Devastation on the Roads of Cambodia

Members of the first class to graduate from Krousar Thmey. Photo courtesy of Krousar Thmey.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia–During a respite from agonizing about how to pack for a ten-day trip to Laos that included a meeting with representatives from the Laotian Association of the Deaf, a three-day Laotian wedding, and sightseeing in scorching heat, I sat down on my couch, idly scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed.

The first inkling of a devastating event for deaf people in Cambodia was the appearance in my newsfeed of a photograph of a young man, laying on a hospital gurney with his eyes closed, intubated, arm dangling and covered in bandages, blood seeping through the linen. This gruesome image, posted by his sister, was accompanied by a desperate plea, “Please, brother, please live!”

I didn’t know who this person was or how this photograph came to be on my newsfeed. It is common for Cambodian media to post graphic photographs of bloody and broken bodies on the pages of their daily Khmer-language newspaper. Sharing gruesome photos with dire warnings is representative of how many Cambodians use social media. I dismissed it as yet another gruesome image posted by a friend of a friends but then I recognized some of the names in the comments, which ranged from emoticons of crying bears, “RIP” and “I am so sorry.” Scrolling through these comments, I realized that the man in the bed was a member of the deaf Cambodian network.

Wondering what was happening, I closed my laptop and stuffed it into my backpack. I continued to throw things into my suitcase, checking and double-checking to be sure I had my toothbrush and toothpaste.

I went downstairs to meet Sovannaro Kong, my regular tuk-tuk guy, who is also deaf. He usually greets me with a bit of gossip or information but he was quiet, signing simply, “Airport?” I nodded and he threw my bag into —> Read More