By MEALY TRUONG (A former Cambodiaambassador to Japan)
Being born just two years before the Second World War which started in Europe in 1939 and reached Asia, I vividly remember Cambodia was a beautiful pastoral scene. My birth place which was part of Cambodia was called Cochin-china under the French colony in the 18th century. After the WWII, it became part of Viet Nam, the Mekong Delta, the granary of Viet Nam. Only with my age of a quarter of a century, I have already witnessed four political regimes: the French colony, the last Viet Nam Imperial regime under Emperor Bao Dai and the Kingdom of Cambodia.
My life as an individual human-being and not a human-doing has been a dreadful one which typifies the Cambodian tragedy. By looking back to those seventy years behind me, it is really a miracle that I am still alive! Like most of the Cambodian people, I have been almost a permanent displaced person. Moving around from my native village which changes its name in accordance to the political regimes from Cambodian one to that of France and then, to the Vietnamese government, I go from one province to another and finally, I cross the border from Viet Nam to the Kingdom of Cambodia, during those years of the end of the French war and the beginning of the American war in Viet Nam.
During those years of my wandering around, I did what I could do to survive. Luckily, I did not lose the most precious gift of my life which is Hope. I worked my way up from peddling, to running errands, to tutoring, to teaching. And during the last quarter of 1969, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to study abroad, in Sydney University, Australia, under a Fellowship program called Colombo Plan in order to up-grade my English teaching ability. But, then war, the so-called American-Viet Nam war, spread out… over to Cambodia. This newly changed situation in the Kingdom of Cambodia into a Khmer Republic prevented me from returning to her to teach after my “graduation”. I was forced to live abroad, in Europe and elsewhere.
My life, in some ways, may reflect the history of Modern Asia. Smaller nations are too often made subordinate states. The local people are toyed with and exploited by the major powers. I, myself, became a citizen of two different countries and assumed three nationalities. As one human-being, I have survived from the great peril of death in the midst of a war-torn and troubled Indochina. I do feel I was allowed to survive with the blessings of God, the Creator of all things in this Universe.
To everyone’s remark, human-being is in general born with that funny ego-centric feeling. Among themselves and by their human nature, they are segregationist. Between countries, they are latent and potential racist! Only true education given by men and women of courage and wisdom can change this unfortunate reality.
As fellow human inhabitants of the same planet Earth, we are all fundamentally the same, regardless of differences in our physical features, our moral codes, our ethnic or racial demeanors! The pains and sufferings we feel are identical. They are universal.
Tenri, Nara, Autumn 2008.