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Cambodia – A Brief History


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The human skulls left by the Khmer Rouge

I was already in-country for a couple of months in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in the early 90s, heading a newly start up bank.  It was a totally strange and alien environment as compared to the peaceful countries I have travelled and stayed.  And among my staff members, I heard many of the sufferings of their families first hand during the Khmer Rouge years.

Map of Cambodia

The people of Cambodia are called Khmers and it was a country that had seen war for many decades.   During the Nam War, the western part of the country bordering Vietnam had being bombed the living daylight by American USAF in military swoops to root out the North Vietnamese Army, as the VietCongs were using Cambodia as a base to launch their guerilla warfare against the US Forces based in South Vietnam.  It was said that more bombs and military ordnance landed in Cambodia than Hilter’s Blitz on London during WWII.

The deserted streets of Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge deported all civilians to the countryside

Then the genocide rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 saw Pol Pot and his army murdered more than an estimated 2 million of her people and displacing more than another 2 million people where families were broken up, properties destroyed, farm lands laid wasted, transportation and communications came to a halt and even the Central Bank of Cambodia was burnt down as Khmer Rouge deemed that money was the root of all evils of imperialism and capitalism.   War refugees were scrambling madly out of the country and in most times trampled on the skeletons of others in order to get out.

The atrocities of the Khmer Rouge rendered in a drawing

The Khmer Rouge era was one of the most lethal regime of the 20th century and one of the most atrocious.  An extreme form of agrarian communism was imposed on the Cambodian society where the whole population had to work in collective farms and forced labor projects. City dwellers were all deported to the country side and overnight cities and towns became ghost towns totally devoid of people.  Intellectuals, teachers, those who wore spectacles, writers, journalists and those who could speak a foreign language were systematically tortured and murdered.  Property owners, business men and women and those who were deemed to be involved in free market activities were not spared.  Children and women were also the main targets of these communist Khmer Rouge sub-humans.

(The British film in 1984, The Killing Fields, is perhaps one of the best films that told the story of the Khmer Rouge regime.)

After 4 years of genocide rule by the Khmer Rouge, a number of senior military soldiers within its rank deflected to Vietnam.  This included the present Prime Minister Hun Sen who was a Khmer Rouge divisional commander at one time.  One must understand that throughout history, Vietnam and Cambodia both are like quarreling Siamese twins, joined at the hip but with different ideologies and ideas and both are perennially at each other’s throat over border disputes and the movement of its people.  But the intervention of Vietnam seemed a better alternative to the continual genocide of Khmer Rouge. The Cambodian military exiles together with the Vietnamese Army finally drove the Khmer Rouge in December 1978 to the western part of Cambodia in Battambang, Pailin and their last strong hold at Anlong Veng District.

The country was renamed State of Cambodia.

UNTAC Peace Keeping Force in Phnom Penh

The Paris Peace Accord signed in October 1991 saw the formation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia and the UNTAC Peace Keeping Force moved into Cambodia in late 1992.  After years of war and deprivation, the Khmers hope for a better and peaceful future would be realized, where UNTAC would supervise an orderly democratic election for the people of Cambodia to decide who should govern Cambodia.

One of the busy streets of Phnom Penh in the early 90s

A budget of no less than $1.5 billion was allocated and the movement of more than 20,000 military and civilian personnel from UNTAC was envisaged.  Thus an artificial economic boom was created for the country and this would kick-start its reconstruction and the reconciliation of a nation, whose great Buddhist temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and other temples of more than a thousand years in Siem Reap, Northern Cambodia made it one of the Ancient Wonders of the World.

Pretty Cambodia ladies in a row. These were my bank staff members

Pictures Ref:,,,,,

Mother’s Day 母亲节


Mother’s Day

Abstract: Mother’s Day

摘要 : 母亲节


Last Sunday was Mother’s Day.

On Mother’s Day every year, our family members will celebrate and honour the Great woman in our lives, the mother, the grandmother and the great grandmother for we always have a family representation on this auspicious day, my siblings, my children and my sister’s children and grandchildren. 

So that would be 4 generations.

And this year, the family get-together was at my sister’s house, a cozy gathering with simple meals, and my mother beamed with joy and happiness.

The Waves of the Yangtze River ….長江後浪推前浪


Abstract: My mother is going to be 90 this year. As was, as is and as will be, she is my guiding light and how bless I am, that at my age my mother is still very much alive and still gives me some of the soundest advice. God bless her, always!

