Cambodian Reading Stories

Cambodian Professional Groups


Books Along with a Gun
Reader from a Remote Village
Reading from Refugee Camps to International Career
Hooked to Read by Family Culture
Books as My Parents
Read from a Farm Boy to Be a Lawyer
Establish Reading Habit before Birth
Read to Imagine
Which Books to Read?

In late November 2014, I was at the Fourth National Book Fair at the National Library of Cambodia with friends. In that afternoon, the event was rather quiet with limited participation from bookshops, some NGOs working on reading, and few dozens of students, despite that fact that the event was a stone-throw away from one of the biggest universities in Cambodia. One of my friends, a high-profile international representative who has a strong belief in reading, looked me straight into the eyes and expressed his sympathy and sadness on the level of participation from high and middle-class Cambodians in the event, lack of attention from the media, and the limited habit of reading in Cambodia’s society as compared to other countries with similar income level.

Cambodia’s recent past was dark, but its future could remain uncertain if Cambodian people do not entrench reading habits. Only in 2015 did Cambodia adopt a National Reading Day (March 11) with the New MoEYS Minister H.E Dr. Hang Chuon Naron. Yet, a lot more efforts need to be made among Cambodian writers and readers to foster the momentum. Amid the economic progress so far, Cambodians needs to spend more time and resource for books and reading to be a properly civilized country.

A passion for reading is a great gift as books take readers anywhere: future, past, ideal world, and imagination. This compilation aims to share the stories of reading habit of successful individuals and how reading books shaped their lives and their views. It consists of several stories across contexts and generations: during the upheaval, wars, and the new generations of Cambodia. These stories are unique and inspiring in their own way.

This is still an evolving version. Although more stories are being added to the compilation, I hope this version can help inspire others to share their stories and encourage their surrounding people to read much more. Special thanks go to authors for sharing their stories.

Dyna Heng

Books Along with a Gun
Ok Serei Sopheak (Governance Specialist)

Mr. OK SEREI Sopheak was born in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) on September 22, 1952. He has two children, one son and one daughter. He got his medical degree in Paris (France) in 1981. While in France, he joined many refugee political movements to fight against the Khmer Rouge genocide policy. He joined the KPNLF (Khmer people’s National Liberation Front) a non-communist resistant front along the Khmer Thai border from 1981 to 1992. He was Vice-President of LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) participating in the 1993 UN-supervised election. From 1993 to 1998, he was advisor and director of cabinet to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. From 1999 to 2003, he was Peace and Development coordinator of CDRI’s (Cambodian Development Resource Institute), where he initiated many programs on conflict prevention in the Cambodian election. From 2003, he has chosen to be a freelance consultant to national and international organizations (UNDP, WB, AusAID, DFID, USAID, NCDD etc…) on governance, leadership and modern management, democratic process and conflict management. He has dedicated a major part of his life to share his rich political and social experiences with Cambodian and other countries youth and students.

I was born in September 1952, as the second of the eight children to a family where my father (killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, along with my elder brother) was a high ranking national police. I was told by my aunts that my mother (died many years ago in France) was a very bright pupil in her school. She was always the first in the class. Unfortunately, my grand-mother – a very tough woman – had my mother dropped from the school after only four years in the primary. I was also told that my grand-father – a member of the Senate called at that time ក្រុមប្រឹក្សាព្រះរាជាណាចក្រ tried very hard to argue against my grand-mother in order to allow my mother continuing the school. But he lost the fight.

From those years, the two things I remember now and see like yesterday, was my grand-father often sit down with me and told me about the Kingdom’s affairs although in those primary and secondary years of school, I didn’t understand most of the stories. The other thing stuck in my memory was the view of my mother sitting at her noisy sewing machine taking pauses to read out loud editorials of daily newspapers. I remember asking her one day why she preferred editorials to news. She said that she also read news but she was more interested in the thinking behind those news. Only years later that I understood what she meant. Even now, I always feel so sad that my mother was dropped from the school. Perhaps that is why I am so keen to see all girls have the self-determination to get full access not only to schools but to outside-the-school studies as well.

My father, like his peers from that time, studied in French. He had great habit to bring home all kinds of magazines after his day work. Most of them were in French. I remember that in the three final years at Lycee Sisowath, I read most of the books and magazines brought by my father.

Also in those most sweet years (in term of memory) of my youth hood, my father hired a French tutor to provide evening lectures on French literature to me and to my brother. My tutor initiated me to the real reading of great authors like Hugo, Balzac, Stendhal, Corneille, Shakespeare, Moliere, Plato, Socrates etc.​ He not only explained those great classic pieces to me, but also role-played in front of me those stories in order to help me understanding what actually happened. I still clearly remember him putting me on the top of a table in my house’s study room, acting as a King, and him kneeling down playing the role of Rodriguez in the famous classic piece of Corneille’s LE CID. After that evening, I started to understand the meaning of the words like Dignity, Honor, Moral Obligation, Duties… He brought me to Chatomuk Theatre to see the two famous pieces – LE CID of Corneille and The Midnight Summer’s Dream of Shakespeare – performed in Khmer by the great actors from our University of Fine Arts. I have tried to find the documentation of those great performances but I was told that they were destroyed, along with other great performances, during the Khmer Rouge time. So sad really. My tutor made me subscribing to the French Cultural Centre – Alliance Française (AF, at that time located inside the compound of the French embassy) – to the National Library (NL) and to the American Cultural Centre (ACC). I remember spending every Friday evening watching great films at AF on drama, history, social and politics…After each film, we always had drinks – I was introduced to very nice cocktails when I was in final year of Lycee Sisowath – and he carefully explained to me the meaning of those stories. He helped me to prepare a list of books to read that I could get from the libraries of AF, the NL and the ACC. They were mainly relating to biography/politics, history, social justice, police investigation (I love the story of Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of Rouletabille from Gaston Leroux, and of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Christo from Alexandre Dumas…), but also romance and fiction (I love Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea from Jules Verne).

It was much later on, that I understood why I was initiated to those books: to develop my dream, to access to social justice and thus to politics, to develop my analytical skills and my balanced judgment. I owe a great deal to my late tutor, Mr. DARCHE.

The love for books continued to greatly nurture when my father sent me to France in July 1973 to continue my medical studies. In France, wherever I lived – I moved around quite a lot due to the vicissitude of my life and of our country – I always subscribed to be members of the local/city libraries. The great thing was, it was free of charge! I got access to many other authors but the original sector composition remained the same as established by my tutor. The only exception was the political books gaining more and more lion share given my intense political engagement since 1975. During those years as student, I spent around 3 hours per day in metro/underground and buses in public transportation. In those long hours, we didn’t have mobile smart phones, no mails nor Facebook, thus hard copies medical and other books were my faithful companions. The rare times I didn’t have any book in hands, I felt miserable and deadly bored.

When I joined the front between 1981 and 1992, as a non-communist resistant along Khmer-Thai border, including the time I was commander of a special unit, I always had books with me, along with a machine gun. I still have in my memory, those rainy moments in the forest or in the military camps, while we slept in military hammock covered by a large military raincoat, I used a lamp torch to read books on Napoleon, Von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Zhou Enlai or Alexander The Great, or just a sweet romance novel including Khmer novels like កូឡាបប៉ៃលិន and​ មាលាដួងចិត្ត. Each time I recall those moments, they are real great sweet memories in the middle of bitter life experiences. And I would do it again if I had to.

My father and my tutor had introduced me to the culture of books and reading which become my own culture (La culture c’est tout ce qui reste quand on a tout oublie – The culture is what remains when we forget everything else, from a French author/journalist Emile Henriot). This culture is part of my life principles, making me supporting without any reserve Voltaire’s political principle and thought: « Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu’à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire. » “I don’t agree with what you say, but I will fight to death to defend your right to say it”. This phrase was not from Voltaire himself, but was from one of his friends Ms. Evelyn Beatrice Hall in the book “The friends of Voltaire” in 1906, where she summarized Voltaire’s thoughts.

During this Pchum Ben time, while writing these lines for Campro, my thoughts go to my father, my mother, my grand-father, and my tutor. May their souls rest in eternal peace. Let me pay these endless great debts I owe to them by dedicating my life to our country and our people, especially the young generations.

The seeds of the reading culture they planted inside me have made me who and what I am, and how I feel. And why I have a daily happiness in my life.

Reader from a Remote Village
May Tola, Retiree

Mr. May Tola worked for 9 years at Monetary and Capital Market Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 6 years as Cambodian Advisor to the Office of Executive Director of the IMF and the World Bank respectively, and 20 years at the National Bank of Cambodia. Mr. May Tola received MBA (2006) in the United States, Bachelor Degree in Economics (1989) and Diploma in Business (1974) in Cambodia.

