Back from Cambodia

Friday afternoon – and Warsaw is just lovely these days when spring, or I should perhaps say summer, is arriving.

Being allergic to birch pollen I had a somewhat ambivalent attitude to blossoming trees when I was a kid. Luckily medicines have improved dramatically. Now I can mostly forget about the pollen. And jogging is definitely possible.

When I left Poland for Cambodia sixteen days ago things looked differently. When I returned the last day of the Easter holiday there was no doubt. Warsaw had become green once again in the way I have come to enjoy so much during my almost three years here.

Cambodia was a great experience. My wife Karin and I went there to visit our eldest daughter Sofia who presently is an intern at the Swedish Embassy in Phnom Penh.

This gave us an opportunity also to do some elements of work since we had the pleasure of exchanging experiences about promotion of Sweden with some colleagues at the Embassy including Ambassador Anna-Maj Hultgård. The Embassy has a high activity level in social media (which I try to follow) and a very substantial development cooperation program (the equivalent of 100 million Zloty per year) which provides important input to povery eradication in the country.

One innovative way of making Sweden better known in a country where the Embassy is just four years old could be seen at this photo:

It does not only make Sweden visible but it also shows the way to Swedish activities on the web.

But 99% of the time was obviously not work but vacation. Meaning the magnificent Angkor Wat and all the other temples of the Siem Reap region. But also the capital Phnom Penh with a friendly atmosphere that is quite remarkable, taking the tragic modern history of the country into account.

The Khmer Rouge-regime 1975-79 left a legacy that is almost unbelievable in its naked appalling brutality – if it had not been for all the other horrors of genocide and mass murder that the world has experienced.

We visited the Killing fields at Choeung Ek with massgraves for the victims of the massmurders that took place there at night. The victims came from the prison and torture center Tuol Sleng S-21 in Phnom Penh, now also transformed into a museum. Of the almost 20 000 people that passed through nearly everybody was killed. And the total number of starved and murdered people is estimated to be at least around 1,7 million people.

And the same questions return to me as when I visit Nazi death camps or the Genocide museum in Rwanda. Which are the mechanims making human beings behave in the most inhuman way possible against others?

But primarily I feel more convinced than ever that the fight against totalitarianism and racism – against every single ”ism” that is dehumanising people – is a major responsibility for all of us. Killing fields, never again.

Back in Warsaw I try to catch up with the developments both inside and outside the country. The deeply worrying developments in and around Eastern Ukraine have of course been on my mind every day also during my vacation.

From the Embassy viewpoint I can additionally and with great interest follow the election campaign to the European Parliament; I will actually listen to a debate later today.

And obviously we are entering a period with many very significant events of very different character. First of all the canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII this coming Sunday, reminding not least us Swedes also of the utmost importance the Polish Pope had in the process leading to the fall of communism and the liberation of so many oppressed countries.

And next week I look forward to the celebration both of the 10th Anniversary of Poland’s membership of the EU and of the Polish constitution day May 3rd. I hope the sunny weather stays. As I said in the beginning: Warsaw these days is lovely.

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