Dated on 3 April 2001, Phnom Penh

/Problem Shifts from Primary School to Junior High/

There are eight districts in Kampot province. Of them, Dang Tung and Chun Kiri district were founded after Pol Pot period. Chun Kiri was separated from former Chhuuk district, and Dang Tung was once a part of Kampot, Chhuuk, Bantea Meas, and Kampong Trach. The district is like a Cambodian 'Golden Triangle', the area notorious for its anarchy in Southeast Asia, and the district is actually called 'Square Rouge'. It is centered on a mountainous area where there was the largest number of Pol Pot members. Even during the UNTAC autonomy, it was said that the district had nothing but Pol Pot groups and landmines. Chun Kiri was the only district that was attacked by a Pol Pot group on the voting day led by UNTAC. Dang Tung is a place where landmines exploded in the central area of its capital city and most of the opposition party offices were set on fire during the election campaign period.
Construction of schools by ASAC began with the Kampot district and it was gradually shifted to those rural districts. The second school in Dang Tung district, Sizue Dang Tung Thmey primary school has opened. Still, 10 primary schools including this one have no junior high school that their graduates go on to. Meanwhile, temporary junior high school classes were set up using the rooms of Serey Chey meang Reak primary school, which opened last year. A new junior high school is to be built with the help of the AJINOMOTO Labor Union as their 4th donation. Junior high school education should be compulsory but when there is no school to go to, we cannot help it. We can see the problem shifting from primary school to junior high school.

/No Pain, No School/
We heard that there is an unused school near Dem Snay,Ton Horn primary school which was abandoned during the Civil War in 1997 by a construction company when it was almost completed. We went there and checked it out. Then we found that with a little repair of the walls and with some fixtures such as floors and desks and chairs, it could be used. This may sound easy but actually it was not. About 10 km from Kampong Trach to Bantea Meas was completely disrupted and it was almost impossible for cars to pass. We decided to ride on a motor trolley called "Rolly" in Cambodian. We had to drive Rolly between train schedules. If two Rollys run up against each other, they give way. Or sometimes they glare at each other and the loser is supposed to dismantle the Rolly and give way after all.
The town of the school is near the border between Dang Tung and Bantea Meas province, which is 40 minutes ride by Rolly and another 40 minutes ride by motorcycle. We confirmed new desks and chairs installed in that abandoned school first and then went to other schools around the area for inspection. Though the town seemed to have been closed down with all the roads broken down, the area had an advantage of having railways. Now the roads which run through the district are repaired dramatically. And it seems that 90% of children go to school.
Still, as far as we observed the other three schools, proper aid is definitely needed. Where people live, a school should be there. This should not be just a theory.

/Facing Mass Media/
We were very surprised by a sudden report by a newspaper that ASAC is an agent of the CPP party. They reported so because there was a member from the CPP party among the honorable guests in a school's opening ceremony which we supported. Opening ceremonies of three schools were held in the same week. And the guests in the other two ceremonies were members of the FUNCINPEC party. So the report was totally distorted. We immediately had a talk with the newspaper company and announced a statement. On the next day, they carried a full-page publication of the statement. In the next February, Commune Election will take place followed by General Election. There are increasing tensions in Mass Media now. It is not easy for us to stay neutral.

/A Blessing: Rainfall to Stop Fire/
On March 17th, we went to literacy classes in Kampot and took commemorative photos of 251 students. On the way back to Phnom Penh, we took this opportunity and made a detour. I must have been awfully tired but I couldn't sleep. So I opened a "Kaido wo yuku" by Ryotaro Shiba wishing to fall asleep. Suddenly a gunshot at short range reached my ears and then a successive gunshot followed. It didn't seem like robbery. I looked out of the window and saw smoke coming out from behind the house across from us. It was a fire. The gunshot is a signal to call fire engines. It was midnight. I heard that the fire looks much nearer in the dark. I have a terrible experience where I was left alone near the fire, but out of curiosity, I rushed to the scene, after waking a guard. At a place four blocks away from the fire, we saw two or three houses in the roaring flames. The biggest cause of the fire was the electric leakage. A brave young man climbed up onto the roof of the next house and sprinkled water. But wooden houses burn in an instant like a piece of paper.
Fire engines finally came one by one. But the first thing they do is to charge the bill. The Guide leading fire engines was clearing the passageway, firing guns and spectators scattered as the gun was fired. The flames went up and a stream of sparks whirled in the wind. On the night, another shower came after the evening on that day and people started to pray for more rainfall as they got soaked wet. One hour later, the fire died down. These days we have constant showers in the evening.
When we were relieved, another worry came up. We planed to construct Stung Chuveing primary school, which is the first high-floor style school in the frequently flooded area. With the villagers' support, we have just laid sandbags on the new road which connects finally-dried rice fields and is to be used for transportation of materials. The rainfall softened the soil of the road and land transportation was disrupted.
Now both waterways and land are not available. What an awful mess! Mariko-san ran around to find the way of recovery and got suntanned. She prayed for sunshine for 10 days during the work. And the ardent prayer was heard.
It rained only once during the works on the temporary road. Considering the rainfall in Phnom Penh and the neighboring towns, Svay Prey, we were incredibly lucky. We just hope the fine weather holds until we finish carrying the materials.

/SOMNAN recovers completely/

This is the 3rd report of SOMNAN, a boy with the contracted intestinal obstruction. He cleared the medical checkup one month after the operation and he was overjoyed and went home because now he can go to school. We guess he has an extremely strong body. He went home only ten days after the operation when he still had stitches on his wounds because his grandmother worried about his grandfather who was ill and left home alone. We hear that the 20 cm of stitches were removed by his grandma.

/Be Careful about the Airport Transit/
The direct flight service between Japan and Phnom Penh opened and this made our travel very convenient. But you have to be careful when you transit at Bangkok Airport. First, show your ticket of luggage at the counter and confirm whether your luggage is brought without failure. Second, we recommend you attach your name plate on your luggage with your address in Phnom Penh and telephone number of ASAC. This could prevent trouble.

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