The story of my reading began with a funny tale. I played a fool reading at the age of 4 or 5 years old. I held a piece of leaf (to mimic sleuk’rit) or paper in front of me and talked whatever I wanted. At first, the members of my family felt impressed with my ability to read, but later they laughed because they knew my trick. I often practiced the fool reading during the sunset time when the herd of cattle returned home after wandering in the forest to feed themselves for the whole day. My aunts and uncles were very busy as they had to control more than a dozen of cattle that all came home at the same time. They had to direct the cattle to the shelter to prevent them from eating the plant around the house. Then they needed to attach each cattle with a rope to keep them in the shelter during the night and to make fire to protect them from mosquitoes and other harmful insects. Few years after my father passed way, my grandparents took me to live with them in order to alleviate the burden from my mother who had to work alone to earn her living and to raise my siblings. My aunts and uncles who shared the same home with my grandparents took care of me like their own son. I felt embarrassed when I could not help them during their busy time. To hide my embarrassment, I played the fool reading as demonstrated that I was also busy with the reading.

In a remote rural village of my birthplace, there was no tradition of reading, no book, no other publication and no school. But for some reasons, my grandpa kept a bundle of palm leaves carved with old Khmer script (sa’stra’sleuk’rit). I had never paid attention to its importance. Until one night, I was so impressed by an adventurous man who read the palm leave script with a melodious voice to my family. We sat around him and listened attentively and quietly. I did not understand the meaning of the story he read, but I saw the man sobbed from time to time in his reading. His choking voice and his physical expression created an emotional feeling for the whole family. He did not tell us about his personal secret, but I assumed that some parts of that story touched his personal painful experience that prompted him to weep. He should have suffered so unbearably that caused him to then leave his family and wander towards the jungle. Luckily, he requested an overnight shelter at our home and showed us his talent. I began to imitate the man, but I could do only the fool reading because I did not learn any script yet. The man left my family forever but the memorable moment stays with me even after more than a half-of-a-century had passed. This memorable moment instilled in me the notion of reading and its impact. My interest in reading had been growing since then.

When enrolled in the public primary school in Pursat provincial city, I stayed in the Buddhist temple (or Pagoda). Besides learning to write and read at school, my hobby was to practice reading sa’stra’sleuk’rit with other pagoda boys who studied from the monks outside the public education system. These boys learned to write and read before they could ordain to join the monkhood. With them, I read Khmer moral teaching, literature, and Buddhist stories—the old literary works that were preserved at various Pagodas since a long time ago. The reading developed my understanding of Khmer custom, culture and literature, which in turn, built in me a strong attachment to Cambodia.

The above reading facilitated my learning of Khmer literature at middle and high schools, since some of the literary works that I read in the Pagoda were printed in modern Khmer script and incorporated into the school curriculum. Among various books I studied in those years, “Srei’hi’to’pa’tes” (sri hitopadesha), by Venerable Pang Khat enriched my verbal skill. This skill served as my best self-defense against bullies, which often occurred to rural poor kid like me. I used statements excerpted from Srei’hi’to’pa’tes” and Khmer or foreign proverbs to support my effective response. Furthermore, I improved my capacity in Khmer spelling and literature analysis through reading respectively, over and over again, the dictation exercise guidebook by Tiv Ol and the dissertation essay exercise guidebook of Khmer literature by Leang Hap An.

During the wartime, 1970-75, I attended the university in Phnom Penh and continued to live with the monks in a Pagoda. Every public holiday, I locked myself in my shelter and enjoyed the books borrowed from Maison de France and British Council libraries and/or publication I rent from nearby bookshops. The city was often affected by bomb attacks on the public holidays. In such an insecurity situation, I made a firm reading plan as to prevent myself from exposing to crowded places like cinema, stadium or markets. Among others, three different authors—Nuon Khoeun, Pan Sothy, and Soth Polin—were my favorite. Moreover, I took the book “Mano’mayit’thi” (Will Power) by Sea Bunpheng as my guru to guide me building a path towards a successful life and to provide moral support so as to overcome all difficulties emerged from the very stressful and fearful wartime. In practicing the advice given in the book, I built my patience, calmness, and focus. It impacts my character for the rest of my life.

After the Khmer Rouge regime, in the 80s, many Russian books were translated in Khmer and distributed by the Soviet Union Cultural Center in Phnom Penh. I liked the biography of some heroes of the Soviet Union. In which, “Monus’pit” (literally means real human being) described the story of the disable but heroic pilot of the air fighter. The book signified the power of high determination, the personal quality that made him to achieve beyond the possibility of the general human being. In the 90s, I often read Bangkok Post handed to me by the Senior Advisor of the National Bank of Cambodia after his use. In the banking and finance section, I followed regularly the articles related to the progress of the restructuring and the shift to younger leadership of two competitive banks—Bangkok Bank and Thai Farmers Bank—that were published frequently. In addition, I also read a number of technical books related to banking and finance. Those books were not available in Cambodia, but I could buy them abroad as I often attended different short-term courses. Trainings and persistent reading of articles and books enhanced my career as the central banker, improved my English language skill, as well as prepared me for my service abroad at the international organizations.

Since late 2000, while working abroad, I read various books. ‘Leading Quietly’ by Joseph Badarocco gave me a new insight about leaders. The author draws my attention to a broader leadership that appeared among normal people who worked tirelessly to create a better environment and to resolve the difficult problem in the workplace, family, and society although they do not sacrifice their own life for heroic purpose. Badarocco calls this type of persons as ‘quiet leaders’. Because of their name and fame are not publicly known, it is difficult to find them. Therefore, it requires our ability to identify the potential quiet leaders that were hidden among normal people. For institutions, the manager should provide systemic technical and moral support to those potential quiet leaders so as to create more leaders in each institution. If supported by a pool of quiet leaders, the manager would have more leverage to advance the institution’s agenda towards reaching its goal successfully. The other book of my interest was the ‘History of Cambodia’ by Adhémard Leclère that was translated and published in Khmer by Documentation Center of Cambodia. It reinforced my understanding of geopolitics in the past history that continue to haunt Cambodia up to today. Along with the related works by Nuon Khoeun and other authors, this book helps readers to understand the dynamics of the current and future political challenges facing Cambodia.

In conclusion, reading is one of the factors contributing to the success in life, at least to me. I gain greater knowledge each time I read a book. But I found myself much more beneficial if I read over and over again the same book and apply the given advice consistently and persistently. Without learning and reading, the fate of a rural poor boy like me would be the same as other kids of my village—ending up working in the rice field and producing palm sugar all lifelong. I made myself different from my peers because of my continued education, reading, and persistent hard working habits. In addition to those factors, I have been very fortunate as I could obtain education although I was born in a remote rural village where there was no school, and also survive through numerous obstacles including the very difficult situation such as the wartimes and the genocidal period of Pol Pot.

ម៉ៃ តុលា មន្រ្តីចូលនិវត្តន៍ ​​​​​​
បានបំពេញការងារជូនស្ថាប័នផ្សេងៗ អស់រយៈពេលសរុបចំនួន ៣៥ឆ្នាំ ក្នុងនោះរួមមាន ៩ឆ្នាំនៅនាយកដ្ឋានរូបិយវត្ថុនិង​​ទីផ្សារមូលធន នៃមូលនិធិរូបិ​​យ​​វត្ថុអន្តរៈជាតិ ៦ឆ្នាំ ជាទីប្រឹក្សាតំណាងកម្ពុជា នៅការិយាល័យនាយកប្រតិបត្តិ​ នៃមូលនិធិរូបិ​​យ​​វត្ថុអន្តរៈជាតិ​ និង​ធនាគារពិភពលោក​ និង២០ឆ្នាំទៀត ជាមន្ត្រីធនាគារជាតិ​នៃកម្ពុជា​។ បានទទួលសញ្ញាប័ត្រអនុបណ្ឪិតខាងគ្រប់គ្រងជំនួញ(២០០៦) នៅសហរដ្ឌអាមេ​រិក​​​ ​ព្រមទាំងបរិញ្ញាប័ត្រខាងសេដ្ឋ​កិច្ច​(១៩៨៩) និងវិញ្ញាបនប័ត្រខាងជំនួញ​(១៩៧៤) នៅកម្ពុជាផង។

