Monthly Archives: December 2012

Merry Christmas from Kolkata

A man smiles as he receives a text message on Christmas eve in Old Town, Kolkata.

Arrived safely in Kolkata after a hellish flight via China and being held for several hours in detention (for the second time) by the kindly people at Shanghai immigration.

Merry Christmas to all.

Luc

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Evicted: Veng Ny’s Family

Veng Ny, 59, and his wife Mum Sokun, 48, sit with their three children in their home in the Toul Some Bo relocation site.

When roughly 500 police and security forces arrived in Borei Keila to support the forced evictions, Veng Ny was living in a small shack with his wife and three children. He watched as a bulldozer levelled the house with all of his family’s possessions inside.

Though reluctant to leave Phnom Penh, when the Phan Imex development company promised him that he would receive a new house in one of their designated relocation sites, Veng Ny thought he was doing what was best for his family by accepting the offer. He was promised that their new house, in the Toul Som Bo relocation site, would be provided with low cost electricity and water services, something he hadn’t had before. But after four months of living in Toul Som Bo, the power and water were disconnected without warning, and they never turned back on.

As a result Veng Ny and his neighbours have been forced to pay a private firm to reconnect the services at an exorbitant price. He now finds himself in a hopeless situation with no reliable source of income. Since Toul Som Bo is located outside the city limits, he must walk three hours into Phnom Penh where he occasionally finds odd jobs, but the money is not enough. Everything that he earns goes to food. His children are unable to go to school because he can’t pay the bribes demanded by most teachers in Cambodia, though the total cost for all three children’s education is less than $100/year.

The full photo story can be seen here.

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Since the Cambodian government does next to nothing to help those affected by the Borei Keila evictions, NGOs are one of the only sources of hope for these people. When asked which organization helps them the most, the vast majority named Licadho as being the most involved, giving them food and medicines. Please consider donating to help the evicted. 

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Evicted: Noum Nam

Noum Nam, 72, stands with his wife in front of their home in the Toul Som Bo relocation area.

Its hard not to look at the huge scar that runs down the right side of the 72-year-old’s body. The jagged line, which runs from his shoulder blade to his navel, was caused by an AK-47 round which hit him in the back and bounced off his rib cage several times before exiting his stomach, essentially tearing apart the entire right side of his body.

When asked he says he was not angry about being wounded. He was a soldier in the liberation army fighting to dispel the Khmer Rouge, and he felt like he was doing something good for his country. He was proud to be fighting to free his people and soldiering is a dangerous job.

But now, decades after the war was won, Noum Nam feels has been forgotten and exploited by the same government that he risked his life for. Evicted from his home in Borei Keila, he and his wife were moved to a barren patch of rural land that is the Toul Som Bo relocation site. He receives no military pension and the small house that they were given was built by an NGO, not the government or the development company, Phan Imex. Too old to work and left in a place devoid of opportunity, Noum Nam is once of many whose life has been derailed.

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Since the Cambodian government does next to nothing to help those affected by the Borei Keila evictions, NGOs are one of the only sources of hope for these people. When asked which organization helps them the most, the vast majority named Licadho as being the most involved, giving them food and medicines. Please consider donating to help the evicted. 

Posted in Blog, Cambodia Tagged , , , , , , , |

Evicted: Kem Oeng

I’ve spent the last three weeks in Phnom Penh trying to document the complex issue of land grabbing. I’ll be posting a lengthy and more comprehensive article about land grabbing in the coming weeks, but the basics are simple to grasp – the Cambodian government is selling the country to the highest bidder. Private development firms select an area they want and the government leases it to them for 99 years, regardless of the fact that there may or may not be people living on said land.

Since local Phnom Penh photographers like John Vink and Nicholas Axelrod have both followed this issue for years, and have done extensive photo reportages that I could not hope to match in only three weeks of shooting, I decided to narrow the focus of this story. Borei Keila is just one of many communities that have suffered because of the land grabbing, and its a microcosm of the larger issue.

While I work on the final edit from over 4000 frames I’ve decided to start posting some portraits of the people I met in Borei Keila and telling their stories in a little more detail than is possible in a two sentence photo caption.

Kem Oeng (72) sits in her basement unit which she has lived in since 1983. The ceiling is barely 6 feet high and the room floods during heavy rains.

Kem Oeng is 72 years old and has arms so thin I could have encircled them between my thumb and middle finger.  She has been living in a basement unit of one of the old Borei Keila apartment buildings for almost 30 years. On my first visit to the community she stayed inside her house, peering out at me suspiciously from the dark doorway, but once she saw her neighbours sharing their stories with me she seemed eager to talk.

The first thing I notice about her apartment is that I can’t stand up. The ceiling is less than 6 feet high and there is a distinct smell of mouldy concrete from when the unit periodically floods. During the rainy season Kem Oeng tells me that the water can sometimes get over a foot high in her house.

But though humble, this is her home and she does not want to leave. It is only a matter of time before the building is demolished however, and when I asked her what she would do when this eventually happens she shakes her head sadly and says only “I can’t think about that.”

 

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