Cautious Cambodia - 2007

civilians and more fighters died, reducing the overall population further. Cambodia’s treatment at the hands of the great powers engaged in their own affairs is shameful to encounter. The little country was truly a pawn in the Cold War and astonishingly enough, the US joined China in wanting to support the Khmer Rouge despite the horrendous record that group had amassed during its time of control. China and the US wanted to thwart Vietnam at all costs--the US for obvious reasons and the Chinese because they wanted to oppose the Soviet Union which was supporting Ho Chi Minh. The consequences to the Cambodian people was of little concern to either government. Finally, the UN did step in and brokered a compromise but even though it brought an end to outright military conflict, it planted the seeds of further conflicts and hindrances to the recovery of the country. Since the 1998 Peace Accords, a coalition form of government has obtained in the country, under a constitutional monarchy. However, the real power is wielded by Prime Minister, Hun Sen, who has controlled the country since l985. Elections in 2003 went smoothly and relatively peacefully but it took a year of wrangling thereafter to form another coalition government. New elections are scheduled for 2008 and 2010. Because some economic progress has been made and there is relative peace in the country, it can be hoped that future political maneuvering will result in more progress and more freedom for the people. Interestingly enough, our guide told us that the Cambodian people are so disgusted with their King Norodom Sihamoni, that he is guarded by three levels of security: the local police in Phnom Penh, an army security unit, and closest of all to his person, mercenaries from North Korea! F ACTS ABOUT THE C AMBODIANS First of all, because of their awful recent history, the median age of the population is young (21); after all, 34% are under 14 years of age! Only 3.5% are over 65. Average life expectancy is only 61 years. Despite the ruthless attempts of Pol Pot and his communist cohorts in destroying all religious practice, 95% of the people are Buddhist, though it was difficult for us to assess how deep a connection with religion the average Cambodian feels. Unlike Bhutan, and even

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