The book was launched in Phnom Penh by Prince Norodom Sirivudh at the National Museum of Cambodia in September, 1994. Prince Sirivudh started the launch with one minute’s silence for newspaper editor, Noon Chan, who was assassinated in broad daylight the day before. Noon was the editor of the Voice of Khmer Youth, a Cambodian newspaper critical of the Hun Sen government.
The book was then launched at the National Press Club in Canberra by Foreign Affairs Minister, Gareth Evans. This launch was overshadowed by the kidnapping of Australian backpacker, David Wilson, along with a British backpacker and French traveller who were captured and later killed by the Khmer Rouge.
Marje Prior, a journalist and publisher, recorded more than 75 interviews with the Australian military contingent, Australian Federal Police, UN personnel and contractors, electoral officers, returnees from the border camps, aid workers, diplomats, politicians and business people.
Marje invited Canberra portrait photographer, Heide Smith, to accompany her on two of her visits to Cambodia during the dry and the wet seasons in 1993. She secured a government grant for Heide’s photography to be exhibited at the Sydney Town Hall in 1994 to welcome back the first contingent of UN peacekeepers from Cambodia and at Old Parliament House in Canberra.
These stories that focus mainly on Australian peaceworkers combined with Heide’s photography capture the emotions, the views and experiences of Australians working in Cambodia at a particular point in time. It also provides an understanding of the complexities of UN peacekeeping and Australia’s early involvement in these missions.
Copies of this book were donated to the 20 Years On reunion
Pictured above are Heide Smith and Marje Prior at Battambang.