Posts

Education for Children in CambodiaAround 30% of the population in Cambodia lives below the poverty line. Poverty affects children significantly. More than 10% of children in Cambodia do not have access to education and roughly 44.8% (1.52 million) of children aged 5-14 are economically active. Organizations are working to improve access to education for children in Cambodia, especially those living in poverty.

The Prevalence of Child Labor in Cambodia

The reason child labor is so prevalent is that many Cambodian families cannot afford to send their children to school and are in desperate financial circumstances. The costs involved in sending children to school include textbooks, uniforms and transport which families cannot afford. In the rural areas of Siem Reap Province, many people live below the poverty line on less than a dollar each day. As a result, they have to choose between food or education for their children. This forces children to work instead of going to school so they can help support their families.

Lack of education along with insufficient nutrition leaves children developmentally behind. Education is a lifeline for children to rise out of poverty but some children simply cannot afford the luxury of learning.

Rebuilding School’s in Cambodia

Part of the problem is the lack of schools in Cambodia. In the rural areas, there are few schools. One can trace this back to when the Khmer Rouge took control in Cambodia in 1975. Not only did schools close but the buildings either underwent destruction or the government took them over for use.

Many Cambodian teachers and students lost their lives at this time as well because intellectuals posed a threat to the society the Khmer Rouge was trying to create. Roughly 75-90% of teachers, 96% of university students and 67% of all primary and secondary school students died in the massacre that lasted from 1975 to 1979.

Rebuilding has been an essential part of improving Cambodian children’s education, a process that continues to this day. In 2020, the Cambodia International Charity Organization, a Chinese-run NGO, constructed a two-classroom school building for Treap Primary School in a remote village. The school headmaster said the existing school building has been deteriorating, making it difficult for children to learn when it rains.

The Cambodian Children’s Fund

This nonprofit organization emerged in 2004 with the mission of “transforming the lives of the most impoverished, marginalized and neglected children in Cambodia through high-quality education, leadership training and direct support programs.” The Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) works on the ground directly with children who are the most affected by poverty most effects and its programs have positively impacted the education of many impoverished Cambodian children.

In 2019, 1,855 children enrolled in programs that the CCF offered. The pass rate for students taking their grade 12 exams who had involvement with the organization was 84% in comparison to the nation’s 67%. The program also saw 33 university graduates in 2019, marking a total of 84 CCF graduates who have moved on from the program as successful young adults.

Sophy’s Story

Sophy Ron is one of the many people the Cambodian Children’s Fund has helped. Sophy was 11 years old when the organization found her. She did not go to school and made a living selling items she could salvage from a landfill site. After the Cambodian Children’s Fund took her in and sponsored her, Sophy was able to pursue an education. In 2019, Sophy completed her first year of university after earning a scholarship to Trinity College at the University of Melbourne in Australia and gave the valedictorian speech for the graduating class of 2019.

While education is a key factor to help children like Sophy rise out of poverty, without the opportunities and resources available to impoverished families, education remains out of reach. Organizations like the Cambodian Children’s Fund and the Cambodia International Charity Organization make education for children in Cambodia a priority, ensuring that the cycle of poverty can break.

Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

jewelry rebuilds economy in cambodiaCambodian artisans are turning the same brass once used to murder into a symbol of peace and resilience, a stand against the violence that once overtook their country. Artisanry and design have deep roots in Cambodian history. However, the Khmer Rouge destroyed centuries of creative artifacts and left Cambodia’s economy in shambles. Cambodia is now littered with bombshell casings from the Khmer Rouge-led Cambodian genocide, the Vietnam War and a bombing ordered by former U.S. president Richard Nixon. But jewelers are reclaiming their nation through craft, turning these casings into beautiful pieces of jewelry as a stand against the violence that overtook their country. Their jewelry rebuilds the economy in Cambodia and reduces poverty along with it.

What Was the Cambodian Genocide?

