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"VOICES"
 

"VOICES" -- an editorial feature highlighting commentaries about Dr. Haing S. Ngor and Cambodia.   Your voice is welcome!
 

Impressions of Cambodia: Eight Years Later in the Homeland of My Parents - By Rasy Lieu

RASY LIEU, a Texas-born Cambodian American, is an L.A. County social worker (Child Protective Services) and part time student at Cal State Long Beach, where he is pursuing his Master’s Degree in social work. Rasy’s parents met in Texas, where each located after escaping the Cambodian holocaust. The family eventually moved to Long Beach, CA, where Rasy is actively involved with Life House, a Christian church. His first journey to Cambodia was in 2001 on a short-term college mission trip. Fluent in Khmer, Rasy served as interpreter for the group. On that 3-week journey, he met Cambodian relatives for the first time, feeling very honored to share the Gospel with them. He then returned for another three-week visit in 2009, and plans to make more ministry trips there in the future. In this article for VOICES, Rasy writes his impressions of the progress and changes in the re-emerging homeland of his parents.
     

          One of the first things I noticed this trip when we arrived at Poc Chea Tong Airport in Phnom Penh was the airport itself. It had significant renovations, it was clean, and there were restaurants, gift shops, bars and clean restrooms. The airport looked nothing like it did in 2001, just 8 years ago. One thing was the same, though -- the smiles and greetings of the native Cambodian people.
         
          Over the next several days, I also noticed a significant difference in the economy of the country. In terms of transportation, there are now two to three times more cars than there were during my last trip. More stop signs, traffic lights, paved streets; more roads and bridges built and more under construction. There were more buildings as well -- schools, restaurants and hotels.

          In terms of the lifestyle of the Cambodian people, they appear happier and physically healthier than what I remembered in 2001. Many of the shopkeepers, vendors and market workers haggle with you less to buy their products, but are still willing to work out a bargaining price if you are interested in buying.


Author with soldiers at Preah Vihear red zone on the
Thai/Cambodian border. As it was hundreds of years ago,
Thailand and Cambodia are still at military and political
odds; the "bottom line" in the skirmish is land.

 

          The younger generations appear to be taller and better nourished. A significant number of teenagers and young adults now speak English. Many of the waiters and waitresses in bars and restaurants have two or three jobs. There are significantly more jobs created and significantly fewer beggars on the streets compared to my last trip. People in the city appear to be reaping the benefits of the real estate and property boom of the past five years. More and bigger luxurious homes, cars and the stores and malls are equipped with the latest model phones, TVs and computers. And they all have many customers.

          In terms of religion, Theravada Buddhism continues to be the most dominant religion, but Christianity is growing as well. Cambodia is open to Christianity and nonprofit humanitarian organizations. Muslims, ancestral worship and Hinduism also are practiced by Cambodians.      

          In terms of entertainment, the Cambodian people enjoy love songs, karaoke and videos. The most recent famous singer is Phreap Sovath. Phreap Sovath has been Cambodia's favorite singer for the last 5-10 years, but now is slowly stepping off the scene and another singer is climbing the charts. The average time of fame for a singer is 2-3 years. A trend that is popular among the younger generation is night clubs, western, R&B and rap music. Slowly becoming popular is break dancing.

          In terms of politics, the last election in 2008 was one of the most peaceful elections Cambodia has had in the past 30 years. The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is the most dominant party. Hun Sen is the current Prime Minister of Cambodia. Cambodia's political system continues to provide an open arm policy to foreign aid and accommodate potential investors in Cambodia. There is a significant increase of Japanese, Chinese and Korean businesses in Cambodia creating jobs.

         
Rasy (center, standing) with a break dance group organized in Phnom Penh by Kay Kay, a deportee from Long Beach who works with Cambodian street kids, providing housing, food, English lessons, drug awareness and break dancing lessons. The group raises funds by performing at special events.
Rasy Lieu (left) in Cambodia with his uncle, Chamrouen,
at a Buddhist temple overlooking the province of Kandal.
 
 
 
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