Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Thursdays We Protest

Today, I attended a protest for my work.  Technically, we were there to as Human Rights Monitors.  A little bit of background: I am a legal intern for Equitable Cambodia in the Development Watch program. DW currently has 4 main cases that we are working on, all of them involve forced evictions, unfair compensation, and inadequate resettlements that have resulted in increased poverty and indebtedness in comparison to their pre-eviction status.  The four cases are The Railway Rehabilitation Project, The Airport Expansion Project, Rubber Plantations, and Sugar Plantations.  The former two also involve illegal land-grabbing.  Cambodians tend to protest, for various reasons of course, but it is not an uncommon thing.  Today, the protesters were the communities affected by the Railway Rehabilitation Project.  Basically, there are 2 major railways in Cambodia. However, they have been in disrepair and not in use since the Khmer Rouge was in power.  The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and AusAid are funding its rehabilitation, which requires all of the communities living along the railways to be evicted. The ADB has policies for these sorts of things in order to ensure no human rights violations.  Without getting into too many details, the communites are unhappy with the ADB because the current Remedial Action Plan is inadequate and they were not consulted even though this effects them directly and were told they would be.  (Obviously, the situation is a lot more complicated than this - I just don't want to try to explain the whole situation).  So, today's protest was to get the attention of the ADB and force them to listen to the communities and follow their own policies.

People brought their children to bring attention to the fact that they are not the only ones affected by these forced evictions and re settlements, often it means less food in their children's bellies and the inability to attend school anymore.

(ADB Cambodia Resident Mission)

(Reinforcements just chillin in a truck)

Approaching Soldiers(?) in riot gear

And them passing us to go sit in the shade of a monument just beyond us.

At one point 7 community reps and the DW Project Manager were invited into the ADB building and were able to have a meeting with them.  Even though there was a lot of police, there was no violence and the atmosphere was generally relaxed between the protesters and the police.  One of the reasons there was such a big police presence was probably because the ADB is extremely close to the Prime Ministers house (More like 2 ginormous buildings).

While this protest was nothing like those i witnessed and participated in along side my fellow banana slugs in undergrad, it was a super cool experience and gave me some hope that even though I will be on the legal side of human rights I still get to attend the fun stuff.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nobody likes you when you're 23

Saturday I turned 23, the dreaded age that Blink 182 warned us about. There is a giant building here called Kids City that has go carting, rock climbing, ice skating, and laser tag in it. It's pretty epic. So Hamza, Anna, and I went rock climbing during the day. It's pretty expensive ($10-that's a lot of money here) and you only get to climb for an hour but there are about 20 walls and it's pretty unsupervised so it was fun. By the end of our hour all of us were sweaty and sore.  It was incredibly fun though and if it wasn't so much I'd go every weekend.

After rock climbing we went to BKK1 market and I stumbled upon a whole section of make shift beauty salons.  I got a mani and a pedi for 5,000 riel each! That's $1.25usd!!! It was awesome and so worth it. I don't know if I will ever being able to convince myself to pay western prices again.

Of course I also did the stereotypical go out with the girls for happy hour then bar hop around town and go white girl dancing.  At Howies, this tiny little bar which played a fun mix of 80s and 90s music and had fake vines on the ceiling I made my mark so that so long as they don't paint over it my 23rd will be forever memorialized in Phnom Penh.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Siem Reap: Day 1 Part 2

At this point in the day (after ours of exploring Ankor Wat, Bayon, and getting lunch) we were all pretty tired.  Directly across from where we ate was a giant all thing and Nee (our tuk tuk driver for the weekend) sent us over there to explore.  I cannot remember its name but it as basically a giant ornate wall that had a grand entrance into what was once the Royal Residence.  Withing the walls there was this big pyramid shaped structure that required one to walk up some very steep sketchy stairs.  I read the sign near it and it mentioned something about the king having to sleep up there as some sort of ritual, but again I was pretty tired and needed to use my inhaler because of all the sketchy stairs and hikes, so my mind wasn't working properly.  

(I got really excited about this millipeed for some reason)

But first...let me take a selfie 

Ta Prohm Temple:When we got back to Nee he said something about taking us to the temple where the trees were and made some gesture which I am not assuming meant the roots.  Immediately I thought of the classic picture you see of Siem Reap with the roots of a tree is engulfing a temple and got excited.  As most of you know I have this odd love of when nature reclaims things from humans and shows us that we truly are guests on this planet, so seeing a temple where trees are taking over got me all giddy.  All of us were so tired though we didnt ask questions and just let Nee take us where he wanted.  Turns out it as the temple I was thinking of and boy was it cool.  Unfortunately there were TONS of tourist groups and we were exhausted so if I ever go back to Siem Reap I'm totally spending more time at Ta Prohm.

(I tried to join the tour group but they werent speaking English so I failed)

(Ive always been a tree hugger)

Exhausted and sweaty but still smiling :)

After Ta Prohm we went home exhausted and satisfied.  Hamza realllyyyy wanted a massage so we walked to some sketch place for a $6 massage.  They put us in some room with 3 mats on the floor, 3 ladies came in, we got to stay in our clothes and got the most hilarious massages of our lives.  It was an odd mixture of poking, pulling and yoga all while one of them was playing music from a phone which included Bieber, Gangnam Style and other suppeerrr random songs.  It was quite the experience and we all got to laugh about it after (well during too).