Sunday, April 20, 2014

Only in Cambodia

Although this term is supposed to apply to the U. S. in this case I guess it only applies to this country. The press reported a recent incident that really makes your hair stand up on end.
A senior provincial police officer was speeding along a highway in a full-size SUV at considerable speed. He hit a light motorbike with 3 people on it seriously wounding them. Local police came to the scene trying to investigate. The police officer told them to wait until he had changed his tire as it was obviously damaged because of the collision. He had also given the police a business card with his name. But to the local police’s surprise when he was finished he just got into his SUV and sped away. The injured motorbike riders were taken to the main hospital in Phnom Penh, where all three had to have one leg above the knee amputated. A short while later one of them succumbed to his injuries and died.

Now the local police instead of pursuing this right away just said they will go after the driver and arrest him. One would expect them to act immediately. After all, this has become a crime the minute he left the scene of the accident – a slight variation of a classical hit-and-run. But here comes the clincher: they will wait until after the Khmer New Year celebrations from Apr. 14 to 16.

How dumb can the police be? Sure, it was a fellow police officer but only in Cambodia can a thing like this happen. He was of a higher rank so they first kow-towed to him, and then let them repair his car and gave him an opportunity to flee. To add insult to injury they would then let him celebrate New Year first before they would come and arrest him. So clearly, these celebrations are more important than the life of people and giving them justice. This is an intolerable disgrace.

Something is very wrong in Cambodia. It is all too apparent that the higher-ups can break the law with impunity. One almost expects this in a country like this. Wherever you look in the world, it is always the developing countries where lawlessness and corruption are rampant. Obviously, the attitude and behavior of the so-called elite and political leadership has influenced the entire administrative and executive body of the country. I had always been inclined to think that over time the development of the country would also translate into a more just system, in which the concept of rule of law and intellectual maturity would eventually take hold. Looking back about 8 years I can’t help but come to a different conclusion. I am getting the feeling the country is on a downward slope as far as personal characters go. The attitude towards traffic rules and accidents is but one sign of this. Progress is only achieved in material ways, and actually only for a very small section of the people. It may be an over-simplification but that perceived degradation might be caused by the prevalent impunity with which the powers-that-be commit transgressions of the law and with the general population thinking why should I care when nobody else does.


Anonymous said...

This is a generational phenomenon which will eventually fade away. Many leaders and administrators are poorly educated, and/or spineless or awestruck in the face of higher authority or class.

The culprit knew he was caught (handing over his business card) and would need to face the consequences, whatever they may be, and certainly he will try his best to avoid responsibility. Avoiding responsibility is not unusual even in developed nations.

In my experience the new and upcoming generation of educated Cambodians does feel strongly about justice for all, and they are willing to stand-up, speak out and create a new system. They see and witness such injustice, but at this time their voice is small, only now growing. It is the future toward which we look, and the future looks bright.

We know Cambodians are as patient as a people can be, even to a fault. I don't know where this happened, but in the countryside police are often not equipped to handle accidents and investigations. Law enforcement is often there in body and uniform only, often needing to provide their own transport and other resources to do their job.

As for waiting through the holidays, I can understand - where will he run? If detained, he would have most likely been freed shortly anyway to await trial. If reports were taken and witnesses identified, what more could have been done given the culture and circumstance? The victims will demand justice either way, and let's hope they get the justice they deserve.

I am not say what happened is right; I am only saying it is expected.

Freedom and justice loving youth love their nation and culture, and strongly believe there is a new tomorrow for Cambodia. We will all need to continue be patient, because it will not be until the old generation of ignorance dies away and our new generation of hope rises up.

It is guaranteed all will change, rather slowly, and for now we can thank goodness we're not living in a repressive militaristic surveillance state.

Surely this nonsense will fade away as a new leadership moves up the generational ladder. In the meantime, let us do our part to train up the new generation so they are adequately prepared to create a tomorrow for which we all can be proud.

Next step - open a small school, teach the youth, and help with raising up new leaders for the future! You of all people!

Enjoy your writings; keep it up!

KJE said...

Thank you for your extensive comment and optimistic outlook for Cambodia. As mentioned I am thoroughly disgusted with the current state of affairs of Cambodia, and its people, I might add. My experience with this country spans more than 2 decades and I must say I do see a deterioration in attitude and behavior in the people. They are still outwardly friendly, and polite for the most part. But in the cities and larger towns I seem to have detected a rather ruthless behavior in all walks of life. The race for gain seems to be on and dominant everywhere with the customary considerateness falling by the wayside. Maybe I am mistaken, and I just need a break. I chose Cambodia to live here with my Khmer wife; we could have stayed in the U. S. or moved to Europe, but my optimism brought us here. A common perception among expatriates here is that the rich steal from or take advantage of the people in general enriching themselves, but the middle class does the same with poorer people, and the poorer steal from the poorest - a vicious predatory cycle.

I take it you are with the CNRP; seeing your writing you are most likely an overseas Khmer who has returned. However, I am not that optimistic that the current top leadership of the CNRP can bring about the change that is needed to lift Cambodia out of its current state of stagnation, judging by Sam Rainsy's pronouncements in the past.

Anonymous said...

Hi, no, I am not a political person by any means, and don't feel at present anyone (but possibly myself) has the right answers for Cambodia. I have lived and worked as a private mentor (university age, only poor origins) in Cambodia (mostly Phnom Penh) for the past 7+ years (no foreign travel except a few trips to Thailand). Cambodia is about all I know anymore, aside from reading world news and views. I admit I rarely if ever interact with foreigners or expats, spending all my time with progressive students, programming, and online reasearch. My optimism comes from the fact that I work with and encourage student leaders, mostly in business, but some have silent political aspirations. We find it best that we all keep a low profile.