Adjacent to Phnom Penh AirportANZ Royal BankProvince Of Kandal
Brothers and Aspirants assembled at Phnom Penh - Standing: Tchana (Aspirant), John McMahon, Sytha (Aspirant), Pedro Chimeno, Francis Attah, Darryl Slater, Max Meier, Agustin Cassu, Brian Kinsella, Bernhard Tremmel; Kneeling/Sitting: Sokhly (Aspirant), Leonard Brito and Terry Heinrich (Photographer Diego Zawadzky).
Bankok Airways provided excellent service in flying us from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh has a population of 1 million people. In Cambodia there are 14 million. Br Terry Heinrich kindly met me at the airport and then drove me to La Valla School.
Cambodia is 97% Buddhist with Catholics and Muslims among the rest. The Catholic Church came to Cambodia in the 1500s. The French have been instrumental in nurturing Catholicism. Priests come mainly from other countries.
A French colony until 1953, Cambodia enjoyed a ‘golden age’ between 1953 and 1960. During the 1960s and the period of the Vietnam War, America bombarded Cambodia ruthlessly, hoping to cut off any supply routes to Vietnam. Now the country is recovering from the ravages of the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime which commenced on 17th April 1975 and lasted until 1979. When the Khmer Rouge arrived in April 1975, any people suspected of foreign allegiance were killed immediately. The Catholic Cathedral in the centre of the city was dynamited. Phnom Penh was empty within a few days as people scattered to the rural areas for their lives. The Khmer Rouge oversaw the deaths of 20% of Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.
From 1979 until 1989 Cambodia came under the Communist rule of Vietnam. Many large Russian buildings, built during this period, are still in evidence today. The Bishop was allowed back to Cambodia in 1990. Cambodians did not appreciate the occupation by Vietnam, even though it freed them from the Khmer Rouge. There are good freasons for this.
Cambodia is now a one party state. There is no tolerance of opposition. The King signs legislation which the Prime Minister brings to him. People suspect it is a puppet government of Vietnam. The motto of Cambodia is ‘Nation, Religion, King.’
Today there are eight Ad Gentes Brothers working in Cambodia, two of whom arrived from Argentina in August 2009. There are two aspirants. The Marist Fathers administer a live-in facility nearby called Villa Maria. They have 35 students living on site and 18 living in a nearby centre. These students attend local high schools.