Category Archives: Cambodia

The Cambodian Coast

Every-time we go to visit Cambodia, my birthplace, we always spend our time staying at the beach in Kep and Sihanoukville more than in the city. Especially we always go to the island near by Sihanoukville.

1. Kep beach 

You can go by bus, Giant Ibis, costs US$9.00 / person for one way – when you arrive their office in Kep, you need to go by tuk tuk or motor taxi or taxi more to get around the beach. Since Kep beach, not many tourists as Sihanoukville so the frequency of transportation is lower. From Phnom Penh to Kep city will take around 2 – 3 hours. For us, we rent a bus for going to Kep because we want to stop to see Bokor Mountail, just a long the way to Kep. There is the place for fresh seafood.

Bokor Hillside

Crab market 

Kep Beach 

 2. Sihanoukville 

The beaches at Sihanoukville are clean and more tourists – normally I go to Serendipity beach because there are many more restaurants and we can spend our time for dinner along the beach until late night while other beaches there are less tourists so we prefer to go somewhere which have more people during night time..  We go there by bus, Mekong Express – VIP van, costs US$12.00 / person for one way (they have free pick-up and drop off service).  It’s around 3 – 4 hours to get Sihanouville.

Koh Rong Samloem Island 

We spend only one night on Koh Rong Samloem – quite and beautiful island. We go with Party Boat – round trip ticket is US$15 / person including breakfast and buffet lunch.

Koh Rong Island 

It’s one hour and half more from Koh Rong Samloem, there is a pub place. Many bars, pubs and more tourists. The boat ticket for this island is US$20. They have many kinds of boat ticket price. I go with this one because I like a big boat. But after I went there, I have just found that they have now also have a mixed boat ticket for one day tour like that which costs around the same US$15 -20 including buffet lunch.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Cambodia

Angkor City, Cambodia

Well, all countries always have their own historical temple, castle or other places which have been well-known. So also my country Cambodia, we have many amazing historical temples – I am going to post the most well-known temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can reach Siem Reap by bus or plane from Phnom Penh (The Capital City now). It will take you around 5 hours to arrive Siem Reap if you go by bus.

It’s free for Cambodian but for foreigners, you need to buy Angkor Pass: One Day Angkor Pass costs US$20, Three days visit per one week validity costs US$40, Seven days visit per one month validity costs US$60. With Angkor Pass, you will be available to use with all the Angkor temples and monuments in Siem Reap area. You can ask hotel where you can buy the pass.

In Cambodia, our currency is Khmer Riel but US$ will be accepted everywhere.

I just share the photos and the place – so for more info or the history of Angkor Wat, you can go to this Link.

1. Angkor Wat Temple

It’s one of many ancient temples in Cambodia and this temple also appears inside our country flag. The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Dedicated to Vishnu, it was built as the king’s state temple and capital city.

Angkor Wat during day

Angkor Wat during day

2. Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple was built in the late 12th or early 13th century by King Jayavarman VII.

P1030552

3. Ta Prohm Temple 

Ta Prohm Temple was also built during the reign of Jayavarman VII from the middle 12th to early 13th century.

P1030734

4. Bonteay Srey Temple 

Bonteay Srey Temple was made by red sandstone, the construction was began in AD 967.

P1040038

4 Comments

Filed under Cambodia

21st Century, Internet is a FRIEND

Multi Media Communication

Credit to the Owner – Multi Media Communication

Internet affects my life by means of aiding me in my daily tasks and it also helps me preserve mass bodies of knowledge and most of the times, it shares these stored knowledge. In a technologically gratifying era of the 21st century, Internet is something more than a bare necessity. It has spread their wings far and wide to make the world seem a smaller place.

It is very useful now these days because the educational sector, multi communication have recognized a sea change in its functions and procedures with the involvement of Internet. Students prefer to gather data about a particular subject by downloading stuffs from Internet, which is often written by scholars or researchers. Moreover, it can help me in my research, therefore it can make my daily tasks easy which were I can save time.

Twitter

My Profile on Twitter

The Internet offers many things such as Online Shopping, Group Discussions, Information, Entertainment and many more. The Internet can be considered as my best friend because it provides me Entertainment if I am lonely, gives me new knowledge and keeps me updated. The Internet has many uses which I can rely on like Google Hangout and also Skype that I can use it for calling or joining a conference call to discuss things. Beside theses, I also use Twitter, World Pulse, Facebook and Linkedin to share and to read the news.

