Dated on Feb 15, 2003 from Phnom Penh
/ Dark clouds before the election /
The chaotic ballot counting after the general
election in 1993 and 1998 is still vivid
in our minds. The first communal election
in 2002 on the other hand, was conducted
smoothly without any confusion, and the ruling
party, The Cambodia People's Party won with
an overwhelming number of votes.
The fourth Cambodian election will take place
The frenzy before an election seems to be
a usual occurrence for the people in Cambodia.
The attacks on various companies and the
Thai embassy didn't act as much of a distraction,
however the damage done to its international
image will be colossal. Since the attacks
there have been some kinds of purging using
the attacks as a good pretext. The purges
are spreading in rival candidates running
for Prime minister, and also the cabinet
members in the opposing parties. Mass media
has also to be controlled.
Whether democracy has already been established
or the people are unimpressed with the central
government, the number of people registered
to vote is considerably lower than that of
previous elections. The Election Administration
Committee has extended the registration period,
however, the second party, the Royalists
and the opponent party, Samrancy are starting
to claim that the election will be considered
"invalid" if the registration rate
doesn't reach 95%.
Would this kind of assertion be possible
in Japan? Still today, it is difficult to
comprehend the social criteria in Cambodia.
/ Crisis Management /
During the attacks on Thai people, a Thai
company which sells drinking water sent an
SOS to Thai national army. Soon, the next
morning transport planes were sent and Thai
citizens were immediately taken away to their
country. How we should act in an emergency,
I was amazed by how well the Thai people
reacted in the case of an emergency.
In contrast, for us in the Japanese NGO,
after the 97'incident to arm, a small wireless
was distributed, and for about six months
regular check up calls were made once a month.
And new Japanese radio station was also opened
so that in the case of an emergency safety
information could be broadcast. Six years
has passed since then, the wireless is already
broken, and no check up calls have been made.
Mr.Sakakibara, who remembered the Japanese
radio station tried to tune in, only to hear
It is often said that a disaster strikes
when people least expect it. The reality
here that there is no disaster prevention
measures administered by the Japanese government,
this made me think that we as individuals
must be responsible for protecting ourselves.
Having heard on the news that the Thai rescue
center had started evacuating Thai people
from Iraq, I wondered what kind of help Japanese
government would provide for the Japanese
expatriates. Once again this makes me reflect
upon the crisis management for expatriates
working in developing countries.
/ The first school, Tool Ponley elementary
On our way to the study tour prior to the
YMCA work camp, we passed by Tool Ponley
primary school, the first school we built.
The bad road around the school, which once
described by a motocross fanatic as "the
roughest course in the world" has been
repaired nicely. Thanks to the cooperation
of German NGO and the resident's community
work, remote country areas have been greatly
We came across Mr.Pakky, the head of the
commune then, who was assisting voter registration,
he used to fight bravely against Pol Pot
group, proud to say that there was no one
who could beat him at shooting. He uttered
"the time has changed, the fighting
days are over. I'm getting tired of making
administrative documents, I want to quit
my job as head of the commune." Surely
the times may have changed. Mr.Pakkie is
the very person who asked me to build a school
for them. He said a school was more needed
than an election. He recalled the old days
and said that he was overjoyed when they
received a school earlier than any other
areas. He continued to tell us old stories:
on one occasion a school master was abducted,
on another the school was nearly attacked
twice by Pol Pot group and the staff had
to abandon their cars in the bushes by the
river. We were moved to tears by these extraordinary
stories. In spite of many difficulties such
as retaliations from Pol Pot group, loved
teachers eloping, terrible floods preventing
them from going to work, Mr. Pakky built
a house to accommodate the teachers, the
school has now expanded to have five class
rooms, being used daily.
The school master is actually person who
once taught literacy.
Inside the school, we saw drawings and art
crafts displayed on the wall, a sight that
should be seen at schools, which made us
relieved and happy.
Outside, in the school-yard, several palm
trees that we had planted in commemoration
This year, ADB and Education Ministry are
planning to build schools in four southern
counties including Kampot. The construction
engineers who took on ASAC project don't
like to admit it but they are too happy to
hide their feeling, as ADB pays them more.
However, they said the payment is often delayed.
Those engineers have grown to be active members
playing central roles in the rebuilding of
/ Staff Reorganization /
Boramy, who had worked as the ASAC manager
for many years has moved to Room To Read,
an American NGO. He was "head hunted"
by Room To Read as they planned to make a
new on-site project team. Even though he
works for another organization, his field
remains the same, "education",
they continue to work closely together, exchanging
ideas and guidance.
Sokha, the administrative assistant has left
the office. He is going to engage in his
newspaper selling business. He wants to gain
more regular subscribers and expand the business.
The office feels a little bigger now. Remaining
staffs are still in full operation. They
have started to keep check-in and check-out
time. They are working as hard as ever.
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