Sounding on Cambodia, March 19, 2010

Funded by the US State Department and the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, Undercover UXO is designed to run on the “One Laptop Per Child XO laptop.” The game will provide a consequence-free learning environment that teaches kids how to identify UXOs and report them to inspectors.

  • A lay nun burned herself inside the confines of Watt Ounalom in Phnom Penh.  If you click through, beware that the photo is pretty horrific. The reasons for this tragic action remain unclear, though there is a lot of speculation; the woman, whose current status has not been reported to my knowledge, was taken to Calmette Hospital.
  • Anne Elizabeth Moore has another excellent article on Cambodian Garment Workers. Moore has a relatively privileged perspective here, having lived as a dorm supervisor for a few months in Cambodia for the Harpswell Foundation.  The article, a followup to the last one written by Moore at Truthout, focuses on the Messenger Band, a band composed of current and former garment workers.  There’s audio on the site as well – go check it out! I cried at my computer when I read this part:

Members of the Messenger Band

Members of the Messenger Band

As garment factories close, more and more women enter the sex industry by working at the karaoke bars. You have a song about this.

Vun Em: When the factories close down, some girls will go to become entertainment workers, and HIV will spread out around. But why don’t [the NGOs] care about their living life? Why they don’t care about their family? Why they don’t care about the security of those people? Why they care only about HIV? [She starts to cry.] I don’t know, I don’t understand.

We also care about HIV, but you have to think about the lives of the people, not only HIV. If the people don’t have enough food to eat, if they don’t have enough education, if they don’t have good health, how can they prevent themselves from the HIV? They don’t have time to think about HIV, they only have time to think, I need food, I need food. All the time.

  • Land grabs continue – possibly the most important issue for Cambodians living in Cambodia – especially those whose ability to directly feed themselves is dependent upon their land.  In Kompong Speu (Starfruit Province), approximately 1,000 farmers rallied to protest the grabs.  Some farmers burned the fields that were being taken, and a video (embedded below – cautious, it’s difficult to watch) has begun making the rounds of the police violently – not to say brutally – destroying tables, buildings, and attacking people.  This needs to stop.The line that has received the most attention in the video thus far is when the man (1’55-2’00) screams, “They take our land to give to the Chinese!” I’d be interested to hear reader reactions on this front, especially since I have rather idiosyncratic thoughts about the role of ethnicity in public Cambodian discourse.

    Certainly a coincidence, this article translated in The Mirror is nevertheless indicative of the extent to which foreign, “Chinese” companies are investing in and often looting Cambodia.
  • Southeast Asian Archaeology Newsblog has a nice roundup of the Google v. Cambodia map issue, relating to the location of Preah Vihear temple relative to national boundaries.
  • Folks at the University of California are performing a virtual reconstruction of the ancient temple capital of Sambor Prei Kuk, similar to the work done by folks at Monash for Angkor, recently highlighted in the National Geographic issue a few months back and on their website. This stuff is extremely exciting to a few of us; how about you?h/t Andy Brouwer
  • The ever-attentive Details Are Sketchy has a nice bit of back-of-the-napkin math, asserting that the Cambodian Government has robbed its electrical customers of “70 million in net profit. Whoever says the economy sucks doesn’t know where to steal.” The post, titled ‘Get a Rope,’ doesn’t pull any punches.

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