Written by Chanvetey Vann, Ornicha Tantiwechwuttikul, Pachara Sungden
“Before I came here I felt afraid. We have negative feelings toward each other, but if we don’t make ourselves come close to them, we will never know,” said Sambo Prak, a Cambodian participant in 1st Cambodia-Thai Exchange Program. “But when I am here, I really enjoy living with them.”
Cambodian-Thai Exchange Program (CTEP) is a seven-day youth camp takes place on November 7th to 13th 2011 with total fifty-five participants from both countries. The youth camp is organized by Initiatives of Change Association (ICA) in cooperation with Thai Volunteer Services (TVS) in purpose of restoring and strengthening the relationship between Cambodia and Thailand. This youth camp allows participants from both countries have a chance to create better understanding and mutual trust as well as alleviate discrimination and prejudice in personal level.
The camp is conducted under the theme “Let’s Learn to Live Together”. “We need a space where we can live and share experience together,” said Saksinee Emasiri Thanakulmas (Ying), a committee from Thailand. “Unlike many other conferences where political issues are heavily discussed, CTEP allows people of the two countries to first-handedly develop understanding and reshape their perception by actually living together.” She continued.
Throughout the program, a variety of activities are introduced such as family group, workshop, peace and conflict-related discussions, cultural night and so on, to break the invisible wall and encourage participants to be opened and learn more about each other. These activities eventually bring the two together as one, despite all the differences.
Not only did they learn from their friends, but also did they come to understand themselves better through the reflection of others’ stories. Quiet Time, one of the daily-based activities, enables participants to sit quiet and listen to their inner voice. “During the day, how many times you listen to your inner voice?” asks Sovathana Neang (Nana), a Cambodian committee.
A topic is given each quiet time such as family issue, relationship problem, childhood experience and so on, to assist participants to open up their mind. After a moment of quietness, with a lot of comfort ready to give and hearts ready to hear, many participants start to share their story, and it is then that a sense of trust gradually develops.
When asked about his impression toward to CTEP, Poramet Parkpian, a Thai participant and Ubon Ratchathani University student, said, “CTEP is a university of peace, love and understanding.” In spite of the fact that Cambodia and Thailand are geographically apart, the hearts of the two countries people have never been separated. If only the political leaders encounter such program that their people do, till then only peace remains.