tirsdag 16. november 2021

Cambodia’s History, Viewed Through Sihanoukville

One of the most beautiful memories I have of Cambodia when I returned to the country in 1992 to work for UNTAC was seeing the ocean and the endless sandy beach of Sihanoukville. This was my first trip to that town on the Gulf of Thailand, renamed after King Norodom Sihanouk in 1958. Between the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, I had never had a chance to go there.

As a child growing up in Phnom Penh in the 1960s, the only long trip I had made was going to visit one of my grandmothers who lived in Battambang City. We had gone by train to meet this very modern grandmother, who wore makeup and served us coconut dessert made blue and pink with food coloring. Then came the Khmer Rouge’s rule, my fleeing the country to a refugee camp in Thailand and finally immigrating to the United States.

But in 1992, after the Cambodian government and political factions had signed the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991, I was back in my home country, serving as an international polling station officer with UNTAC—the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. I arrived in Sihanoukville by helicopter, and saw for the first time this beautiful beach on the Gulf of Thailand that I had not even known existed in my country.