ប្រវត្តិដើម​នៃការអានរបស់ខ្ញុំ ជារឿងគួរឲ្យអស់សំណើចមួយ។ នៅពេលដែលខ្ញុំមានអាយុប្រមាណ ៤ ឬ៥ឆ្នាំ្ ខ្ញុំលេងល្បែងអាន ដោយយកស្លឹកឈើ (តាង​ឲ្យស្លឹករឹត) ឬ​ ចំរៀក​​ក្រដាស មកដាក់ចំពីមុខ ហើយចេះតែនិយាយ នូវអ្វីៗដែលខ្ញុំចង់។ ពេលដំបូង សមាជិកគ្រួសារ​ខ្ញុំស្ងើច​​នឹងសមត្ថភាពអានរបស់ខ្ញុំ ប៉ុន្តែក្រោយមក ពួកគាត់សើចញឹមៗ ព្រោះដឹងល្បិចរបស់ខ្ញុំ។ ខ្ញុំនិយមលេង​ល្បែងអាននេះ នៅពេលថ្ងៃរៀបលិច គឺជាពេលដែលហ្វូងគោត្រឡប់មកផ្ទះវិញ​ បន្ទាប់ពីគេលែងឲ្យ​ស៊ី​​ស្មៅ​ក្នុងព្រៃ ពេញមួយថ្ងៃ។ អុំប្រុស អុំស្រី ពូនិងមីងខ្ញុំ រវល់​ខ្លាំងណាស់ក្នុងពេលនោះ ព្រោះត្រូវគ្រប់​គ្រង​គោជាង ១០ក្បាល ដែលចូលមកផ្ទះព្រមៗគ្នា។ ពួកគាត់ត្រូវកៀងគោទាំងនោះ ឆ្ពោះទៅក្រោលដើម្បី​កុំឲ្យវាស៊ីដំណាំក្នុងភូមិ។ បន្ទាប់មក ត្រូវចាប់គោនីមួយៗមកចងទុក​ក្នុងក្រោល និងដុតបំពក់ភ្លើងសំរាប់​ដេញកំចាត់មូសនិងសត្វល្អិត កុំឲ្យយាយីគោ​ក្នុងពេលយប់។ ប៉ុន្មានឆ្នាំក្រោយពី​ឪពុកខ្ញុំ​បានចែកឋានទៅ ជីតាជីដូនខាងម្ដាយខ្ញុំ យកខ្ញុំមកនៅជាមួយ ដើម្បីជួយសំរាលបន្ទុកម្ដាយរបស់ខ្ញុំ ​ដែលត្រូវរកស៊ី​ចិញ្ចឹមជីវិតតែម្នាក់ឯង និងចិញ្ចឹមបងៗខ្ញុំ។ ​អុំប្រុស​​​​​ អុំស្រី ពូនិងមីងខ្ញុំ ដែលនៅជុំគ្នា​ជាមួយតាយាយ មើល​ថែទាំខ្ញុំដូចកូនបង្កើត។ ខ្ញុំមានការខ្មាស់អៀន នៅពេលដែលខ្ញុំមិនអាចជួយការងារ​ នាពេលដែលពួកគាត់​កំពុងរវល់។ ដើម្បីបិទបាំងការខ្មាស់អៀន ខ្ញុំលេងល្បែងអាន គឺចង់បង្ហាញថា ខ្ញុំក៏កំពុងរវល់អានអក្សរ​ដែរ​។ ​
នាជនបទដាច់ស្រយាលនៃភូមិកំណើតខ្ញុំ ពុំមានទម្លាប់អាន ពុំមានសៀវភៅ ពុំមានការបោះពុម្ពផ្សាយ និងពុំមានសាលារៀនទេ។ ប៉ុន្តែមិនដឹងហេតុអ្វី ជីតាខ្ញុំរក្សាទុក​នូវសំណុំ​ស្លឹករឹត​មួយបាច់ ​ដែលចារដោយអក្សរបុរាណ (សាស្រ្តាស្លឹក​​រឹត)។ ខ្ញុំពុំដែលយកចិត្តទុកដាក់លើ​របស់នោះទេ។ ប៉ុន្ដែនារាត្រីមួយ ខ្ញុំរំភើបចិត្តជាខ្លាំង ដោយបាន​​ស្ដាប់បុរសផ្សងព្រេងម្នាក់ អានសាស្រ្តាស្លឹករឹតនោះជូនគ្រួសារខ្ញុំ ​ដោយសំលេង​ក្រអួនក្រអៅ។ ពួកយើង​​​អង្គុយដំកង់ជុំវិញបុរសនោះ ហើយផ្ទៀងស្ដាប់ដោយស្ងាត់ស្ងៀម និងយកចិត្តទុកដាក់។ ពេលនោះ ខ្ញុំមិនយល់​​អំពីសាច់រឿងដែលគាត់អានទេ ប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំសំគាល់ឃើញគាត់យំម្តងៗ ​ក្នុងអំឡុងនៃការអាននោះ។ ទឹកមុខស្រពាប់ស្រពោន និងសំឡេងរអាក់រអួលរបស់គាត់ បានបង្កើតនូវបរិយាកាសស្រងូតស្រងាត់ ក្នុងរង្វង់គ្រួសារខ្ញុំទាំងមូល។ បុរសនោះ​មិនបាន​និយាយពីអាថ៌កំបាំងរបស់គាត់ទេ ប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំគិតថាចំណែកណាមួយ​នៃសាច់រឿងនោះ អាចប៉ះទង្គិច​​ដល់ការឈឺចាប់នៃជីវិតរបស់គាត់ ទើបគាត់យំ។ ហើយទំនងជាគាត់មានទុក្ខព្រួយ ដែល​មិនអាច​ធន់​ទ្រាំបាន ទើបពេលនេះដាច់ចិត្តចេញពីផ្ទះ ហើយដើរគ្មាន​គោលដៅ ឆ្ពោះទៅកាន់ព្រៃជ្រៅ។ ជាសំណាង​របស់គ្រួសារខ្ញុំ ដែល​​បានបុរសនោះមកសុំស្នាក់មួយយប់ ​ហើយបង្ហាញនូវទេពកោសល្យ​ពិសេសនេះ។ ខ្ញុំចាប់ផ្តើមធ្វើត្រាប់​​បុរសនោះ ប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំអាចត្រឹមតែលេងល្បែងអាន ព្រោះខ្ញុំមិនទាន់បានចូលរៀននៅឡើយ។ បុរសនោះបាន​​ចាកចេញពីពួកយើងទៅជារៀងរហូត ប៉ុន្តែអនុស្សាវរីយ៍​នៃរាត្រីនោះ បានដិតក្នុងសតិអាម្មរណ៍ខ្ញុំ
ជានិច្ច ទោះបីពេល​​វេលាជាងកន្លះសតវត្ស បានកន្លងផុតទៅហើយក្តី។ អនុស្សាវរីយ៍នោះ បានបណ្តុះនូវសញ្ញាណដំ​បូង​នៃការ​​អាន និងឥទ្ធិពលរបស់វា។ ខ្ញុំជាប់ចិត្តនឹងការអានតាំងពីពេលនោះ ហើយចំណូលចិត្តនេះបានរីកដុះ​ដាល​​ជា​បន្តបន្ទាប់។
នៅពេលដែលខ្ញុំចូលរៀននៅបឋមសិក្សាសាធារណៈនៅទីរួមខេត្តពោធិសាត់ ខ្ញុំស្នាក់នៅជាមួយព្រះ​សង្ឃ​ក្នុងវត្តមួយ។ ក្រៅពីរៀនសរសេរនិងអាននៅសាលា ខ្ញុំបានប្រើពេលទំនេរដើម្បីហាត់អានអក្សរបុរាណលើ​សាស្ត្រា​​ស្លឹករឹត ជាមួយក្មេងវត្តដទៃទៀត ​ដែលកំពុងរៀនជាមួយព្រះសង្ឃ ខាងក្រៅប្រព័ន្ធអប់រំសាធារណៈ។ ក្មេង​ទាំងនោះ រៀបចំខ្លួនដើម្បីបួសជាព្រះសង្ឃ ប៉ុន្តែត្រូវរៀនសរសេរ​និង​អានឲ្យចេះសិន ទើបអាចបួសបាន។ ជាមួយពួកគេទាំងនោះ ខ្ញុំ​អានសាស្រ្តា​បែបអប់រំសីលធម៌ បែបអក្សរ
សិល្ប៍ និងរឿងរ៉ាវទាក់ទងនឹងព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនា។ សាស្រ្តាស្លឹក​រឹត​ទាំងនោះ ជាស្នាដៃនិពន្ធរបស់ខ្មែរជំនាន់មុន​ ដែលបានរក្សាទុកតាមវត្តអារាម​នានា ជាយូរលង់មកហើយ​។ ដោយសារការអានទាំងនេះ ខ្ញុំបានជ្រួតជ្រាបជាបន្តបន្ទាប់នូវ វប្បធម៌ ប្រពៃណី និង​អក្សរសិល្ប៍ខ្មែរ ជាហេតុ​នាំឲ្យខ្ញុំជាប់ចិត្តជាខ្លាំង ​ចំពោះមាតុភូមិកម្ពុជា។
ទន្លាប់អាននេះ ជួយខ្ញុំឲ្យរៀបចំខ្លួនបានយ៉ាងល្អ សំរាប់ការសិក្សាអក្សរសិល្ប៍ខ្មែរ នៅអនុវិទ្យាល័យ និងវិទ្យា​​ល័យ ព្រោះថា ស្នាដៃនិពន្ធខ្លះដែលខ្ញុំបានអាននៅវត្ត ត្រូវបានគេបោះពុម្ពជាអក្សរខ្មែរសម័យហើយបញ្ចូលក្នុងកម្មវិធីសិក្សា។ ក្នុងចំណោមសៀវភៅផ្សេងៗដែលខ្ញុំបានរៀន ខ្ញុំចូលចិត្តសៀវភៅ“ស្រីហិតោ​​បទេស” របស់ភិក្ខុ ប៉ាង ខាត់ ដែលបានជួយខ្ញុំឲ្យ​បង្កើនសមត្ថ​ភាពខាងវោហា។ សមត្ថភាពនេះជួយ​ខ្ញុំឲ្យ​ការពារខ្លួនតទល់​នឹងការចំអកឡកឡឺយទាំងឡាយ ដែល​តែងតែមានចំពោះក្មេងក្រីក្រ​មកពីជនបទដូច​រូបខ្ញុំ​។ ខ្ញុំបាន​ដកស្រង់ខ្លឹមសារខ្លះរបស់“ស្រីហិតោបទេស” និងសុភាសិតខ្មែរ ឬបរទេស ដើម្បី​ឆ្លើយ​តប​យ៉ាងមាន​ប្រសិទ្ធ​ភាព។ ក្រៅពីនោះ ខ្ញុំបានបង្កើន​សមត្ថភាព ខាងការសរសេរអក្ខរាវិរុទ្ធខ្មែរ និងសមត្ថ​ភាព​ខាងការ​វិភាគ​អក្សរសិល្ប៍ខ្មែរ ដោយអានសាចុះសាឡើង នូវសៀវភៅណែនាំលំហាត់សរសេរ​តាមអាន របស់លោក ទីវ អុល និង សៀវភៅ​ណែនាំលំហាត់​អត្ថាធិប្បាយអក្សរសិល្ប៍ខ្មែរ ​របស់លោក លាង ហាប់អាន។
