Hidden killersBMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7030.586 (Published 02 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:586
- Heather Jackson
Say Rith is 50, although he looks at least 10 years older. He is a peasant farmer in Battambang province in north west Cambodia, and he has survived 25 years of civil war and unrest, including the terrible years of the Khmer Rouge rule (1975-9) when between one and two million Cambodians died. Now his world has fallen apart.
In 1993 the United Nations sponsored democratic elections in Cambodia and over 650000 refugees, including Say Rith, were repatriated from camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. Despite threats and terrorist attacks by the Khmer Rouge, who boycotted the elections and ordered the civilian population to do the same, over 95% of the electorate voted, often walking perilous distances to polling stations heavily bunkered against terrorist attack. Observers were overwhelmed by the turnout; it was as if Cambodia's people were finally saying “enough” to the years of war and conflict. The United Nations intervention in Cambodia was hailed as its greatest success, and the mood in the country when the United Nations withdrew in October 1993 was of optimism, although the people have been through too much to expect miracles such as peace.
So why, a year after the elections, did this …
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