摘要 :  我母亲今年将是要90岁了。 无论過去现在或者是将来都还是一样,她都是我的指路明灯,我是多么的幸福,在我这把年纪,我母亲还健康地活着,她仍然一直都给我一些最好忠告。 祈求上帝永远保佑她!

The Pounding Waves of the Yangtze River

My mother will be 90 this year by the lunar calendar.  Her osteoporosis of many years has taken its toll and she is almost bent double, her back racked with pain occasionally and have to take a daily dose of pain killer. She is still mobile, walking slowly with the aid of a stainless steel quad cane.


The World Is Full Of Beauty …充满美丽的世界…


The World Is Full Of Beauty …充满美丽的世界

Abstract: A few months back, my mother recited a poem to me, extracted from a local Chinese newspaper. And it is about seeing the world while one is still capable of traveling. So for three months I went traveling solo.

摘要 : 几个月前,我的母亲从本地华文报纸上摘录了一首诗. 它是关于一个人如果仍然能够去旅行的时候便要抓住机会出去看看世界. 所以我便抽出三个月时间独自去旅行了.

 Engaging Mother in conversation

Grandfather, Father, Son Dies


I have heard a Zen anecdote……..

A very wealthy Mandarin in the city of Suzhou was throwing a grand banquet for his patriarch father to celebrate his 91st birthday.  As a way to flaunt his wealth as well as to show his filial duty to his patriarch father, all the scions of the society, rich and powerful landlords and important Imperial officials were invited to the feast.

The Mandarin also invited a Zen monk, a famous calligrapher and who was very much revered for his Buddhist teachings in the city, to give




A Banquet Festivity

blessings to his father and to the continued well being, happiness and wealth for his family.

At the banquet the Mandarin requested the esteemed Monk to pen a calligraphy of prosperity, longevity and happiness to commemorate this great and auspicious occasion.

With the scroll of rich red vermillion rice paper laid out on the beautifully crafted antique rose wood table, the Monk rose to the occasion, his countenance now serene, tranquil and with a single-minded focus to the task on hand.  The whole banquet hall suddenly fell into pin-dropped silence and everyone waited expectantly for the delivery of his great masterpiece as most of them would be the first time witness to the works of this legendary calligrapher.

With elan and flourish the Monk rolled up his right golden saffron sleeve to his elbow, dipped the thick paint brush onto a jade inkpot filled with black scented ink and with elaborate penmanship of a single, bold and powerful stroke the calligraphy came up thus:

“Grandfather, Father, Son Dies”

As the Mandarin looked on aghast, the Monk ordered a serf to hold up the scroll, turn and pan it slowly round to the audience. The audience of the whole banquet hall grasped in horror. How could a reverend Monk do such an incongruous and demeaning act to the gracious host on such a happy and joyful occasion as the celebration of the great patriarch birthday?








This was insulting and might bring calamity and misfortune to the family for the whole year round.

However, the Mandarin being a well learned and wise man realized the palpable tension and the volatile atmosphere might turn unpleasant if he reprimanded the Monk.  The Mandarin would lose face and appear as uncouth in front of all the societies honored guests and his subjects.

He smiled and politely requested the Monk to interpret his calligraphy.

The Monk said, ”For us to enjoy peace, harmony and happiness the events of birth and death in a family should happen according to nature’s sequence order of natural death.  This way the older generation would not moan over the death of a younger generation.  Would it not be bliss then?”

The audience broke into a thunderous applause.


I have on a number of occasions attended funeral wakes where grieving parents sent off their sons or daughters who died suddenly in car accidents, of ill health and freak accidents or simply been caught in the wrong time and wrong place.

Their initial reaction when faced with the sudden departure of their loved ones is one of shock and disbelief, yesterday the son was alive and well and today he laid stiff in a casket coffin laced with lavender and white lilies. Lying serenely in the tight confines of the wooden elongated octagonal box with a rectangle glass opening, his cadaverous face still smiled impishly, the eyes closed in a perpetual state of eternal rest and the body covered in soft white satin.  Kith and kin, relatives and friends from near and far came to say their last goodbye and tears flowed in their eyes as well as in their hearts.  Such heart wrenching scenes will leave one numbed and one would realize that a life can be as fragile as a gossamer’s thread, suddenly broken and never to be joined again.

