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Thursday, February 08, 2007

A tough go for Vietnamese on floating houses in Cambodia

There are 6000 Vietnamese citizenship on the Tonle Sap Lake of Cambodia. They all claimed the lives are hard on their floating boat houses. Are they really unfortunate or they just really lucky to be there? With thousand and thousand of Vietnamese are living in Cambodia freely. And some Cambodians are no place to stay and facing hardship with the authorities.

Could Cambodian live in Vietnam freely like Vietnamese being in Cambodia? No, absolutely no. A single Cambodian show up in Vietnam will be jailed and accused all kind of connection with politic. The Hun Sen government is a corruption Chan making Cambodia border shrinking.

The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap in Cambodia swarms with fishermen of Vietnamese origins eking out their daily existence on floating homes in extreme hardship.

Around 30km south of Pursat province, in Krako district, Thanh Nien newspaper met Nguyen Thi An, who said her family has always clung to fishing on this lake, also known as the Great Lake.

When Cambodia was at war years ago, she returned to Vietnam for shelter, and after the guns were silenced, she returned.

Apart from a black and white TV set, she owns practically nothing of value. Her eight children are all into fishing.

According to a commune official, over 6,000 people of Vietnamese origins live in the region, all on boats, sometimes dubbed floating houses.

Though there are no addresses here and their houses can literally move anytime and dock anywhere, an unwritten rule on location is deeply engrained.

Accordingly, boats that are tattered will be allowed by their sturdier counterparts to dock next to the shore, those in good condition dock further out and so on. This is understandable, as weak, makeshift boats cannot bear big waves far offshore.

Visiting this shoreward “houses” is a sore sight. Rows of dilapidated boats inched their way deep against the bank.

Tran Thi Hanh, 36 years old, owns what can at best be called the trunk of a boat. She had to hold the boat together with nylon bags to prevent it from breaking apart and water from seeping through.

She recalled one day when she was robbed, literally, of hook, line, and sinker and had to loan from her poor neighbors before her goods were sequestered.

Her husband had to hire himself out to ruthless employers.

Drawing on her painful experiences, she tipped Thanh Nien how to win a job interview.

“When an interviewer asked ‘are your eyes potato eyes or human eyes’, if the answer is human eyes, you will be disqualified. It must be potato eyes as they are always open. Then you have to work nearly 24 hours a day”

Poor opportunity for children
This lake also has schools offering elementary education. Nguyen Viet Dat proudly owns a school but his like many others is simply an 18 sq.m plank on a fishing vessel where students from 1st to 5th grade cramp inside.

Dat said textbooks are few and far between. Three and four students thus have to share one book. However, even this is better than a few years ago when he had to write everything on the blackboard as there was no book.

His school did not have any textbooks until recently when the Association of Vietnamese Expatriates in Cambodia supplied a few.

He said his “school” is still better than three others which received no support from the association and have to do without books.

Schools here only taught elementary education. Those wanting to further their education have to return to Vietnam or enroll in a more decent, pukka school in Cambodia. Very few were able to do that, he added.

Of the 600 children here, only one-third attend “school”.

His heart seemed to skip a beat when asked about the incoming Tet or the Lunar New Year, a
traditional, major holiday for the Vietnamese coming in nine days time.

This year, business is not good, fishermen suffer losses and so there’s little of Tet here. “Whenever Tet is mentioned, all of us feel sad and miss our homeland”.

Asked why they did not return to Vietnam since life is so hard here, Huynh Luy, president of the expatriates association explained that the repatriates would not have legal papers once in Vietnam, besides it will be very difficult for their children to be admitted to schools there.

Read more!

Cambodian forest home to many endangered birds

Scientists flock to remote region to study rare species
BANGKOK, THAILAND — Researchers in the remote forests of Cambodia said Wednesday they have discovered the only known colony in Southeast Asia of slender-billed vultures and scores of other endangered birds.

The colony was discovered last month in the jungles east of the Mekong River in Cambodia's Stung Treng Province.

"We discovered the nests on top of a hill where two other vulture species were also found," said Song Chansocheat, manager of the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project.

"Amazingly, there were also a host of other globally threatened species of birds and primates," Song Chansocheat said in a statement. "It's a very special place."

The area was also found to be home to several other species listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, including the white-rumped vulture, according to the New York-based WCS.

The team also spotted a red-headed vulture, giant ibis and an endangered primate called a silvered langur, or leaf monkey.

Researchers said slender-billed vultures have been found in other parts of Southeast Asia but that the only other known colony until now was in northern India. They are believed extinct in many parts of Southeast Asia, including Thailand. Read more!