April 17, 1975 marks the dark day that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge began destroying the Cambodian people. Pot’s goal was to rebuild Cambodia in the image of Mao’s communist model in China. However, this led to the murder of an estimated two to three million people in the historic Killing Fields. Between the murders and thousands of starvation deaths, 25% of the Cambodian population died in three years.

This loss devastated the country’s creativity culture, leaving a mere 10% of artists alive. The Khmer Rouge also banned all creative art forms that did not politically benefit them. In addition, the regime destroyed all of Cambodia’s cultural traditions. In order to rebuild the country, its people have looked to the arts.

Rajana Association of Cambodia: Jewelry Rebuilds the Economy in Cambodia

Local jewelers collect pieces of mines, bombs and bullets and upcycle them into beautifully cut brass rings, necklaces and bracelets. They also work with a Cambodian organization that trains people how to properly remove old landmines so that the jewelers can use the material. Rajana jewelers pride themselves on preserving Cambodian style and culture by staying away from Western designs. This not only demonstrates the artisans’ pride in their country’s culture but also their attempt to replenish the art destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

The Rajana Association of Cambodia began in 1995 as a project under a UK-based NGO, Cambodia Action, which employed young Cambodian refugees at a camp in Thailand. It became its own independent company in 2003 and has since grown into a prominent and successful organization in Cambodia and worldwide. As such, its jewelry rebuilds the economy in Cambodia while preserving its culture.

By successfully expanding their company, the leaders of Rajana have also transformed the lives of their jeweler partners. With an outlet to work from home, the artisans make a living wage while caring for their families. Rajana also established several shops across the country solely run by Cambodian staff in order to sell the products. This income has helped send children to school, provide food for their families and purchase transportation.

Artisans Help Economies Grow

Artisan work has played a crucial role in opening the economy in post-conflict Cambodia to the global market. This rise in jewelry work has not only helped revive Cambodian tradition but also promoted commerce, trade and employment. Cambodia’s GDP has grown to $27 billion in 2019 from $588 million just before in the genocide in 1974. Jewelry manufacturing has contributed $4.8 million to the country’s GDP and employed over 3,500 people, making it a leading factor in the economy’s sustainable development. What began as a way to revive cultural traditions after the genocide has proven to be a driving component in changing the course of Cambodia’s history: the country’s poverty rate has continued to fall as employment rates rise, and is now at about 13% as of 2014 compared to almost 50% in 2007. Thus, jewelry both rebuilds the economy in Cambodia and reduces the poverty its citizens face.

Beautiful Jewelry Reduces Poverty

Several fair trade shops sell Rajana products online, including Ten Thousand Villages and Oxfam. These shops pay their artisans fair prices for their products, thus helping them establish better lives for themselves and their families. It is incredibly important to support international artisans. This fair trade keeps not only their economies alive but also their culture and history. In all, this jewelry rebuilds the economy in Cambodia through cultural preservation, resilience and creativity.

– Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

Cambodia Job FoundationBetween 1975 and 1979, Cambodia was ruled by communist leader Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime. Under his administration, millions of Cambodians were forced to labor without adequate food. In order to improve the lives of Cambodians who are recovering from the regime’s rule and help impoverished people become self-reliant, The Cambodia Job Foundation (CJF) is using steady employment to empower people. 

Cambodia’s History of Struggle

During Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime’s rule, those who were educated–or those who appeared so–were seen as a threat. People were profiled by something as simple as wearing glasses and many were killed. The majority of teachers at the time were murdered; thus, the education system was largely destroyed. 

Cambodia is still in the process of recovery from the Khmer Rouge. 37.2% of the country still lives in poverty, according to the2019 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index issued by the United Nations. Many Cambodians are also illiterate. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that the 2015 literacy rate in Cambodia for the population over age 65, most of whom lived through the Khmer Rouge, was only 53%.

Many NGOs have been working to alleviate poverty in Cambodia, and one in particular labors to help educate and create jobs for Cambodians. 