នាពេលសង្គ្រាម ក្នុងរវាងឆ្នាំ ១៩៧០-១៩៧៥ ខ្ញុំបានចូលរៀននៅមហាវិទ្យាល័យមួយនៅទីក្រុងភ្នំពេញ និង​បន្តស្នាក់នៅជាមួយព្រះសង្ឃ ក្នុងវត្តមួយក្នុងក្រុង។ នាថ្ងៃឈប់សំរាក ខ្ញុំតែងតែ​សម្ងំនៅលើកុដិលោក ហើយកំសាន្ត​ជាមួយសៀវភៅដែលខ្ចីពីបណ្ណាល័យបារាំង (Maison de France) និងបណ្ណាល័យ អង់គ្លេ​ស (British Council) ឬក៏សៀវភៅដែលខ្ញុំជួលពីតូបលក់​សៀវភៅនានា។ ទីក្រុងភ្នំពេញ ច្រើនតែរងការគប់គ្រាប់​បែក នៅ​ថ្ងៃឈប់សំរាក។ ក្នុង​ស្ថានភាពអសន្តិសុខបែបនេះ ខ្ញុំ​ដាក់​ផែនការអានយ៉ាង​ម៉ឺងម៉ាត់ សំដៅជៀស​វាង​​កុំឲ្យខ្ញុំចេញ​ទៅទីប្រជុំជននានា ដូចជា រោងកុន កីឡាដ្ឋាន ឬទីផ្សារ។ ក្នុងចំណោមអ្នក​និពន្ធទាំង​ឡាយ​សម័យនោះ អ្នកនិពន្ធដែលខ្ញុំចូលចិត្តជាងគេ គឺលោក នួន ឃឿន លោក ​ប៉ាន់ សុធីរ និង លោក សុទ្ធ ប៉ូលីន។ ក្រៅ​ពី​នោះ ខ្ញុំបានទទួលយកសៀវភៅ “ម​នោមយិទ្ធិ” របស់លោក ស៊ា ប៊ុនភេង ជាគ្រូដឹកនាំ សំរាប់ជួយបង្ហាញផ្លូវកសាងជីវិត​​ឲ្យ​មានជោគជ័យ និងជួយផ្តល់កម្លាំងចិត្ត​​ឲ្យរឹងមាំល្មមនឹងធន់ទ្រាំការលំបាក ក្នុងការឆ្លងកាត់សម័យសង្រ្គាមដ៏​គួរឲ្យធុញថប់និងភ័យរន្ធត់​​។ ដោយប្រតិបត្តិតាមការណែនាំនៃសៀវភៅនេះ ខ្ញុំបានបណ្តុះ​នូវ ភាព​អំណត់ ភាពស្ងប់ស្ងៀម និងភាពមោះមុត។ ការហ្វឹកហាត់នេះ មានឥទ្ធិពលលើអត្តចរឹកខ្ញុំពេញមួយជីវិត។
នៅក្រោយរបបខ្មែរក្រហម ក្នុងបណ្តាឆ្នាំ៨០ សៀវភៅភាសារុស្សីជាច្រើន ត្រូវបានគេបកប្រែជាភាសា​ខ្មែរ ហើយបោះពុម្ពចែកផ្សាយដោយ មជ្ឈមណ្ឌលវប្បធម៌​សហភាពសូវៀត នៅទីក្រុងភ្នំពេញ។ ខ្ញុំ​ចូល​ចិត្តអាន​ជីវប្រត្តិវីរៈបុរស​សហភាពសូវៀត ក្នុងនោះ រឿង“មនុស្សពិត” និយាយ​ពីវីរភាព​ដ៏​ខ្ពង់​ខ្ពស់ ​របស់​ជនពិការ​​ម្នាក់​ ដែលជាអ្នកបើកបរយន្ត​ហោះ​ចំបាំង។ សៀវភៅនេះបំផុសឡើង នូវអំណាចដ៏មហិមានៃការតាំងចិត្ត(អធិដ្ឋាន) ដែលជាគុណភាពពិសេស នាំឲ្យវីរៈបុរសរូបនេះសំរេចជោគជ័យខ្ពស់ហួសពី​មនុស្សធម្មតា​​អាចធ្វើបាន។ ក្នុងបណ្តាឆ្នាំ៩០​​ ខ្ញុំបានអានជារឿយៗនូវកាសែតបាងកកប៉ុស្តិ៍ ដែលលោកទីប្រឹក្សាធនា​​គារជាតិនៃកម្ពុជា បានប្រគល់ឲ្យខ្ញុំ ​បន្ទាប់ពីលោកបានអានរួច។ ក្នុងផ្នែកធនាគារនិងហិរញ្ញវត្ថុ ខ្ញុំបានតាម​​ដានយ៉ាងជាប់លាប់នូវ​អត្ថបទដែលបានចុះផ្សាយជាបន្តបន្ទាប់ ស្តីអំពីការវិវត្តន៍នៃការកែរចនា​សម្ព័ន្ធ និង​​ការ​រៀបចំផ្ទេរការដឹកនាំទៅឲ្យជំនាន់ថ្មី​ នៃធនាគារធំពីរ​ដែលកំពុងប្រកួតប្រជែងគ្នា គឺធនាគារបាងកកនិង​​ធនាគារកសិករថៃ។ លើសពីនេះទៀត ខ្ញុំ​បានយកចិត្ត​ទុកដាក់​អានសៀវភៅ​ជំនាញមួយចំនួន​​ខាង​​ធនា​គារ​​និង​ហិរញ្ញវត្ថុ​​។​ សៀវភៅ​ទាំង​នេះ​ មិន​មាន​លក់​នៅកម្ពុជា​ទេ ប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំអាចរកទិញបានក្នុងពេលដែលខ្ញុំ​ធ្វើដំណើរទៅក្រៅប្រទេសជាញឹកញាប់ ដើម្បីចូលរួមសិក្សាក្នុងវគ្គបណ្តុះបណ្តាលរយៈ​ពេល​ខ្លីទាំងឡាយ​។ ការបណ្តុះ​បណ្តាល​​ទាំងឡាយ និងការអានដ៏ជាប់លាប់ នូវអត្ថ​បទ​កាសែត​និង​សៀវភៅ បានពង្រឹងការងារខ្ញុំជា​មន្រ្តីធនាគារកណ្តាល ពង្រឹងចំណេះ​ភាសាអង់គ្លេស និងជួយរៀបចំខ្លួនខ្ញុំ សំរាប់ឈាន​ទៅ​បំរើការ​ក្នុងអង្គការ​អន្តរ​ជាតិនៅឯបរទេស។
ចាប់ពីចុងឆ្នាំ​២០០០ ពេលដែលខ្ញុំធ្វើការនៅក្រៅប្រទេស ខ្ញុំបានអានសៀវភៅផ្សេងៗ​មួយចំនួនទៀត។ សៀវ​ភៅ“ដឹកនាំដោយស្ងៀមស្ងាត់” របស់លោកសូសែហ្វ បាដារ៉ុកកូ បានផ្ដល់នូវការយល់ដឹងថ្មី អំពីន័យនៃ​​អ្នកដឹកនាំ។ អ្នកនិពន្ធរូបនេះបានណែនាំខ្ញុំឲ្យ​យកចិត្តទុកដាក់​លើការដឹកនាំក្នុង​ន័យ​ទូ​លាយ ពោលគឺ ​​ការដឹកនាំដែលកើតឡើងក្នុងចំណោម​ជនសាមញ្ញទាំងឡាយ ដែលកំពុងប្រឹងប្រែងមិនឈប់ឈរក្នុងការ​​កែឆ្នៃបរិយាកាសការងារ​​ឲ្យ​ល្អប្រសើរឡើង និងក្នុងការដោះស្រាយការលំបាកស្មុគ​ស្មាញទាំងឡាយ នៅក្នុងកន្លែងធ្វើការ នៅក្នុងគ្រួសារ ឬ​​នៅ​ក្នុងសង្គម ទោះបីពួកគេពុំបាន​ពលិកម្មជីវិតដើម្បីបង្ហាញនូវវីរភាពក្តី។ លោកបាដារ៉ុកកូ ហៅពពួកជន​​ទាំងនោះថា “អ្នកដឹកនាំស្ងៀមស្ងាត់”​។ ដោយពួកគេមិនមាន​ឈ្មោះល្បីជា​សាធារណៈ យើងពិបាកនឹងរក​​​ពួកគេឃើញ។ ដូច្នេះ ចាំបាច់ត្រូវ​ប្រឹងប្រែងពិនិត្យសំគាល់ឲ្យ​ហ្មត់ចត់ ទើបរក​ឃើញនូវពពួកជនដែលមានសក្តា​នុ​ភាពជាអ្នក​ដឹកនាំស្ងៀមស្ងាត់ ដែលកំពុងកប់លាយឡំជាមួយ​ជន​សាមញ្ញធម្មតា។ ចំពោះស្ថាប័ន​ទាំង​ឡាយ អ្នកគ្រប់គ្រងគប្បីជួយផ្តល់ការគាំទ្រទាំង​បច្ចេកទេសនិងទាំង​ស្មារតី​ដល់ពពួកជនដែលមានសក្តានុភាព​បែប​នេះ សំដៅបង្កើតនូវអ្នកដឹកនាំស្ងៀមស្ងាត់ឲ្យបានចំនួនច្រើន នៅតាមស្ថាប័ន​និមួយៗ។ បើមានការគាំទ្រពីចង្កោម​នៃ​អ្នកដឹកនាំស្ងៀមស្ងាត់ដ៏ច្រើន អ្នកគ្រប់គ្រងស្ថាប័ន នឹងមានលទ្ធភាពសម្បូរបែប ដើម្បីជំរុញកម្មវិធីការងាររបស់ស្ថាប័ន​ ឲ្យឈានដល់គោលដៅដោយជោគជ័យ។ ដទៃពីនេះ សៀវភៅមួយទៀត​ដែលខ្ញុំចូលចិត្តអានគឺ “ប្រវត្តិ​សាស្រ្តកម្ពុជា” របស់លោក អាដេម៉ារដ៍ ឡឺក្លែរ ដែល​បានបក​ប្រែជាភាសាខ្មែរ និងបោះពុម្ពផ្សាយដោយ ​មជ្ឈមណ្ឌល​ឯកសារកម្ពុជា។ សៀវភៅនេះបានពង្រឹងនូវការយល់ដឹងរបស់ខ្ញុំ អំពីប្រវត្តិអតីតកាល​នៃកម្ពុជា ដែលរងជាបន្តបន្ទាប់នូវឥទ្ធិពលអាក្រក់ នៃចលនានយោបាយ​រវាងប្រទេសក្នុងតំបន់។ ឥទ្ធិពល​នេះ នៅ​តែអន្ទោល​តាមកម្ពុជា រហូត​មកដល់
បច្ចុប្បន្ន។ បន្ថែមលើស្នាដៃរបស់លោក នួន ឃឿន និង អ្នក​និពន្ធ​ដទៃ​ទៀត ការសិក្សាសៀវភៅ“ប្រវត្តិសាស្រ្តកម្ពុជា”​ ជួយឲ្យយើងយល់នូវស្ថានភាព​នយោបាយដ៏លំបាក​ស្មុគ​ស្មាញ ​ដែលកម្ពុជាកំពុងប្រឈមមុខ​​ នាបច្ចុប្បន្ននិង​ទៅអនាគត។
សរុបសេចក្តីមក ការអានជាកត្តាមួយក្នុងបណ្តាកត្តាដទៃទៀត ​ដែលនាំឲ្យជីវិតមានជោគជ័យ នេះបើ​​តាម​ការពិសោធន៍​របស់ខ្ញុំ។ រាល់លើកដែលខ្ញុំបានអានសៀវភៅមួយ ខ្ញុំតែងតែ​ទទួលបាននូវ​ចំណេះ​ដឹងថ្មី។ វារឹតតែមានប្រយោជន៍ថែមទៀត បើខ្ញុំអានសៀវភៅណាមួយសាចុះសាឡើងច្រើនដង និងអនុវត្តការ​​ណែនាំដោយហ្មត់ចត់​និងព្យាយាម។ ប្រសិនបើគ្មានការរៀនសូត្រ និងការអានទេ ជោគវាស​នារបស់ខ្ញុំនឹង​​​មិនខុសប្លែកពីជោគវាសនា​នៃកុមារទាំងឡាយក្នុងភូមិខ្ញុំ ពោលគឺ ដល់ធំឡើងនឹងត្រូវធ្វើស្រែនិង​​ធ្វើស្ករ​​ត្នោត អស់មួយជីវិត។ ខ្ញុំបានកសាងខ្លួនឲ្យខុសប្លែកពី​មិត្តភ័ក្តិ​ទាំងឡាយ​ជំនាន់​ខ្ញុំ ដោយសារ​ទម្លាប់ប្រឹងប្រែង​​រៀនសូត្រ អានសៀវភៅ និងធ្វើការយ៉ាងម៉ឺងម៉ាត់។ លើសពីនេះទៀត ខ្ញុំមានសំ​ណាងល្អ ពោលគឺ ខ្ញុំមានឱកាសបានរៀនសូត្រ ទោះបីខ្ញុំកើតនៅជនបទដាច់ស្រយាលដែលគ្មានសាលារៀនក្ដី ហើយថែមទាំងខ្ញុំអាចរស់​​រាន​មានជីវិត ​ឆ្លងកាត់ការលំបាកនិងឧបសគ្គជាច្រើន រាប់ទាំងការលំបាកដ៏ធ្ងន់ធ្ងរ នាសម័យសង្រ្គាមនិងសម័យរបបប្រល័យពូជ​​សាសន៍ ប៉ុល ពត ផង៕


