Phnom Penh’s AEON Mall for a dreamer city

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Aeon Mall at the river side on July 9, 2014. Photo A. Rodas.

I visited AEON Mall today in Phnom Penh. Fortunately there was not too much rain in the city, so it was possible to move in my favorite urban transport: tuk-tuk (still I have to check the urban bus.) Entering the 205 million dollars mall, I remembered October 1999 when I arrived for the first time to Phnom Penh from Bangkok and then I could made a lot comparisons between two of the Southeast Asian capitals. Phnom Penh was a dusty town full of  thieves, beggars, electricity service was limited, Internet was dominated by a single poor service company, unpaved roads, odors from a nonexistent sewage system… Then, before this huge mall between Diamond Island (Koh Pich) and Sothearos Boulevard, one friend pointed to it and said “A big mall for a poor country.” In fact it is, but I don’t share the same intention of the announcement. It is similar to the comment of one visitor to my social communication section: “But these boys don’t see coming from poverty… they have laptops!” Sure, they have, because I have been promoting that they give value to education even in the middle of their poverty to be able to break their poverty circle.  Continue reading

When water can not pass

One of the best tests for Phnom Penh and its development comes during the raining season. It is then when we discover what is not too good like flooding in different streets, many times becoming authentic rivers more than 4 meters high. Here 147 Street. You can send your own report on floodings to Urban Voices Cambodia. Photo Courtesy.

CNN enlists 7 best Cambodian islands

CNN’s reporter Linda Goldberg enlists what she thinks the 7 best Cambodian islands. “They’re still massively undeveloped compared to their Thai neighbors, but Cambodia’s islands are starting to get the attention they deserve,” she writes. The seven islands are Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, Song Saa, Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Tang and Kog Totang. Each island is described with a recommendation such as an island for partying (Koh Rong) or for luxury (Son Sa). The Cambodian coast from Thailand to Vietnam is of 400 kilometers and the Cambodian sea is formed by a prolific archipelago of islands and islets that remain in a very natural condition. The growing Cambodian tourist industry is already looking to them as a next setting to attract more visitors, something that could be good for the national economy, but endangers a fragile ecosystem and the life of islander families, rarely included in development plans. I normally complain of the lack of faculties in Cambodia such as archeology or marine biology. A growing city such as Sihanoukville should have a public university specializing young people in subjects like the protection of the marine ecosystem. You find the coast full of smart developers measuring islands, beaches and towns to build resorts and casinos, but there is nothing about big projects for the ecosystem protection and promotion.

Australian contribution to Cambodia: more poors!

What if you are an Iranian man with a family that thinks that migration is the only way to open opportunities to your children and chooses a country like Australia. After so many hardships on the way, mostly by sea since 91% of illegal migrants to that country enter by boats, you are detained and scheduled to be relocated in… Cambodia. Probably you will think all efforts to change your social situation has been in vain. It would not be difficult to guess that Australia is sending you to one of the poorest countries of Asia. Just this month the Thai Military Junta deported 200 thousand illegal Cambodian workers, a very expensive and arguably decision. But the fact is that near half million Cambodians are working in Thailand because they don’t think they can improve their standard of life in their own country. How is it possible that a country like Australia “donates” more poors to a poor country?

It must come from a very wrong mentality. Probably a certain xenophobia, racism and lack of humanism. How is it possible that a country made by migrants reaches so extreme policies such as dump poor people to a poor country? The evil is both sided: uncertainty for the migrants and more social problems for a society like Cambodia that is struggling to defeat poverty.

The World Bank Report

You can get the World Bank report in this link. It is an extensive and very accurate research on East Asia. There are some facts about Cambodia we need to follow such as the lack of skilful workforce that would make the Cambodian economy vulnerable. But there are other facts to point out as well. Here I make a list of those facts described by the report in regard to Cambodia.