The Cambodia Job Foundation

The Cambodia Job Foundation aims to help impoverished young Cambodians become more self-reliant. According to its mission, the organization “empowers individuals to improve their lives and support their families through quality and stable employment.”

With teams in both Cambodia and the United States, the foundation mentors Cambodians, specifically those aged 30 and younger, with a focus on business startup and operation as well as financial management. It also provides access to information and resources, to which those learning the programs can apply what they are taught. In 2018, the foundation helped 131 families complete financial training lessons, mentored 66 individuals in starting a business and led 80 individuals to graduate from an IT class.

A Former Intern’s Experience

A native of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, Theary Leng was an intern for CJF during the summer of 2019. Leng has helped the organization with various training and mentoring programs as well as grant approvals. She’s seen the foundation’s impacts in her country. 

“They have helped some of the low-income families to get on their [feet] by giving them a $500 grant to start up a small business,” she said.

Leng said she believes a variety of obstacles prevent Cambodians from obtaining work, including a lack of vocational training skills and education, gender inequality in the workplace and government corruption. But through the Cambodia Job Foundation, she is able to help those in her country.

“As someone who grew up in Cambodia and as a direct witness who has been impacted by poverty, I understand and know how hard it would be to live in poverty,” Leng said. “That’s why I want to help Cambodians to become self-reliant.”

The Cambodian people are still recovering from the Khmer Rouge regime. Many people still live in poverty and lack literacy skills. CJF is working to lift up Cambodians by empowering them through resources that can help them gain and retain stable employment. 

Emma Benson
Photo: Unsplash

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Cambodia
Cambodia is a small South-East Asian nation bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. The nation is still recovering from the damages wrought by the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled from 1951 – 1999. The unfortunate legacies are numerous. Despite this, Cambodia is making strides to face the many challenges that being a rising developing nation entails. Overall, living conditions in Cambodia are steadily improving.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Cambodia

  1. Cambodia has a population of 15.9 million people. Ninety percent of them are of Khmer origin while the remaining 10 percent are Vietnamese, Chinese or a member of another minority. The country is made up of predominantly rural dwellers, who have settled in villages in areas near rivers. Only 12 percent of the population lives in the capital, Phnom Penh.
  2.  The average life expectancy is 67 years old for males and 71 years for females. The median age of the population is 24. There is a high prevalence of HIV and AIDS in Cambodia, among the highest in Asia. In 2016, 71,000 people were living with HIV. The government is making concerted efforts to combat this illness and increase awareness of how to keep it from spreading.
  3. Health care is an issue that the government is overlooking as it makes strides in its policies to benefit its people. Health care only comprises 1 percent of the overall GDP. There is a massive disparity between the quality and availability of medical resources in rural and urban areas. In rural areas, many people are forced to travel long distances to get the care that they need. The Social Security System currently in place only covers employment injuries for formal workers, making it hard to get coverage.
  4. The education system in Cambodia was largely destroyed by the Khmer Rouge Revolution when education was banned. Schools were destroyed and teachers were executed. The government is making great efforts to build this system back up, dedicating 18.31 percent of the national budget to education. They have almost achieved universal access to primary education at 97.7 percent. Cambodia has strengthened gender parity with girls making up 48.2 percent of students. The country has built 1,000 new schools in the last 10 years.
  5. The Cambodian government is dedicated to child protection. It is improving child development and strengthening child protection services by addressing violence against children and the use of residential care institutions. The government has a goal to reduce the use of these institutions by 30 percent and to prevent family and child separation.
  6. While poverty has decreased significantly in Cambodia, many families survive while hovering just above the poverty line of $1.25 per day. Three of four people live on less than $3 a day. Most of these people are rural, but urban poverty is also on the rise.
  7. Urban slums account for 25 percent of the population of Phnom Penh. These areas face many challenges, including poor sanitation and hygiene, high rates of diarrhea and malnutrition. They lack toilets, decent drainage and garbage disposal systems. These slums are overcrowded and ridden with poverty and domestic violence.
  8. One in four women are survivors of physical, emotional or sexual violence. One in five women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence by the age of 15. In Cambodian society, violence against women is frowned upon, but domestic violence is acceptable. This creates a culture where women have the pretense of protection but are not safe in their own homes.
  9. Cambodia’s elderly population is growing as they become more prosperous. People above 60 years of age makeup 6.34 percent of the population, at 849,911 people. The country expects this population to triple in the coming decades. They are a largely forgotten group of people in development and democracy debates. Most presume that they are taken care of by their families. These people contribute to society by taking care of children and those afflicted with HIV and AIDS.
  10. There is a general disregard in Cambodia for those with disabilities. They are generally denied normal opportunities to live comfortably and improve their lives. Because of this injustice, they often end up begging on the street to feed themselves and their families. Rehabilitation centers are limited in cities and rural areas, particularly for children and women with disabilities.