Reading from Refugee Camps to International Career
Hor Soneath (Staff at the World Bank Group)
Mr. HOR Soneath spent 13 years living in refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian borders before repatriating in 1992. He is currently a Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank in Washington DC. Before that he worked for 12 years at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, where he was the Head of the Cambodia Office of IFC (for the last 3 years) providing advisory services to the government to improve business regulations and promote the growth of private sector. Outside of Cambodia, he has worked in the Philippines, Lao PDR and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia on similar activities. He holds an MA in Development Economics from Fordham University in New York City and BS in Business Administration from Berea College in Kentucky.
My interests in reading started in 1981 when my family was living in Nong Chan, a refugee camp under the control of the non-communist resistance forces loyal to the late-Mr. Son San (Cambodia’s first Central Bank Governor and a former Prime Minister)—known as the Khmer People National Liberation Front (KPNLF). Amidst occasional mortar-shells and factional fighting, sometimes my father would bring home political propaganda magazines of the KPNLF and I would read them from cover to cover, over and over again as books or any reading documents were scare. Some other times, he would obtain a few books from the 1960s and 970s in Khmer, which I would read from cover to cover, and all over again.
Of those, three books stood out and I still remember its contents to these days. The first one was “Westward Journey”, a geopolitical analysis of Vietnam ambition and inevitable march to its western neighboring countries of Cambodia and Lao due to its population and economic imperatives. It was a concise and well written book (in early 1970s) by Mr. Nou Khoeun, a former high school teacher in Siem Reap province. Because of Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia and her significant control over Lao during the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Khoeun analysis resonated very well with the youth of my generation.
The second book that influenced me deeply was “Khmer Civilization” by Mrs. Troeng Ngear (in 1960s), a high school teacher in Battambang. It was a book about Cambodian history and civilization from the prehistorical period to modern days of Independent from France. The structure of the book, the writing, and instilment of Khmer pride was done so well that I have not found new generation of Cambodian writers could match that of Mrs. Troeng Ngear. This book made many readers to be proud of being Khmer. Besides the great Angkorean temples, she pointed out that during the 11th century, Cambodia already had universities and network of hospitals to care for its citizen. Even bridges built during that time was of superb quality that the can be used still these days. I remembered most of the contents of the books, which served me well later when I was in secondary schools as many of the topics in the books were covered as core curriculum in my school. I didn’t have to study hard for this as I knew about them five to six years earlier.
The third book that I really liked was a history textbook for 9th grade published in 1960s targeting students who had to take exam to progress from secondary to high school in the Francophone educational system. The book covered a wide range of historical themes, from the beginning of Mesopotamia to the Indian empire, to different Chinese dynasties, to Mongolian empire, the two World Wars, ending with the different anti-colonial power revolutions of 1950s and early 1960s. I was so drawn to this history textbooks as I was feeling as if I were reading novels of different time frames. I still remember many of the texts in the book and that had served me well in school later on and even in casual discussions up until these days. In fact, when I was in middle school, I didn’t have to read any of my class notes as all the topics covered were what I had read five or six years earlier. Reading habit was certainly helpful for my studies during those times.
I also read other books that I could put my hands on. These include classic ones such as Ramayana and Cambodian great novels such as Pka Sropoan (Fading Flower), Kolap Pailin (Rose of Pailin), Sophat, and Mealear Duong Chet (Beloved Mealear). As a young boy I didn’t find Ramayana entertaining as the names and places were so mythical for me and the whole storyline was so concentrating on love affairs of the protagonists at the expenses of lives and resources of all the people in the country (a similar feeling emerged when I read classic Greek such as the Zeus in college in the US some 20 years later). What a senseless waste of resources and human’s lives! Because I didn’t have anything to read, I kept going until I finished from cover to cover.
I found mainstream Cambodian novels, many of which became standard reading books for middle school Khmer Literature classes, sweet and entertaining. Nevertheless, these stories didn’t stay with me for long. Rather, in addition to history of great Angkorean period, it was the stories of the rise and falls of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empires and the Mongolian Empire that captivated my young mind. I was more interested in the affairs of the states, war strategies and their executions, and betrayal between different political and historical personalities.
I also read a number of religious books. Because my parents are devoted Buddhists all their lives and my father was the chairperson of a Pagoda Management Committee in the temple in Site B camp, he had access to books on Buddhism. I read Buddhism texts on the 5, 8, and 10 precepts as well as other books that were full of miracles attributed to Buddha. At the same time, I was observing daily practices of Buddhist monks and clergymen/women in relations to those principles. In most cases, I found significant gaps between what was taught and what people practiced. I became a bit delusional. In turned, I began reading bibles as Christian organizations made the Old Testament and the New Testament easily accessible by refugees (including children at my age). What I found in these two versions of the bibles were abundant of miracles, similar to that of Buddhism, which I came to question their trustworthiness. To ascertain that I really got a sense of what Christianity was like, I went to a church near my place to see how it was practiced. What I saw was a lot of singing and dancing and retelling of the stories and miracles I read in the bibles. After going to the churches for a few times, I came to a conclusion that you could only expect that much from organized religions. I was too much of a perfectionist youngster at the time. I was resolve to pick good moral teachings from these religions, and try to practice as much I could but I wouldn’t profess strong affinity to any one of them. In the end, I prematurely became a secular person.
With my interests moving away from reading religion books, another main source of my understanding of moral and social norms came from Srey Hetopates, translated from Sanskrit (told as short stories, but one within another—like the 1001 Arabian Night—since the 5th century AD in India) by Venerable Pang Khat, a very well respected and learned Buddhist monk who had written other philosophical books in 1960s and 1970s. The books instilled a sense of morals, responsibilities, and sensibility in me more so than religious books that I read. I believe the style of short story-telling by Srey Hetopates was more effective in communicating the main essence of each of the messages. Reflecting back to these days, I’m still amazed by the literature creativity of Indian authors of the time (maybe that was the only sensible way to communicate message given that the stories were told centuries before the invention of the printing press).
Another book that my father brought home was the one on Khmer Supernatural Magic (Vettamon Khmer), published in either in 1972-73, during the intense time of military struggle between the Khmer Rouge and the Khmer Republic under Marshal Lon Nol. It was a book that full of supernatural power purported to protect believers from any harm way during fighting. This book received blessing from Marshal Lon Nol himself because he was such a suppositions person, believing in this kind of magic. The book made so many outrageous claims of supernatural power of the commanders and army under Lon Nol. I wondered if we were so great, why the Khmer rouge could march to Phnom Penh during New Year day in 1975 so easily. Up on reflection, I could see why Cambodia was so weak and vulnerable as it was led by such incompetent people who relied less on logic and more on black magic to make policies.
Of note is that, up to this point (I was around 15 years old by then), my readings were all in Khmer, as my English skill was at elementary level. During my adolescent life, by 1989 my English was a bit better, so I started pushing myself to read English texts or books. Yet, books were still scarce at the time. By then I was working as a teacher where my boss was a Cambodian-American man who was high up in the leadership of FUNCINPEC (a royalist group loyal to the late then-Price Norodom Sihanouk). He had access to many political briefings and reports that he dumped them after reading. At the end of the day, I would go to his office trash bin to pick the report that I wanted to read. The objectives of my reading then were twofold—to be up-to-date of political situation at the time and to improve my reading comprehension. My boss’s dustbin became a main source of my reading treasure and an introduction to political analysis.
Since then, my reading has been mostly English—be they newspapers, reports, or books. Most of what I read in English were not novels or fictions. Because I lost most of my teenage and adolescent life to the wars, I felt that I had to concentrate my reading on serious writings like history, biographies, economic, politics, and science (mostly cosmology), and technology.
Comparing with many kids of my age and of similar life experience during that unpleasant time of Cambodia history, I could say that I was among a group of outliers who enjoyed reading. And that made a difference academically. I found that even at primary school level, I was a better writer than many of my peer in my school. I remembered that in early 1983, when I was in 4th grade, other teachers in my school came looking for me as they heard from my teacher that I was among the best writers in my school.
I learned a fair amount of information and knowledge from reading, even under the circumstances I was living. I knew then that my general education was above that of many of my friends in the camps that I’d lived during the 1980s and 1990s. I could have made use of the knowledge for betterment of myself by communicating what I know to my friends, teachers, supervisors or people of authorities, which would have filled them with a good impression about me. But, as always, I was (still am) a modest and simple guy who did not really have any ambition in life. I was reading for the sake of gaining knowledge, not prestige or social advancement. Rather, my quiet but fun loving nature, at times, led some of my acquaintances and supervisors in the camps led others to discount me from the first impression. My unassuming character still adversely affects my professional life to these days.
I base this assessment on some counterfactuals in my life. In Site Two camp where I moved there alone in 1991 (with no money or relative) in search of opportunities to pursue higher education, I used my good English skills to my advantage. After trekking more than 300 kilometers through minefields and jungles infested with bandits, I found out that the school that I wanted to get into (the Cambodian School of Law and Public Administration) had already commenced its program three months earlier. I tried to overcome my shyness and introvert to convince the dean of the school that I was up to tasks to pursue university education even though I didn’t have proper high school education. My boldness and strong determination convinced the dean to accept me. He was not disappointed as I was among the 5 students (out of 100) who passed the first semester exam in economics (only a week after I was admitted).
Another example was that I really liked the course on Southeast Asian history. Because I read history textbooks 10 years earlier in other camps, this course was like a refresher for me. I normally hang around after class for a chance to talk to my lecturer about issues and topics beyond what were taught in the class. My lecture was impressed by the breadth and depth of my knowledge about history that she loaned me books and brought me the Nation or Bangkok Post—the two prominent English newspapers in Thailand—for me to improve my knowledge. She has become my friend and mentor to these days.
Drawing from these experiences, what I’ve been telling my friends, colleagues, and daughters is that read anything that comes into your way and as much as you can. Reading will help improve one’s critical thinking and writing skills as well as shape one’s behavior. For introverts like me, I would like to encourage you to make use whatever you learn or know from reading to communicate and make friends. Keeping knowledge to yourself does not optimize your potential as you need social capital, along with intellectual one, to grow.

