Cambodia: A generation lost in fear

Cambodia - once the darling of the aid organizations, now with an uncertain future. The inflated salary earners have gone, the UN vehicles a rare sight. Some from the outside have given up and left the people to pick up the pieces of what I think was another set of imposed ideals. Its easy to brush aside the society and go where the new sexy appeal is: Burma.

But today I let myself be reminded of the pain in the Cambodian society, one that has suffered a lost generation, and the surviving ones who continue to carry the burden of fear. Its one of the biggest hurdles for the mental and psychological liberation of the people. The symbolic value of converting a school into one of the worst torture centres is not lost on the present day society.
The barbed wire enclosure of the classrooms at the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh
Its a wonder that the people here in Phnom Penh I know are determined to fight for social justice in the country, but it is not an easy battle for them. Even their families prefer to keep quiet, as memories of the brutal past continue to haunt them. On the other hand, it is encouraging to see the younger generation taking on the challenges with gusto. The smell and sound of hope is in the air.

Talking and walking around Phnom Penh, I worry for the future of Burma and for the atrocities that continue to take place. I remember comedian Zarganar, a former political prisoner, who said upon his release in October 2011 that the young people in his country showed little sense of hope. I regret that as freer citizens we as Malaysians have let the collective fear set us back in terms of freedom. Why do the rest in the region wish to go down the path of the old Cambodia as its people try to move forward?

Is it possible to create a new story, one that breaks down the collective oppression, brutality? One where the individual tears down the barbed wires to set free his or her energy? One where we stop making the same mistakes again and again?  

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