Monday, November 23, 2009

CCH Roadshow




These are two of the many pictures I took at one of the CCH roadshows - A educational show where children teach others about social issues such as HIV, drug abuse and human trafficking. One of the students from the children's centre has documented the roadshow in pictures and written the accompanying text:
(Click on the virtual book to scroll through.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cambodian Crocs

When I first arrived in Phnom Penh and was looking for a "different" day out I went to Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary. You can read about the original trip here: I thought the place was well run given its limited funds.

That zoo made the news this week as DNA tests done by conservationists have discovered that one of the world's most endangered crocodile species, the Siamese crocodile lives in the moats at Phnom Tamao! The Siamese crocodile is pretty much extinct (and in fact was declared extinct in 1992). It is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are only about 250 left in the wild and most of those are in Cambodia in the Cardamom Mountains.

The crocs in zoo are now going to be bred to increase the population to 450. Once there are 500 they will be moved off the critically endangered list. It won't be easy for any released crocs as although poaching is now rare planned hydroelectric dams could interfere with the crocodiles' habitat.

Crocs - cambo
... Given that even the experts needed a DNA test to tell unsurprisingly I'm not sure if this photo I took is of the Siamese crocodile

Friday, November 13, 2009

International relations

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand have been strained for some time....not just recently but since Cambodia's independence in the 1950s and even before that. To put it mildly Cambodian people generally are very unsympathetic to Thais (or Vietnamese for that matter but that is a different story) so they love a story to stir up the tension.

Recently it was the dispute concerning 900 year old Preah Vihear temple on the border. The International Court of Justice in 1962 awarded the temple to Cambodia. The Thais didn't like that too much but what really twisted the knife was the fact that in July 2008 Unesco listed Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site. So they decided to send troops into the area....

With the Cambodians thinking was that the Thai's are after their temple/land and the Thais already fighting with their pride over the whole affair it isn't really surprising that the Cambodian army is also dispatched and the Cambodian PM calls the 4km square area a "life and death battle zone" - two Cambodians soldiers sadly died during a gun-battle.

Now there is a new tension - The Cambodian government has appointed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economy adviser and this has made the Thai government hopping mad as they think he is a criminal and a powerful political opponent. Thaksin has been living in exile since 2006 when he was ousted in a military coup. A two-year jail sentence awaits him in Thailand. He arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday.

Cambodians it seems think the appointment is a good idea and the government is refusing to extradite him back to Thailand. This probably because a) the Thais are annoyed thereby increasing the delight of the population and b) most people do not publicly disagree with the ruling party for some reason.... Its reported that Thaskin has been playing golf with Cambodian PM Hun Sen.

Things have escalated though and now Cambodia has ordered the first secretary of the Thai Embassy to leave Phnom Penh, and Thailand have done the same to the Cambodian representative in Thailand (small world but I am fairly confident that I used to teach his grandson...!).

Latest news is that a man has been arrested in Cambodia for allegedly spying for Thailand. Apparently he works for Cambodian Air Traffic Service and has been seeking out the flight details of Thaksin.... Thailand says arresting this guy is intimidation with the intention to defame Thailand. The Thai authorities then stated that they would not allow Thaksin's private jet to fly over Thailand's sky on his way out of Cambodia as he is supposed to be returning to Dubai.

In any event, I'm not sure what the government of one of the most corrupt countries can learn from a criminal on the run(!) Who knows what will happen next. If your booking a flight to Cambodia perhaps avoid Bangkok airport or get some good travel insurance!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I'm missing the beautiful shops (and weather) in Phnom Penh and so thought I would introduce a few of my favourites.

One hidden gem of an UGO shop is Rehab Craft Cambodia (RCC)* - a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization developed to create employment for Cambodians with disabilities. The shop is in BKK - No. 69, Street 315. The shop appears to be a very small inadequately stocked oven of a place. The heat was baking. I went in to it and to say it was warm would be an understatement. However, I did find and want to purchase this beautiful piece of silk [picture to follow].

Now, I went to ask if I could pay for the silk in the workshop area next to the oven/shop and was asked to go upstairs to pay.... upstairs??!! Oh on going up I found a delightfully large, air-conditioned shop full of a range of items. I spent much more time browsing here and added quite a lot to my original purchase. The merchandise is good quality and the range is great - Wooden carvings, kitchen things, bags made of rice bags, silk, cushions, bags, games....

I'd definitely recommend a trip up the stairs! To think I ignored this shop everyday as I motorbiked past it every day on my way to work all because the oven is actually just a large display window (I thought it was odd there were no staff in the oven....or perhaps not given the heat)

More favourites to follow...

*Rehab Craft Cambodia was established in 1995 and pays fair wages. Its workers earn two and one-half to three times the average factory–production wage. It is a is a member of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) and of the Artisans’ Association of Cambodia.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Smile - Photo students continue to document their lives in Cambodia

Following on from the Smile Photography Project I organised during my time in Phnom Penh some of the students at the children's centre are keeping up the excellent work and are continuing to take great photographs. They are now completely fearless about taking pictures which is fantastic and the results are pretty impressive - Here are 6 pictures taken by Sambath and Theara.