Also, without internet – I might not have been able to Skype with my family neither communicate nor make friends a cross the globe to bring impact to our own selves. With accessing to the internet, I am able to advocate and volunteer for a few organizations to heal the lives of women, girls and poor people through through the world. Especially, with internet – we can get education by Online Course so we can study even we are in our country and far miles a part.

My profile on World Pulse

My Profile on World Pulse

The last with the internet, I can blog my own writing and share to the world. It is a very special tool to bring people look forward into their future. As technology improves, the internet revolution has a quicker and deeper impact on more and more lives.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cambodia, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, USA

Green School Project – Fund Needed

INTRODUCTION

Green School is the newest and calm project in the jungle of remote area of Stung Treng Province. This project is called Education in the Jungle; it is organized by Mr. Long Lypo, a school director and run by Sabay Organization. Having seen the current and the need for the growth of the young generation in this rural village that we found many children who have no school to study and most of them have never learned their own language – our hearts shocked and made us couldn’t stop dreaming a school for them because those lovely children really need help as they really want to be educated. So our team (SABAY) has initiated a fundraising campaign aiming at raising money for a provision of a green school building. The cost of this construction is expected to be approximately US$5,000.00, and all budget raised from donors will be 100% used for the project activities without leaving any allocation for administration cost but might be withdrawn on the occurred expense due to the fact of project run.

Your contribution will make a change in approving education of many children in Cambodia. Education is for all so join hands so that we could reach out to those who cannot afford it with ease.

PROBLEM ANALYSIS

Located around 45 Km from the provincial town of Stung Treng Province, this community has 45 children who cannot be able to travel to school in the town due to the lack of transportation and money. The place is very remote from the next village and the streets are barely accessible. As a result up to 45 children do not have access to education and therefore a promising future.

There is a teacher in the village who teaches the children from time to time. Unfortunately she earns only 20 dollar per month. This salary makes it impossible to live without additional pay check (e.g. field work). As a result the teacher can only teach occasionally. Moreover heavy rain during rain season as well as heat waves makes outdoor teaching difficult.

OUR VISION

Is to build a school and offer a monthly paid work to the teacher which allows the children a consistent education which will serve as a starting point for their future.

short-term goals

A school building:

The wooden school building will be built with three indoor. Thus we have the possibility to divide the children into three different classes.

A monthly salary for the teacher:

The monthly salary of the teacher, we provide a daily lesson. Therefore must not be used on the field and they can concentrate on teaching.

School supplies:

Desks, blackboard, books, pencils, textbooks and school uniforms are essential utensils for a serious lesson.

Tuition:

The children should learn its language (Khmer). We want them to the 33 consonants, 24 vowels and 14 initial vowels written and verbal command.

Long-term goals

English lessons

A second teacher is to teach the children in the morning in English. In Cambodia, it is now important to master the English language.

Medical care

We want the children to ensure that medical care. They should be able to see a doctor in case of illness or the hospital.

NOTE: All children In this remote area will benefit from the project, for the immediate benefit is that those children can access to education. In the future, all those children in this remote village who have never been able to study will have a chance to get education. In a more indirect way, this project promotes a link between local community and the education system in supporting children’s learning. The community participation and contributions seek to create partial local ownership of the school and the as the whole. The parents’ concern related to transportation, money, and school uniform including study material will be reduced and the green school will contribute in giving hope for their children’s future, while the accumulative illiteracy in the community will also be reduced. This Project will not be limited or targeted the duration or age so we will continue to raise fund until the school is completely finished.

Kindly contact to sabay.info@gmail.com for donation!
Sabay – Help the Kids’ Homepage: http://www.sabay.info

Thank you in advance!

Green School first class – It’s still remain too many things more

Green School’s students

Are you happy to see their smile? Thus they are still waiting more study material

Sabay Team is working so hard to raise fund to complete the wall of this class

The School uniform for student age 10 years old and 8 years old

Leave a comment

Filed under Cambodia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, USA

Honoring Women in My Life

Taken with My beloved mother:)))

International Women’s Day on March 08 is meant to appreciate those who have the biggest but quietest influence in our lives. People around the world stop and take a moment to honor the women in their lives, and those around the world. One of the honoring women in my life is my mother, she is a strong woman who inspires me to go forward to break the barrier to get my goal. She is a real heroine for me. She has given me warm take care and encouragement even she was too difficult to earn money to look after me but she’s never said she was in trouble. I love you MOM!

