this post is about my travel to Cambodia in early 2016
While in Cambodia, I spent all of our time in Siem Reap. The best way for me to describe how I feel about Siem Reap and what I learned about Cambodia while there is that i think it’s a place and people with heart and grace.
I saw more prostitution than I wished I had while in Siem Reap, and at times, those glimpses that I caught took stage in front of whatever else I was experiencing. The duos of overweight Western men with local women were abundant. It wasn’t as prevalent as what I saw in Bangkok, but that could just be because there are more people in Bangkok. I have a lot of empathy for the women that have to do sex work to make a living. Their conditions are not fair and ultimately, the drive for self-preservation might just be the strongest one that we all have. Most of these women are trying to make ends meet, for either just themselves or their family units.
The people with whom I am deeply disappointed is the men who enable this industry. There are other ways to empower the women of Cambodia and fulfill your own sexual needs that don’t reduce the integrity of others. I understand that sexuality is complicated, and that these men might not even think that they are being derogatory or they might be too wrapped up in their own personal state to even consider the impact they might be having on others, but their psychic state does not absolve them in my eyes. They are doing something terrible by engaging in sex tourism. Prostitution is usually a last resort profession for those in poverty.
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world (it ranks in the bottom 80, many countries at the bottom are tied to each other) and among the very poorest in East Asia (on a per capita basis). Much of its poverty can be explained by its recent history. The Khmer Rouge ran the country from the 1970’s through 1997. the leader of that dictatorship was Pol Pot, who subjugated the people of Cambodia through systematic and ruthless killings. He killed anyone that he felt was too intellectual, too skilled, too outspoken, etc. and that could be a threat to him and his vision for Cambodia. Pol Pot wanted everyone in Cambodia to become a farmer and live through the land. Some estimate that he killed nearly a quarter for the Cambodian people. He supposedly passed away in his sleep due to heart failure, which seems too soft a death for someone so cruel. It is almost poetic that he died of heart failure as it is clear that he failed to ever use his heart when he was alive.