Most have noticed that I had laid down writing for almost 14 days. The reason was this i.e. that I had been on a weeklong business cum leisure trip to Cambodia beginning 30 January and upon my return, I was down with cough and cold that forced me to confine myself to bed for the next 6 days. For a man of 68, it wasn’t easy to recover from the dreaded cough and cold, even if I had forced myself to drink two bottles of Band Essence of Chicken daily hoping to reenergize my ailing body. I never really liked visiting a doctor for a simple illness like this for I know the prescription would be the good old panadol and some anti- biotic pills.
Several friends called to find out what has gone wrong with me. I am feeling better now and the first thing I did was to open my email only to find more than 1001 unread emails. If you were me, would you want to read all the emails or be selective in reading only those that are of interest to you and the rest be ignored?
The trip to Cambodia was an interesting one this time. It gives me the opportunity to meet up with people that I had befriended back in 1992. Some of them are holding high government position; some in business while some have long retired and settled in their villages, and their whereabouts unknown.
One interesting personality that I met was General Chhum Sucheat, currently holding the position of the Under Secretary of State and spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of National Defense. I had known him as the Cambodian People’s Armed Forces (CPAF) Liaison Officer who was with me throughout the period of my UN duties in Cambodia in 1992. He was at the time just a 37 year old CPAF officer of the rank of Brigadier, while I was already reaching the age of 50 and a Colonel. Surprisingly too, General Ke Kim Yan, CPAF Chief of Defence Force at the time was also of the same age with General Sucheat. The former has ventured into politics and is today a Minister in the Hun Sen government. I was fortunate to have met him again during an earlier visit to Cambodia in 2005 when he was still the Chief of Defence Force.
My first day in Cambodia was to call upon the Malaysian Ambassador at the newly built Malaysian Embassy complex that is also home for the Ambassador and his staffs. I also called upon the Defence Attache, Col Adnan Ariffin in his beautifully furnished office and the Matrade marketing officer Mr. Thorn Sarorn who happens to be a local Khmer who spoke fluent Indonesian and English. I am indeed thankful to the Ambassador and his staffs for having agreed to meet despite me being a nobody, and for me to express the reason for the visit to Cambodia, and to be accorded well by everyone.
My meeting with General Sucheat on the second day brought back many fond memories. As I had alluded earlier he was much younger than me. But what surprised me most is that he now is a tee-totaller; having being told by his doctors to abstain completely from alcoholic liquor because of a heart ailment. In the days that I had known him, he is never without a glass of liquor at hand; more so during period of leisure.
What is obviously visible in Phnom Penh today is that one can no longer see armed soldiers and military vehicles roaming the city. This is strikingly unusual from what was witnessed in the period leading to the UN intervention of the early 90’s where armed soldiers roamed freely in the city and around the country side. Road blocks manned by the militia and police were so common around the city center and along the country roads then, that one finds it unsafe to travel after dusk. The city of Phnom Penh has gone through some major facelift, spotting newly constructed high raised modern designed buildings all over the city. From the number of foreign banks seen around the city, I believe businesses in Cambodia are growing at a rapid pace. Malaysia’s Cambodian Public Bank (Campu Bank) the first Malaysian bank to venture into Cambodia in 1992 appears to be one of the largest foreign banks having its headquarters in a newly constructed multistory building.
My weeklong trip to Cambodia wasn’t in vain. Here, I wish to recall the final paragraph of a book I wrote about the Malaysian Experience in Cambodia, quote, “Malbat has learnt one valuable lesson i.e. that peacekeeping is not about projecting one’s physical might; on the contrary, peacekeeping has all to do with the portrayal and the exercise of one’s humble and humane values. This was where our soldiers stood above the rest and the sacrifices they made were all for a worthy cause. We gave the Cambodian people the peace that they so deserve. With peace, there would be prosperity and with prosperity, there would be enduring regional stability” unquote.
Having witnessed the rise of Cambodia from the ravages of war, I can now say that Malaysian soldiers were a party to the peace and prosperity that Cambodia enjoys today, and we all ought to be proud.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION