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Do Cambodians Really Need to 'See Things the Way We Do'?

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I recently read the article "Education Gap Stunts Cambodia's Renewal," Jan. 16, after visiting with Khmer refugees ("displaced persons") on the Thai-Cambodian border.

The article states, "They just aren't able to see things the way we do." This comment by an executive running Western-style job-training programs makes one wonder if Americans have learned anything from our painful and destructive experiences of the Vietnam-war era.

Yes, the Khmers may have difficulty thinking like us. They have not grown up with our wealth, power, individualism, and consumerism. They have not meddled in our politics, nor exported their ideologies to us. Instead, they have lived through colonial occupation, United States bombing, corrupt governments (first backed by our capitalist bloc, then backed by the communist bloc), the Khmer Rouge, and the near destruction of their culture and religion.

Perhaps, in time, if we send enough missionaries - Christian, free market, human rights - they will learn "to see things the way we do." What I wonder is, will we ever try to see things the way they do? B. Santikaro, Surat Thani, Thailand

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.


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