Today is Sunday and we decide to take a day off. That is to say we check the tourist guide and local sources to find out what sights we want to see today. Kratie is famous for the fresh water dolphins that can be observed in the Mekong. And there are a number of pagodas, of course.
We started with an extended breakfast. I was lucky yesterday to catch both the weekend edition of the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post. They have decent café at this place close to where the boats approach, at riverside.
Today is Saturday. As usual we do not care much about the weekend and intend to visit another indigenous village. So after we had breakfast we take a taxi and travel about half an hour north to meet the Chairman of the associated Commune Council.
We meet this guy and than drive together another thirty minutes before we reach the place where we take a boat.
This is on the way.
Again we kick of early in the morning and meet the government guy and the driver for breakfast in town. We learn that the government guy won’t have time to give us company today. This is not to bad, particularly for the credibility of the interviews. Moreover, he did not seem to find it very relevant what we are doing here.
However, Reaksa, my translator brings one of his friends who wants to visit the villages. I met this guy the other day and he turned out to be a converted Christian working for Seven Day Adventist. We had a long discussion about religion in which I tried to make the case for Buddhism while he is preaching the gospel trying to persuade me that there is only one god. Although this is entertaining I feel this guy is a believing crusader. And I have seen and heard about many Christian organizations particularly in Rattanakiri trying to make indigenous peoples change their culture and give up their superstitious beliefs. I do not think that this is the most urgent think they need at this point.
Given this situation and the fact that nobody bothers to tell me what exactly he wants to do there I cannot but make very clear that I am more than happy to give him a ride. However, what will not happen is that he participates in interview. And I tell him that the bible will remain in the car and that he won’t preach the gospel at any rate in the village where we conduct interviews. The bottom line is I do not want missionaries to interfere with my research. We have some argument and after I explain my reason I get some limited agreement.
Soon we are in the car and back on the road again.
This is the view from the balcony of the hotel at one of the pagodas in town in the morning.
The following is my account of the third field trip to Kratie province. This trip took place some weeks ago and at this point it is already getting difficult to remember the details. However, experience tells me that I won’t do it later if I do not write it now. This is going to be a general report. Although I would like to incorporate details of my work and the research findings I won’t have the time at this point. In case somebody reads that and is interesting in an in debt account of my field work I am still more than happy to provide detailed minutes of my interviews. However, this is a tremendous amount of paper and most likely not very exciting for the average reader.
We decided to go to Kratie by mini bus, which is the way I got there for previous field trips as well. The way it works is that I get picked up with a moto by somebody who is send by the company which operates the mini bus. This is about 6:30 in the morning at Hun Sen Park, where police is still maintaining increased presence.
I took the following pictures a few weeks ago prior to my third field trip to Kratie. However, I did not find time yet to make them available here.
Those pictures are taken at the riverside when it is about to get dark. I promise that I did not add additional color. This really is how it looks like. Those pictures are taken without flash, long exposure times and a stand.
Today I finalized a short summary of my final report. I thought I should make it available here. Of course it is tempting to continue writing on this one but I thought I better make it available soon so that I have the chance to incorporate concerns and recommendations from anybody willing to provide feedback. Any considerations are greatly appreciated.
I met Katrin a couple of times, who is consultant and works on indigenous land rights. Once I met her with Dietmar who is on a South East Asia backpack like tour. As it happens, Katrin has some passion for big motos and a friend who is into motos, too. Dietmar wants to travel to the south and see Sihanoukville. So we thought it would be a good idea to travel to Kep over the weekend, which is a small town at the ocean.
We start with a breakfast at the Foreign Correspondence Club (FCC), which is a place that is at the riverfront, sort of expensive frequented by foreigners who can afford it l to hang out here.
This one is taken from the balcony at the backside of the FCC to the east. On the opposite side of this square is the National Museum. The building to the left is most likely among what remains from the French. In the center is a place where people play soccer in the morning and evening.
Next day we get up fairly early again to get the boat which leaves at 7 am to Kompong Cham. I have been traveling with those boats many times now and am getting used to it. And I still like it.
We spend the night in the house of a family. This is rather simple but lovely and it is nice to keep in touch with the local population. After we got up and have a Khmer style shower in the garden we have some breakfast. This is the kind of breakfast place frequented by Khmer people. Those places can be found all over the country and Phnom Penh is no exception. They offer good and very cheap food and this is the way most Cambodians have breakfast.
It is sort of difficult to get to the areas in which indigenous peoples live in this province. One of those areas is Siem Pang in the north, directly at the border to Laos. The other area is in the east and we learned that it would be very difficult to get there in the rainy season and impossible to get there within our tight schedule. So we decide to visit various communes and villages in Siem Pang. There is no road to this area and the boat it the only way to make it. At the same time it is about 100 km from Stung Treng town and we do not have much time. So what we need is a fast boat. We are lucky, because what is available here is called fast boat and really deserves the name.
Those are fast boats. They are imported from Thailand and Laos and designed for maximal speed. Those boats have powerful engines and can easily make 60 km per hour. However, they are extremely sensitive when it comes to waves. They are mostly used to cross the border to Laos and this is what most tourists do when they come here.
There are not many options for us to go to Stung Treng, particularly when considering our tight schedule. So we decide to rent a pick up and start very early in the morning, which costs us about $40 for the four hour ride. However, we thought this way we can meet the government representative there before the extensive lunch break and start conducting interviews as early as the afternoon of the same day.
We start at about 5 am, which really is very early for me. I do not get much sleep anymore anyway. So as soon as we sit in the car I try to go back to sleep again. Surprisingly the car is the same with which I made the trip from Strung Treng to Banlung when I came here the first time.
After we have been driving for some time we have some minor problems with the car.
This is Monday. I spend the day again talking to several local activists and organization. In addition, I am still busy typing all the notes I took during so many interviews. And I have to arrange for the transportation to Stung Treng province the next day. So I take only very few pictures.
This is a place close to the market. Youngsters come here to hang out and play billiard.
This is Saturday. In the morning we went to see the guy who is working as education advisor for CARE. He has been working in indigenous education all his life and is actually from Australia. We had a long and very open discussion. I enjoyed having a discussion in English without translation, which makes the event much more delightful for me. I learned a lot about the education project, the governments approach to indigenous rights in general and indigenous education and the local situation in comparative perspective in particular. Furthermore he liked ‘my’ theory of indigenous rights. After a good discussion we agreed to keep in touch and provide each other with documents and information.
Even out here in Rattanakiri there are Pagodas and monks who are traveling the streets in the morning to collect food from the people.