40 years ago Pol Pot walked Phnom Penh

We are the end of the Khmer New Year holidays, a time of happiness and good wishes for all Cambodians and their friends. 40 years ago, on April 17, 1975, there was also a Khmer New Year celebration. But that new year, the one of the rabbit, was going to be under the Khmer Rouge social utopia: the start of the most extreme communist experiment on earth: the Democratic Kampuchea of Pol Pot.

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The Cambodian cities

  • In 2013 the Cambodian population reached 15,135,169 persons, 270,523 persons more than 2012.
  • 51.20 % of Cambodians are girls and women (7,749,493) and the male population is 48.79 % (7,385,676 boys and men.)
  • The Cambodian population density is moderate: 84 persons per square kilometer.
  • The real Cambodian city by number of population (more than 750,000 persons) is Phnom Penh. 
  • The other main cities out of Phnom Penh in order of population are Battambang, Siem Reap, Ta Kmau and Kampong Cham.

Phnom Penh still being the only real urban conglomerate of Cambodia with a population of 2,2 million persons. In 2008 it was 1.9 million, meaning an increase of 30,000 persons in the space of 7 years – the entire population of Kep Province – with an annual growth of 4%. If Cambodia has a moderate density of 84 persons per square kilometer, it is not the same in Phnom Penh with 5,358 persons per sq km. The boundaries of the city has been also modified in four stages by adding territory of Kandal, the province that surrounds the capital entirely: Dangkor District, creation of Khan Russey Keo, integration of 4 villages from Kanthork Commune and 20 communes from 5 districts of Kandal (Phnom Penh Municipality, 2014)


A view of modern Phnom Penh. Its annual growth is 4%. Between 2008 and 2013 it has added 30,000 persons, the entire population of Kep Province. Photo Commons Wikimedia.

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Phnom Penh this Water Festival

Photo Courtesy by Kem Gunawadh.

Photo Courtesy by Kem Gunawadh.

The traditional Water Festival is back this November with many expectations and a lot optimism. Actually the real translation of “Bon Om Tuk” in English must be “Festival of the Canoas”. After three years of absence, the government announced its celebration this monsoon season November 5, 6 and 7. The last one was in 2010 that ended with an unforgettable tragedy that cost the life of 347 persons, mostly young women, and several were injured in a stampeded on a bridge to Diamond Island (Koh Pich). The next year the passing away of King Norodom Sihanouk would prevent its realization and 2013 was also suspended due to flooding and political conflicts.  Continue reading

Not with blows

Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man. Mahatma Gandhi

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Actually it is very sad the news of yesterday of bloody clashes at the Freedom Park when security forces were confronted by violent protesters. If it is a policy from the opposition to “free the Freedom Park” with violence, it is a wrong way in any case. Violence only brings violence in an unending cycle. For many it would be a great revenge to the violent crack down on unionist strikes of January. But revenge is not what a nation needs. Let alone the violent people and put in evidence who is the savage. For more impunity that could be, any violence against their own countrymen has to be paid by the same rule of destiny. It does not mean to keep silence. It is necessary to talk about, to show where there is an injustice, but to take part on a violent action is not the best way. Let us choose the Gandhi way. Why is so difficult to understand processes like Non-violence protest?  A leader inviting their followers to take a place by force, reduce legitimacy for its own mission. If such leader would come to power through that way, it would mean he would be ready to exercise violence when it is confronted by others, right the same way the regime he wants to confront now.

Phnom Penh’s AEON Mall for a dreamer city


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.