32 Years Later

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Deciding to leave your home country is always a difficult choice. However, when the country is in chaos, some people force themselves to leave to seek safety. You may find a great place that lots of people think is better, yet no country can ever substitute for your own.

“32 Years Later” is well-written book by Chut Khai, the legendary author who suffered enormously under the Khmer Rouge. He reflects his personal experience in articles that help readers to see Cambodia from many angles, pre- and post-Khmer Rouge.

After leaving Cambodia for 32 years and living as a refugee in France, the author could not stop himself from visiting Cambodia after eating a cucumber sent by his sister in Cambodia.

During a visit to Cambodia in 2011, the author reflects on things that are still relevant today. In the second chapter, he describes the thick forests that covered Cambodia before the Pol Pot regime, which made Cambodia such a green place to live. There were so many fish with delicious tastes and which were easy for Cambodians to get, unlike nowadays.

Aside from that, the book helps readers understand the devaluing of Khmer culture as Cambodians now prefer calling each other verbally like a Chinese. On a trip to the market, Mr Khai was really surprised to see everyone paying in US currency, and the lack of traffic-law enforcement in Cambodia.

Noting social changes, he sees that some Khmer girls try to change themselves in ways that conflict with Khmer culture (for example, by buying products from Vietnam to change their skin or hair colour). General habits have changed too: Cambodians have stopped planting vegetables; instead they always buy from neighbouring countries vegetables that contain lots of chemical substances, and always use chemical fertilisers to grow rice.

Finished in 2017, this book is really informative and raises complex social issues. The author notes that many young people are addicted to substances, leading them to rob and steal from each other as they just want to fulfil their desires. The many issues discussed in this book include social issues, social hierarchy, corruption, development, materialism and so forth.

To those looking for a critical comparison of Cambodia past and present, “32 Years Later” is highly recommended. The information it contains is not limited to Cambodia, as the book also discusses the histories of other countries, including in the West.

This book won’t fail you; you will keep reading until you finish. The author has a gorgeous writing style that includes storytelling and dialogues with his wife. To get a critical view of Cambodia, grab this book.

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