SI Phnom Penh Charter Day on July 04, 2010

Second one of honoring women in my life is SOROPTIMISTERS, I joined and became a Soroptimist in May 01 2010 before the SIPP Charter Day in July 07, 2010. This WORD of SOROPTIMIST inspired me to become a member and volunteer to bring women and girls in Cambodia a new HOPE and SMILE that our project is Breast Cancer Awareness as we are doing workshop, seminars, trainings to University students, Communes and the other communities to get more knowledge about prevention of Breast Cancer.

I have been supported and inspired by many Soroptimist sisters around the world. I could never stop dreaming and believing my LIFE is being grown once I am named a Soroptimist – I feel more stronger that I am able to be part of change agent to help my community by raising awareness of  breast cancer.

Because of Love and Care as it is our Soroptimist’s Sign that Soroptimisters always Help each other when we are in need so I was sponsored a school fee for the final semester of my Master Course in 2011. I was sponsored to attend One Young World in Zurich, Switzerland and also was offered a new beautiful Laptop too. Anyways, I might not able to write the detail now as I will share this honoring women for my short presentation at SISWP conference in Christchurch, New Zealand in May 2012. See you soon!

Left to right: Jensine Larsen, a Founder of World Pulse, I, Beatrice from Uganda and Martha from Colombia spoke at Mercy Corp – Portland, Oregon, United States.

The third one of honoring women is World Pulse. I joined World Pulse in August 2010. It gave me many oppotunities to meet many people around the world. Moreover, after 5 months citizen training, I have built more capacity and hope to caught my dream. It is my great honor to be selected as an award-winning among of many countries across the globe who applied for the second annual Voices of Our Future Program to traveling to the US for the media and speaking tour.

I have learned a lot from people there to achieve my goal to make a change in my life, my family, my community, my county and the world. It is always a bridge to bring me success. I want to show those people who never want to talk to me that even I am a girl and was born in a poor family but I never lose my dream for better life and bring change to community. I was so honored for being selected as one of the 3 that not only bring me an honor but it gives me the power of voice to speak out loud about my struggling life and I also have a wonderful chance to spread out more about the power of media that has changed my life through this amazing platform Worldpulse.

These powerful women always inspire how to be strong and a helpful person in society!

2 Comments

Filed under Cambodia, Italy, Switzerland, USA

Pchum Ben

Pchum Ben Day is also called the Ancestors’ Day or the Spirits’ day. It is observed in memory of ancestors, and the Cambodian Buddhists pay their respects to the dead by celebrations and offerings (a Ben is an offering). The Pchum Ben Festival is celebrated for fifteen days in the tenth month of the Khmer calendar and the fifteenth day is called Pheaktrobotr. People throng the pagodas where the offerings of steamed cakes in banana leaves are made, dressed in our traditional clothes. Women wear colorful silk scarves, blouses and dresses. Special rice offerings are made and these are usually of sticky rice. The present day ‘Bens’ are balls of rice cooked in coconut milk with various ingredients as per the local customs. The way a Ben is held also differs from locality to locality. It is a colorful festival celebrated by all. The last four days are public holidays when most Khmers visit the province where they were born for family reunions.

The people of Cambodia believe that after death they become ghosts whose earthly actions shape their appearance and that they walk the earth at this time. The living eases our suffering by offering them food. We also make offerings of money, dresses and other items to the monks in the temples. All Khmers are also offered food and drink. The offerings made are shared by the poor and the disabled during Pchum Ben and the donors acquire merit and cancel out past sins.

In the morning at 8:00 AM, people come to the temple, with offerings for the monks. They bring money and other things as well. At 10:00 the people return with more food, which will be shared between monks and poor people. Many of the Buddhist traditions seem to relate to feeding the poor. Disabled people also crowd around the temple tat is hour, begging alms. To give help to the less-fortunate, particularly during Pchum Ben, is to acquire merit. Between 5:00-7:00 PM there will be more prayers for the dead. People would be coming back to the temple at 4:00 the next morning because we have to toss the rice ball to our ancestors so we have to be up at 3:00.

One of the reasons the monks are offered gifts is because the Buddha commanded the monks to remain indoors for three months praying and meditating and hence food had to be given by outsiders. In the past, crops were planted inside the temple grounds and the young plants would die if monks walked about, hence they were told to remain indoors. This was the time to concentrate and purify the minds, by engaging in meditation. People are told to abstain from alcohol and behave well, and the monks are secluded, because if they failed, they would not get any offerings during the festival.