  1. Cambodia remains with a significant problem in malnutrition of children together with Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.
  2. We are among the faster labor productivity growings in the planet.
  3. Most Cambodians continue to work in the informal sector (primary sector) and not in wage and salaried employment. It is also because Cambodia continues to be a rather agricultural society.
  4. Cambodia rank poorly with regard to friendly investment climate (place 137 in the world.)
  5. In Cambodia training program relied more in centralized planning and government supply than by market demand.
  6. Cambodia is near the worst performance Micronesia limit in “ease of doing business” rank in East Asia.
  7. Cambodia is considered an agrarian society with near 80% of its population living in rural areas. It means we need to raise the productivity of agriculture in order to free labor and human capital to work in rural off-farms enterprises and eventually to migrate to town and cities.

Urban Voice Cambodia’s workshop

Urban Voice Cambodia invited me to give a speech on its workshop this Saturday at Eden Park in Phnom Penh. The workshop was to present the website to different people and to explain the role of urban voices on the development of a city like Phnom Penh. The name of the activity was “The city speaks!” Continue reading

Cambodia since 1999, a video documentary

I share this video documentary by Teleantioquia about Cambodia. It is in Spanish, but you can understand most of the story. We are doubling it in Khmer and English… coming soon. A good resume of what is Cambodia, its history, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville and how I see Cambodia since 1999.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 1, Teleantioquia, 2014.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 2, Teleantioquia, 2014.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 3, Teleantioquia, 2014.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 4, Teleantioquia, 2014.

Distributing development

A bigger Kep

A bigger Kep Province would mean a lost of about 25% of the Kampot territory, especially all the east area bordering Vietnam. Kompong Trach, Tus Meas and Angkor Chey would become a part of Kep.

Development is a very complex process that depends from many factors: from the political will to the compromise of enterprises, the foreign investment and the human resources and how people get the opportunities to improve their standard of life. Planning plays a very important role on it and it does not come from a single brain, especially it should not come from a single social group willing to impose their own conceptions of society or protecting their group’s interests. Territory administration is one of those elements that can play a good role in the way development is promoted in a population. In many occasions, territorial distribution must be altered in order to promote such development process.  Continue reading

Poverty misconceptions

A village in Kos Sla, northern Kampot Province. Photo by Don Bosco Kep Children Fund, January 2014.

A village in Kos Sla, northern Kampot Province. Photo by Don Bosco Kep Children Fund, January 2014.

Visitors from developed countries can get impressed by the simplicity of the Cambodian rural families. Such impression can lead to confusions of what is poverty and it is often profit by certain individuals for the embezzlement of funds. Donors have the duty to guarantee that their funds will reach the real needs of vulnerable people and thus it is important to learn the meaning of concepts like poverty, as well as to improve the methods to fight it in an authentic effective way. To measure the social impact of any project is as much as important as planning.  Continue reading

Bill Gates breaking myths on poverty

The annual letter of the Bill & Mellinda Gates Foundation is an excellent start for this year in our commitment to reduce poverty in a country like Cambodia through the means of education. In “3 Myths that Block Progress for the Poor”, Gates explains how some preconceptions reduce the capacity of supporting poor communities to overcome poverty. The first myth is that poor countries remain poor, the second is that foreign aid is a big waste and the last one is that saving lives leads to overpopulation.

Read more in Don Bosco Kep.

Opposition leaders propose other approach with factories and workers talks

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Deputy Ken Sockha and president Sam Rainsy in a press conference in Phnom Penh on January 7, 2014. The leaders of the opposition party confirmed they will continue to ask for new elections and their support to the workers request on a higher salary. Photo Arjay Stevens. 

Phnom Penh. The leaders of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) confirmed their purpose to ask for the resignation of P.M. Hun Sen and call on new elections, while supporting the campaign of garment factory unions for a 160 USD salary and a reform to the Cambodian rules for the freedom of association. “We are also trying to do is to brake the monopoly of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC)… (…) Normally there should be freedom of association between any factory with their workers. If a company is willing to pay more than 100 USD, why should it prevent them in doing so?” said CNRP’s president, Sam Rainsy in a press conference last Tuesday at the quarters of his party… Continue reading at Asia Correspondent…

Risks of rising the minimum wage?

