What Did This Aussie Learn From 15 Months Inside a Notorious Cambodian Prison?
I’m writing this from my desk in my comfortable house near the airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I first arrived in Cambodia by bus from Saigon, Vietnam back in June 2012. I fell in love with Phnom Penh instantly. It’s a wild, crazy, exciting and unpredictable country. I’ve been all over it now but most of my time has been in the capital city, Phnom Penh.
When I first arrived, the city was smaller and had a wild west feel about it. Narrow, overcrowded streets filled with traditional tuk tuks and Toyota Land Cruisers. If you don’t have one of those, you’re a nobody. I don’t have one. No one I know does.
They are driven by those who are connected in some way to the leader. Usually this is via a Government job.
Government jobs are reserved for the family members of those who already have a Government job.
Everyone else has to make do.
There is no social security, universal health care, unemployment benefits, libraries, homeless refuges, there is nothing for ordinary citizens. The Police Force will only respond to a crime if you pay them first.
They must make do the best they can.
Family is central to everyone here. The bonds of family are very strong. Everyone one knows everyone else.
My wife, Theary, can’t grasp that I don’t know the names of all my cousins or the fact I would not know many of them if they walked in my front door. She finds it unbelievable, I don’t know my siblings birthdays.
The ordinary people are very strong, friendly, curious and hard working. They deserve better after having millions of their relatives murdered. Thearys’ mother lives next door to us. She raises her Grandson, so her other Daughter, Theara, can work about 3 hours away in a Casino at Bokor Mountain.
Thearys’ mother had just given birth to her first child in 1977 when the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh. They forced everyone to evacuate the city. She along with hundreds of thousands of others, was forced to walk for 30 days.
They then built a camp and rice paddies and were forced to work from 5am until 11 pm at night.
The smallest infraction of their insane rules could get you killed by a blow to the head with an axe handle.
Angelina Jolie made a very moving, award winning movie definitely worth watching if you have Netflix called “First They Killed My Father”
Thearys’ mother watched as her husband was executed in front of her one evening. He had the wrong political views.
Eventually, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and defeated the Khmer Rouge.
But the roots of the KR are still thriving.
Back in 2012 there was an active opposition to the so called “ruling party” The official name of the Government Party is the Cambodian People's Party.
Sounds ultra Communist.
That’s because it was when it was started. The party was formed while Vietnam was occuping Cambodia after the Genocide.
Sad thing is, all the founders and current leaders of the CPP were members of the Khmer Rouge.
Apparently, now they don’t believe in socialism, shared ownership and Communism...they believe in unbridled, unregulated, lawless Capitalism, bribery and corruption.
Trust me, it sure works for those at the top.
Times sure have changed for the worse since 2012.
The Government ordered the Court to dissolve the Opposition party and outlawed all it's officials. They are all on the run now.
Then the Government held a sham election. Not surprisingly, they won every seat.
Now we officially have a Dictator in charge. There are no rights for any citizen or even foreigners like myself.
Cambodia is now being overrun by the Chinese. A ridiculous property boom has been underway for the last 5 years. Now the skyline is littered with sparkling new empty high rise apartment and office buildings.
The Chinese are now the cause of a huge crime wave. Drugs, gambling etc etc are at epidemic levels.
The Government, turn a blind eye. They love the money that is pouring in. None of which goes to the average Cambodian.
The Country is losing its identity and way of life.
It’s becoming increasingly dangerous.
Which leads me to the real story I wanted to share with you. It’s a story of strength and finding happiness.
I want to introduce you to an event which happened to an Australian Journalist and Filmmaker, James Ricketson.
Before you think this is an appeal for help or donations, it’s not. It’s a story of the human will being stronger than any prison bars. A story of hardship and pain but also of finding one's' core beliefs and reasons for living.
The story appeared on the Australian ABC website on the 31st July, 2019. It’s quite touching, uplifting and happy.
I hope you get something good from it