A majority of people in Cambodia take this festival very seriously even if our beliefs and ideas have changed a little bit, thus is still the impact of Buddhist religion which is an integral part of Khmer culture. This year the Pchum Ben Day is celebrate on September 27. The first day of Kann Ben is on September 13, most families bring foods to the pagoda for sending to our ancestor. The day of September 27 is the most important day of Kan Bann and it is the last day that we call Pchum Ben Day. In this day, we need to go to the pagoda to send food to our ancestors.

Standing Budhha statue at Somrong Andek Pagoda – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

My family Left to Right (Mom, Auntie, sister, Me, My nephew, sister and sister-in-law)

It is called Robam Krut – Krut dancing. We believe when we do this Krut dancing, it will bring us LUCK in whole year. This dancing is always celebrated in Khmer’s festival.

Khmer’s belief, we do it as it will help us resolve our devilish things.

2 Comments

Filed under Cambodia

Flooding in Cambodia 2011

Unusually severe flooding in Cambodia has left at least 58 people dead, including 31 children, a disaster official said Friday. Heavy rains since August and overflow from the Mekong River have left large areas waterlogged, affecting thousands of hectares of rice paddies, Keo Vy of the National Committee for Disaster Management told AFP.

“Flooding this year has caused more serious damage than in previous years,” he said, adding that at least 5 633 families have been evacuated from their homes to higher ground.

Nearly 200 tourists, including foreigners, were airlifted from Cambodia’s famed Angkor temple complex on Thursday after a road to one of the ruins was cut off by flash floods. .

The group visiting the 10th century Banteay Srey temple included tourists from the U.S., South Korea, France, Britain and Russia, district official Mom Vuthy said. The flooding also forced thousands of area residents to abandon their homes for high ground, or to camp on roofs or in trees, he said.

Brittny Anderson, 26, from Oregon said she was grateful for local residents who brought food to the stranded tourists as they waited on high ground for the helicopter rescues.

“I am scared for the villagers whose houses were under water,” she said in a telephone interview. “I heard that the villagers had climbed trees and I’m very worried for their safety.”

The temple is just 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Angkor Wat temple complex, one of Asia’s greatest landmarks and Cambodia’s top tourist attraction. It was not yet known if any of the region’s temples were damaged in the flooding, said Mey Marady, vice secretary general of Apsara Authority, a government agency that oversee the temples.

At Siem Reap Town, Most schools, markets and roads have been closed for a while.

My hometown, Srok Ler Dek, Kandah Province, 7 – 8 houses were collapsed this afternoon (Sep 24 at 1.15pm). And the people have been now evacuated from their homes to higher ground.

Further reading: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/sep/22/as-cambodia-flooding/

Flooding at Sieam Reap

Lerk Dek Village, Kandah Provine – House Collapsed

Lerk Dek Village, Kandah Province – House Collapsed

2 Comments

Filed under Cambodia

Breaking the Barrier

Manrath Kong

Growing up in Siem Reap, a provincial town in northern Cambodia, Manrath Kong defied the odds that often condemn the daughters of lower class families to a life of illiteracy and poverty. Her parents divorced when she was only three, and with two younger siblings, she had the additional burden of helping her family survive. Manrath could easily have dropped out of school and begun working at the type of low-skilled jobs that keep so many Cambodians mired in poverty. She credits her education with helping her get to where she is today. At age 25, she is the local manager of KruKhmer in Siem Riep, an organization dedicated to empowering children – especially girls just like herself – to get an education and learn skills that will allow them to become economically self-sufficient. Her work is her passion, because she has lived their life – she knows where they come from and where they need to go.

In 2003. with her high school diploma in hand, the address of some distant relatives in her pocket, and a knowledge of Japanese, English and Thai (learned through classes at Siem Riep’s Wat Bo Pagoda) 18 year-old Manrath traveled to Phnom Penh to find a suitable job to support her family and to pursue her dream of earning a college degree. “The first time I arrived in Phnom Penh,” she recalls, “I was overwhelmed by the city so full of modern things. Everyone looked strange to me as I walked along the road to my relative’s house. I told myself, ‘I have to be brave and go forward without giving up so I can bring change back to help my village.” When she got to her relative’s house, however, she faced her first setback when she found that she was not really wanted.

