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Saturday, July 22, 2006


Child abuse by government

Last week when I wrote my blog about bor bor and other cereals. I wanted a photo to go with it. So one morning, instead of cooking my own oatmeal, I went to the bor bor bar down the corner for breakfast. A guy sat next to me and started chatting. He is a pharmacist in a government health centre and about forty years old. After we chatted for a while he began to open up and talked about growing up during the time of Pol Pot. He talked about three of his brothers being killed. He talked about the mental health problems of people who lived through this regime. I could feel his pain and realized that he was an abused child. Many children in Western countries suffer abuse from parents, neighbours and friends—physical, sexual and emotional. No child should have to go through this. It seems to me to be even more terrible for the children of the Pol Pot era, living with the constant fear that they might be the next one to be tortured or killed.

I believe that the main issue with child abuse is trust. A child needs people in their life who they can trust and when a person with that responsibility harms a child it is the trust that is shattered. I realize now that people of my new friend's age had their trust shattered not by parents, neighbours or friends, but by their government. And in a most horrific way.

Any Cambodian now aged between 26 and 48 was a child during the Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot. Most families in the country were affected by the torture and killing that took place. It is reasonable to consider that anyone of that age suffered child abuse. It is also reasonable to consider that most people younger than this are the children of abused children and have suffered indirectly.

I have been living in this country now for five months. I would think that people who have been through such trauma would find it hard to trust. Yet ironically, I find these people to be about the most friendly and trusting that I have met anywhere. However there are other sides of their personalities that I have had difficulty coming to terms with. Samet's story helps me to gain new insight into the psyche of the Cambodian people and hopefully leads me to better understanding.

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