Hooked to Read by Family Culture
Ung Bun Ang (Investment Specialist)

The more I think about my reading, the more I admire my dad for his forward thinking and his subtle influence on me. He had only primary schooling, but our home in Battambang city had a tiny section was littered with books, magazines, and newspapers. Dad did not encourage me to read, but I was somehow hooked into reading at about the age of 10 years old, if I remember correctly. I would read those books and magazines from cover to cover, often all over them again and again. I would remember many lines by heart. Perhaps I did not have anything else better to do.

That home collection included titles “Sim, neak bor lan” (Sim, the driver); “Meul Krouy Phan” (Look Back) by Biv Chhay Leang; “Moha Chour Noev Tul Den” (Great Thief at the Border), Kitik Lauk, “Tales of One Thound and One Nights” (Tale ofScheherazade), Prochum Reoung Preng Khmer, Thon Chey, Mahatama Gandhi, Reatrey Thngai Sav Magazines, Angkor Wat Newspapers, etc. I now realize these publications has to larger extent shaped my thinking on social justice in all these years up to now.

In my teenage years, in addition to the prescribed literatures in the secondary school curriculum, I enjoyed other memorable works by Iev Keous on Khmer grammar, Venerable Pang Khat’s Srey Hetou batesh, Ajar’s Khieu Chum’s Norok Reur Suor” (Heaven or Earth), just to name a few. I would spend my pocket money on all kinds of publications, especially newspapers.

Now, there are many titles waiting on the shelves for me to read – many on behavioral economics. Unfortunately, at my later years, there seems to be many better things to do besides reading, like writing Campro emails, for instance.