The grieving parties will not have the space and time to grieve during the wake as they have to attend the rituals of the religious ceremony of sending off the dead.  When the funeral wake is over, when their friends go home, when all one carried back from the funeral home is the photograph frame (and a few days later the urn containing 6 or more pound of ashes, if the deceased is cremated) and when one is at home then the full import of the loss suddenly dawns on them. It is really painful when one has the luxury of time to grieve.

At first it is self-denial, refusing to accept the situation that the loved one has left us. Then one will take numerous guilt trips, blaming oneself for the sudden death, imagining and creating a number of ‘ifs’ situation where the deceased would not be in such a place when he met his death and the whole nightmare will not happen. After a long while, time still heals but it will never be the same again.  Most parents never recover from the death of their children.

My cousin passed away a couple of years ago when he was 49.  His mother, my father’s sister, was 87 then.  At that time she was still sane.  At the funeral wake she refused to acknowledge the death of her beloved son.  She sat outside with friends and talked normally but refused to go inside to view the coffin.  Her mind actually has snapped and she was in a state of denial.  It was so pitifully to see an old lady in such great pain.  One year later she died of grief.

My parents also have sent off my eldest brother in China and a sister too, but they were infants then and the wounds healed faster.

So in my daily prayers, I pray that my parents do not outlive me and I do not outlive my children.

The Last of the Few Meals …

Father at 94..
Father at 94..
Father at 94..

The Last of the Few Meals …

Brief: My father at 94.

I have heard …

A jester once annoyed the King with an inappropriate joke in the medieval court. To vent his displeasure, he sentenced the jester to death.

Immediately when his words left his mouth, the King regretted it. The jester was his most loyal and favorite subject. But as the King of the court, a command once uttered could not be rescinded.

So the jester was imprisoned, awaiting the day for his execution.

Court jester kneeling

A few days later, the King summoned the jester.

“I shall grant you one last request. You may wish to die by the sword, or by the gallows, or by a chalice with poison or by any other means.” said the King. This was the least he could do for the jester.

 The jester, who was on his knees, gave a low bow.

“Thank you, O’King, for bestowing me your grace.  I shall wish to die by my old age.”

The King was relieved for the jester’s quick wit. He spared him. 

 Don’t we all wish that, too.

In remembrances of a loving Dad ...
In remembrances of a loving Dad …

My father was 94. For the first two weeks of July he was weak and refused to eat. As we could not feed him anymore, we hospitalized him and was immediately put on an IV drip. He succumbed to old age and passed away peacefully.

IMG_3710 copy

Below are the comments from my previous post, FB, well-wishers, prayers, contributions and condolence messages during his wake. We wish to thank all of you for being with us at a time of distress when a dear one is called away.

Comment: Arthur, you are a good son. May God bless you, your family and your parents, always.

Arthur: May God bless us all, always.

Comment: I wish I could do that.

(Referring to bathing and feeding my father)

Arthur: Most of us wish too. It is not a chore. It is not a burden. It is not a responsibility. Neither is it an obligation. Simply, it is a privilege to serve.

Comment: You are a filial son. I am sure your children will do the same thing to you when you are sick.

Arthur: Thanks but no thanks. Don’t delve on it, less it becomes self-fulfilling, i.e. I become bed ridden.

Comment: You are lucky to have aged old parents and your parents are lucky to have a good son.

Arthur: Yes. There is an old saying in Chinese: 见白头嗔,我见白头. Translation: Some may not like old folks, but I am very happy to see them.

Comment: Your mother must be very sad at the demise of her husband.

Arthur: They were married for 69 years. My mother is a strong woman. She accepts the inevitable that nobody lives forever.

Comment: In the Chinese culture, filiality is an important personal trait of good character and you live up to it.

Arthur: Filiality is a universal value. All cultures emphasize on it. We contribute to the well-being of our parents in different ways.

Comment: You may have gained a lot of merits by being filial to your parents. You will have good Karma.

Arthur: It’s better to do something for our parents out of love, and not of expectations.

Comment: I have seen many who do not even talk to their parents when they were alive, but cried thunder and rain during their wake. You are a good son.

Arthur: A flower to the living is better than dozens of bouquet to the dead. A spoonful of porridge fed is better than to shed copious tears after they are gone.

Comment (from many): Our deepest condolence to you and your family on the demise of your father. May he rest in peace.

Arthur: Thank you to all for your kind thoughts and condolence messages.

Le O’ Lah Ham

May God’s Will Be Done.

My mother and yours truly ...
My mother and yours truly …


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