10 memorable things that happened in Cambodia in 2010
Tragedy during the Water Festival
On Tuesday 23rd November, 352 people died in what Prime Minister Hun Sen said was the “biggest tragedy” to hit Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge period. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Phnom Penh to celebrate Cambodia’s annual Water Festival. The stampede happened on the bridge that crosses the Tonle Sap river to Diamond Island. The whole country was deeply moved and saddened by such a disaster, which happened during a time of celebration.
Angkor Wat Marathon
The beginning of December saw thousands of budding athletes from across the world descend upon Angkor Wat to take part in this annual race. This is the 15th year that the races have taken place and each year the event grows bigger, attracting more and more participants. In total, seven PEPY staff ran in the various events—breaking various personal bests!
Former Khmer Rouge prison officer is found guilty
On the 26th July the first person associated with the Khmer Rouge regime was found guilty by the Cambodian UN-backed war tribunal. 67-year-old Duch, full name Kaing Guek Eav, was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity. Duch admitted to overseeing the torture and execution of thousands of victims at the Tuol Sleng prison.
Aki Ra was nominated for CNN’s 2010 Heroes Awards
Each year, CNN Heroes recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to help others. This year over 10,000 people were nominated and Aki Ra was shortlisted for the final awards. Aki Ra was a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge and he alone planted around 4,000 to 5,000 land mines in a single month. Once the UN arrived in Cambodia in the 1990s he decided to devote his life to help undo some of the damage he had caused. In 2008 Aki Ra founded the non-profit Cambodian Self Help Demining, which estimates to have cleared more that 50,000 land mines in Cambodia’s low priority rural villages.
Cambodia Hosts the 2010 IYF World Camp
In May 2010 Cambodia hosted one of the International Youth Fellowship World Camps. Thousands of students from the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and many other countries participated in the four-day international event. The mission of International Youth Fellowship is to inspire future leaders, who possess humility and strong leadership, through challenge, change, and cohesion, in order to form the basis of a bright and healthy society.
Cluster Bomb Ban
The 1st August was a historic milestone as the Convention of Cluster Munitions entered into force and became legally binding. This marked the start of the formal life of the treaty which has been signed by 108 states and ratified by 38 states—Cambodia is not yet a signatory. The treaty prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of all existing cluster munitions. In Cambodia this momentous day was marked with many events and actions built around the slogan “Beat the Drum to Ban Cluster Bombs.”
Early estimates predict that 2.3 million foreign visitors will have entered Cambodia in 2010. This is a boost to figures after 2009 saw a 2% fall in the tourism industry due to the world economic downturn. Tourism is currently the 2nd largest industry in Cambodia and adds a substantial amount to the Cambodian GDP. The Ministry of Tourism expects the number of tourists visiting Cambodia to reach up to 6 million in the next 10 years, generating as much as US$4 billion in revenue.
Cambodian/Thai Border Disputes Continue
During 2010, border disputes have continued between Cambodia and Thailand at Preah Vihear. In July 2008 UNESCO listed the site as a Cambodian World Heritage Site, which sparked a military build up at the border. Planned re-openings of the border have been pushed back because of disagreements between Thai and Cambodian governments. Perhaps 2011 will bring a resolution to this on-going dispute.
Thaksin appointed as Cambodia’s economic advisor
The former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed as the economic advisor to the Cambodian Government in 2009, further exacerbating Thai- Cambodian tensions. After his self-imposed exile, Thaksin arrived in Cambodia in November 2010 where he gave a lecture to more than 300 Cambodian experts. Thanksin later resigned from this post.
A bit of a viral incident
In Phnom Penh, a Land Cruiser decided it would be better to go against the flow of traffic, and in doing so had a head on collision with a motorcycle. The SUV driver got out, saw the injured moto driver and told him to get out of the way. The moto driver, shocked, called over the nearby traffic police, who in turn told the driver to turn off his engine and stop. He refused, even with the police moto parked right in front of his vehicle. Look what happened next as this incident went viral! This is noted as the first viral video to spread from Cambodia and also as a way that citizen journalists and bloggers can communicate the things which traditional media sometimes overlooks.