Books as My Parents
Chan Sophal (Economist)

Mr. CHAN Sophal, currently Director of the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS),
has 24 years of professional work experience, mostly in analytical work with
research institutes (CDRI), international agencies (World Bank and UNWFP),
private sector (Leopard Capital and Fintrac Inc.), and Cambodian government (MAFF). He received an MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of London, Imperial College at Wye, United Kingdom, in 2000.

The book that influenced me the most in my boyhood in the late 1980s is “Will Power” translated by Sea Bunpheng as “មនោមយិទ្ធិ”. I took it as a training handbook, actually. I tried very seriously to practice all kinds of mind and physical exercises recommended in the book. Those include meditation, concentration, behavior control and morning physical exercise. As a result, for so many years I had a good one hour of exercise virtually every morning. The positive impact remains till now on both my body and mind. A major learning from the book (Part II) is about setting goal. I found it very helpful.

Much of my childhood was marred by the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979). I could only start school when I was 9 years old. In the early 1980s, there was hardly any food, not to mention books. But my mom, as a school teacher in Phnom Penh since 1960, tried to recollect some pre-KR textbooks for her children. I was reading them daily and all over again and again as there was nothing else to read. I loved them as they had much flavor than the ones produced by the socialist regime for school children. I can even remember some poems in those textbooks till now.

Around the mid-1980s there were hand written copies of novel books that could be rented from hand to hand. I would read some of them without lunch sometimes. (As they rented per piece, those who hand-copied the books made quite many out of one previously printed piece.)

In the late 1980s, I could go to Orussey and Phsar Thmey markets and would spend the little money I saved on only books. I tended to prefer serious books to novels. Admittedly I could never read all that I bought. That’s been the case till now.

In retrospect, growing up I benefited tremendously from reading. I didn’t have a father (killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1977) and my mom was a person who didn’t talk much. Every adult around me was traumatized by the KR and kept talking about all kinds of nightmare they experienced in the KR time. So I’d say I used books as my parents for advice.

Read from a Farm Boy to Be a Lawyer
Ly Tayseng (Lawyer)

In 1995, a farm boy had left his hometown with one bicycle, one pillow, one blanket, two sets of clothes, few books and few bucks in his pocket. He had been struggling to save monies to study at the Royal University of Laws and Economics but he had determined to set aside 20% of his monies to buy newspapers and books to read. For the first two years he could barely have enough savings to buy any books because his daily subsistence of around $4 per week was from his farmer parents’ allowance.

In 1997 he started to earn personal income of about $30 bucks per month as an allowance from a godfather through an orphanage association. That student kept buying copied and secondhand books and newspapers to read every month by using 20% of that income plus some saving from the weekly allowance from his parents. He could not buy enough books for his readings at home so he stayed most of the time at the University library. He was known as a student who was the last one to leave from the library and help the librarians to close the doors. I went to all big librarians in the city to find good books to read.

From 1998 to 2000 he increased his income by having part time jobs and earned monthly average 120 bucks and he spent 20% of that monies to buy books, newspapers and magazines.

In 2000 on his graduation and he earned a scholarship to study overseas, his father needed to hire a min truck to transport his books from the orphanage association where he stayed, back to his hometown. He collected around 500 copied, secondhand and original books.

During his overseas study from 2000-2003 he kept spending 20% of his income which has increased around 10 times of his previous incomes and bought in average 5 original books and 10 copied books per month. After two-and-a-half year overseas study, he collected around 300 original and copied books and import them back to his home.

From 2004 to 2010 he kept spending around 20% of his incomes which he could buy an average of 20 books per month for reading. His incomes have increased twice the amount of scholarship granted by a foreign government.

Now in 2015 he is still committed to spending 20% of his incomes to buy books to read and he could buy in average 150 books per month if he uses the set aside sum as his income has increased around five times of the previous income. He keeps reading in average two books per month and his reading list is very very long. He still has hundreds of books which he has not yet read. Now he is not struggling to save monies to buy books but he is struggling to have enough time to finish his unread books. His incomes have long bypassed his ability to buy and read the books.

The morale of this story is that the more knowledge you have the more monies you earn. Reading books and learning from experiences of others will drastically increase your income and build up your life in the way you desire to be. So students should start to adopt reading habit from their early age. For elder people, they should continue to have reading habit as well. If they stop reading and developing their personal capacity. It is also the end of your income and personal development.


Establish Reading Habit before Birth
Ms. Khieu Mealy (Lawyer)

I could say that my family is a bookworm. I read whenever I could but unfortunately I missed reading from 1975 to 1980. After that time, I reestablished my reading habit.

I want to share my experience in term of establish a reading habit for our children from the young age. When I was six month pregnant, I read out loud to my foetuses, according to a book I bought in the State, until they were born. Then I kept reading bed time stories to them until they told me that they could read by themselves. As mother, it doesn’t matter how exhausted I was but I found time to read to them. Based on that best practice my two kids become the bookworms and one turns out to be a young author.


Read to Imagine
Vong Socheata

A democracy and governance specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Cambodia. Her work focuses on elections, political processes and civic participation. Socheata is currently a board member of the Transparency International Cambodia. She is also currently a board member of Southeast Asia Development Organization. Throughout her career, Ms. Vong has established a professional network with national and local level officers of the Cambodian government, leaders of political parties, civil society leaders and international development experts. Socheata holds a Bachelor degree of Social Sciences in International Relations and another Bachelor degree of Business Administration in Management. She is currently pursuing a Master of Social Sciences in International Relationship at the University of Cambodia.

