14 Aug

After several weeks in the States, during which we saw many of our nearest and dearest (yay!), and ate and drank entirely too much (whoops), Orestes and I spent the last bit of the summer break on a little adventure through the neighboring country of Cambodia. Cambodia is a beautiful country with a really depressing history, the results of which the country is still dealing with today. Here’s a brief history lesson for you – forgive the lecture, I read a whole bunch, learned a whole bunch, and wanted to share! Here goes:

Cambodia was one of those Southeast Asian countries that the French muddled about in back in the colonial days. The French and the Cambodian king shared power in an uneasy fashion until 1954 when the French departed. His majesty, King Sihanouk, proceeded to have difficulties running things, partially because he was busy cultivating his second career as a film director. In 1970, while on a film shoot in France, Sihanouk was unceremoniously removed from office by a general named Lon Nol. Around this time in history, the US began carpet bombing Cambodia. Officially, the US was attempting to bomb the Viet Cong troops who were hiding out in Cambodia. In reality, they simply blew up everything they could find. Needless to say, the Cambodians were less than pleased with this development, and an enterprising fellow named Pol Pot used this to recruit people to his cause. Pol Pot was the head of the Khmer Rouge, aka the Communist Party of Cambodia. The end result of the bombings and fighting was that in 1975, the Khmer Rouge kicked out Lon Nol, captured Phnom Penh (the capitol of Cambodia) and proceeded to wreck havoc on the country. During the four years the Khmer Rouge were in power, they tried to create a utopian society of farmers. To do so, they slaughtered a third of the Cambodian population – about 3 million people – including the majority of the educated population (doctors, teachers, etc.), thus effectively destroying the entire middle class and their own economy.  The Vietnamese invaded, put a stop to the killings, and set up a new government in 1979, but the Khmer Rouge hid in the jungle and continued to cause problems until 1998. Disturbingly, despite the fact that they masterminded a massive genocide, the Khmer Rouge were allowed a seat in the UN until 1993.

Fast forward to the present day; Cambodia is still recovering from the destruction caused by the Khmer Rouge. Their economy is slowly developing, in large part thanks to a huge influx of tourists over the past ten years. Things are improving, but the average Cambodian is still fairly poor. Completely unbeknownst to us, Orestes and I happened to be in Phnom Penh, the capitol, on the days leading up to the first national elections in five years. Let me tell you, this was quite the experience. The ruling party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has been in power since 1997, after staging a coup and overthrowing the previous government. The Prime Minster, Hun Sen, has been running the show for 28-odd years. Many people were hoping the main opposition party would gain control, or at least more seats in Parliament. To that end, there was a massive political campaign taking place. On our first night in the country, we wandered out to search for dinner and two blocks later found ourselves in the midst of an enormous CPP rally. The next day, the streets were filled with groups of people riding around on motorbikes, in pickups, and in party buses, all wearing the paraphernalia of their chosen party. Add to this honking horns, theme music, and the enthusiastic shouting of political slogans, and it was a fascinating if somewhat overwhelming experience. The photos do not do it justice, but I tried.

Note the megaphones mounted on the truck

Note the megaphones mounted on the truck


Three different party flags are visible in this photo

Three different party flags are visible in this photo

(political) party bus!

(political) party bus!

As an update, things didn’t go so well with the election. The CPP won 68 seats in Parliament, while the main opposition, the CNRP (Cambodian National Rescue Party), won 55. The tuk tuk driver we talked to after the preliminary results came out thought the balance was acceptable, as the CPP no longer had a huge majority. He hoped the parties would have to begin working together. However, the CNRP has since accused the CPP of cheating, and is demanding an international investigation. They are also encouraging people to protest, in response to which the government has deployed soldiers into Phnom Penh. All in all, I hope things work out, but I am also glad we’re back in Thailand now.


6 Responses to “Cambodia”

  1. Elaine McCormick August 21, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Wow; I’m glad you are back in Thailand as well. Love Ya!

  2. JakeADewar October 30, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    Great info here, heading to Cambodia soon (been working my way through Vietnam) and if you don’t mind I’ll read and follow for advice!

    • thejacksonstakethailand October 30, 2015 at 10:24 am #

      Definitely! The posts about Angkor Wat might be helpful. We just did part of northern Vietnam, working on those posts now 🙂

      • JakeADewar October 31, 2015 at 10:59 am #

        In the South now (Nha Trang) comingcoming out of the north – so will certainly check out Angkorn Wat. Where to next?

      • thejacksonstakethailand November 5, 2015 at 6:30 am #

        If you’re looking for other spots in Cambodia, Phnom Penh is worth a visit. Lots of history and an interesting vibe, very different from Vietnam. If you’re still in Vietnam… Sapa and Hoi An are two favorite spots.


  1. Angkor Wat Half Marathon 2015 | The Jacksons Take Thailand - December 20, 2015

    […] War – as in Laos, the consequences were far-reaching (for more on that, check out my post here). One out of every 300 Cambodians has been injured or killed by land mines. Additionally disturbing […]

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