăh Réachéanachâkr Kâmpŭchea
) is a
with a population of over 13 million people.
is the capital city. Cambodia is the
of the once powerful
, which ruled most of the
between the eleventh and fourteenth
A citizen of Cambodia is usually identified as
"Cambodian" or "Khmer," the latter of which strictly refers to
ethnic Khmers. Most Cambodians are
Theravada Buddhists of Khmer extraction, but the country
also has a substantial number of predominantly
Cham, as well as ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese and small
animist hill tribes.
The country borders
Thailand to its west and northwest,
to its northeast, and
Vietnam to its east and southeast. In the south it faces the
Gulf of Thailand. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by
Mekong river (colloquial
Khmer: Tonle Thom or "the great river") and the
Tonlé Sap ("the fresh water lake"), an important source of
fish. Much of Cambodia sits near sea level, and consequently the
Tonle Sap River reverses its water flow in the wet season,
carrying water from the Mekong back into the Tonlé Sap Lake and
surrounding flood plain.
Cambodia's main industries are garments and tourism. In 2006,
foreign visitors had surpassed the
1.7 million mark. In 2005,
oil and natural gas deposits were found beneath Cambodia's
territorial water, and once commercial extraction begins in 2009
or early 2010, the oil revenues could profoundly affect