Although I am a south East Asian, being a Burmese citizen (that I am always proud of), to visit other countries even in the region, I am required to attain a visa in advance. Cambodia is one of the few countries the on-arrival visa service is granted to Burmese citizens as well.
Since it was my first time to Cambodia, like other countries’ visa process, I tried to make sure I had all the required documents with me – like my well-filled out visa application form, my internship contract, the printed emails from the office I will work for the next four months, the return air ticket to the US to prove I am not staying in Cambodia forever, my hotel reservation in Phnom Penh, the list of the contact persons there, etc. All were in one big large envelope and getting ready in my hand to show if the immigration offices asked.
Before I arrived here, my friends in Cambodia let me calm my anxiety down by saying – “The era of Genocide regime was over. Cambodia has already “moved on”. The newly re-built Cambodia does not make your life difficult.” They are not lies so far. I was welcomed to the kingdom through an easy visa process by “many” immigrant officers, wearing friendly smiles on their face, at the airport. I say “many” because it is many – more than ten officers at a single desk, which I do not complain because at least, it makes your visa process faster. They did not bother to ask me and other fellow visa applicants even a single question or to show a single document. All we need were just our passport, $ 20 visa fees, and one passport photo with a fill-up small sheet of application form we were distributed on the flight.
There are many reasons Cambodia has attracted me– its rich culture and its untouchable glorious past as Khmer empire flourished over the entire South East Asian region from 9th century to 13th century and its very adverse tragedy the nation suffered under the brutal Khmer rouge regime, led by Pol Pot in the 1970s. And on top of all, I am very much looking forward to see the “move on” part as well – to see how the country which has experienced glorious and tragic past has changed under the so-called multi party parliamentary democratic system, but actually, the political power has been only in a single party, Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and single man named Mr. Hun Seng, the Prime Minister and the head of the CPP, who has been ruling the country since the Genocide Pol Pot’s Communist Khmer regime was overthrown in 1979.
I was very eager to find out more of the land merching out of its nortorious past and feel anxious even to wait for several minutes for the visa approval at Phnom Penh airport.