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A brief encounter at the Northern part of Cambodia

Phina So
July03/ 2015

Chey Sen district, Preah Vihea province:

I was at a field work at a very remote village in Preah Vihea province. Besides work, I curious about how people live and work. At 11am, a group of young girls walked into a dried river nearby. I asked her to let me to come along. When we arrived at the river, I saw a boy who was sitting by a little hole with very little water. Next to him is his little basket and a tooth brush and a tooth paste. I came to him and told my name and why I was there for. I then gave him some cakes and asked if I can sit behind him.

The boy is Kann (not his real name). He was sitting alone while boys and girls his age were gathering for their public bath at the river. Kann is 15 years old and is living with disability. He is a 4th grader. Kann belongs to Kuy, one of other 20 ethnic minorities in Cambodia. What I learn was that his real name was given by the way people see his disability. This is very sad. However, realizing that he is still going to school and the way he smiled at me made me relieved.

I believe the hole was created to purify the water. Kann took the water from the hole and had his bath, again, alone. It was about 11am and I sensed that these boys and girls were preparing for their afternoon class. Later, just before my team started our lunch at 12pm, girls were heading school. One of them told that they had to walk for about 30mn to get to school. Yet, they were not sure if their teachers would come today. This indicates that teachers are absent quite frequently. Another girl told me how she plans to drop out. I didn’t ask why because I didn’t want hear their reasons.

Most of the teenagers are smaller than their age. It is not a surprise. I asked 10 houses for what did they have for their lunch. 8 houses had salt and chilli. The other two houses had nothing better: fermented fish.

Kuy people do have their own language. However, these days, only elderly keep speaking the language. Young Kuy people do not learn their language at all. An old grandma told our team members that she does not want her young generation to learn the language at all. Her reason to our “why” question was that “What’s the point since there is no use of the language besides communicate within the village?” It is clear that their identity is fading. Sad but true.

What came to my surprise was that the girls came and greeted me by saying “Ming (aunty in Khmer), we’d like to say good bye for our class”. Indeed, I got up and said “Thank you” with a smile on my face.

Below are some photos from Kuy ethnic minority.

The design on the roof
The design on the roof
Recycling stuff
Recycling stuff
The dried out river
The dried out river
House design
House design