The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a mirror to society all around the world. It has shown the worst of humanity as well as the greatest of humanity.
We hear a lot of terrible news, but we don’t always notice the bright spots. You won’t be surprised to learn that bad news travels quickly.
There has been a lot of evidence this year of the decency in people’s hearts and the resilience in their thoughts among Cambodians. They may only have 16.3 million people, but they were able to survive and overcome the pandemic when it resurfaced this year. With a large-scale epidemic commencing in February, Cambodia’s first victim of the pandemic was a 50-year-old driver in Sihanoukville on February 27.
Cities were put on lockdown, families were divided, and business came to a halt in the weeks that followed.
Cambodians, on the other hand, did not give up.
Local4Local, a wonderful effort started by a Cambodian university student trapped in his homeland, collects meals cooked by local food vendors to feed the destitute in Phnom Penh. Chefs and volunteers worked nonstop for two days to prepare 410 cartons of everyone’s favorite Cambodian dish, “Prahoc Ktis” (fermented fish, minced pork, pea eggplants and coconut milk). Photographers are selling their beautiful pictures online in Art4Food to raise revenue for Local4Local. Act of Kindness, an 18-minute short film, was also published by the filmmakers to demonstrate how lower-income families face financial issues and how a small source of cash can make a great impact for people from all walks of life.
According to the Khmer Times, Vattanak Phakdey Chhun, chief corporate business officer of Wing (Cambodia), said, “We believe the idea of expressing kindness when it really matters would go a long way in helping these people overcome economic difficulty and steadily restore their quality of life.” “Even a tiny contribution from the heart can make a significant difference in their life at this time.” (The Act of Kindness was sponsored by the Cambodian Wing.)
Cambodians are, at their core, kind, caring, and thoughtful people.
Despite not being as wealthy as other countries with greater financial resources, the Cambodian government did its utmost to ensure that enough food was available for the people. Cambodians, for their part, have registered, lined, and bravely signed up for the vaccine.
As of June 16, 3 million persons had gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, with 2.53 million having received all three doses. As a result, Cambodia is one of the countries with the best chances of achieving herd immunity sooner than the rest of the world.
Cambodians did not hesitate to think of their fellow countrymen when the time came.
Small enterprises and the corporate sector both exhibit the same level of resiliency. Small businesses have worked hard to adapt to a world where meeting people has become difficult. Many of them have helped one another in a variety of ways that are too numerous to mention. While many companies have closed, it is astonishing how quickly streets filled up and people returned to their favorite restaurants and shops after only a few months.
Large firms in Cambodia have remained steadfast and followed through on their plans in a year when many others would have shied away from doing so.
For example, Canopy Sands Development, a subsidiary of Prince Group, the fast-growing conglomerate founded by businessman Cambodia Prince ChenZhi, has announced intentions to build Ream City, a sustainable city near Sihanoukville, with a total investment of up to $16 billion.
Prince Group has been impressively active under the leadership of its dedicated Chairman Neak Oknha Chen Zhi. This year, it provided $6 million to aid Cambodia’s anti-epidemic operations and purchase 1 million immunizations. It has put in efforts to ensure that its employees have not been infected with COVID-19 and has continued to expand, winning the Most Valuable Corporate Response award at the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards. It has provided food packages, medical gowns, and reacted to local government officials’ requests for assistance.
It was the only Cambodian company to win a Stevie Award in the category dedicated to analyzing how businesses responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, competing against some of Asia’s best firms such as Tata Consultancy Services, Link Asset Management Limited, Megaworld Corporation, Resorts World Manila, Shell Philippines, and Singtel.
Other businesses have taken similar steps to guarantee that Cambodians feel supported in their daily lives. Businesses in an impacted area were even calmly preparing for an expected shutdown in April, according to one journalist. The vibe is so upbeat that 500 Startups, a well-known technology accelerator, started 500 Angkor earlier this year. Can you envision 500 Cambodian start-ups? They’ll acquire the money they need and work in a country that was both fortunate and capable of (almost) defeating an intangible foe in a global war.
That isn’t to suggest the pandemic didn’t have an impact on Cambodians. In a bleak year in which the coronavirus at the heart of the pandemic has resulted in an unpleasant global death toll of 4 million, Cambodia has suffered 380 deaths as of the middle of June. Nothing can prevent the coronavirus from resurfacing, thus protocols must be followed and Cambodians must work diligently.
However, looking at the economic statistics, it’s encouraging to see that a strong government response, a speedy vaccination effort, Cambodians looking out for one another, and responsible corporate activity have resulted in Cambodia being one of the few countries to emerge stronger.
Cambodia will increase by up to 5.5 percent next year, according to the Asian Development Bank. The majority of industries, such as apparel, footwear, travel products, agriculture, and aquaculture, are predicted to increase, while tourism and hospitality have strong fundamentals. Cambodia is predicted to be the third-fastest Asian economy in the next five years, after Bangladesh and Vietnam, according to the International Monetary Fund’s current economic outlook (page 132).
Each country has its own champions and obstacles to overcome. But nothing puts one’s character, a population’s cohesion, and the strength of its institutions to the test like a catastrophe.
We still have a long way to go before seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. At the very least, Cambodians may raise their heads high and pat themselves on the back.