Photographer's Note


Where is my soup?

On March 19, 2007, I was lucky to be at Chong Kneas floating village to relay donations from my friends to 90 poorest Vietnamese families.

As I reported a few days ago, the current cost to cook a bowl of pork soup is 37.5˘. The average family consists of 4 people. The amount of 38,500 riel (±US$10.00) arrives in each family can be translated to 26 bowls of soup, or they can survive about a week without the fear of hunger.

Even though we always heard that “no donation is too small”, I still feel what I did is too tiny, just a drop in the ocean. I wish I can trade all the points I earned in TrekEarth for another bowl of soup, for one more Chong Kneas kid.

Chong Kneas is the village floating on Tonle Sap Lake where Vietnamese live on houseboats and transport by boat.

Before 1970, Vietnamese minority settled in upstream of the river, especially at Bak Prea between Battambang and Prek Toal. Between 1970 and 1975, they were attacked by the Khmer Rouge four times. This political situation forced them to relocate to the area close to or inside the Tonle Sap Lake where they could have a better chance to escape killings, as in Kbal Toal and Chong Kneas where safety was more secured.

The Vietnamese population in Tonle Sap is currently a lot less assimilated than the Chinese and Cambodian. For historical reasons, Khmer people are sometimes prejudiced against Vietnamese. In this area, the historical dislike is fuelled by the belief that Vietnamese fishermen are often more advanced in their fishing techniques and are claimed to have introduced certain types of illegal fishing methods.

As with other fishing communities in the flooded area of the lake, the Chong Kneas community has adopted a way of life tightly integrated with the seasonal rise and fall of water in the Tonle Sap. The inhabitants are moving their “residences” according to the water level. In the dry season, the floating village of Chong Kneas anchors in a small inlet on the perimeter of the lake where there is ready access to fishing grounds and some protection from storms and waves.

Whether in dry or high-water season, there is a permanent issue of drinking water. Villagers were drinking the lake water, which they also used for bathing, toilet, cooking, and washing dirty dishes. The health problems became even worse in the dry season when the water level was lower, muddy, full of dead fish mixed with human manure. This is when contaminants increased to the worst and when children living on the lake were particularly susceptible to diarrhea due to a lack of hygiene.


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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 472 W: 125 N: 2331] (8456)
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