Mr. Rong Chhun is one inspiring man. Therefore, I only think it’s fitting for Mr. Rong Chhun to have his own post. Mr. Rong Chhun wears several hats: the founder of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), which protects garment workers’ rights, the founder and President of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (and therefore my boss), an officer at the Cambodian Department of Education, and a national human rights advocacy leader. (On more than one occasion I’ve heard Mr. Rong Chhun described as one of Cambodia’s most active, courageous and respected human rights leaders). Did I mention that I get to work for him??
Mr. Rong Chhun’s advocacy work alone is impressive, but add to that the personal suffering he’s endured…both parents were killed during the Khmer Rouge and he spent several years in a child prison camp. In 2004, the president of the FTUWKC (and close friend of Mr. Rong Chhun) was assassinated and, in 2007, Mr. Rong Chhun was imprisoned without trial for three months for participating in a lawful protest for teachers rights. I think I have a thing or two I can learn about resilience from this man…
On a personal level, Mr. Rong Chhun is an extremely kind, gentle and giving person. Despite the fact that he and all the staff here have so little…he always goes out of his way to make sure that I feel comfortable (much to my embarrassment). Whether it's little things like placing a fan directly on me and insisting to buy me lunch, or bigger things like buying me a new desk (which looks incredibly out of place among the old, worn desks of my colleagues) and wanting to trade my bicycle for his motorbike (which I finally asserted wasn’t a fair trade for him), he seems to always put others first.
Mr. Rong Chhun speaks very little English, therefore most of our communication is through a translator. However, there have been several occasions where just the two of us have gone to lunch, and although very few words are said... I feel inspired just being around him.
Mr. Rong Chhun at the CITA office
Mr. Rong Chhun leading one of his many protests