While the national government is putting intense focus on improving living conditions in Cambodia, there are still aspects that need work. The country needs to focus on poverty, domestic violence and those with disabilities to try to protect their citizens from the pain they receive at home and then increase the health care accessibility so that these victims can receive the care that they need.

– Michela Rahaim
Photo: Flickr

Improving Mental Health in CambodiaThere are two main factors that have lead to the need for improving mental health issues in Cambodia today.

First, is the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was a genocide in the late 1970s that ultimately killed four million Cambodians. The ruthless regime of the Khmer Rouge left many survivors with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from witnessing such horrific crimes against humanity.

Second, is the high rates of poverty that plague Cambodia. The mass destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge left the country poverty stricken, losing decades of development in a just few years. As a result, living in poverty poses itself as a large risk factor for mental illnesses, causing many Cambodians without PTSD from the genocide to still be at a high risk of struggling with mental health.

Specifically targeting educated people and those unable to work, the Khmer Rouge left the country with only a few dozen medical professionals by the genocide’s end. Moreover, it has taken decades for Cambodia to develop the organizations necessary to combat such deeply-rooted mental health struggles. Here are four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia today.

4 Organizations Improving Mental Health in Cambodia

  1. Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia)
    TPO Cambodia recognizes the gap between mental health services needed and the mental health services provided in Cambodia. Through recognizing this gap, TPO Cambodia has developed an extensive array of mental health services. For instance, services are aimed at community building, raising awareness and providing psychological treatment. By focusing on the cultural context of Cambodia, TPO Cambodia aims to develop culturally aware treatment options for patients. Some of the many services available at TPO Cambodia are:

    • Offering the training of already-established community leaders to be key mental health resources for the community
    • Trauma treatment
    • Counseling and therapy
    • Self-help groups for victims of sexual assault and of the Khmer Rouge
    • Protection of children
  2. Cambodian National Program for Mental Health
    Secondly, training mental health professionals are just the beginning for the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health. With its primary goal being to support the Cambodian Ministry of Health, this program continues to help increase the number of properly-trained mental health professionals in Cambodia. This is so foundational as Cambodia needs more trained mental health professionals to properly address the mental health needs of the country. In addition to training mental health professionals, the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health:

    1. Provides mental health services to 23 out of 24 Cambodian provinces
    2. Introduced computerized documentation for client’s files
    3. Supports the primary psychiatric facility in Phnom Penh
    4. Develops the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre
  3. Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH)
    Also dedicated to supporting the mental health struggles of children and their families, CCAMH strives to help children in the community, at school and at their center. So, by providing counseling and awareness-building services at school and in the community, CCAMH’s primary resources are at their center. For example, some of the services available at the center are:

    • Play therapy
    • Behavior therapy
    • Psychosocial Education
    • Multi-Model Therapeutic Intervention
    • Individual and family counseling
  4. Social Services of Cambodia (SSC)
    Finally, the primary focus of SSC is to dismantle the negative stigmas associated with mental health professionals in Cambodia. For example, SSC aims to change the negative public opinions by spreading messages busting stigma-centric myths about mental health professionals to schools, government officials and the public. Additionally, SSC encourages future university students to get involved in social work and recognize the value of social work professionals.