Trainee

Instead of having a safe place to land while she looked for a job, she had to go out and find someplace to live.

Manrath’s languages helped her to land a job teaching English and Japanese to children and adults at an NGO called Cambodia Development of Education. She found that she enjoyed teaching, but also realized that education had to go beyond languages and literacy in order to make a difference in their lives. Her own plans for college fell by the wayside, as she struggled to send money back to her family to ensure that her siblings could continue their education. After four years, Manrath moved back to Siem Riep, which is best known for its proximity to the famous Angkor Wat Temple. Her plan was to continue teaching and to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Rural Development at Angkor University.

Then, in 2008, an angel appeared. Manrath was introduced to a Japanese woman, Chehiro Sinoda, 32, who had come to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat. Thanks once again to her languages, Manrath became Ms. Chehiro’s guide, introducing her to Siem Riep and its people and surroundings. Impressed with Manrath’s dedication and passion for education and helping the poor, Ms. Sinoda decided to set up an NGO to help turn Manrath’s vision into reality. The result was KruKhmer. The organization is in its infancy and is still developing its training program, which runs from 3-5 months. Currently 12 young women and 2 men are enrolled and the total is 197 trainees as of 30th September 2010.

Orphanages

KruKhmer’s goal is not so much to provide a formal education, as to create a support system that will allow young people – especially girls – as well as illiterate adults and the disabled to become literate, study and achieve their maximum potential. This means learning business skills and foreign languages that will help them overcome the obstacles posed by a rapidly modernizing economy. Entrepreneurship classes, for example, teach students how to use skills they already have – like sewing or knitting – and the raw materials available to them to make products that they can sell. A small business selling clothing or soap is often the first step to developing confidence and rising out of poverty.

10.9 million Cambodians (almost 78%) live on less than $2 a day, and only 57% of children achieve a 5th grade education. Facing statistics like these, Manrath continually asks herself, “What else can I do to help these people? How can I help increase literacy and help families raise their income?” Since most rural areas, including Siem Riep, have very limited opportunities for education, she decided to start an English and Japanese class in her home where she teaches local children free of charge in the evenings and on weekends.

In early 2009, Manrath was at the local CheyvormanVII Hospital visiting a friend who had just given birth, when she saw a recently orphaned boy who was crying inconsolably. Manrath cried too as she remembered the day that her parents divorced and her father left the family. After making some inquiries, Manrath made the unconventional decision to adopt the boy, named Kong Sovannmara, as her own son. As a single woman, she knew this went very much against Cambodian tradition, but in her heart, she knew she had made the right choice.

“I can live with peace and a clear conscience even if others judge me for adopting a child as a single woman. What I have done is to save a little boy who desperately needs warmth and caring from his parents, especially from his mother, and that’s who I am now,” Manrath declares firmly. “I am so happy and excited to be a mother,” she adds. “The saddest thing for me would have been to leave him at the orphanage by himself just because I was worried about what other people would think of me.”

In adopting her son, Manrath Kong has brightened the future of one child. But through her work at KruKhmer, she is brightening the future of a whole generation of children in Siem Riep.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Interviewed by Sarvina Kang

Leave a comment

Filed under Cambodia

How to Develop a Country without Education?

When I first began writing my final VOF assignment, I thought I would focus on education, because education has been the key to lifting myself out of poverty. But as I started looking at education I realized that it is only part of a whole series of problems that Cambodia faces, all of them interlinked and threatening to derail the country’s recovery from 30 years of genocide, civil war, and economic stagnation. As part of my preparation for the final assignment, I planned to interview all kinds of experts and educators about how to improve education in Cambodia. Then I met Tan Eng, a young woman employed as a sex worker in Phnom Penh’s notorious Blue Lounge. As she told the story of how she came to be in this line of work, I recognized that she was just one small symptom of a bigger disease that ails my country.

Tan Eng, 22, comes from Prey Veng Province, also known as “grand” or “long” forest, in the eastern part of Cambodia. It is a poor rural area where 53% of the population lives under the poverty line compared to 36% nation wide. Because of the lack of jobs, many young people migrate to larger cities or neighboring countries to seek employment. This makes them vulnerable to trafficking and sexual/labor exploitation. In addition, those younger children or siblings who remain in the villages are in high demand for child labor, as almost all families are involved in subsistence agriculture. When children are put to work, they tend not to attend school, thus perpetuating illiteracy or under-education for another generation.

