My dear Kacvey,

As we are saying good bye to the Year of the Pig, the Year of the Rat is knocking at the door. What would the Pig have had written in the handover parchment: achievements and still outstanding matters?

You can argue upfront why burdening the mythological and symbolic Pig with the troubles that MEN created? Well, if this is your thinking, why did people refer to angels and goddesses Pig on Chaul Chnam Kor, and now angels and goddesses Rat on Chaul Chnam Jhoot?

Well, whatever we argue, the truth is, after these 3 days, NOBODY will talk or think about angels and goddesses Rat anymore … until next April 2021 when the subject of angels and goddesses Cow will come up again.

Be it as it may, how in good human conscience can we formulate or mutually wish each other a “Happy Chaul Chnam” when all of us are living in a state of stay-in-place, confinement, lock-down, WFH, ghost towns, closed frontiers, airports and harbors, closed schools, universities and libraries, closed shops and stores, empty stadiums and sports arena, closed museums, movie houses, theaters and TV studios etc…, as consequences of the pandemic of a virus that originated in Wuhan?

How can we even think about a “Joyful Chaul Chnam” when millions women and men are infected with that virus, epicenters sprouted in every continent, death overflow hospitals and morgues, relatives and friends can’t even attend funerals of their loved ones?

How can we possibly do the “Roam Vong” when millions are out of jobs, factories are closed, sellers sitting behind their merchandises without buyers, parents have to social-distance with their children, grand-parents with their grand-children etc …?

How can we gaily beat the traditional drum (tèass skôr) when pagodas, churches, temples and mosques are no longer places of worship where worshipers can pray without being afraid of contamination?

How can you and your students enjoy the game of “ang kougn” or “bôss chhoung,” when the weak strongman imposed the state of emergency with pretense to fight against the invisible Wuhan virus whereas its ex-KR autocratic regime is at the end of the rope? It has no plan not only on how to fight the virus but also on how to address the current social-economic crisis and the post-lockdown period. Its coffer is empty although it continues to promise financial relief to garment workers.

When the whole world fights the Wuhan virus with more doctors, nurses and medical equipment, strengthening of health and hygiene methods and facilities, doubling or even quadrupling budgets for medicine and pharmaceutical researches, formulating stimulus and relief economic plan to help the population, the weak strongman of Cambodia, fearing its own imminent collapse, doubles down on oppression and dictatorship to hide its inability to steer the ship out of the Wuhan virus storm aftermath. Bankruptcy is written on the wall, and history has repeated again and again that autocracy, no matter how long and strong it is  and given that no domestic force can topple it, will always end up in implosion or suicide.

On the day known as the 1st day of the Khmer New Year, we wish you and your students the happy coziness within the respective stay-in-place quarters, the continuing patience and courage to challenge the boredom, and the determination to stay safe and healthy and to look forward to the deconfinement when life will resume its normalcy. On va s’en sortir sans sortir!