If you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ve probably seen a 500 riel note. And if you look at the note, you would notice at the bottom right are two flags—Cambodia’s and Japan’s.
It makes perfect sense for local currencies to bear the flags of the country, but it’s extremely unusual for one to have the flag of another nation. What exactly is the reason for the Cambodian riel to bear Japan’s national flag?
Take a look at the main image on the note. What do you see? You see cars running on a bridge. This bridge is called Kizuna Bridge. Look further left and what do you see? You see a suspension bridge. This is called Tsubasa Bridge. It is by no coincidence that these bridges have Japanese names as Japan donated the bridges to facilitate Cambodia’s economic growth. What used to be an 8-hour ferry ride is now possible to arrive in 5 minutes by car. The ease of travel increased and created a steady flow of people traveling across the bridges frequently thereby giving local businesses a steady source of income. Further, not only did the Kizuna Bridge connect eastern and western Cambodia, the Tsubasa Bridge goes across the Mekong River connecting Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh. This means, with the construction of these bridges, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are now connected creating a path of economic progress.
Apart from simply building the bridges, while Japan’s bridges are mainly made of steel, these bridges are mainly built with concrete. The reason is because, Cambodia’s bridges are mostly made of concrete, by building the bridges with something the Cambodians are familiar with, these allows the locals to be able to manage and maintain the bridges themselves.
I somehow feel that if this were Singapore’s story, our people would cry murder that the government is using “tax payers money” for other countries. But that’s a separate story. The moral of this story is (doesn’t this remind you of Moses Lim?), helping people is not just about giving things, but giving something sustainable.