My reflection on Cambodia’s Nov. 9th Celebration

I scrolled through Instagram last night and it was Nov 9th in the motherland. A picture of the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk who freed Cambodia from the French colony on Nov 9, 1953 was posted on the Cambodia_Royal Instagram page. I liked the photo and went to bed.

This morning I wake up and it is Nov. 9th in the U.S. I think about last night photo and I am struck by my country’s history. 

Today 67 years ago Cambodia declared independence from the French colony. On Jan. 7, 1979, to be exact, 41 years ago, with support from the Vietnamese tropes, the current prime minister Hun Sen led the fight to end the Khmer Rouge communist regime that killed about 2.7 million people including my grandparents, uncles, and aunts. If I do my math correctly, there was only 20 years of “peace” in between the two historical events.

The Independence Monument in Phnom Penh was built in 1958 to memorialize Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. (I took this photo in summer 2019, when I visited the motherland).

I know very little about the French colonial history and I never have a chance to get to know my grandparents. My mother survived the Khmer Rouge regime and she barely talks about her experience, let alone her knowledge about Nov. 9, 1953 victory. 

Cambodia’s strong man, Prime minister Hun Sen has been in power since 1985. Of course, I will give him the credits for his leadership. In 2019, the Asian Development Bank reported that Cambodia economy remained on track to grow strongly despite a slower-than-anticipated rise in agricultural production. This year, 2020, because of Covid-19 outbreak, the World Bank Group projected that the country’s economy is estimated to register negative growth of -2%, the sharpest decline in the country’s recent history. The pandemic outbreak and slow recovery in global economic activity, alongside prolonged financial market turmoil, poses risks to Cambodia’s growth outlook. This is a very sad news for many of my friends and my family members. We don’t know when this nightmare will end.

My last reflection on my country’s independence day is that free press and free speeches are not existed in today Cambodia. Poverty and corruption have become major problems faced by many Cambodians, especially my very own family.

Today, I am saddened by my country’s history. Cambodia has suffered so much, and its history reflects on its current social and political problems.

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