Tan Eng moved into the apartment block where I live. We first met at a grocery store near our houses and realized that we were neighbors. She lives in a small rented room at the front of my building. She was reluctant to talk much about herself, initially, but as we got to know one another, she revealed what she did for a living. When I told her about the article I was writing, she agreed to be interviewed in the hopes that her story would help increase awareness about the conditions that caused her to take this path.

On the day we met for the interview Tan Eng seemed sad, and as we began talking, she described symptoms of depression and told me that she suffered from guilt and shame, as well as a well-founded fear of contracting the HIV virus. She described how she ‘goes away in her mind’ when having sex with a client and said she feels that her soul has left her body. “I would not have sold my body if my family had had enough food to eat or education”, she said sadly. “What I am doing now is so I can help my brother and sisters to study and to help with living expenses.”

As sad as Tan Eng’s story is, what’s even worse is that there are thousands of other girls just like her, girls who are either forced into the sex trade, trafficked to other countries, or fall into it because they have no education and it is the most they can hope to earn, having no other marketable skills. To understand why so many girls – and also boys and adult men and women – find themselves in such dire situations, one needs to understand the economic and psychological roots of Cambodia’s dysfunction.

Cambodia is known as one of the world’s poorest countries. According to the UNDP Human Development Index Report, in 2004 Cambodia ranked 130 out of 177 countries. Annual per capita income was $256 in 1999. While so many Asian countries have prospered since then, Cambodia’s per capita income has risen to just $300 today, a virtual economic standstill. Approximately 36% of the population lives below the basic needs poverty line, with the poverty rate in the rural areas at 40%, four times as high as Phnom Penh, where it is only 10%. This imbalance between the countryside and the capital helps explain why someone like Tan Eng would try her luck in the big city: the alternative – staying in her village – means almost certain poverty and deprivation.

Cambodia’s achievements in education in the 1960s and early 1970s were systematically erased by the Khmer Rouge in the second half of the 1970s, when schools, equipment, and books were destroyed, effectively abolishing education. It is estimated that 75-80 percent of all teachers and secondary school students fled or were murdered from 1975-79. Overall, the Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1.7 million people by execution, starvation and forced labor. The economic and psychological toll of this genocide has yet to be calculated.

Thirty years after the genocide, its impact is still felt as families continue trying to make sense of what was lost to Pol Pot’s madness – loved ones, of course, but also an entire way of life, a sense of cultural continuity and belonging; the bonds that create a cohesive, functional society. I decided to revisit the Toul Sleng (Genocide) Museum. The first time I visited I remember feeling shocked – the images of violence seemed so recent and brought to life all the stories my parents had told me about the deprivation, violence and horror of those years.

I met a woman who was selling Cambodian history books there, and I asked her how she feels when she hears the name Pol Pot. Chan Sophal is 47 years old, so she was in her teens during the late 1970s. “I feel so much regret and anger with Pol Pot – I am sad about losing my family and also because of the torture and suffering they endured before they died” she said. Today she sees her mission as educating the world about what happened. “Even though my memories are painful, I am happy to bring all these books to sell here because so many tourists come to visit this museum, and they are really interested and eager to know about what happened.”

Many Cambodians, including my parents, have adopted a philosophical attitude about the past. Of course they remember what happened, but they try not to pass the sadness, anger and resentment to the next generation. My parents, for instance, told me that they did not want me to be sad or try to seek revenge for the family members we lost. Like so many, they are looking to the future, and I benefitted from their attitude, because they made it possible for me to go to college, despite their limited means. Tan Eng was not so lucky.

Post-Khmer Rouge, Cambodia has made an enormous effort to expand schooling. There has been a concerted effort to rebuild the education infrastructure, but this had to be done under tight budgetary constraints. This means that illiteracy continues to plague the country. Half of the rural population does not have a primary school in the village and more than 95 percent have no secondary school. Often a family can only afford to send one or two children to school. The others, like Tan Eng, have to work or take care of their siblings, sometimes both.

This combination of poverty and illiteracy is the main driver behind the phenomenon of human trafficking of Cambodian men, women and children to more prosperous neighboring countries like Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong,Vietnam, and even within Cambodia. Men are trafficked for forced labor in the agriculture, fishing, and construction industries. Women are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in factories or as domestic servants. Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in organized begging rings, soliciting, street vending, and flower selling. Their poor literacy makes them even more dependent on their “employers”, and many can see no way to liberate themselves from their appalling situations.

