The Fight for Cambodia’s Future Continues
6 months ago I arrived in Cambodia just in time for the final stretch of campaigning before the national elections. I was able to witness Cambodians taking to the streets and voicing their desire for change and support of a new ruling party. I wrote a blog post shortly after the elections when violence broke out and calls for a recount were made. My post was not the end of the fight for change in the streets of Cambodia, specifically Phnom Penh.
Since then there have been months of rallies, marches, meeting, and campaigns to get the current ruling party to work with the opposition and hear the voices of its citizens. I’ve seen marches filled with the youth, the elderly, the handicap, the poor, the middle class, the rich, the educated, the illiterate all with the same goal. The political protests have been joined with garment worker protests. The garment workers are now being joined by teachers and it’s becoming increasingly apparent the people of Cambodia are ready for big changes in their country. What kind of changes? Changes to end poverty, create democracy, instill hope that people can have a better life, fight back against corruption, create a safer place for children to grow up, and finally break out of the darkness that keeps Cambodia from being the free nation God wants it to be.
The past week things have especially heated in Phnom Penh and the government has responded with violence and fear. They have fired AK-47s at protesters, beaten protesters, barred injured protesters from receiving medical treatment, and summoned opposition leaders to court to answer for charges raised against them for their activities. Through all of this I stand in awe of the thousands of people willing to fight for their country, fight for their rights, and stand side by side for the sake of their homeland. For a good (quick) recap of exactly what is happening here, check out this video. An important thing to also note, is that while the companies responsible for using these factories can pay more for the items, corruption also plays a big part in why the workers are not being paid fair wages. The factories have to pay the government for the right to do business here. Instead of going to higher wages, it goes to the pockets of government official siphoning off the profits. That is why this is very connected to what is happening in the political arena. It’s important to note that in the 2013 Transparency Report Cambodia was ranked the most corrupt country in SE Asia and ranked 160th of 175 total countries.
So why do I care? I’m here fighting human trafficking, not a political activist. It’s simple- all these factors play into each other. When the poor have no voice, when the system doesn’t work as it should, when people have no hope darkness grows and exploitation becomes commonplace.
Having just come from a trip to Burma, I can’t help but compare. Burma recently opened its borders and is in the midst of a break-though. After 50 years of military rule, oppression, and blood shed; freedom is coming to the Burmese people. They never gave up and they still continue the fight for their country and people. Change can happen and the most powerful force is that of the people.
I’m in the NGO capital and devoting a year with one of them. I think they have collectively done a lot of great work and helped support the citizens and fill many needed gaps, but this next big step is in the hands of the citizens. I’m SO honored to be here during this time and support them by continuing the fight for justice. Please continue to pray for the people of Cambodia and this country. Pray for all those globally fighting for freedom and against dark strongholds.
“Look at the nations, and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5
*For those of you concerned (mom) don’t worry about my safety. I’m playing it smart and staying away from all protests and rallies where violence may occur and otherwise the city is fine. I’ve also been briefed on safety measures if the violence increases.