As Concern Worldwide draws its programs in Cambodia to a close after 23 years, Senior Health and HIV Advisor, Breda Gahan, recalls some of her experiences there in more turbulent times
Twenty-three years on, it’s a different country entirely
Back in 1991, there was a lot of insecurity. While a peace agreement was signed in Paris, the country was still marred by warfare. Working conditions were difficult. We set up office in the Monorom Hotel in Phnom Penh and for the next three years I spent there, change in the country was always evident.
While my job was in Cambodia, I first traveled to Thailand to better understand not only Concern’s work in the refugee camps, but also what people felt about returning to Cambodia. When I reached Aranyaprathet town in eastern Thailand where the Khmer refugee camps were mostly located, I could hardly believe the size of the “camp cities.” I had never seen anything like it. The camps, at that time more than a decade old, had a sense of order. However, as permanent as they felt, you could sense people’s enthusiasm to return home.