វង្ស សុជាតា ជា​អតីត​សិស្ស​ជ័យលាភី​អក្សរសាស្ត្រ​ខ្មែរ​ទូទាំង ប្រទេស​ឆ្នាំ​ ១៩៩៩

ខ្ញុំ​មាន​សេចក្តី​រីករាយ​យ៉ាង​ខ្លាំង​ដែល​​រាជរដ្ឋាភិបាល​កម្ពុជា​បាន​ចេញ​អនុក្រឹត្យ​កំណត់​​យក​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​ ១១ ខែ​មីនា​រៀងរាល់​ឆ្នាំ​ជា​ទិវា​ជាតិ​អំណាន​ដើម្បី​បណ្តុះ​ទម្លាប់​អាន ជំរុញ​វប្បធម៌​អាន​លើក​កម្ពស់​សមត្ថភាព​អាន និង​ការ​តែង​និពន្ធ​ដើម្បី​រួម​ចំណែក​ការពារ​ និង​ពង្រឹង​វប្បធម៌​ខ្មែរ​។
ជាច្រើន​ទសវត្សរ៍​មក​ហើយ​ដែល​ប្រជាជន​ខ្មែរ​ភាគច្រើន​ពុំ​មាន​ទម្លាប់​អាន​ទាំង​ក្មេង​ទាំង​ចាស់​។ មាន​មូលហេតុ​ជាច្រើន​ដែលបណ្តាល​ឲ្យ​អត្រា​ទាប​នៃ​ការ​អាន​នេះ​ចេះ​តែ​បន្ត​មាន​។ ទោះ​ជា​យ៉ាងណា​ក៏ដោយ​ក៏​វា​មិន​ទាន់​យឺត​ពេល​នោះ​ទេ​ក្នុង​ការ​ចាប់
ផ្តើមអាន​។ ប្រភព​នៃ​ការ​អាន​ដំបូង​គឺ​ចេញ​ពី​ខ្លួនឯង​ហើយ​ក៏​មាន​ការ​ជំរុញ​លើក​ទឹកចិត្ត​ពី​ឪពុក​ម្តាយ លោកគ្រូ​អ្នកគ្រូ មិត្តភក្តិ
​ជាដើម​។ អត្ថប្រយោជន៍​នៃ​ការ​អាន​មាន​ច្រើន​ឥត​គណនា​ហើយ​អត្ថប្រយោជន៍​ទាំង​នេះ​មាន​ភាព​ខុសៗ​គ្នា​អាស្រ័យ​ទៅ​តាម​អ្នក​អាន​ម្នាក់ៗ​។
ខ្ញុំ​សូម​ចែករំលែក​បទពិសោធ​ផ្ទាល់​របស់​ខ្ញុំ​។ ខ្ញុំ​ចូលចិត្ត​អាន​សៀវភៅ​តាំងពី​នៅ​កុមារ​។ ពេល​ខ្ញុំ​នៅ​ទី​ណា​ក៏ដោយ​ខ្ញុំ​តែងតែ​យក​សៀវភៅ​តាម​ជាប់​ខ្លួន​ជានិច្ច​។ ខ្ញុំ​ចូលចិត្ត​អាន​សៀវភៅ​វិទ្យាសាស្ត្រ​សង្គម​ច្រើន​ជាង​វិទ្យាសាស្ត្រ​ពិត​។ ខ្ញុំ​ចូលចិត្ត​អាន​សៀវភៅ​អក្សរសាស្ត្រ​សៀវភៅ​ប្រលោមលោក និង​កំណាព្យ​។ មូលហេតុ​ដែល​ខ្ញុំ​ចូលចិត្ត​អាន​ប្រភេទ​សៀវភៅ​ទាំង​នេះ​គឺ​ដោយសារ​វា​ឆ្លុះ​បញ្ចាំង​ពី​តថភាព​សង្គម​នៃ​សម័យកាល​នីមួយៗ​។ ការ​អាន​សៀវភៅ​ទាំង​នេះ​បាន​ផ្តល់​អត្ថប្រយោជន៍​ដល់​ខ្ញុំ​ជាច្រើន​។
ក្នុង​ឆ្នាំ​ ១៩៩៩ ខ្ញុំ​បាន​ចូល​រៀន​កម្រិត​មធ្យម​សិក្សា​ទុតិយភូមិ​នៅ​វិទ្យាល័យ​សម្តេច​ឪ​ខេត្ត​បន្ទាយមានជ័យ​។ នៅ​ក្នុង​ឆ្នាំ​ដដែល​នោះ​ខ្ញុំ​បាន​ប្រឡង​ជាប់​ជ័យលាភី​អក្សរសាស្ត្រ​ខែ្មរ​លេខ​ប្រាំ​ពីរ​ក្នុង​ចំណោម​ដប់​រូប​នៅ​ទូទាំង​ប្រទេស​។ ខ្ញុំ​មាន​ក្តី​រំភើប​ណាស់​ដែល​ទទួល​បាន​កិត្តិយស​នោះ​។ ជ័យលាភី​អក្សរសាស្ត្រ​ខែ្មរ​បាន​អនុញ្ញាត​ឲ្យ​ខ្ញុំ​អាច​ជ្រើសរើស​មហាវិទ្យាល័យ​មួយ​ជា​ស្វ័យប្រវត្តិ​ដោយ​មិន​ចាំបាច់​ប្រឡង​​ចូល​នោះ​ទេ​។ នោះ​ហើយ​ជា​មូលហេតុ​ចម្បង​ដែល​ជំរុញ​ទឹកចិត្ត​ដល់​ខ្ញុំ​ក្នុង​ការ​បន្ត​ការ​សិក្សា​នៅ​ទីក្រុង​ភ្នំពេញ​។ ក្នុង​ន័យ​នេះ​ខ្ញុំ​ចង់​បញ្ជាក់​ថា​ការ​អាន​បាន​ធ្វើ​ឲ្យ​ជីវិត​របស់​ខ្ញុំ​ប្រែប្រួល​ជា​វិជ្ជមាន​ដែល​ខ្ញុំ​ចងចាំ​មិន​អាច​បំភ្លេច​បាន​។
ការ​អាន​ក៏​បាន​ផ្តល់​តម្លៃ​ដ៏ល្អ​មួយ​ទៀត​ដល់​រូប​ខ្ញុំ​គឺ​ភាព​ស្រមើស្រមៃ។ តាមរយៈ​ការ​អាន​បាន​ធ្វើឲ្យ​ខ្ញុំ​មាន​ភាព​ស្រមើស្រមៃ​ពី​ទីកន្លែង ធម្មជាតិ មនុស្ស សង្គម​ពី​អតីត បច្ចុប្បន្ន និង​ពី​អនាគត​។ ការ​ស្រមើស្រមៃ​ទាំង​ឡាយ​ពុំ​បាន​ក្លាយ​ជា​ការពិត​ទាំងអស់​នោះ​ទេ ​តែ​ការ​ស្រមើស្រមៃ​ទាំង​នោះ​បាន​ធ្វើ​ឲ្យ​ខ្ញុំ​មាន​ភាព​សប្បាយ​រីករាយ ភាព​ស្ងប់ស្ងៀម និង​ភាព​វិជ្ជមាន​នៅក្នុង​ចិត្ត​។ នៅពេល​ដែល​ខ្ញុំ​បាន​មក​ដល់​ទីក្រុង​ភ្នំពេញ​ជា​លើក​ដំបូង​ដើម្បី​បន្ត​ការ​សិក្សា​ថា្នក់​ឧត្តមសិក្សា ​ខ្ញុំ​នៅ​តែ​ឆ្លៀត​ពេល​អាន​សៀវភៅ​​ប្រលោម លោក​ជាច្រើន​។
ខ្ញុំ​នៅ​ចាំ​បាន​ថា​ខ្ញុំ​បាន​អាន​សៀវភៅ​ប្រលោម​លោក​មួយ​ដែល​មាន​ចំណង​ជើង​ថា”​ជ្រោះ​ភ្នំ​គូលែន” ​ដែល​និពន្ធ​ឡើង​ដោយ​លោក ស៊ុំ ឈុំ នៅ​អំឡុង​ទសវត្សរ៍​ទី​ ៦០ ​។ ខ្ញុំ​ចូលចិត្ត​អាន​សៀវភៅ​នោះ​ជា​ទីបំផុត​ដោយសារ​អ្នក​និពន្ធ​លោក​មាន​សិល្បៈ​ក្នុង​ការ​សរសេរ​ជា​លក្ខណៈ​ចិត្តសាស្ត្រ និង​អាថ៌កំបាំង​ហើយ​លោក​ក៏​បាន​ពិពណ៌នា​ពី​ទិដ្ឋភាព​ភ្នំ​គូលែន​ដែល​នៅ​សម័យ​នោះ​មាន​មនុស្ស​តិច​ណាស់​ដែល​បាន​ទៅ​ដល់​។
ក្រៅពី​ចូលចិត្ត​អាន​សៀវភៅ​ប្រលោម​លោក​ខ្ញុំ​ក៏​ចំណាយ​ពេលវេលា​អាន​សៀវភៅ​ផ្សេងៗ​ផង​ដែរ​។ នៅពេល​ដែល​ខ្ញុំ​បាន​ផ្លាស់​លំនៅ​មក​កាន់​ទីក្រុង​ភ្នំពេញ​ខ្ញុំ​ចំណាយ​ពេល​អាន​កាសែត​ដើម្បី​តាមដាន​ព្រឹត្តិកាណ៍​នយោបាយ​ និង​សង្គម​ទាំង​ក្នុងនិង​ក្រៅ
​ប្រទេស។ ការ​អាន​ពី​ព្រឹត្តិការណ៍​ទាំង​នេះ​បាន​ផ្តល់​អត្ថប្រយោជន៍​ដល់​ខ្ញុំ​ក្នុង​ការ​បង្កើន​ចំណេះដឹង​ផង និង​ជួយ​ដល់​ការងារ​របស់​ខ្ញុំ​ផង​ដែរ​។
ខ្ញុំ​សូម​លើក​ទឹកចិត្ត​ដល់​ប្អូនៗ​ជំនាន់​ក្រោយ​គួរ​ចំណាយ​​ពេលវេលា​ក្នុង​ការ​អាន​ឲ្យ​បាន​ច្រើន​។ ប្អូនៗ​គួរ​អាន​អ្វី​ដែល​ប្អូនៗ​ចូលចិត្ត​ទោះ​ជា​វិទ្យាសាស្ត្រ​ពិត​ក្តី ឬ​វិទ្យាសាស្ត្រ​សង្គម​ក្តី​។ ការ​អាន​មិន​សំដៅ​លើ​តែ​សៀវភៅ​មួយ​មុខ​ប៉ុណ្ណោះ​ទេ​។
សូម្បី​តែ​ការ​អាន​កាសែត និង​គេហទំព័រ​ផ្សេងៗ​ក៏​ជា​ប្រភព​ព័ត៌មាន​សំខាន់​ដែរ​។ ការ​អាន​ច្រើន​ជួយ​ដល់​ប្អូនៗ​ឲ្យ​ទទួល​បាន​ព័ត៌មាន​គ្រប់គ្រាន់​ដែល​អាច​ធ្វើឲ្យ​ប្អូនៗ​ចេះ​ពិចារណា ចេះ​ថ្លឹងថ្លែង​ពី​អ្វី​ដែល​ពិត​ឬ​មិន​ពិត​អ្វី​ដែល​សមហេតុ​ផល​ ឬ​មិន​សម​ហេតុផល​។ អត្ថប្រយោជន៍​នៃ​ការ​អាន​ក៏​ផ្តល់​ឱកាស​ដល់​ប្អូនៗ​ក្នុង​ការ​ចែករំលែក​ពី​អ្វី​ដែល​ប្អូនៗ​បាន​ដឹង​ទៅ​ដល់​ក្រុម​គ្រួសារ មិត្តភកិ្ត សហគមន៍ និង​ដល់​សង្គម​ជាតិ​ផង​ដែរ​៕


Which Books to Read?
Dyna Heng

Establishing reading habit is very important. At the same, choosing book to read is also essential. What books should we read? What is the world reading?

Indeed, one should select book based on his/her interest or the topic one wants to dig deep. At the same time, selecting books based on what the world or important people are reading can be helpful too. In the following, I would like to share some links that can be helpful in choosing books to read. For instance, the Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. Its list of the winners and their works (book title) is helpful in selecting a good book of your interest to read.

Pulitzer Prize Winner
Financial Time & Mckenzie Book of the Year
The Economist Book Reviews
New York Time Best Seller.

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