Sunday, May 27, 2012

My weekend

Last week was not a good week. It was one of those stressful, knock-you-down kind of weeks. Fifteen Boeung Kak Lake residents (all, but one, women) were sentenced to two and half years imprisonment after a snappy three-hour trial. Shockwaves jolted the land community in Cambodia. 

During the last few days, I have witnessed anger, shock, and frustration flash in colleagues' faces. These people, many who have been working on the case/campaign for nearly five years, have confessed to me that they have not slept; they cannot eat.   I'm not nearly as involved in this case.  But having worked on land issues in this country for over two years and having worked with some of the women imprisoned (who are lovely and strong - mothers and daughters), the imprisonment of these activists impacts me. I see this as indicative of the shrinking democratic space in which we function.

It is so surreal.

On Saturday morning, a large group visited the prison.  We walked the dusty road from the pagoda to the prison gates, people chanting, yelling, holding lotus blossoms and demanding the release of residents.  In front of one of the prison gates, I remember looking down at the ground, littered with pink lotus blossoms and the remnant stems, all wilting under our feet.  I think I will forever associate lotus blossoms with that day.

[Note: You can read up on Amnesty International's Urgent Action: Cambodia Women Human Rights Defenders Sent to Jail. The Urgent Action sets up more of the background on the case and ways to take action.]

And then, as so happens in Cambodia, the day shifts and things quickly become, well, quite ordinary: trips to the coffee shop, a visit to a new artsy space/pop up market, and sitting in a garden until the sun goes down and the sky turns red.

Early on in Cambodia, I was jarred by this disjointedness.  Since then, I've reconciled my love for this work with my love of good cheese and vintage dresses.  I've also grown more adept at switching from one environment to the next.  But the frequency and starkness of the back-and-forth still shakes me.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing? 


  1. Wow. I cannot even imagine. I know firsthand what an intense experience it is to spend time in Cambodia - I really admire your bravery.


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