BY KRISTIAM HERRERA-CARRASCO, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Boston 17:00 Historical General Assembly, 1979 – Cambodia might seem to not be in as much trouble when looking at the city of Phnom Penh. Compared to its former enemy and current neighbor, Vietnam, with its capital, Hanoi, and largest city, Ho Chi Minh, Cambodia would appear to have forgotten the terrible invasion that happened in the alte 1970s. At that time, Vietnamese occupation intended to root out the Khmer Rouge, but, in doing so, created a bloody massacre in its wake. This was in spite of the fact that the Vietnamese Communists and the Khmer Rouge had at one point worked together in the Vietnam War against the United States.
Now, in the 21st century, both countries have ushered in economic prosperity and bustling metropolises, something that would have sounded impossible during the intense conflict that had occurred in the past. Yet, the United Nations has recognized the need for other areas of Cambodia to recover. Perhaps it may be easy to be blinded by the less unfortunate within the bright lights of Phnom Penh. Vietnam also has been the target of criticism its occupation, despite the fact that the country left Cambodia decades ago – it is accused of breaking international law due to its use of armed force during the occupation. Another setback has also begun to appear: the Chinese military may be preparing to avenge the Cambodian incident. Such a conflict would be disastrous for a nation like Vietnam, which has set its sights on achieving a developed status by, at the very least, 2020.
From the views of others, even those who lived and survived the struggle, there is nothing to hold onto. Plenty of older Cambodians and Vietnamese wish to keep to living, since in those days of slavery and mass killings of the Khmer Rouge, being alive feels like the reward for having made it out.
For the likes of the Cambodians who still suffer heavily from the damages of that era, the United Nations would likely be able to find plenty of support from even those who might have been sworn enemies. Ho Chi Minh’s and Phnom Penh’s noisy, traffic-jammed streets suggest an overload of individuals who could be potential volunteers. If the UN could focus its efforts on inviting people to give to the remaining victims, there might also be a chance to heal the last of the open wounds of the two societies.