Interestingly, Cambodia’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Youth Rehabilitation found that 76 percent of trafficked persons returning from Thailand had come from families who owned land; 93 percent from families that owned their own house and had no debt on the land or house; and 47 percent stated that their mother was the facilitator of their trafficking.

These statistics seem to indicate that families themselves are complicit in the cycle of human trafficking. Again, illiteracy plays a role. Poorly educated families, especially those in financial straits, desperately trying to hang on to their land or home, are easy prey for the “employment agents” who come by their villages making grand promises of well-paying jobs abroad.

The global economic crisis has also contributed to trafficking. Cambodia’s economy was growing at a respectable 10 per cent annual pace between 2004 and 2007. As the impact of the crisis spread across the globe, Cambodia’s growth slowed to 6.7 per cent in 2008 and even lower in 2009. This caused tens of thousands of people to lose their jobs, particularly in key sectors such as the garment industry, tourism, and construction, creating a huge pool of unemployed workers susceptible to trafficking and the lure of prostitution.

For example, Tan Eng told me that as a housemaid, she could earn about 200,000 Riel which is US$ 50 per month. At the Blue Lounge she makes $100 plus $3-5 per customer, giving her a monthly income that is enough to cover food and school fees for her siblings.

The Cambodian government has responded to the crisis with a stimulus package targeted to boost spending on infrastructure, social programs and agriculture. In addition a tourism policy taskforce was recreated, with the aim of upgrading the industry and attracting more regional tourists. But even as an economic recovery seems to be underway, the damage has already been done for too many young women like Tan Eng.

There are some rays of hope, however. A number of NGOs are involved in efforts to bring schools and education to Cambodia’s neediest children. One of them is PIO – People Improvement Organization. Phymean Noun, 40, a Founder and Executive Director of PIO is a 2008 recipient of the CNN Heroes award. Her organization has set up tuition-free schools for the poorest of the poor, serving more than 10,000 children since 2004.

“My life is connected to those children who need help,” Ms. Phymean says. “No child should have to work on the garbage dump and sleep in the street. There is no greater joy for me than to see a child who once spent her days picking through rubbish looking happy, enjoying herself, learning to read and write and smiling with hope for the future.”

Come back to Tan Eng’s life, she is now having a belly ache as she has tried to drink beer every night she goes to work to serve her guests. I asked her why she didn’t try to drink it and she immediately replied me “Oh it is really impossible for the work as mine because if I had not drunk so they would not have given me money then how can I raise and help my family?” she is an oldest sister in her family – 3 sisters and 1 brother. I can imagine how hard to live in this world without education, Eng is a strong lady as even she has been driven to sex work but she always hopes to educate her siblings out of this field. She made me remember my past when my parents fought the barriers to send me to school to get education. Our lives are tough because of living in poverty so it is our obstacle to get education though.

While I was talking to her, I saw her eyes were so red showing me her life is struggling to live in this cyber world where only a darkness place for her life is. She told me she wanted to learn a skill such as cooking, beauty or tailoring skill but her siblings are so small “they can’t study if I quit my job now so it is only job that can help my family to recover our lives,” she added, “I don’t care about myself but I do hope I can help my siblings to get hi¬gh education and parents to live a better live.”

Her sisters are Thida, 20, studies grade 12; Theara, 19, studies grade 10; Theary, 17, grade 8 and her youngest brother is Bora, 15, is a fabulous student and has also been offered a 12 years scholarship from Beltie International School in Cambodia, a famous and expensive among privates schools in Cambodia. I think it is a good thing that Eng has tried and fought the obstacle to help their siblings go to school and I also understand that it is what she keeps working her current job just because she had never thought to recover her life now but she has only given her dream to her little sisters and brothers to have better lives in society. Her parents are at homeland planting vegetable to sell at the market, they can earn only 2,000 -3,000 Riel which is around 0.70$ per day.

Access to education is a way to build a strong society. Education allows people to become resourceful and search for answers to solve their own problems. And we all agree that education is the foundation of peace and development. As we have entered the 21st century, the interdependent era, we should work together to build a free and just society, knowledge oriented society, and inclusive society that will benefit everyone. One job may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it is a chance for a struggling Cambodian to get on their feet, and that is truly something worth standing up for.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cambodia