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Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land by Joel Brinkley
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“Be careful because Cambodia is the most dangerous place you will ever visit. You will fall in love with it, and eventually it will break your heart.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“The United States Congress ordered an end to the bombing of Cambodia in August 1973. By that time American aircraft had dropped about 2.75 million tons of ordnance, causing massive carnage that has never been fully documented or accounted for. Yet Congress’s ban was enacted not out of concern for the Cambodian victims. As Representative Tip O’Neill said during the floor debate, “Cambodia is not worth the life of one American flier.” The”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“While trying to understand Cambodia, foreign writers sometimes fall into glib stereotypes and generalizations. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, French writers routinely characterized the people as “obedient and lazy.” These people liked to note that Cambodians would plant just enough rice to feed their families and then go home. If fertilizer or a hybrid rice seed allowed them to double the size of their crop, they would grow only half as much. Philip Short, the British author, made the same point, concluding that “the perception of indolence has become part of the country’s self image, an explanation for its failure to keep up with its neighbors.” Michael”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“For Cambodians, like most Asians, they noted, few things are more important than saving face, protecting personal dignity. Yet “there is no cultural tradition for reconciling contrary opinions—or even for the acceptance of the existence of contrary opinions,” the Swedes wrote in their book, Every Home an Island. As a result, in any debate one side or the other is certain to lose face. “So when Khmer men resort to violence—when young men form gangs, or when a husband beats his wife, almost to death,” they are “impotent human beings who act out of frustration because their ‘cultural heritage’ offers no other way out of a humiliating situation. In most cases an act of violence is preferable to the loss of face.” Raoul-Marc”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Carol Rodley was deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy during the late 1990s. Back then, just a few years after the UN occupation, “I heard a lot of distress about the state of the education system,” she said. “They talked about the corruption in schools. It was shocking and really, really distressing to the middle class.” She returned to Cambodia as U.S. ambassador in 2008 and quickly discerned a change. The anger had faded. In fact, it had disappeared. Instead of being upset, people were now simply dispirited. “They don’t talk about it anymore. Now it’s the status quo.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“The thing is, you are slow to admit that it’s happening. If it was just simple corruption at the lower levels, that would be one thing. But it’s not. Every year we have brought it to your attention at every donor meeting.” As he spoke Hun Sen and his aides “were squirming, angry,” Wiedemann said. “Every year we get all these promises of change. Then the donors turn in their pledges. And nothing changes. Year after year after year. We are tired of this. Something has to be done.” First, and foremost, he told them, you need to pass that anticorruption law. In”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Everyone wanted to go back,” said Bay Sarit, who was a lieutenant colonel in Lon Nol’s army, stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, for fourteen months of training. He and his colleagues had heard the rumors of mass killings. “But we kept saying, ‘Cambodians are not going to kill other Cambodians.’ We just couldn’t believe that. The government had just fallen. Maybe they’d kill a couple of high-ranking people. But that’s all. The others were saying. ‘We need to go back and fight!’ I asked them, ‘Fight who?’ We were confused. We didn’t know what to do.” In”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“child rape was reaching the level of a pandemic. Sexual assaults against toddlers were so frequent that hardly anyone took note any longer.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Even now, many Cambodians say they have no need for society’s modern inducements.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Then I think of my neighbor, arrested and taken away and killed. I see it in the daytime, and I dream it in the nighttime.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Several research studies have demonstrated that one-third to one-half of all Cambodians who lived through the Khmer Rouge era have PTSD, borne of their traumatic experiences then.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“If education is the answer for Cambodian society, as so many experts assert, then the nation is lost. In a nationwide survey only 2.6 percent of Cambodia’s schoolteachers said they were providing students “a high-quality education.” That should be little surprise. Education is by its very nature a reflection of the society it tries to teach. So every foible and folly that crippled the nation can be found in the schools. Every”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“A primary goal of educators remained to reinforce the social hierarchy. Historian David Ayres showed that the Buddhist notion of individual helplessness is the central factor in that process. As he wrote, “Students were equipped to become citizens in a system in which they were taught to refer to themselves as slaves and to willingly accept the necessity of their subservience to individuals of higher social status.” From”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“But in fact, Cambodia is the only nation in the world where it has been demonstrated that symptoms of PTSD and related traumatic illnesses are being passed from one generation to the next.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“From their earliest years Cambodian children learned that ambition and personal aspiration should not, could not, be a part of their character. Be satisfied with the life you have, the monks told them, no matter how poor or menial. Education “simply took children from the rice fields and then gave them back to the rice fields.” Girls were instructed to expect even less. They were not permitted to attend even the temple classes. Instead, their mothers taught them subservience and docility. Nothing embodied that idea more than the Chbab Srey, a piece of traditional literature that described a woman’s place in the home, written in the form of a mother talking to her daughter. One passage said: “Dear, no matter what your husband did wrong, I tell you to be patient, don’t say anything ... don’t curse, don’t be the enemy. No matter how poor or stupid, you don’t look down on him. ... No matter what the husband says, angry and cursing, using strong words without end, complaining and cursing because he is not pleased, you should be patient with him and calm down your anger.” The Chbab Srey was required reading in the schools until 2007,”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“To survive during the Khmer Rouge, you had to steal, cheat, lie, point fingers at others, even kill. And now you are ashamed.