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When Sihanouk died several months ago, many people in Cambodia saw his face on the moon (I wonder what NASA had to say about that). A lot of Khmer people abroad scoff at the sightings and the massive outpouring of grief in Cambodia for the former king. This is hardly surprising since most overseas Khmers do not think too highly of the late Sihanouk.
I think most people tend to blame Cambodia’s tragic history on its leaders. While leadership is certainly a major factor, having lived in Cambodia for the better part of the last four years, however, I would have to say that it is more than leadership.
Whatever leadership the country has had in its history, it’s also largely a reflection of the the culture and the mentality of the people.
Contrary to what many in the West might think, the problems currently crippling Cambodia does not revolve around a few bad people holding the whole population hostage. Most Khmer people would love to be part of the rich and powerful elite so that they could step on everyone else. Everyone wants to be king…perhaps that’s why Khmer people revere the king so much.
It’s not a matter of good Khmers versus evil Khmers. It’s the Khmer mentality. The mentality has to change. I repeat: THE MENTALITY HAS TO CHANGE.
The solution is not as complicated as one might think. All it boils down to is CHARACTER.
Poor character is what has gotten the country to its current predicament. If the inhabitants of a house are lazy, dishonest, disrespectful of one another, what do you think will become of the house? The same goes for a country. Cambodia a huge dysfunctional family that no member wants to be a part of. Just like members of family that can’t stand one another, everyone in the country wants out. They have little self-esteem, unity, or faith in the community.
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to diss my fellow Khmers, but that’s how I see it. What I’ve observed over the years about folks in Cambodia is that they’re incredibly smart in the things they shouldn’t be smart in… and incredibly ignorant in the things they shouldn’t be ignorant in. That’s why things are the way they are.
If the country is to reverse course, we need to wake up and aggregate our excrement…that means to get our shits together.
What does it take? Start with things like honesty, hard work, fairness, and love and respect for your fellow human beings. These aren’t Western or Eastern, Buddhist or Christian, Democratic or Socialist qualities. They’re universal qualities, which means they transcend all cultures, religions, and political ideologies. If everyone somehow wakes up and embrace these values, things will start to fall into place, and trust me, they will get much, much better. It’s really that simple.