An uneasy calm prevails in Cambodia after the government crackdown on protests by garment workers in January. With public gatherings banned and charges framed against 23 union leaders and activists, labour discontent may not be spilling on to the streets, but it is simmering.
Many Cambodian women arrive in South Korea or China for marriage, only to find themselves being chosen as mistresses, say labour rights activists. While young Cambodian men, who travel to Thailand to work on fishing boats, often fall prey to drug abuse.
“Cambodian garment workers have two handcuffs and one weapon [against them]. One handcuff is a short-term contract [10 hours a day, six days a week]. Even if they get sick, if they get pregnant they feel they have to get an abortion so they don’t lose their jobs.
“I prefer the dam to the fish,” says middle-aged farmer Ton Noun, when asked his opinion on a proposed 400 megawatt dam on Sesan river near his home in northeastern Cambodia. Then he chuckles and asks, “What fish?”
Decades of international and local collaboration have brought the Tahki or Asian Wild Horse back from the brink of extinction and reintroduced herds to Mongolia’s Gobi desert and grasslands. However, the country’s other wild equine - the Mongolian Wild Ass or Khulan - is fast disappearing.
“We are not saying that all people become sex workers, but you make more money,” Virak Horn, a 32-year-old gay sex worker who works freelance in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, tells IPS. He earns enough to support his family and pay for his college degree.
Mongolia, 90 percent dependent on fuel imports from Russia and vulnerable to price hikes, is seeking to develop its oil shale deposits of at least 800 billion tons.
The quiet Cambodian village of Chouk, set in the beautiful forests of the Cardamom Mountains near the Thai border, seems peaceful. But things are difficult in this largely empty village of simple wooden houses, populated mainly by children and the elderly.
As Cambodia readies for general elections Sunday Jul. 28, the youth, who make up 36 percent of the country have signaled they are eager for ‘change.’
Tsetseghkorol, a Mongolian herder, stares out nostalgically at the Orkhon River, the longest in the country.
The violence that defined Cambodia during the years of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) may have been relegated to the realm of history, but the actions of the ruling party ahead of the Jul. 28 election smack of the dirty politics that once ruled this Southeast Asian country.
Genghis Khan knew about hard times. The founder of the Mongol Empire, which spanned most of Eurasia until roughly 1227, Genghis and his clan had to survive on their wits and natural surroundings, often resorting to meals of “green leafy things” when food was scarce.
When the food-strapped Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) appealed to the Mongolian government for food last month, it signaled a major turning point in the public image of this Central Asian country, which has long struggled to feed its own population of three million.
Dotted with rice fields flanked by palm trees, Cambodia’s southeastern province of Kampong Speu is nothing short of picturesque.
But behind the idyllic exterior is an on-going struggle to turn this region’s natural beauty into a global attraction and improve the lot of poor local farmers, as the neighbouring beachside Kampot province did just three years ago.
Times are tough in this Southeast Asian nation of 14 million people, where over 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of a dollar a day. Formal employment is hard to come by and many workers find themselves drifting in the murky waters of the “informal” market, where wages are unregulated and labour laws are seldom honoured.