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“in this society there is no one else you can count on,” said Chandler, the historian. “They don’t think a society really exists.” That tendency proved useful for most of Cambodia’s history, as the nation lived through successive wars with its neighbors. Most Cambodians focused only on family and village life. These were their only havens as foreign troops ranged over the nation and government leaders schemed and connived for their own accounts. Egoism was of undeniable value during the Khmer Rouge era. To survive Cambodians had to behave as Kok Chuum, the Dang Run village chief, did. “I ate wild potatoes I found in the woods,” he said. “I did it secretly. I told no one.” Presumably, back then, others near him were starving to death, as workers did all over the nation. But in the twenty-first century individualism, this shared personality trait, ensured that Cambodians would remain hungry and illiterate. By and large they could not, would not, stand up and advocate for themselves.   Imagine”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“The United Nations is an imperfect reflection of its membership, the 195 nations of the world. Almost from the day of its founding, it had been paralyzed by the same conflict that froze the world: the cold war. Almost every nation belonged to one of three camps: the East, the West, or the nonaligned Third World. Each camp fell into conflict with the others over almost anything of importance. Most often the United Nations Security Council suffered the same paralysis. But then the cold war ended, and the shackles fell away. The UN found a new confidence; it took on more missions—more in the fiveyear period than in the previous four decades. UN leaders spoke fondly of the “new congeniality” among members of the Security Council. The UN, they said, was undergoing a “renaissance.” Where better to demonstrate this than Cambodia? Cold war divisions had prevented a solution through the 1980s. Now the United Nations had a chance to be a player, to make a difference. It would take over and administer an entire nation, something it had never done before, and give Cambodians a chance for redemption, a new life, membership in the modern age. With that, the United Nations would finally prove its worth. And could there be a better moment for this? The”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Cambodians have been abused by so many leaders over so many years that they expect nothing from their government. In fact, they remain convinced that any change at all will be painful, if not fatal.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Many nations have suffered dark histories that left sad legacies. Many of those same nations are ruled by leaders who mistreat the people now. But no nation has suffered so much in the recent past. No other people lived through an era when their own leaders killed one-quarter of the population—only to find that when the offending government fell, uncaring, avaricious leaders replaced it. No other nation’s population is so riven with PTSD and other traumatic mental illnesses that are being passed to a second generation and potentially to a third—darkening the nation’s personality. All of that offers the Cambodian people a toxic mix of abuse unmatched anywhere in the world. But given their history, given the subservient state Cambodians have accepted without complaint for more than a millennium, they don’t seem to care. Once, just once, they dared to hope. The world’s major nations gave them the chance to choose their leader for the first time in history. Almost every Cambodian embraced it; 90 percent of them voted. But then their leaders betrayed them, and the world deserted them. Now, once again, most expect nothing more than they have. They carry no ambitions. They hold no dreams. All they want is to be left alone.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“In most cases, if police arrested the rapist, they pushed him to settle the case with a cash payment to the victim’s parents. Then the policemen took a cut of their own. Police reported 468 rape cases during calendar year 2009, 24 percent more than during the previous year. But the police figure was probably just a fraction of the total. Every woman who was raped knew that the police would demand a bribe before even offering to help. “Police only work if you have money, if you pay,”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Thousands of educated young Cambodians are no longer willing to accept the current state of affairs, unlike generations of students before them. But what can they do? For now, not much. They cannot speak up or organize without risking their lives; none of them wants to see two helmeted men on a motorbike with no license plate approaching from behind. They”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“It’s also not surprising that most Cambodians lack ambition or any hope for a better life. Their religion, Theravadist Buddhism, taught them to shun status and eschew material possessions because “contentment is wealth,” as the monks still say. In the pagoda schools, monks preached that children should be pleased with the lives they had and not aspire for more. Theravadist”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“When American visitors came to see Joseph Mussomeli, while he was the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, he would adopt a melodramatic tone as he told them: “Be careful because Cambodia is the most dangerous place you will ever visit. You will fall in love with it, and eventually it will break your heart.” Yes,”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Life in a refugee camp is hellish, unbearable. The relief worker who ends the first day wet-eyed can’t always blame the choking dust. But compared with life in Cambodia since 1975, many refugees say their plight doesn’t seem so bad. Talk to them. As they tell of years of horror and misery that Westerners can barely comprehend, their faces are expressionless and dull. Their voices go flat, as if they’re talking about a dull day at work. Their tales end with a nodding acknowledgment of the death of their nation and culture. I”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Not surprisingly, domestic violence was even more widespread than rape or sexual abuse of children. Many men viewed beating their wives to be a cherished Cambodian tradition—taking to heart the Cambodian proverb “Men are like gold; women are like cloth.” In”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
“Yet as the Angkor empire died, Cambodia lost its soul.”
Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land