Overall, with very little allocated to mental health services in Cambodia’s public health budget, government-run mental health programs are severely underfunded. Therefore, compiled with the severe stigma against psychiatric help in Cambodia, the discouraging of many health professionals to go into the mental health field leave Cambodia with a monetary and human resource deficit to properly manage nationwide mental health struggles. Fortunately, there are these four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia to help pave the way towards a solution.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Education in Cambodia
During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, lasting from 1975-1979, education in Cambodia experienced a dramatic setback as schools were destroyed and teachers and educators were executed. In the aftermath of this destructive period, Cambodia attempted to rebuild its education system. But today, only about half of school-age children are enrolled.

Cambodian History

The Khmer Rouge, led by Marxist politician Pol Pot, came into power in 1975, when their army took hold of Cambodia’s capital and overthrew the former government. This time in history became known as “Year Zero,” a term derived from the new calendar set in place during the French Revolution. The regime became known for its repressive actions, paranoid ideology, and most importantly, widespread, systematic cruelty.

With the agenda of pursuing an agrarian ideal, the Khmer Rouge led the Cambodian genocide, expelling foreigners, minorities and anyone who resisted the government. The execution grounds — where over a million victims were killed and buried — were called the “killing fields,” and many who toiled in the farms also died from starvation or being overworked.

Intellectuals were seen as dissidents and often specifically targeted, and schools were frequently closed. Children were viewed as blank slates who could easily be manipulated to adhere to Khmer Rouge ideology. After the Khmer Rouge were driven out of Cambodia, the model of education in Cambodia had to be completely recreated from scratch, and schools very slowly began to reemerge in society.

Non-Profit Organizations in Cambodia

Non-profit organizations have helped to support the growth of Cambodia’s children by offering opportunities for education. The organization Tassel acknowledges that the country is still recovering from the trauma of the Khmer Rouge and faces setbacks such as poverty and the challenge of rebuilding itself socially.

Tassel offers children in rural areas free English language education, giving them the skills to read textbooks and sustain jobs later in life. Tassel operates in accordance with its values of compassion and quality, as well as with its volunteer-based structure. The program strives to lift Cambodia out of a darkened past when teachers were persecuted, in hopes of reconstructing the school system.

Programs such as Aziza’s Place, a non-profit learning and development center, enhance the development of underprivileged children in Phnom Penh. Founded in 2007, the organization holds tutoring sessions to support students who have missed school, helping them to gain footing in public schools. Aziza’s Place also provides English language lessons and computer classes, where children can learn to use Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.

In addition, children have the opportunity to study the arts and participate in sports. Other programs such as Tuk Tuk for Children strive to bring children in rural Cambodia education, sanitation and entertainment. Tuk Tuk recognizes that many youngsters have to work to support their families, a reality that can interfere with their academic and social growth.

The organization hosts Tuk Tuk Theatre, which brings children fun activities and informal education on topics such as geography, yoga and sanitation. The group also created Tuk Tuk Mobile Library, a system that circulates books through six different preschools.

Education in Cambodia

The efforts of non-profits such as Tassel, Aziza’s Place and Tuk Tuk for Children have helped to restore vibrancy to the lives of children and provide them with educational opportunities. Cambodia is a country grappling with a harsh history, brought about by the destructive rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Under this regime, the education system was toppled, intellectuals were executed and schools were wiped out. Since this period, the nation has rebuilt its education system entirely from scratch. Organizations that support education in Cambodia have helped to offer the country a new direction in its children’s growth and, hopefully, a brighter future.

– Shira Laucharoen
Photo: Flickr

Cambodian genocideIn 1975, the Khmer Rouge gained control of the Cambodian government with the intent to transform Cambodia into a communist state. As a result, millions of civilians were evacuated from the cities into labor camps where an estimated 1.7 million died from starvation, torture, abuse and execution.