Sihanoukville. 8 days after the crackdown on garment factory workers and opposition rallies in Phnom Penh, Cambodia seems normal this weekend. The national television continues its regular programs showing Thai and Korean soft operas, karaoke videos and news about curious things in the West like the polar freezing in US or “national news” like the January 7′s Liberation Day Anniversary to remember when Pol Pot and his cronies were defeated and Cambodia got a new birth. The crackdown is mentioned in the television programs of course, such as to announce that factories are  filling cases in court against trade unions for “incitement to strike, damage to property and assets”, according to Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia… Continue reading at Asian Correspondent…

Visit to Bokor Mountain before the end of the year

When you visit Bokor Mountain, you find always new things.  Anyway, the new development is under way, so it is important to appreciate what is good and to review what should be reviewed.  the road is a snaky way to the mountain and it was built actually over an old path.  In this, there was a lack of a better engineering perspective.  A cable railway could be a great solution for the future and it would have a less impact over the environment.  They are also developing some restaurants in points like the water fall and the Yeay Mao Monument, but their prices are too much high – as the mountain? – so it is not appropriate for  visitors.  With some many people looking for jobs in Kampot City, this would be a good idea to settle a popular market over the top with more popular prices, creating more employment and showing more the Khmer culture.

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251 new technicians from Don Bosco Phnom Penh

Director General of the Technical Vocational Educational and Training Department, His Excellency Laov Him, precided the graduation day of Don Bosco Phnom Penh.

Director General of the Technical Vocational Educational and Training Department, His Excellency Laov Him, precided the graduation day of Don Bosco Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh – On Friday 30th August 2013, each of the six departments of Don Bosco Technical School was represented by the two hundred and fifty-one students graduating: Mechanical-Welding – 48, Automotive – 46, Electricity – 60, Electronic – 53, Computer -26 and Printing – 18. Dedicated to teaching and guiding the most disadvantaged youth of Cambodia, the Salesian Priests and Brothers, along with the DBTS teachers and volunteers, were there to congratulate and celebrate the students’ achievements; this day marking the completion of their two-year vocational course. Continue reading

For those who think governments should be run like a business

This video of MBA is a good illustration of why governments should not be run as a business and it is of course a great temptation, especially in our time of globalization. Common good is the purpose of any government – it is the ideal – while business is made in order to get profits. A government thinking its citizens such as customers or shareholders is then far from the real purpose of it.

Kep Province Governor presided Don Bosco Kep Graduation Day

Kep Governor Khen Satha gives the certificate to Lyheng, Front Office senior graduating. At the center Fr. Albeiro Rodas, Don Bosco Technical School Kep's Rector.

Kep Governor Khen Satha gives the certificate to Lyheng, Front Office senior graduating. At the center Fr. Albeiro Rodas, Don Bosco Technical School Kep’s Rector.

Kep Province — CAMBODIA – Friday, September 06, 2013. The governor of Kep Province, Mr. Ken Satha, presided the first graduation day of the new Don Bosco Technical School in this Cambodian region, 164 kilometers south of Phnom Penh over the Gulf of Thailand and near the Vietnamese border. The technical school opened in October 2011 to attend young people from Kep, Kampot and Takeo provinces and began with a group of 40 in the sections of social communication and hotel skills to lost only 4. The group that left at the end of June for training, has been engaged in different jobs especially in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in hotels, radio stations, television channels and web development companies. Continue reading

Cambodia’s Education System

Cambodian schoolProfessor Kenneth Wilson of the Royal University of Phnom Penh brings us a deep reflection on the Cambodia’s Education System in an article at The Cambodia Daily, A System Utterly in Need. The time is greatly appropriate when we are few weeks away from the next national elections and parties are discussing on the meaning of development. Continue reading