Third Day of the Field Trip to Kratie Province

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 first village we visit, inhabited by Phnom people. Phnong is the indigenous group with that has the highest number of members in Cambodia, most likely representing the majority of the population of Mondulkiri. We have an interview of far more than 3 hours which is in some ways slow and indirect but yields very helpful information. And I like those people a lot.

The bamboo rack attached to this house is where we have our meeting.

The village is located directly at the main road and from time to time all sorts of vehicles pass by.

Then we move to meet with people in another village. The villages we visit today are not exactly close to the provincial capital and getting there involves some hours of driving. This is somewhere on the way.

This is the district office of Snuol district where we are supposed to meet the governor and pick up somebody you can guide us to the next village. However, the governor is not available and the other guy is busy, too.

We have lunch before we try again.

However, even after we had lunch nobody is available. So we find somebody to instruct the driver and go on our own.

This is the pagoda in the town where we are supposed to meet the villagers.

We stop at the Commune Council and find possible more than 80 persons of about any age. Moreover, we learn that they have been waiting for us and that it was far more than 100 people when they arrived in the morning. Somebody had told them to be available in the morning and they had been waiting here all day on very limited space, in the heat of the day and without food. I thought this is really terrible and am not sure how to deal with the situation. However, people do not appear to be resentful. Somebody suggests that we should meet in the pagoda, since the space in the Council office is too limited. And so we walk over to the pagoda.

First I am not sure how to appropriately start a meaningful discussion under those circumstances. Not only have these people been waiting the entire day. In addition, I did not expect to conduct an interview with about 60 persons. However, after only some minutes of initial uncertainty people turn out to be active and interested participants and we have a pretty long and pretty rich discussion.

After the interview is over we wonder how we can appropriately compensate people for the long waiting time. Although we know about the limitations of giving money we decide that at least everybody should get 500 Riel (12 Cent) which is about the price for instant noodles, which are quite common here. I feel bad about giving money and giving only a very small amount. However, people take it very serious, carefully counting persons and distributing money.

This is when the meeting is over.

On the way back to Kratie we pass this wooden pagoda.

I did mention that Cambodia is a rural country, did I?

This is when we have a break. It is still a long way to go to Kratie.

People are having a bath and buffalos too.

When we arrive it is already late. We have some lunch and then I go to bed.

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