For four years, the Khmer Rouge under the control of former Prime Minister Pol Pot wreaked havoc in Cambodia, creating one of the most devastating mass killings in global history. While the atrocities today are widely known, there are still many facts about the Cambodian genocide that the general public does not know.

Important Facts About the Cambodian Genocide

  1. Unlike other genocides in which specific ethnic groups are targeted for execution, the Cambodian genocide had no exceptions and would single out doctors, teachers, minorities, people with an education, children and even babies.
  2. Pol Pot wanted the nation to revert to a self-sufficient way of living where money had no influence in society. This led to the forced evacuation of cities into the rural communities for a “fresh start.”
  3. Among the near two million dead were an estimated 100,000 Cham Muslims and 20,000 Vietnamese.
  4. While some facts about the Cambodian genocide gained international recognition, it lacked an international investigation due to the United States’ recent loss in the Vietnam War and the hesitance to become involved in the region again.
  5. In the years following the calamity, Cambodia began opening up to the international community again with survivors sharing their stories and recollections. With horrific facts about the Cambodian genocide coming to light, Hollywood created the movie “The Killing Fields” based off of victims’ firsthand experiences. This film brought worldwide attention to what was, just a few years earlier, internationally neglected.
  6. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, otherwise known as the ECCC, was established in 1997 with the assistance of the United Nations. The purpose of the tribunal was to try the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge for the mass crimes committed during the genocide.
  7. Pol Pot faced a show trial in 1997 where he was sentenced to house arrest. He died just less than a year later, never facing a real trial for his crimes and leaving millions of affected people without the chance to bring him to justice.
  8. Victims were allowed to actively participate in the trial proceedings as complainants and civil parties, giving them the satisfaction of justice being enforced. The amount of victims present during each case varied from 94 to 4,128.
  9. Throughout the trials, three offenders were convicted and four were charged for allegations pertaining to crimes against humanity, homicide, violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code, breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and genocide.
  10. The closing statements for the final case lasted nine days in June 2017 and the final judgment is expected to be presented in 2018.

The Cambodian genocide itself may have only lasted four years but the effects from it will continue to last for years, decades and even centuries. The Cambodian people will continue to rebuild their nation and their own lives, working toward a better, more peaceful future.

– Samantha Harward
Photo: Flickr

 Education in CambodiaIn the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge’s regime resulted in the destruction of most of Cambodia’s educational structures. At the end of this brutal period of communist rule, Cambodia was forced to rebuild its education system from nothing. The country has seen great success in this area, and education in Cambodia continues to improve and be accessible to more young students.

Reforms in 1996 solidified the general educational pattern of six-three-three, meaning six years of primary education, three years of lower secondary education and three years of upper secondary education. The government runs the public education system, but there are several opportunities for private education in Cambodia.

In 2014, the government formulated an Education Strategic Plan to improve the education system and subsequently stimulate the economy. The plan focuses on equal access to education, increasing the quality of the school curriculum, and encouraging teachers and school faculty towards excellence in their roles as educators.

Eighteen percent of the national budget has been dedicated to education. These efforts from the Cambodian government have been met with great success. As of 2015, 98 percent of school-age age were enrolled in some form of school. Female students comprised 48 percent of this statistic. In the last decade, almost 1,000 schools have been built and school resources have been significantly expanded.

While education in Cambodia has enjoyed great success, the country still has many areas they need to improve. The student-to-teacher ratio is very high compared to other nearby countries, and teachers are not paid enough to support themselves. Forty-seven percent of third-grade students are unable to read at a third-grade level, and the overall illiteracy rate is incredibly high.

With the government’s resurgence in attention towards the education system, education in Cambodia has flourished in the past decade. While there are many aspects that still need work, the country is on the right track and will be rewarded with improvements in the economy and reduced poverty levels as a result of a strengthened education program.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

Rural Poverty in Cambodia
Agrarian farmers, women, internally displaced persons and those in poor fishing communities account for 4.8 million impoverished Cambodian individuals, while 90 percent of this demographic live in rural areas. Poverty in Cambodia is severe in rural regions.

