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Photographer's Note

This picture has been taken in the floating village of Chong Kneas on the Tonlé Sap lake.

As many tourists I guess, I came there to discover the lake, the fishermen and the waterbirds. Guidebooks describe this boat tour as "very picturesque, a very much appreciated break when visiting Angkor's temples". I was not really prepared to discover deep floating misery as Thanh N'guyen (ngythanh) calls it in his theme Chong Kneas — the floating misery. People there live in floating "houses" which they move according to the water level. They live on the water, wash themselves in the water, go to toilet in the water, then drink the water... Health issues associated with this lack of hygiene are numerous. Most people there belong to a vietnamese minority. The least we can say is that they are not very much appreciated by the cambodians for various reasons going very deep in cambodian history. In an already very poor country like Cambodia, it means that they are the last to be taken care of.

Whenever your boat stops, children popup here and there sitting in washing bowls paddling very fast towards you. As expected from tourists, we just grab our cameras, point and shoot... Then the kids reach you, you hear "one dollar", and you suddenly feel extremely ashamed. Eventually you look in their eyes and see their utmost sadness. You realize that this place is turning in a poverty museum or human zoo due the Angkor proximity. The only solution these people found to get their share of the wealth tourists are bringing, is to transform their children into picturesque floating beggars.

There are a few humanitarian organizations mentioned in Thanh N'guyen theme. I also like to mention Osmose, a not-for-profit organization, which has implemented a pilot conservation and development project in the Prek Toal area of Tonle Sap. Their goal is to provide environmentally-sustainable income-generating activities for the villagers. Although they are not focused on Chong Kneas, where misery is maybe stronger than in other places, their example - if they become successful - could show that there are some ways out of the current situation.

pablominto, tcht, lestans, feather, nicol_g, james-r, picardo, Amaniman, delkoo, AmiBe, JonteW has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by JM Hullot (vincz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2604 W: 77 N: 5252] (19113)
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