LAND OF THE EIGHT-HAND MASSAGE
Flying into Siem Reap, Cambodia’s second largest city, was an uneventful one-hour flight from Hanoi. The Vietnam Airlines plane was packed in coach, but only one person sat in the first class cabin. Cambodia is a very poor country, still recovering from the ravages of a civil war that lasted until 1998. It’s a very small country as well, with fewer than 15 million people, 96 percent of whom are under the age of 65. More than 10 percent of the population perished between 1975 and 1998 under the hands of the communist Khmer Rouge government led by the infamous Pol Pot. In 1978, Vietnam pushed into Cambodia and occupied it for 10 years leading up to a civil war that lasted until the country, with outside help, was able to organize elections that finally led to Cambodia’s independence from the Khmer Rouge. The country was left a devastated mess mired in unimaginable poverty. Consider that today the per capita income for a Cambodian is just over $760 per year, ranking it just ahead of Haiti for purposes of comparison. The country produces very little in the way of natural resources—not that it’s a heavy consumer at $760 per head in income. Most cars in the United States consume more that $760 in gasoline per year.
For perspective you must understand the history of Cambodia. The Khmers, the indigenous peoples of the country, once ruled over Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, and Burma (Myanmar). The wealth that was produced ...