Those living in rural poverty in Cambodia are isolated and live in villages far from health services and roads, contributing to their limited access to education, health care and employment.

The Khmer Rouge, a radical communist group, took power in Cambodia during 1975 and practices instilled by their reign began to facilitate rural poverty in Cambodia. After forcing citizens out of cities and into the countryside, they dismantled financial institutions, education infrastructures and foreign cultural influences.

Rural Poverty in Cambodia

They aimed to reform Cambodia into a rural nation until 1979 after Vietnamese troops invaded the country to capture Khmer Rouge leader, Phnom Penh. However, their representation of Cambodia was continued through 1990 when the United Nations recognized them as the only authentic representation of Cambodians in the General Assembly.

Urban areas experienced a decline in poverty of around 10 percent in one decade. However, resolving rural poverty in Cambodia is vital to further development as agricultural employment accounts for 59 percent of the total labor force nationwide.

The Asian Development Bank’s analysis of rural poverty in Cambodia cites five main foundations for economic growth in remote areas: Growth in land under production, growth in the rural labor force, modest gains in agricultural productivity main in non-rice crops, public and private investment in agriculture in rural infrastructure and substantial investments in social infrastructure such as health, education and sanitation.

According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, 85 percent of people living in poverty reside in rural locations. The prevalence of rural poverty among the world’s poor is so critical that the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development asserts that alleviating poverty in these areas should be the United Nation’s number one Millennium Development Goal.

The International Fund for Agriculture is currently conducting five programs to alleviate rural poverty in Cambodia focusing on developing more efficient agrarian productivity that directly benefits 425,300 households.

Programs support investments in agriculture and development in remote villages, while also accounting for sensitivities for women to ease gendered inequalities.

USAID is also conducting programs to develop governing stability, improving healthcare, increasing accessibility to education for individuals in remote areas and improving food security.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Khmer Rouge leaders
Cambodia’s U.N. backed war crimes tribunal has sentenced the last two surviving Khmer Rouge leaders to life imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The now frail 88-year-old Nuon Chea and 83-year-old Khieu Samphan were leaders of the Khmer Rouge — a fanatic Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 causing the death of at least 1.7 million people from overwork, torture, starvation and execution.

Chea served as deputy to the leader Pol Pott who died in 1998 and was perceived to be the ideological mastermind behind the regime whose pet slogan was “To spare you is no profit; to destroy you, no loss.” Khieu Samphan was the Maoist regime’s head of state.

Until now, no senior leaders of the regime have ever been prosecuted.

The Khmehr Rouge took power in 1975 and, driven by Maoist Ideology, sought to create an agrarian society. Intellectuals, officials and minorities were executed as enemies of the state or worked to death at rural cooperatives. The capital city Phnom Penh was emptied and its residence were forced to work in the countryside and join the revolution.

Long before the Khmehr Rouge took power, Cambodia counted among the more prosperous countries of Southeast Asia, butdue to the extreme violence of the fanatical Khmehr Rouge, today it numbers among the poorest. The ideological attempt to remove the educated class has left its mark on modern Cambodia where agriculture is still the largest source of income. By the end of the Khmer Rouge regime, it is thought there were only fifty doctors left in the whole country for a population of 14 million.

The average annual wage in Cambodia is only US $256, and out of 187 countries Cambodia ranks 136th on the U.N. human development index.

Cambodia is still in a phase of recovery from the Khmer Rouge days and the first imprisonment of the regime’s leaders is a long awaited justice. Many Cambodians whose lives were destroyed and families split up due to the crimes of the Khmer Rouge are frustrated with the time it has taken to finally achieve some justice, which many feel is still not nearly enough.

Chea and Samphan will now serve the remainder of their lives in prison. A separate trail for genocide started a few days ago. The trials for crimes against humanity and genocide were split in order to bring the men to justice more quickly.

Charles Bell

Sources: Poverties, World Bank, Crimes of War, BBC, UNDP
Photo: Afghanistan Times