Street Scenes

Street scenes from the Tuol Tum Poung area. (Clockwise from upper left:) 1. Two identically dressed women selling small clams from the Mekong River. 2. Maybe the smallest market in the world, a three-foot strip of land outside a wat. 3. A little girl being reassured at the appearance of a monk on his daily begging rounds. 4. A motordupe (motorcycle taxi) driver waiting for a hire at a fruit stall.

Querida Amazonia 2

Pope Francis has published his apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia. I will post some of the highlights from the document in which Pope Francis focuses on four dreams.

Social Dream

I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced. (7)

2. “The Amazon region has been presented as an enormous empty space to be filled, a source of raw resources to be developed, a wild expanse to be domesticated. None of this recognizes the rights of the original peoples; it simply ignores them as if they did not exist, or acts as if the lands on which they live do not belong to them.” (12)


Valentine’s Day in Phnom Penh

Valentine’s Day is another of the western celebrations adopted by Cambodian culture. Often known as “sex day” among Cambodian youth, the government has decried its popularity and even toyed with the idea of introducing a Buddhist celebration to compete with Valentine’s Day.
Coming home after early morning mass yesterday, I was surprised to see only these two outlets selling Valentine’s Day-themed merchandise. Usually there are many more, so maybe the government’s disapproval is having an effect. The one place was selling flowers on the curb, and for those who wanted to go over the top with their gift, this shop was selling any size teddy bear that would suit your fancy.

Querida Amazonia 1

Pope Francis has published his apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia. I will post some of the highlights from the document in which Pope Francis focuses on four dreams.

Social Dream

I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced. (7)

1. “We do not need an environmentalism ‘that is concerned for the biome but ignores the Amazonian peoples.’” (8)


How would you call it?

Notice the headline: “Hun Sen” is the actor. It’s not the Ministry of Health or the government or port officials that let the passengers disembark from the cruise ship MS Westerdam in the Sihanoukville harbor after it was denied docking rights in other countries because of fears of the COVID-19 virus. It’s Hun Sen, Cambodia’s prime minister, who claims credit. He makes the decision and the Post dutifully applauds him as a good government newspaper should. Isn’t that one of the marks of a certain governance style that centers on one all-powerful person?

Cool Hand Luke?

Anyone watching might have wondered whom this man was talking to if they observed him waiting with his motorcycle-pulled ice wagon on the street near World Vision. Closer inspection, though, might reveal the head of the three or four-year old son who is hunkered down in cool comfort next to the blocks of ice in the wagon. Maybe he’s his father’s helping hand? Or more likely, he probably has to ride with his father all day because they don’t have money for day care.

Sad Day in Kampot

Today our program manager, Prak Soeun (L), and I went to Kampot for a final meeting with four staff (the two on each side of me) who have lost their jobs as DDP has had to reduce its activities in the province because of budget cuts from international donors. The two staff on the far right will continue providing minimal activities to keep the deaf community engaged there.

Shoot the Messenger!

After the most recent examination to select students for training for Cambodia’s judiciary, 50+ students complained that there was corruption in the exam process, and that more than $2 million in bribes [“hiccups”?] was paid to get good scores. That’s not a surprising claim in Cambodia where there is constant buying and selling of government favors, civil service positions, etc., by corrupt officials.

And here’s the way the government typically responds:

Transparency International in their latest report described the kingdom as “highly corrupt” and ranked Cambodia at 162nd of 180 countries. That was a drop of one place from last year’s report. This year’s report noted: “Key structural and systematic reforms–in particular with regard to strengthening rule of law and justice–have made little to no progress.”

It would seem that if the country year after year scores so low on the corruption index the government might acknowledge there could be something wrong and address the problem. Instead the government spokesman dismissed the report as “just an advertisement of NGOs to promote their own interests.” Ahhh…the Kingdom of Wonder….