I just came back from a special dinner. I wasn’t the honored guests, but I was one of the nearly 2000 leaders who were invited to celebrate in the inauguration of the Governor of Poipet city here in North West Cambodia. Even the Thai Governor of Sakeo province and military officials (who we are still fighting with) came as well. To me this was a very significant dinner.
Why? Because 20 years ago this city did not exist! Up until 1998 this area was part of the front lines in the decades old civil war between the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian government. Tonight, both the Khmer Rouge generals and the Cambodian generals were present; all celebrating their city. They were together and in unity. Our Prime Minister , Hun Sen, convinced all the warring parties that in unity they could work to build a great society together. Its working! Poipet is evidence of how forgiveness and unity can build a whole city.
Fifteen years ago, Poipet was part of the world’s largest minefield, the name assigned to this region by de-mining groups like Halo Trust and MAG, because there were mine fields covering hundreds of square kilometers with no clear areas. As many as 6 million land mines were present. There are still plenty left, but in Poipet, an area of dense landmines, now has 120,000 people living in it. Representatives of the de-mining organizations were at the celebration tonight as well.
I found it interesting who was not invited too. There were no pastors, no Buddhist monks, and no Imam’s even though Poipet has many churches from all the religions. There were, however, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims present, but they were all people who were actively engaged in building the community by helping orphans, the poor or the capacity of the leaders. Everyone there was working for the community and not themselves, or just their own benefit. They had responsibility for doing something significant to help in this rapidly growing city. Each person there has sacrificed for the betterment of everyone. Some of the most significant NGO’s, business leaders and educators are Christians here in Poipet too. Being self-less is a central Christian trait.
In 1993 the UN recorded that there were approximately 1000 vehicles in Cambodia, mostly UN vehicles and they were all white color! Today, in Poipet, where there previously was nothing but barren fields and landmines, we sat in an auditorium as big as any in the capital of Phnom Penh. The road we drove on was recently paved by our company and hundreds of Lexus SUV’s (they cost as much as $160,000 cash!), Toyota Land Cruisers and Highlanders, and new Toyota Hilux’s (Pickups) filled the parking lot.
Indeed this is a new day in Cambodia. Since 1998 there has been an explosion of growth in Cambodia. I would guess that within the next 5 years Poipet will become one of the top three significant cities in Cambodia and the second largest in population. It currently generates enough resources to fund four entire poorer provinces. Is Cambodia growing? Absolutely, the city of Poipet is evidence of that!