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Writing for Raksmey: A Story of Cambodia



Lum Aung comes to the doorway of her Phnom Penh home to greet me. As she stands holding the tin security gate open for me it seems that in less than a year since we last met she has grown smaller and frailer. Once inside I ask about her health. She has problems with fluctuating blood pressure and with her heart. She is over sixty years old now and is amazed that I am so much older and still healthy.

When the conversation turns to politics I forget my first impression of frailty. She is lively and forceful. She hopes that the international community will create the pressure to force a reelection. She is sure that the Cambodian National Rescue Party, the new coalition, is able to maintain a strong stance, having learned from what happened when FUNCINPEC had agreed to a coalition with Hun Sen. The fifty five elected members are still pledging not to sit in parliament until the electoral discrepancies have been investigated. They hope for a new election with close international monitoring. Lum Aung says that the next step should be huge demonstrations in Cambodia and in the Cambodian diaspora throughout the world.

As she sits on the bench by my side I notice that her earnest face has no lines of worry. We laugh together at the memory of that jar of face cream that she packed in her bag at the start of her political career. ‘I am not a public person any more. For five years now I have not had to talk on radio or to newspapers. I am not afraid to criticise what I know is wrong. If I was still a public person the things that I must say would bring danger to some of my family. The situation is more frightening now than it ever was before. But I am not a public person so I can say what I like without being afraid of bringing suffering to my family and to Tien Thor.’

I say that I am worried that if I write about Ka’s views this might cause trouble to him or to the family. ‘Say what is true,’ she says; ‘Don’t worry.’

A Cambodian proverb is passing around: ‘Real gold is not afraid of fire.’

Writing for Raksmey: A Story of Cambodia

   by Joan Healy