Compassion, are you there?

As today is a public holiday, Seyla and I decided to get out of the house for a bit. We drove along Road 6 (the busiest road in Siem Reap) with the intention of visiting some pagodas. Along the way we pulled over to the side as a big gasoline truck was powering past, honking its horn, and we didn’t want to get taken out in the process. At that moment, while I was looking to the right (who knows what at), I heard a crash and Seyla saying “Oh no”. I looked to my left and saw an overturned motorbike with two teenage boys sprawled on the road. We safely parked the motorbike, then being careful of traffic, made our way to where the boys were lying.

Both were injured, but one boy more than the other, with a bone sticking out of his left leg. Given how busy the road was, I knew the priority was to get them off the road, so with Seyla as my translator, I organised to get both boys moved off the road without letting anyone unnecessary touch them or do more damage.

The police arrived and an ambulance was called, with some men directing traffic around the motorbike. I stayed with the most injured boy, trying to keep him awake but not looking at his ghastly left. I found out he was 16. He looked scared, but I can honestly say he was very brave. Another man came and helped by putting an umbrella over us to protect the boy from the 35 degree heat. By that time swarms of people had arrived, coming just for the show. Not offering a helping hand, but just at the scene to look at the injuries, take photos, and have a story to tell their friends. Despite my anger at this, I concentrated on staying with the injured boy and trying to comfort him with my limited Khmer.

An ambulance eventually arrived (I say eventually, but I was actually impressed with the response time), and they strapped the boys leg. It was at that time I also realised that he had a hole in his upper arm.

More and more people started coming over to see the trauma, taking photos and treating it like an outing with their friends. I finally snapped when I saw a man drive his motorbike over, get off with his iPad, and come over smiling and LAUGHING to take a photo of the injured leg. When I tell someone off in Khmer, they listen. So as soon as I said to him, “Stop photo, not good!” in front of everyone, he and a couple of others who were standing there taking a photo of this teenager in a time of need, left.

Once we knew the boys were in the ambulance, we left, trying to weave our way back to our motorbike around the 20 or so motorbikes parked on the road whose owners had decided to watch the show. Needless to say, we didn’t feel like going forward to our destination, so we drove home.

Seyla was very worried about the boys and so was I, but in all honesty I was more worried about the future of Cambodia. When so many people lack compassion and see other peoples pain as something to be celebrated, how will this country ever grow?