Thoughts from Cambodia

On my recent trip to Cambodia I found myself thinking a lot about this notion of “capitalism” and “communism”, on many levels. After all it is a divide that has been behind much of the bloodshed of the 20th century. Viewed as alternative economic systems, it is clear that in the hands of people, staunch ideology is a dangerous thing, on both sides.

It was the illegal and secret bombing of neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War by the US, vindicated by their ideology, which paved the way for the genocidal maniac Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge to seize power in April 1975. Over the next four years, before liberation by Vietnamese forces, it is estimated that around 2 million people, 25% of the population, were killed or died from forced labour and malnutrition under his supposedly utopic communist ideology.

For anyone interested in the history I highly recommend this documentary, Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia, filmed shortly after the fall of the Khmer Rouge when the West stood idly by, for fear of upsetting the power balance, as the Cambodian people died from hunger and disease.

The quote goes that “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and the geopolitical landscape today shows that the world’s leaders have not learned, as their policies continue to foster an environment for extremism to flourish and human suffering to continue.Communism versus capitalism is just the sideshow; ultimately it is about power and with talk of a ‘new cold war’ the world seems to be moving backwards.

Interestingly, on Friday Russian president Vladimir Putin stationed four warships close to Australian waters as he joined the G20 meeting of world leaders in Brisbane. Unfortunately, countries like Cambodia, and in today’s world the Ukraine, are just pawns in the battle for power.

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