Dated on May 22nd, 2004, from Phnom Penh
/ Seven kilometer road, constructed by villagers /
I visited Wat Ang Prey Khrang Primary School in Duntong District, Kampot Province. This school had opened in December last year, with ASAC's brick-donation funds also supported by citizens' voluntary donations to the Japanese Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. In January, I walked through the village with the teachers, giving them guidance on how to rediscover the resources of the village. The school is located at the foot of the Voall mountains which were once occupied by the Pol Pot group. And three foreign tourists were killed there toward the end of the Pol Pot period in 1996. There is an albino girl in the village born after the incident and people believe that it is because of the curse of the victimized foreigners. After the first-time aid was given, being the donation of a school, people became aware of developing their village themselves.
In February, they took their fist action by starting repairs on a run-down bumpy road which stretches 12 kilometers to the National Route. When we were visiting the school, a big heap of soil blocked us. In fact, no cars or motorcycles could travel on the road at that time. The principal was not notified of the road situation. And teachers were occupied with classes. So our meeting was delayed. When we visited them again in May, the 7-kilometer long road was still under construction but there was a by-pass which ran across dry rice fields. I guess villagers couldn't bear the inconvenience of having no road for cars or motorbikes. With the bypass, the transportation was better. And it also changed the life of the villagers for the better. The shipping prices of rice rose and access to doctors was improved. Way to go! Keep up the good work!
/ Prices of Oil Keep Rising /
When the civil war ended, so too did the time when the country closed itself to the outer world. Now foreign companies have been swarming to Cambodia. There is not a big fluctuation in the exchange rate of Cambodian currency these days. But I remember that it was 1,200 Riel for a dollar in 1992, when I first visited Cambodia. Now it's 4,000 Riel. As for the oil, it rose from 20 yen to 70 yen a liter.
I told our stuff member Pip that it's 100 yen in Japan. She gave a small scream in alarm. Then the Driver Thonna said a little angrily, "You say it's expensive. But we say it's a matter of life or death! Your salary is totally different from ours after all." He was right. A simple comparison of prices doesn't reflect the real situation.
/ Mr. Shinsuke Hashida Rest in Peace and Quiet /
When I took part as a UN Volunteer in Cambodia in 1993, I finished training and I was assigned to Kampot Province. Mr. Hashida, a journalist, accompanied me on my way to Campot to cover my activities as "A Middle-aged woman's PKO" (the documentary aired on the TBS show 'Broadcaster'). Since then, along with his interpreter Mr. Po Sivtha, I had many chances to see him and learned to know his personality. He said that the labor union of major TV stations at that time did not allow them to stay in a war zone for more than three months. But he based himself in Thailand and ran around the battle field to cover the war. And he kept sending footage of the people' real life there. When there was no fighting, he enjoyed mahjong. But even at such times, he was analyzing how the war situation was going. He always kept a journalist's spirit.
(Mr. Hashida lost his life in Iraq in May, 2004 when pursuing his mission)
I clasp my hands together and pray that your soul may rest in peace
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