Catholic Church and Disabilities

Today Bishop Olivier asked all the Catholic NGOs that work with people with disabilities to come together for a sharing session. About 12 or 13 groups were represented. The main speaker for the morning was a spokesman from the government’s Disability Action Council
Mr. Te Serey Bon, the director of the Caritas Takeo Eye Hospital (where I had my cataract surgery) made a plea for government funding for programs that the church has set up with government cooperation but without government funding.
A lot of good networking and information sharing takes place
among the participants at the break times.
Bishop Olivier encouraged and thanked all the groups for the work they are doing, especially among some of Cambodia’s poorest people.

Notre Dame Students

Ellie (L) and Zoe are two students from Notre Dame University in the United States. They are in Cambodia with Maryknoll for a summer program for two months and will spend part of their time at the Deaf Development Programme.

Here they learn Cambodian Sign Language with two of the DDP sign language teachers.

Generating Resentment

The monsoon rains are filling up the hydropower reservoirs now and our electricity supply is becoming more stable, with fewer outages. And last week our prime minister promised that there would be NO outages next year. We’ll have to wait and see about that.

The past year has seen a booming market in new and used generators. Faced with the extended power cuts because of the really dry season, more and more businesses and institutions–and wealthy families–bought generators for themselves. The average price of a generator went up fourfold from what I heard.

Now those people are going to be ticked off as the power stays on–and their new generator stays off. A whole lot of money went into the hardware and now it’s not much use.

The Chinese are coming…

There was an article in the international press today about US governments taking measures to prevent farmland in the United States from being owned and controlled by foreign governments and entities. The US is probably taking those steps because of China’s aggressive policy of buying not just the crops from other countries but their natural resources and the land itself.

Cambodia is experience a devastating invasion by China and Chinese nationals. Every day there are articles in the papers about land values increasing beyond the reach of locals; neighborhoods and whole towns being changed by the influx of Chinese business people and tourists; the rates of crime going up because of Chinese gangs and criminal activities; etc.

This is all backed up by personal stories of the people we encounter in our mission work, people who have been negatively affected and displaced by the Chinese.

Notice how every sign now has Chinese characters. It has become so common and so blatant that the Cambodian government has now ruled that all signs, first of all, must HAVE Khmer lettering (some were only in Chinese), and secondly, that the Khmer letters must be approximately twice the size of the Chinese characters.

This is a view from the hilltop where the Catholic church center is located in Sihanoukville. In previous years this view was of trees. Now they are gone. Basically all of the buildings visible here have sprung up since our retreat a year ago.

In going to Sihanoukville for the priests retreat, the Chinese presence and influence was most obvious: • On the bus ride to Sihanoukville, the passengers across the aisle were speaking Mandarin. • We have too many priests for the rooms at the church center so in previous years the overflow stayed at the Salesian Priests training hotel twenty minutes away. Because of the increased traffic and congestion from construction, it now takes an hour to get to that site so our priests stayed in hotels–new and probably Chinese-owned–near the center. • The Salesians had a restaurant and gelato shop in central Sihanoukville. This year the rent was raised from $400 a month to almost $4,000 as the Chinese buy up everything in sight. The Salesians closed their shops where they had trained local youth. • The local people have been moved far outside the city, away from their jobs, as the Chinese buy up apartments and neighborhoods and raise the rents. • During the retreat I went to buy a Coke at a shop near the church. The shop is new and no one in the shop spoke English or Khmer, only Mandarin Chinese. • A local English newspaper is now producing a Chinese-language insert. • Construction is occurring everywhere and causing shortages of water and electricity. • The construction doesn’t benefit the locals. The construction companies are Chinese and they bring in their own workers. All the salaries, etc., go back to China. And the list goes on and on.

China now owns Cambodia and the government doesn’t complain because China gives them $600,000,000 a year no strings attached. (You can guess which pockets that goes into.) In return Cambodia supports China in international disputes, such as concerning the islands in the South China Sea.