What’s 30 or 40 minutes?

This is just the latest example of a government some would call craven and venal selling off public lands, property, or buildings, usually to their developer friends.  It will be interesting to see what replaces the fire headquarters which was near our Maryknoll office.  I’m sure the new building will make a lot of money for someone–and probably that someone will be a friend or colleague of a government official, or maybe the official himself.

As for the people who will suffer…20 kilometers is 12 miles.  In the Phnom Penh traffic now it takes 40 to 50 minutes to go 4 miles to the airport.  The new fire headquarters is 12 miles away!  How long will it take a fire truck to get to a fire in the city?  Of course, on the positive side it will give the owners of the burning building more time to collect money because the fire department has a reputation for demanding money, once they arrive on the scene, before they start to fight the fire.

Human Rights Day in Cambodia

December 10th this year was the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration on Human Rights.  It’s a public holiday in Cambodia but that just means that the government schools and government offices and the banks are closed.  Everything else is open.

This is the headline on the Phnom Penh Post on Monday, December 10.  No one in the government of Cambodia would see the irony of the government forbidding–on Human Rights Day–a march celebrating human rights.   It would disrupt traffic, said the government flunky with a straight face.


To make matters worse, today, the day after Human Rights Day, the newspaper announces that Cambodians enjoy “full freedoms”—except the right to peaceful assembly, that is.

IDPD 2018

Today was Cambodia’s official celebration of the International Day for People with Disabilities.  The UN-designated day was 3 December but the government here transferred the celebration to today.  The annual event is rather a charade.  No person with a disability spoke or had any role in the planning or enacting of the celebration.  No person with a disability was even on the stage except for Mr. Veasna, in a wheelchair, who is head of the National Center for People with Disabilities.  We were required to be in the hall 1.5 to 2 hours before the starting point, the deputy prime minister spoke for 1.5 hours, they gave $1.25 to each person with a disability, and that was it.

The deputy prime minister spoke an hour and a half, the only event of the celebration.
This was the reaction of the people with disabilities sitting beside and behind me.
This our DDP sign language interpreter. Notice how many of the deaf people are following the interpretation she is giving of the speech.

You think you’ve got it bad…

Headlines and news reports from United States media frequently make reference to the campaign to raise the minimum wage in the U.S. to $15 an hour.  The minimum wage is also a matter for discussion in Cambodia but here the goal of organized labor is a minimum wage of $182 PER MONTH.  The current wage norm here is $170 per month, raised before last July’s elections in order to get the garment industry workers to support the ruling party.

It’s no wonder why….

Tens of thousands of garment factory workers–usually young women–ride to work each day jammed, standing up, in the back of open trucks.  Many of them are killed in the frequent accidents when trucks overturn and collide from speeding and throw bodies everywhere.  The government’s response? “Training” drivers to obey the law and “urging” them to get driver’s licenses.  That’s a neat idea.