Early in the morning, my group of five people made up mostly of journalists, an anthropologist, and a tourist, began to make
�Early in the morning, my group of five people made up mostly of journalists, an anthropologist, and a tourist, began to make our way from Siem Reap town to the edge of Tonle Sap Lake. It was still dark and cool at six O'clock in the morning, but there was plenty of moto taxi, the "moto dup," available to take us to a town called Chhong Knairse on the bank of Tonle Sap Lake. We were on our first leg of our journey to Pailin, the heart of former Khmer Rouge stronghold near Thailand-Cambodia border.
The previous day, the same group of people visited the place I called the "Tonle Sap Lake Massacre" site. It is a place I have left far, far behind some 21 years ago. The remnants of my now dead family, friends, and neighbors, numbering in the hundreds, still exist today-mostly buried deep in mass graves. It was the handy work of the Khmer Rouge during their regime's mad dash toward a pure agrarian utopia in Cambodia. In under four years their tragic policy took Cambodia back to year zero and a lost of nearly two million lives due to starvation, sickness, disease, and execution. A generation of the Khmer people was wiped out from the face of this planet. I am the only known survivor of the Tonal Sap Massacre.
The journey on moto dup from Siem Reap town was quite pleasant after I asked the driver to slow down a little. He was in a hurry to drop me off so that he can find more new clients. I needed to get to the lake to catch a speedboat, but I was not in that of a hurry. Besides, I wanted to get there in one piece. The boat will not leave until after 7 O'clock, but not without its prepaid (at $15 each way) passengers. The young driver slowed down enough for the rest in my group to catch up and for me to admire the scenery south of Siem Reap.
The normally 20-30 minute trip took 45 minutes and my group had 15 minutes to spare before the "fast boat" departure for Battambang, our next leg of the trip toward Pailin. I paid the driver 5,000 Riels (about $1.25) knowing full well that the normal fee for this trip was only 3,000 Riels.
"Brother, I need more money for the fare." The young driver insisted.
"How much more do you want, young brother?" I sternly asked my driver and was a little bit agitated by now. "The regular fare is only 3,000 Riels. I paid you 5,000 already and you still want more? Look! My people only pay their drivers 3,000. Do you want to hand me the extra 2,000 Riels back?" I calmly and logically rambled on.
The young driver simply nod his head with respect and moved away quietly from the scene. He knew that I was correct and more than generous to him. He thought that I should pay more because I appeared "foreigner" or "farang" to him. What he did not know was that I am a native son of Siem Reap and have been...