Eight people, three women and five men, are crouched in the dirt in the center of a roundabout where the main road at Poipet --a major Cambodia border town-- merges with the check point to Thailand.
Dust swirls in the wind as they squint their eyes at the sun. Others playing the waiting game mill about on the road’s edges.
The movement for reproductive justice sees women’s decision to have – or not have – children as a fundamental right. Should they choose to bear a child, women should have the right to care and provide for them; if they opt not to give birth, family planning services should be made available to enable women to space or prevent pregnancies.
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.
Cambodia’s garment industry is regularly plagued with strikes and protests. But when armed security forces opened fire on striking workers in the capital city of Phnom Penh on Jan. 3, killing five and injuring dozens, it suddenly became clear that this was not just another protest.
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?”
An array of colourful quarter pipes, bank ramps and a fun box come to life as a clutch of Cambodian youngsters do balancing tricks, kick-flips and kick turns. The all-girl session at a skating facility near the Russian Market here is facilitated by 20-year-old Kov Chansangva, popularly known as Tin.
“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.
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.
Following the death of his parents when he was just four, Samlain Chey, now 22, found himself living on the streets along the river near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Until he met a social worker from Mith Samlanh.
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.’
With the Cambodian national assembly elections fast approaching on Jul. 28, local and international organisations are expressing concerns about the fairness and transparency of the electoral system.
The future of food security in the Mekong region lies at a crossroads, as several development ventures, including the Xayaburi Hydropower Project, threaten to alter fish migration routes, disrupt the flow of sediments and nutrients downstream, and endanger millions whose livelihoods depend on the Mekong River basin's resources.
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.